What do you do when your hometown scene doesn’t quite excite you anymore?
If you’re Dennis Lyxzén and his friends in Umeå, Sweden, you go back to your roots and you do something about it. You bring back to life something that had been forgotten and you create something from it. And if you’re really good at it, the rest eventually come back to you.
But hold on. When I say “roots”, I’m not talking about Refused and 1990s hardcore punk. I’m talking about looking further back to even earlier influences. Back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the energy of punk was new.
When punk just doesn’t seem fun anymore, it’s time to remember what brought you there in the first place.
Always Influential, Always Unpredictable
Dennis Lyxzén tends to throw his fans for a loop every once in a while. Gaining notoriety in the 1990s for Refused, he stood for screamotional tirades against capitalism, lies, and intolerance. But after Refused disbanded, he burst out with the “punkrocksoul” sound of The (International) Noise Conspiracy which may have turned some off, but rather than caring whether hardcore fans of the Refused still liked him, he went on partying toward the revolution with a head full of politics and a heart full of (armed) love. Just when we thought we had him figured out for a toe tapping, soul-brother dancing socialist, he picked up a guitar and sang quietly of resistance and heartbreak with The Lost Patrol. He took it one step further by developing that project into The Lost Patrol Band, introducing us to his brand of power pop, which—okay, I have to say it—I didn’t immediately get. However, those songs really ended up sticking in my head and the Lost Patrol Band CD now seems way too short and leaves me wanting to hear more. Luckily for us, this is just the beginning…
Here Comes The New Wave
Ny Våg—the label—is home to some great new Swedish bands, each of which are gaining their own respectable followings. These include the superb and profoundly punk rock Regulations, The Vicious (featuring on guitar the much-missed Sara Almgren, formerly of The (International) Noise Conspiracy), The Lost Patrol Band and Knugen Faller—one of my absolute favorite bands on the label because I just can’t get enough of female presence in music (sorry guys, I’m a little sexist that way), and the best part is that Silvia Sate sings in beautifully enunciated Swedish. Bust out your Swedish-English dictionaries because the lyrics are definitely worth it!
You may have noticed that the bands share an uncommon number of common members, but each band has its own distinct sound.
Ny Våg—the club—is where these bands come together to do shows together for themselves and everyone else. They prove that you can be focused on your intent, but not narrow minded. Specific, yet all-inclusive.
5:00am: Los Angeles, California
2:00pm: Umeå, Sweden
Today is one of those rare summer days in Umeå where the sun is shining and the weather is good for swimming, but Dennis kindly agrees to take the time to talk to me about his new label and club, Ny Våg. I’ve just woken up and my head is still a bit foggy, but his good humor and ease soon have me forgetting all that and instead take me to a place where energy, creativity, a sense of community, and fun come together to create something positive that can be felt all around the world.
Here, Dennis talks about what inspired him to create Ny Våg in the first place, what club nights are like, his record collection, his hometown, and his band mates. He also shares some very good news for fans of The Vicious and Knugen Faller.
Interview by Susan Chung / Pictures provided by Dennis
Susan: What is the significance of “Ny Våg”?
Dennis Lyxzén: There was a big hardcore scene in Umeå in the mid ‘90s and that all kind of died down around ‘98, ‘99 and this whole new scene came out with all these crust punk bands. There were a bunch of us that kept going to shows because we all went to shows to support other bands, but all these bands came out and we were not really that excited about them. We were also the “older kids” at the show. A few years ago we said, “Let’s do a show at this Café Boat place” (Café Båten) and get good bands that we like for people like us. We called it Ny Våg (pronounced “Knee Vogue”), which means “The New Wave”, and it just stuck. We did that show a few years ago, then we kept doing it once a month, and then I started a record label.
Susan: It started off as the club first?
Dennis: It started off as we wanted to do one show and we called that show Ny Våg. All of a sudden, we did two shows. Then we got a place that we could be once a month and do shows. We were like, “Let’s do a punk club”, have ’77 punk kind of style bands play, play Pistols and Stiff Little Fingers and Black Flag all night and hope 100 people show up for that. We had an average of 300-350 people every night every time we did it. A bunch of good bands started popping up here around that time two or three years ago, bands that we actually did like. One day I was like, “We’ve got to start a record label”.
Susan: If you had a mission statement, what would it be?
