By Wal Reid
Swedish hardcore band Refused are the most underground band in the world. It's almost like they forgot to conform to mainstream ideals while forging their path since their humble beginnings in Umeå, Sweden. It was the halcyon days the early 90s and the country that spawned hard-core bands by the truck loads.
"I don't think we see ourselves underground or above the ground at all" says guitarist Kristofer Steen. "We've just done our thing, other people can frame us in different ways I think we've done it in the same spirit it was done before, I don't think we concern ourselves with that stuff anymore".
Formed in 1991, in total the band released five EPs and three full-length albums before originally splitting up in 1998. Of course the unthinkable happened and in 2012, the band announced their long-awaited reunion (which was also highly contested considering the band's original and explicit declaration to never reunite), confirming shows at Coachella, Rock am Ring and various rock festivals around the world, their early punk hardcore roots trail blazing the way for many bands including Rise Against and Underoath who cite the band as an influence on their music.
"People certainly call us that a lot of times, I think that's cool" he says down the phone. "I mean, it's kind of hard seeing ourselves in those kind of terms. We were definitely operating within that scene back in the day but right now I feel we're not playing in that scene anymore not really. We we're connected to the scene in the North of Sweden you know, I don't know I think we're just doing our own thing at the moment".
The band had their fair share of problems, splitting up and then getting back together, it's a process that has had positive bearing on their latest album Freedom and one that Steen is comfortable chatting about.
"Yeah I think that was probably best said" he says. "It was necessary to take a kind of long break and also we had no intention of getting back together that was never on the agenda, when we did the reunion thing we were not meant to make new music at all but we just had this fun really. I mean we definitely needed it, we needed to be apart. We had mixed feelings about the band it was just the time was right".
Without the risk of sounding like a nut case or New Age, I suggest that at least they have achieved what other Swedish group Abba have never done and that is to do a reunion and put out a new album, it's almost like they've regained their ‘first love'.
"It sounds that way" says Steen. "It certainly felt like quote unquote ‘meant to happen' everything fell into place and it felt like we needed to do more it was a great happy accident. Maybe we could inspire Abba to get together. I don't think they have to really, they don't have to worry about Coachella" [laughs].
Their new single off the album Freedom, Dawkins Christ is probably as far removed anti-Christian sentiment than the lyrics or chorus would suggest, however Steen is quick to draw parallels between their song and Satanism.
"You might not know being so far away in New Zealand it's one of our main religions" says Steen. "They have to believe in God I think anyway. The core of Dawkins Christ is it's an ambivalence I think between religion and atheism - atheism sometimes feels like a religion it's almost as boring as the fundamentalists who seduce people in this way - I mean Richard Dawkins is an incredibly boring person, but that's just me".
New Zealand and Australia will be next on the band's list, it's a notion that he's excited about, talking to Steen you get the feeling that guy is straight up no bullshit and honest, what you see is what you get, hard to believe the band has never visited these shores before.
"I think it's going to happen the beginning of next year at least that's what I've heard" he says. "I'm extremely excited about visiting New Zealand because I've never been there. Is it run by people like Aragon? It is? Ok If I wasn't excited before well now I have to go, it's going to be fun.