What inspires you? Music? Art? Fashion? People? Friends? When I was 18 and moved to the very far north of Sweden, Refused embodied all of this for me. They were my closest friends but also people who were churning out ideas on music, on art, on fashion, were surrounded by a creative group of young energetic people. I moved to Umeå in October 1996, in time for a mighty cold winter, and I officially moved away in September 1997. Realistically, I had turned my back on this northern Swedish town months before when California had became my second home and other things had begun to inspire me and continue to do so to this day. But Refused and the years I spent with them travelling Europe, bathing naked in the cold rivers of Sweden, visiting their families (who incidentally became my temporary families), throwing fancy dress parties and squatting hotels at festivals have shaped a large part of me and who I am. For years, these sweet boys truly inspired me.
Years later, having lived separate lives, having spent time with a lot of awe-inspiring creative, intelligent people, I had almost forgotten how much these friends had once meant to me. Yes, Dennis Lyxzén (singer) has of course played in several other musical projects and we always make an effort to see each other on his various tours. And yes, David Sandström (drummer) and I had kept in touch, albeit sporadically, over the years. But overall, when other friends in the music industry had referred to Refused as copycats who simply imitated their heroes from the States, I had defended their creativeness, but maybe not enough. Of course, Dennis' fashion sense and dance moves were long inspired by Ian Svenonius (of The Nation Of Ulysses and The Make-Up). And of course, a lot of their musical writing stems from their (then) love for metal HC bands like Earth Crisis and Snapcase. Who was I to argue with that?
I maybe knew better, knew that that they were the true artists but how do you back up your argument when the band in question is not around to provide proof? And maybe I had only been young and stupid and it had all been a bit of a farce after all? Now, 11 years after the band's demise in 1999, they have got back together to show what they are really made of. Are they just copycats, back together to cash in on a hype created by naive teenagers over the years? Or are they geniuses who saw a new path for punk music back then, a way to fuse several genres of music to something new and powerful? And would that political message from wanna-be anarchists in the mid-90s still hold? I admit that I was sceptical.
My scepticism stemmed partly from the management's decision to bill Refused as part of a fun punk festival at Columbiahalle. Lagwagon, Less Than Jake and Against Me were some of the names on the bill for this one-day event sponsored by an energy drink. We made sure to go late, having been given the stage time of midnight. There was no way we were going to hang around Columbiahalle with a bunch of drunk teenagers listening to Lagwagon (as much as I used to like them when I was 13). We caught up briefly with the band and some friends and secured our spaces in the VIP area of Columbiahalle early. Now it may sound dull and you may wonder why we didn't head for first row, mosh pit action. Truth be told, we were extremely wary of the audience and what this would turn out to be. I'm also very short and would not have had a hope in hell to see anything, even on high heels. Because the VIP area was officially closed and only photographers were allowed in, but a security guard took mercy with us and presumably knew of our connection with the headlining group, we ended up being the only crowd up on the top balcony. Wow, fancy.