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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
David Sandstrom Refused - Interview
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Refused were the 4th band announced for the 2016 Soundwave Festival in Australia and on the same day as the announcement, we talked to drummer David Sandstrom about the big news. We also discuss the band's first album in 17 years titled "Freedom" and what it was like to have the band active again after so many years.



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Andrew: We just got your announcement today that you guys have joined Soundwave Festival for next year so congratulations!

David: Yes thank you! Finally!

Andrew: [laughs] Yeah it should be good! Obviously you have been to Australia before a couple of years ago but this is a different setting with a big festival so what can we expect?

David: We've been playing the entire summer and we're sort of the kind of band that gets sharper and sharper so I guess by January we will be pretty good I think.

Andrew: So you guys are on tour at the moment or you have been playing a lot of shows this year?

David: We have our first break right now actually, we have a month off and I'm going to Greece tomorrow. But we've been playing since April and slowly working in more of the new stuff to the set, it's been a very interesting summer.

Andrew: Yeah I was going to ask you that you have the new album "Freedom" that came out back in late June/early July, what has the reception been like from all the fans so far?

David: It's been great! It's been a strange experience because we sort of made the decision a couple of years ago and we've been working very hard on the record so it's been like we've gotten used to being a band again before anyone actually knew that we were going to be a band (again). So it was very interesting to see the response and I think it's one of those things where the actual record itself is sort of hard to listen to just as music because the idea of us as a band sort of gets in the way so it's one of those slow growers I think. I think a lot of people who initially were apprehensive about us coming back with the record will work it's way back.

Andrew: How did these songs come together in the writing process especially? Was it different to when you guys first started writing together many years ago?

David: Both yes and no. We've all been working with music in different ways in all these years and at least for me, I've always been comparing the creative process to how it was with Kris (Steen, guitarist) while we were doing Refused and writing with him and the other guys. It's always been a point of reference for me so it was very exciting and also very weird to get back into that but it's really been pretty exciting, possibly the most rewarding creative experience of my life writing this record and also knowing we like a challenge. I mean we love being the underdogs and knowing that we hadn't made a record in 17 years and that the last one was sort of significant in different ways, it was just fun for us. Just really exciting to have that looming over us.

Andrew: Was that something that became a problem towards the end before you did initially break up years ago the first time where maybe you weren't having as much fun as you are now?

David: Yeah partly but I mean basically it's one of those things. I guess most people have weirdo friends, creative people that they know when they were in their early 20's where it was just trying shit out and going a bit crazy. From the early 20's to the late 20's it's like a period of experimentation and sort of like figuring out your shoe size in a sense as an artist. And basically I think what happened with Refused is that we were just all in that kind of phase in our lives so it was just one of those things. It's much more complex than just us not getting along, it's more a question of all of us trying to figure out what we were capable of and so we had to go our separate ways. I made a bunch of solo records and Dennis (Lyxzén, vocals) started other bands and Kris went to film school and then opera school. We just had to do other things because we couldn't be contained in that one sort of mould I suppose.

Andrew: With all that experiences you've had with other projects and other bands, has that given you more confidence with this band now?

David: Yeah definitely, our range is bigger now because we've done so much other stuff. I mean Dennis has played 1500 shows or something or maybe more since the last time, I've been writing instrumental music for modern dance and I've written for other people and Kris has directed operas, which means he goes into all these classical musical arrangements and sorts them out and cuts stuff out and decides what goes where. When you're in the rehearsal space with people like that, it's a whole different experience from when you were just kids. It was a lot of hard work to get simple things done.

Andrew: What I am getting from the new songs, especially with a song like "Elektra" for example and I know you guys have been labelled as a sort of punk/hardcore kind of band but the new stuff sort of has a psychedelic sound to it. Was that something you were trying to go for or was there a particular sound that you were trying to go for on this album?

