(The) International Noise Conspiracy
Designer Magazine first featured The International Noise Conspiracy as part of its New Wave Of New Angry feature in the Summer of 2002 alongside the likes of Kinesis, Miss Black America and performance poet Chloe Poems. Since then the band have gone into the studio with legendary producer Rick Rubin to record a new album "Armed Love" which should see them take their hardcore political message out of the underground into the heart of middle America and shake them to the ground. We caught up with singer Denis Lyxzen to chat about the political and musical changes since "A New Morning".
Q: If we compare this time round with "Armed Love" compared to the last album "A New Morning". There is a tremendous shift. There's a great deal of expectation centred around this release isn't there?
A: Its been a while. When the last album came out we toured a lot and built up our reputation as a band. Even just having Rick Rubin involved in this record people do expect a lot just from that happening. I guess there is more anticipation but we don't really think about it in that way. We've been doing this for 6 years now, and i've been doing it for god knows how many years, and it gets to the point where you don't really think about it in that way. You don't really think about this being the big break...its always just this is a good record and hopefully people will like it, if not we're gonna do another record.
Q: Does it feel strange to have that buzz though, because I still view you as an underground band pushing against all this bullsh*t?
A: I think its about time though. What we represent and our idea - its about time it got out there. If we limited ourselves to the underground it doesn't really make any sense. We never said we would become an underground phenomena. We've always just said we'd be a great band wherever that would take us.
It was just time to move on with what we were doing and when Rick Rubin got in touch with us and offered to produce our new record and release it on his own label it was like "Sure, If that's what you want, we'll try it and see if it works out". Our whole attitude is if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.
Q: How did Rick Rubin get involved in producing the record? How did it come about?
A: He saw us live four years ago in 2000 and he really liked us. I don't know really know his mind, but I got the feeling that when he saw us live he thought "these guys are great, but they're not ready yet". He just kept his eye on us and 2 years ago he send me an email "This is Rick Rubin...can I do your next record".
We're sort of his new band. I think what makes a great producer is not only being able to produce bands that exist, but also being able to find new bands, produce bands and make them become bigger bands. That's his plan with us so it will be interesting to see what it means.
Q: Rubin's a legendary producer. Was it quite daunting going in the studio with him?
A: Not really. We sat down and talked to him. We met him a year and a half ago in LA. After a show we talked to him about music. Not about producing the record, but about the music that we liked and we had a lot of common ground. We started mailing each other back and forth and sending him demos and by the time we came over to LA and the 2nd day of hanging around with Rick we were cool.
You've got to have a great deal of respect for someone like that. Rick comes into the studio and says i've just been chatting to Neil. We're like Neil who? And he's like Neil Young just phoned....it is kind of surreal.
Q: As you said you chatted out what you wanted to get from the sessions. You didn't just want to go straight into the studio and lay em down
A: When we first talked to him we didn't have any news songs written. We took a break from playing and touring, a 5 month break actually, to start writing. It was nice to have that time. And also to be able to go into the studio for the first time, have the whole idea and just think once its done its done. Usually its like in 3 weeks it has to be done.
Q: The new albums a logical progression from "A New Morning". Still the same band, but a little more cohesive?
A: "A New Morning" was an adventurous record. We tried a lot of stuff and there's a lot of quirkiness on the record. There's nothing like that, this is 10 rock songs. It's probably the record we've done that is the most conventional...and the songwriting's like 10 times better. It feels like a classic record - 10 great songs with no bullshit, straight to the point. Its a lot heavier than before but also more poppy because Rick loves the chorus - every song has to have the strong chorus.
When we started writing the songs we allowed ourselves to write songs that were more classic rock songs than before. We allowed ourselves to be more straightforward with the lyrics and straightforward with the politics. We come from a background of were simple working class kids and we always wanted to prove ourselves intellectually. This time round its very to the point, which I think is an effect of everything's that happened in the last couple of years. There's no time to f**k about!!!
Q: With "A New Morning" you really did have to scan the lyrics sheet, it wasn't Michael Moore entry level politics
A: Exactly...we were trying to be a smart band. I think this record is also a smart record, but its much more heartfelt and shoots from the hip, more than just sit and think of the clever things to say. Times like these almost demand you get straight to the point. When we did the last record there was this great hope and optimism, we were part of the anti-globalisation movement and you could feel revolution in the air. Forward a few years later and things have changed for the worse. There's no time to be clever about it.
Music is one of the mediums that really touched people. It moves people in an emotional way that very few others mediums do. Therefore if you can do a record that relates to them on an emotional level its easier to get their attention when you start talking about things.
Q: Last time you did the recommended reading list for each song as if the album was simply a starting point for a library full of ideas. What have you done with the new records in terms of taking it as a starting block?
A: We're going to do a proper web page of suggested reading and we're going to update the links every week. Its a world of global communication. You always have to try and change and try a new trick.
Q: TINC are a ever-changing evolving band. People find it hard to define you sometimes I guess?
A: I think its cool that its hard to put a stamp on exactly what we are just because we love everything. I always thought The Clash were one of those bands you could look at them and see how they love music as much as we love music, they love politics as much as we love politics and how they were just honest people about it. Not that we sound like the Clash, but their attitude towards the whole thing. The Clash were on of the first punk bands that got me excited about politics so that's something that we all have in common. Apart from that its hard to define what we are. When we started out we said lets just be a soulful punk band with really danceable politics because there are very few bands that can talk about politics and make you dance at the same time.
Q: It is important for a band to have the politics, but have some fun with it. A band that for me who sum up that ethic perfectly is Chumbawamba.
