If this isn’t „The Shape Of Punk Football To Come“: Refused and FC St. Pauli have released a collaborative T-shirt this week. The shirt, whose design quotes the legendary, highly political Refused album „The Shape Of Punk To Come“ from 1998, will be released just in time for the band’s European tour. On the day of their Hamburg show, the Swedes stopped by the Millerntor Stadium and talked to singer Dennis Lyxzén about capitalism, his passion for football and the new refused album „War Music“.
Hello Dennis. Not only are you a big football fan, you also have a coaching licence. Tell us about your personal football story.
Actually, I hated football for a long time. I was punk and many of the people who played football in my hometown were bullys. They didn’t like it when you were different, when you thought or acted differently. In 1994 Sweden reached the semi-finals in the World Cup. We watched the games while we were writing a Refused album in my parents‘ summer house and somehow it was fun all of the sudden. Then I started playing football with friends and eight years ago I started playing in fifth league in Sweden. Unfortunately I broke my knee last year and had to stop. I quickly missed being part of this community, and since we never had a real coach, I took a coaching course. Now I have a coaching license! So if FC St. Pauli needs a coach in the future, I could be the right one (laughs).
When did you first notice FC St. Pauli?
I heard about the club a long time ago through the punk scene. When you hang out in punk circles, all your friends wear St. Pauli T-shirts, especially when touring Germany. St. Pauli is the punk soccer team, so I always liked it. And I think it’s really cool that Refused and St. Pauli come together for this T-shirt. It’s a big deal for us.
What makes FC St. Pauli different from other clubs?
I think the fact that St. Pauli is a sports club that is committed to political and social issues is really great, because many people are afraid of it. Of course, some clubs have social programmes, but no other club has the big lettering „No football for fascists“ in its ranks. Given my political and punk-rock background, I think that sports can be a good tool for integration and for political ideas.
Why are football and music good platforms for this?
Because they appeal to a lot of people. A lot of people love music and sports, and I think any platform we can use to educate people or make them aware of what’s going on in the world is important. Music and art have always been about reflecting on current times, reflecting on our environment and talking about what is going on. I think that sport can do that, too. People often try to separate sports and politics, but the things that happen in our world also influence sports, they influence our lives. And I think it’s great when sports clubs and athletes talk about politics because a lot of people just listen and are attentive. When it comes to sports, more people listen compared to music.
What has sparked your interest in politics?
I was still young when punk was introduced to me. I always felt like an outsider, as if I didn’t really fit into this world. At some point I discovered music, punk and hardcore and it opened my eyes. Through music I discovered politics, through music I discovered all these ideas that I still carry within me today. I owe it all to music, it educated me and got me into politics over 30 years ago.
The new Refused-St. Pauli T-shirt quotes both the cover and the title of your album „The Shape Of Punk To Come“ – a very political record. To what extent is the album still relevant today?
It’s hard to talk about it because this album is such a big part of my life. When it came out, it redefined music for many people and changed the perception of hardcore. I think it’s great that we wrote this record 22 years ago and still talk about it. That’s a privilege. Many people make music all their lives and never have that kind of influence. We’ve done what’s pretty awesome.
Your new album „War Music“ was released last month. What are you fighting against with the record?
It’s still the fight against capitalism. Basically that hasn’t changed since we formed the band: On our first EP we already talked about capitalism and the problems with these economic, social structures. Many things, like the increase of right-wing populism and the impending climate catastrophe, in my eyes happen because we live in a capitalist society that is simply not made for people. So ‚War Music‘ is almost a theme album about the failure of capitalism and the fight against it.
You founded Refused 28 years ago, dissolved it in 1998 and celebrated your comeback in 2012. Considering what has happened since then, from Trump to Brexit: Do we need Refused more than ever today?
Any kind of music that talks about politics and any kind of football club that talks about politics is needed more than ever. The polarization of the world and the tension between left and right is so deep that we need music, art, culture and everything that can explain and bridge this gap. Many Alt-Right people want things to go back to the way they used to be – and it’s the failure of capitalism that makes these people are handing out. If all people had a secure job and a place to live, they wouldn’t have to be racist and vote for populist, fascist ideas. Basically, we all want the same things, we just do things differently. But those who end up profiting from the division of society are the one percent, the capitalists. And that’s why more than ever we need music that talks about these things and sheds light on who benefits from this great divide.
Now you’ve been there for a few years. Do you think this fight can be won at some point?
Yes, I think so. When you are young, you always think that everything is a sprint. You hand out a few flyers, make an album… But making the world a better place is a marathon. You just have to keep going and at the end of life things hopefully are better. And if you look at the world – there are some things that are much better, for example in terms of feminism, climate change and animal rights. At the same time, of course, there are also things that have become worse. It’s a back and forth, but to keep fighting and trying every day to make the world a better place is the only option for me.
Text: Nadine Wenzlick
Photos: Ben Wessler
Translation: Lea Schairer