The West

Picture: Robin Laananen

On October 6, 1998, in a basement in the town of Harrinsonburg, Virginia, police shut down a show by a little-known Swedish hardcore band called Refused; the rest, as they say, is music history.

That gig would prove to be the last for Refused; after more than 400 performances and seven years living punk in vans, on floors and around each other, the powder keg exploded, giving birth to one of the most mythical tales in modern rock.

Throughout their seven years together, the innovative and incendiary four-piece received little praise outside their native Sweden, which was why lead singer, Dennis Lyxzen was so surprised when America turned on to the band long after their split.

"We broke up the band (Refused) and I'm practicing with a new band and all of a sudden a friend calls up," Lyxzen explains.

"He's like, 'They're showing your video every day on MTV in the States.'

"I'm like 'What?' - this is like five months after we broke up."

From that strange introduction to the masses, the legacy and legend of Refused, and their final and seminal album, The Shape of Punk to Come, would continue to grow over the next 14 years. The former bandmates were always quick to quash reunion rumours, and fans were all but resigned to the fact they would never get to witness this hardcore behemoth . . . until earlier this year.

"It's hard to really know the exact moment that it happened," Lyxzen says of the decision this year to return. "It was time, I think. All of a sudden we were all living in the same city, while playing music together in different constellations … then we got the offer from Coachella (Festival) and just decided yeah, maybe we should do this."

Since the band reformed, Refused have played to fans around the world, finally realising the potential that was well ahead of its time in 1998. The band would taste the fruit of seeds planted a lifetime ago, and it would help wash away the heartache that Lyxzen associated with The Shape of Punk to Come, one of the most revered rock albums of the modern age.

"That record, and the legacy of the band is amazing, but also for all of us still working in music it has also become this sort of albatross, sitting on your shoulder, and you're like 'Holy s..., I'll never shake this record'," Lyxzen says.

Refused plays Metropolis Fremantle tomorrow. Tickets from Oztix outlets.

The West Australian

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