Dennis: I don’t think we have a mission statement. It’s one of those things where I remember when I got into punk rock—how fun it was. And how much you wanted to be part of something, something that felt exciting and extroverted, something that you could be a part of. When the crust scene got huge, all the bands were totally introverted, they weren’t really inviting people to come along and have fun with them. When we started Ny Våg, it was our attempt to try to recreate the feeling that I had when I first got into punk rock. Make it fun, make it accessible in a way that when you hear these songs they’re quite catchy songs that you can dance to and sing along with. That’s kind of the “mission” with the whole thing.
Susan: When you have the clubs, you get a pretty diverse crowd?
Dennis: It’s a very diverse crowd. It’s a small town we live in. You can’t expect 300 kids with leather jackets and mohawks to show up. All kinds of people show up. People generally want to have a good time, dance to some good music and see some bands play. We’re just lucky that people are open minded enough to like these punk bands that we have.
Susan: Are the people who go people with punk rock backgrounds or do some of them not have punk rock backgrounds; they just came and they saw it and they liked it?
Dennis: A little bit of both. There’s a small crew of punks in this city. 100,000 people live here—it’s not that big. A lot of people used to be into the hardcore punk rock music scene. It’s pretty insane but in the mid ‘90s when we had punk rock hardcore shows, we could have 600-700 come to the shows and it was this huge, crazy scene. A lot of people got older and they didn’t want to go to all-ages shows. A lot of those people have come back now. They still love punk rock. They come back because you can actually go out, have a beer, have a good time and watch some bands play. There are a lot of people who want to go out and have a good time. It’s pretty interesting. It’s a really good mix of people that show up.
Susan: Is the next club date next week on Saturday? (7/29/06)
Dennis: Yeah. We’re actually out putting up posters for that show now.
Susan: Is that what you’re doing right now?
Dennis: Yeah. The show on Saturday, it’s not like a club night. Usually we have club rights; we have DJs and the whole setup. Now it’s more like we’re just having a show because the Lost Patrol Band’s new 7” is coming out this weekend. We’re having a release party for that. It’s a good excuse to play a show and have a good time.
Susan: Is the club located at different places each time?
Dennis: No, it’s usually set in the same place. It’s pretty insane. They have an opera house in our hometown. For some reason we knew someone who worked there and we walked in and asked them, “Could we have punk rock shows at the opera house once a month?” and they were just like, “Okay.” So, we ended up being there. We did some there and we have been at this Café Boat place where we’re going to be on Saturday.
Susan: How are the acoustics in the opera house?
Dennis: When we’re at the opera house, we’re actually out in the bar. We have the shows in the bar, so it’s not like we’re in the actual orchestra [laughs].
Susan: Okay, that was an interesting mental picture.
Dennis: No, I don’t think that would be good sound for punk rock bands.
Susan: It says that on some nights you and Inge (Johansson, bassist for the (International) Noise Conspiracy, guitarist for Knugen Faller) will be spinning records. Give me an example of what your set would be like.
Dennis: I play a lot of power pop kinda shit and, honestly, we play a lot of the ‘70s kind of punk rock stuff. It’s good times to have a club where you could play “Holiday In Cambodia” and it’s a floor filler. So that’s the kind of stuff we play. We play Buzzcocks and we play the Ramones and Pistols and just whatever danceable punk music you can get going. It’s a privilege to be able to play that kind of music and have people go crazy about it. I’m one of those guys who’s kind of super strict in what I do. I only play records recorded between ’76 to ’81. I never play new music [laughs]. I think Inge is a bit more open-minded to new music actually [laughs].
Susan: You’re, like, the purist?
Dennis: [laughs] I’m retro in that sense.
Susan: Have you ever created a label before?
Dennis: Yes, this is actually my third attempt at doing a label, so I’m not new to the idea. In the mid ‘90s we had a label called Desperate Fight Records which was in the era where we could still sell 3,000 copies of a CD. We had that label for a couple of years documenting the local scene. Then when Noise Conspiracy started, we started a label because we didn’t want to get signed to a bigger label the first thing we did. We started our label called the Black Mask Collective and we did like four releases. Two Noise Conspiracy 7”s and some other stuff. So this is my third attempt.
Susan: The best so far?
Dennis: Yep. I think so. I’m super excited. I mean, I didn’t really have in mind to have more work, you know? I have two bands and it’s a lot of work in itself. The funny thing is that I’d seen Regulations play—they’re good friends of mine—and I loved them. I thought that they were such a phenomenal band. I was lobbying for them to get signed to Burning Heart. They refused. They were like, “We’re not going to sign to Burning Heart”. I’m like, “You need to put a record out”. Then one day I went to the bank, I took a loan, and I started a record label so I could release the Regulations record and that’s how the label started.
Susan: It was a labor of love, then?