David: The basic approach was that we weren't really hearing heavy bands or hard rock bands or metal bands or just guitar oriented bands doing very effective riff oriented songs, we weren't hearing that music. Especially with having an artist approach to songwriting to really want the songs to kill and even though certain elements of the songs can be quite odd or the basic riff for "Elektra" has a really strange time signature, we can go into things like that and try to make the song kill. Just have it well written and really effective. That's always what we want, it's just that we usually start off with something like a riff that is odd or strange. If you think about the song "New Noise" which is our big song, it's a very experimental intro, very odd actually but the way that we arrange it becomes this very manipulative and powerful song. But the actual material in this could of gone a thousand different ways, it's a very suggestive and strange riff actually. And we didn't think that heavy music was grooving the way we like things to groove, I think there are bands like The Red Hot Chilli Peppers that make any element of groove and funkiness and it's just [considered] a sort of faux pas, it's not tough. And we just felt like that was the thing that interested us. Our music is as masculine although it is very heavy but I think it's more sexual and cerebral than most other heavy bands and that's what we went for.

soundwave festival 2016

Andrew: Yeah certaintly there is some experimental stuff going on in this album. What do you think has been the cause of that? Do you have different influences now to when you first started and what do you consider to be your biggest influences today?

David: From the first full length (This Just Might Be... the Truth) that we made which is basically a very conventional, almost reactionary metal/hardcore record, it's only 4 years from there to "The Shape Of Punk To Come". So in 4 years we took those steps and it wasn't like we stopped when we were done with Refused. It's more like Refused was a mould or a cage that kept us in and when we escaped from that, we were trying out in our own respective fields a lot more strange things through the years and I think going back to Refused sort of felt like coming home and having this idea of what this band was and then trying to make our influences work within that. So the influences are basically the same but maybe contemporary, back then it was what was going on in the electronic/dance world but also what was going on in the avante garde new music world if you will. We were listening to a lot of hip hop which is quite obvious on some of the songs on "The Shape Of Punk To Come" that there is some hip hop influence. Not in the vocals [laughs] but it's basically the same now, we are still influenced by those old punk bands but we're also very influenced by Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar and stuff like that. There's one beat on one of the songs on the record which is stolen or taken from a modern electronic/dance song that me and Kris like, I'm not going to tell you which one but it's basically the same mentality as ever. But we didn't make "The Shape Of Punk To Come" after someone else's idea, it was just this same mentality working with the material in the capacity that we had at that time. It's basically exactly the same although our capabilities are different and our references have grown.

Andrew: That's a very diverse and interesting range when you say you have the hip hop and electronic stuff along with the metal stuff which keeps your music interesting I think, to have that diverse range. Because the metal and punk stuff can be very restrictive and the album title "Freedom" is a very fitting title for the band as well, you were saying before about being trapped in this cage and now you seem to have this freedom to do whatever you want no matter what.

David: In a sense, I mean the funny thing is that the identity of Refused as a band, as an entity, apart from us in a sense, has become a lot more clear to us in our absence. So now that we go back into it, we can do really strange things and sometimes we do those and agree that this is not Refused so we just throw it out. At certain times we do that, the intro for "Old Friends / New War", it's a pitch down vocal and it's rhythmic breathing in the back of it and with all the stuff going on, we're like, 'Yeah this is Refused'. If we didn't feel that, we wouldn't do that and it's the same when we did "The Shape Of Punk To Come", the song "Tannhauser" with the violin at the beginning and this expressive guitar part, we felt that it was still us. And there was stuff that we did then that was like, "No this is not Refused' and there is an element of freedom in knowing that and knowing that there is something that we're going for and we just have to work hard to find it. With certain songs it's a lot of work and other songs it's just there immediately but as an artist and songwriter it's a great thing to write in an idiom, to have a sort of sound that you're going for or a character that you're going for.

Andrew: Like a signature sound.

David: Yeah.

Andrew: Well we are looking forward to hearing these new songs as well as the classics at Soundwave next year so again, congratulations and we will see you in January next year!

David: Thank you! It's going to be splendid, I'm looking forward to it.


January 23rd - Brisbane
January 24th - Sydney
January 26th - Melbourne

More info on the festival can be found at

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on September 4th 2015