There’s a song on ‘Freedom’, the new album from seminal punks Refused, that hits harder than any other. “Struggle with the current, dragged down into the dark,” screams Dennis Lyxzén on ‘366’, telling the stories of people – “someone’s sister, someone’s son” – who “sink like stones to the bottom” of stormy oceans. “The mediterranean has become a mass grave for migrants,” he tells NME when we catch up with him and the band backstage at Leeds Festival. He’s got a point. More than 2500 people – mainly Syrians – are confirmed to have died since January 1 trying to escape war. Last week alone, 71 bodies – including those of a baby girl and three other children – were found in an abandoned refrigeration truck in Austria. Police confirmed they had suffocated.
“Since we wrote that song 2000 more people have died. They die on the way to try to get a better life,” Lyxzén explains. “I mean, it’s tricky to report on other people’s misery and suffering like that. It’s tricky because it’s such a consequence of the life that we live… people don’t want to talk about it because it’s very uncomfortable. It’s a very uncomfortable reality for most people.” In addition to confronting the issue on ‘Freedom’, he and his band have been fund-raising at recent shows, selling meet and greets with fans to generate cash for refugees. When we ask him why Refused feel so passionately that they wrote about the matter, he answers us with a question – why are Refused the only band in punk to have written about it?
“Punk rock in 2015 – it’s men in t-shirts and shorts with guitars.” he rallies. “It’s not an ‘against’ culture anymore. I wish more people were political. I wish more people talked about political issues. I wish more people talked about the world but for now, music is very much escapism. I mean, look at the Leeds line-up! There are only five or ten artists on this line-up that actually talks about anything beyond “I feel alienated in my life.” We all do, we all do, at all times.” Watch the full interview, about the root of the crisis, how the crisis “exposes the truth about modern capitalism” and what can be done, below.