Dennis: Yeah, for sure. All the bands that we put out, all the stuff that we do, is totally stuff that I’m super into. I fuckin’ love all these bands. Every time we get the new LP, I’m so excited ‘cause LPs are a good buy, you know what I mean? It’s totally a labor of love.
Susan: I noticed the first club date was July 25th (2004), so you’re pretty much at your two Year mark here
Dennis: Yeah, it’s funny ‘cause we started the club two years ago and I started the label a little bit later—it’s going on the second year—and it feels like I’m just getting started. It feels like I’m getting the hang of it. We’ve got some up and coming releases that are gonna be the biggest of the label so far, so I’m really excited. It’s really a lot of fun.
Susan: What are those releases going to be?
Dennis: The Vicious are going into the studio to do a full-length next week. They’re not a well-known band—as of yet—but I think that release is gonna be good. And Knugen Faller is recording a full-length in August as well, which I think is definitely gonna be big.
Susan: Is either band coming to my town?
Dennis: I hope so. The Vicious, we’re doing the record in Europe and Feral Ward is doing the record in the states. The Vicious are definitely going to tour the states sometime next year. Knugen Faller I don’t know. It’s one of those deals where Inge plays in Noise Conspiracy and they all play in different bands, but I would hope so. It’d be good times
Susan: Yeah, I would really love to see them. With Inge being in both bands—the (I)NC and Knugen Faller—and you guys touring constantly in the (I)NC, is it hard to get Everything together?
Dennis: No, it’s the same thing. I play in The Lost Patrol Band. You just work around everything and make it happen. Sometimes it’s frustrating ‘cause Knugen Faller is one of those bands where everyone is in other bands; the same thing with Lost Patrol. It’s me, two of the guys from the Vicious, and the other guitar player; all of us play in another band. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to get things together, but if you love music and if you’re prepared to work—you can always make it work. But it’s cool. It works out. With Lost Patrol and Knugen, every time we come home from tour and we have some time off, we always play with those bands. I’m home, I’ve got nothing to do…put together the Lost Patrol Band. That’s just about how it works.
Susan: Why is hard for me to imagine you with nothing to do?
Dennis: I’m just one of those guys that always likes to be active. I like to do stuff and especially with this whole label and all of these bands and everything, it’s the ignition. ‘Cause as I said, there were a couple of years when every show in Umeå was a crust punk show and there’s like forty kids and they’re sixteen years old. I have nothing against that, but I’m thirty-four. I need to hang out with people my age and listen to music that I actually like. It’s been the ignition for a lot of us here. All of a sudden instead of one good band from the city, we have like a good six, seven, eight good punk bands right now happening in the city, which is really nice. You get a lot of energy coming from just that.
Susan: Why do you think we always hear about the scene in your town as opposed to say, Gothenburg or Stockholm? Are there scenes in those other towns?
Dennis: Yeah, but I don’t know. Up here, it’s a very desolate place. In the winter time, there’s nothing to do. Literally, we have like three hours of sunlight. It’s kind of a messed up place to live in the winter. You just practice. Also, I think that we were lucky. In the mid ‘90s we had a scene that put Umeå on the map and made people aware that there was something going on up here. It’s just one of those deals where a lot of bands and a lot of people here—we have this great—some kind of spirit. People do it. We don’t wait around for people to do it for us. It’s kind of crazy that a town where 100,000 people live, I can seriously mention ten bands from here that toured the States. It’s one of those things where people just go ahead and do it. It’s a tight-knit little community of bands and people, and everyone’s really supportive, and everyone’s a little bit competitive, but in that great competitive way, you know? Like, “Well, those guys just did a fuckin’ great 7”, now we need to up the ante and do an even greater 7””. It’s definitely a good environment to be creative in.
Susan: For someone on the outside looking in, it does look like a really tight scene. You guys are all in each other’s bands, you guys help each other out with everything…
Dennis: Yeah [Laughs]. Sometimes it’s a little bit too tight. We were joking, like, “We should do a Ny Våg tour, it would be probably fifteen people in seven bands” [laughs]
Susan: [laughing] Oh, right!
Dennis: It’s not necessarily true, but it’s definitely one of those deals where there were only twenty-five punks over the age of twenty-six that liked the Dead Boys, so obviously everybody’s [laughing] gonna hang out together and start bands together. But I like that. I think it’s kind of nice. Sometimes it’s frustrating that there aren’t more people, but it’s nice. And now in the last year there’s been some more retro punk bands with young kids. It’s really cool to see that happen.
Susan: Do you think you’ve inspired that?