A: Oh yeah, are bass player loves Chumbawamba. I think that's an important thing. A lot of the time when you do talk about political issues or these heavy heavy things it does become a bit stoic. If you listen to this record its not the most optimistic band in the world, its the harsh reality's of the world...but you have to be energized and you have to be inspired. I hate the whole politics of blame like "If you don't do this blah blah blah", its not going to motivate people to get involved. If you can catch peoples attention and get them excited about politics it is really really good.
Q: As a band and an individual you've made it your priority to know about what's going on in the world. You music is motivated by political issues. How do you feel when bands just come about with the obligatory "F**k Bush" cos they know it will attract the headlines or they're going along with the pack?
A: It's better that people come out with "F**k Bush" than don't. The history of music has always gone hand in hand with the history of resistance. You can look from the late 50s to the mid-late 80s how the political landscape changed the musical landscape in a pretty impressive way. You can see the bands and movements and everything that came out - the culture of music has always been against the norms and regulations of society. Music has always been against the people that are boring and conservative.
Then in the mid 90s we just lost the plot. People were like music is just music, you shouldn't mix politics with music. Wells its been done since Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan - there's this whole history of music and politics. I think its sad that we've diminished musical cultural history to just a good song. Nobody talks about Sly Stone as a Black Power Stand, nobody talks about James Brown in that way, nobody talks about MC5 in that way. MC5 were a great rock band, but they were also part of the White Panther Movement. People miss that and all of a sudden its ok just to be a good rock band, to not take any sort of stand on anything because we're just a musician.
I'm not saying that every musician should be intellectually equipped with all knowledge of the situation in the world. But you've got to realize if you are part of this culture, you are part of the historical history of resistance.
Q: MC5, The Clash, The Sex Pistols - I don't know whether its like this outside Britain, but they've just been adopted by the high street at faux revolutionary T-shirt slogans for the masses.
A: It is pretty sad. But it's also a consequence of the fact that you have to take away all the potential danger in it and put it down to a T-shirt. But I do feel if there are a lot of people who are into the Clash there are a lot of people who feel like outsiders. There's a great potential there.
Even in America with this emo scene, its pretty phoney - thats my take on it, but there's a lot of potential there. A lot of kids feel they want to be different than just your average joe, they want to be part of something genuine. I just feel its sad that there's a lot self-pity and self hate in there. I felt like that. I didn't fit in anywhere and then punk rock came in and they made me realize that "You're not the one thats crazy, the world is crazy". All these emo bands, they just say "we're so f**ked up, we had a terrible childhood" and never once try to explain the political structure or the economic structure that makes the world f**ked up. If just 10% of the people read books or joined protests or formed their own bands there would be great potential there.
Q: At the moment it does feel like that period just preceding punk. The feeling that what at the moment are peaceful protests will spill over into violence and anarchy within 3 years or so. Agree?
A: Yeah. The times in Europe are probably the toughest they've been since the seventies. We have Bush's, Tony Blair's and Burlescon's everywhere. You can tell that its still peaceful and under the surface but people are pissed off and in a year or two people are going to be furious. It's not going to be that peaceful, but I think that's a good thing. We need to react. We need a stronger reaction about what the hell is going on.
We had a song on the last record, "Dead Language Of Love", which is about the fact that politicians are using the peaceful protest as "your right". In Sweden its the same, the parents are saying its a good thing that people are politically active, but as soon as people are politically active and they actually get radical all the press are like no, no, no. You can only protest if you do it really peacefully and don't muck about and as soon as people start doing that they get really scared. I think soon people are going to realize that you can't just hold hands and hope that Tony Blair will step of his thrown, say sorry i've f**ked up and dismantle the upper classes - that's not going to happen.
We believe in revolution. If you want to change the world you have to do it through revolution. Its not going to be through some vague hippy-esque bullshit. It's not like we think violence is a good thing, but realistically things might get crazy.
Q: Is the situation similar into Sweden to what we experienced with the Conservatives and New Labour?
A: 12 years of Thatcher and then New Labour came in and nothing changed. That's something that disappoints a lot of people. I was a kid in the 70s and there were TV shows that talked about solidarity and capitalism, like kids shows, and somewhere along the line that changed. And I think what changed was not peoples perception of black and white, people's perception of solidarity, people's perception of the welfare idea we had in Sweden - what changed was the politicians. They became more and more populist and moved more and more to the right.
We live in a society that we've always been told to follow the leaders and follow the strong ones, so we're still waiting for Tony Blair to fix it. Were still waiting for the Swedish Social Democrats to take care of us. The older generation don't know what to do because they don't want to vote for the right wing when they've voted for Labour all their life's and I think that is a bit problem right now. In Sweden we had the Social Democrats for 80s years and during the late 60s and up until the early 80s we were as a country blooming. We had a great welfare stated and everybody was super excited about it...and then all of a sudden they just shifted their politics to the right and people still kept believing. People still believed they were going to fix it and time has shown that they're not going to fix it.
Q: We talked about it before how there's no real bands around saying anything. Either in Sweden or in the UK. This record could potentially open it up further for you in the States. Are you trying to hook up with the bands over there?
A: In America there's bit more radical slant to the punk movement. But the bands that are part of it are bands that have been around for years like Bad Religion. That's kind of sad that there's no younger bands out there than Bad Religion and NOFX. Its great that those bands are out there but you have to ask after 9/11 where are all the young bands.
Words: Alex McCann
Photo's by Karen McBride - www.karenmcbride.com
"Black Mask" is out now on Burning Heart
The album "Armed Love" follows on July 26th
For more info