Dennis: I hope we did. I hope we made people excited. Sweden’s a small country. Changes in the climate of music, their impact can be felt pretty big. For a while between ’99 and 2003, the only bands that played, the only bands that formed, the only bands that performed were crust punk bands. I don’t really mind, but it’s not the kind of punk rock I grew up with. So when Regulations started, and Knugen Faller and them, we got Lost Patrol going, and Tristess started playing shows. It’s very exciting. Like the punk rock that I grew up with in 1988, when I got into punk rock. That was the stuff that I was listening to. If you’re a young kid and the only shows that are happening are the crust punk shows, then you’ll start a crust punk band ‘cause that’s your point of reference. Now all these other bands are popping up and hopefully that has a little bit of an impact on the punk scene here as well.
Susan: How did you meet the Regulations?
Dennis: They’re from the city. Actually, the drummer from the Regulations, me and him started playing punk rock together since back in 1988. The first punk band I ever had—the first metal band I ever had—was fuckin’ me and that guy Jens that plays drums in Regulations. We started playing music in about 1986 or 1987 and I’ve just known those guys forever. Robert—the bass player from Regulations—is like my best friend. He moved here six years ago and we just started hanging out. We hit it off. They’re good friends. I’ve seen them play shows all the time. Yeah, he’s (Robert) sitting and eating right now waiting for me to go swimming with him.
Susan: Sorry for holding you up there!
Dennis: No, it’s okay, it’s okay. He knows we have to do this Ny Våg interview to get things rolling, so…[laughs]. He’s knows it, we’ll be fine.
Dennis: But they’re a great bunch of guys. It’s a great band. It’s funny because Robert’s involved and he’s such a mellow, quiet kind of kid. He plays for the Lost Patrol Band, he plays for Regulations and then he fuckin’ sings for the Vicious. He likes playing all the old stuff.
Susan: So, where do you want to go with it?
Dennis: I don’t really know. I don’t think I’m interested in becoming huge, like Havoc Records or stuff like that. I’m quite happy with doing it the way I’m doing it right now. But then again I would love to see the new Vicious record sell, you know, a couple thousand records. I would love to see the new Knugen Faller sell a couple thousand records. I would love to see all these bands get out there and be able to play. I don’t think we ever sat down and said, “Where do we want to take this?” Honestly, it’d be nice to break even. It’d be nice to have enough cash to put out some cool 7”s that I can’t really do right now. That’s my ambition. As long as these great bands keep popping up, I just want to release them and help out as best as I can.
Susan: With the timing of The (International) Noise Conspiracy getting signed and the record label coming out, I assumed that you used proceeds from being signed to do this.
Dennis: No. It’s just a labor of love. These bands are fuckin’ great and I just love hanging out with them. I love to get the records home and listen to them. That’s what I want to do. To help them out, and it’s a good time for me.
Susan: Are there any other bands that you’re looking to get involved in your label?
Dennis: Yeah. Have you ever heard a band Tristess?
Dennis: I want to release something with them. I think they’re great. They’re all also people from Regulations and the Vicious, but I think they, as a band, are phenomenal. So, I would love to see something from those guys. There’s a couple of bands from the city that I would like to maybe do something with. But, we’ll see. As of now it’s only bands from our hometown. It’s not that we took a sacred oath—“It’s only gonna be Umeå bands”— but so far that’s how it worked out.
Susan: Your label—the logo and everything—has a really specific look. Who does the art direction?
Dennis: Robert does most of the artwork. The moment we did the first poster for the first show, we knew what we were going for. I’m not gonna lie—we’re a super retro punk scene [laughs]. We’re interested in releasing records with bands that look like and sound like it did back in the day. That’s just how it is. I’m not interested in new punk or in new school punk. Everything with the club, the music people play, how we decorate the club when we have club nights, the record label, and all the artwork and layout, we have a pretty good idea what we want to look like and be like.
Susan: And that’s why you do the 7”s and the LPs.
Dennis: Yeah, of course. I only spin 7”s, actually. I have a pretty extensive 7” collection…it’s tricky sometimes, but almost only 7”s .
Susan: Why did Regulations start Regulations Records?
Dennis: They’re gonna do a repress on the Destroy 7” and they want to release it themselves. Even though it’s a small town, I think there’s room for everyone to do their own thing.
Be sure to check out the Ny Våg website at: www.nyvag.com for more information including recent news, band bios, posters and live pictures from the club, and even fun album pressing info. The site has an easy-to-navigate layout and tons of visual appeal.
Also check out their Myspace page at www.myspace.com/nyvagrecords. Get on their friends list and you’ll receive bulletins with all the latest news.