Last year, Swedish rock act the (International) Noise Conspiracy was gearing up for the North American release of its fourth studio album, “Armed Love.” Nearly a year and reams of music industry red-tape later, the Rick Rubin-produced record will finally see the light of day on Oct. 4.
“We just got stuck in between lawyers fighting with lawyers,” lead singer Dennis Lyxzen says. “There wasn’t really much we could do about it except wait out the situation and hope it would be solved. It’s a frustrating process when you see your life’s work in the hands of people that generally don’t care about music.”
The band, whose last album was 2001’s “A New Morning, Changing Weather,” spent most of last year touring Europe behind “Armed Love.” The record seems to perfectly encapsulate the energy and frantic atmosphere the politically charged band is known for onstage, best heard on catchy nuggets like “A Small Demand” and “Black Mask,” the bouncy “Let’s Make History” and the title track.
“It’s crazy how to record a record and get the feeling like it’s live,” Lyxzen says. “We all played in bands and toured and recorded before this band and one of the things we always found frustrating was it’s hard to capture the live feeling you have on the record.
“Noise Conspiracy used to record records that sounded like studio [albums],” he continues. “We’d say, ‘Let’s make it a studio album, let’s do a lot of overdubs, a lot of crazy sound effects.’ Then we’ll go out and play it live and it will sound really different. With Rick, he heard our band and said, ‘I’ve seen you live and you don’t sound like you do on the record. Let’s do a record that sounds like you guys.'”
Lyxzen says working with the producer brought a different, refreshing atmosphere in the studio. “It’s satisfying when you get to take all the time you need to get the record done,” he says. “When you’re on a tight little punk rock budget you can’t really do that — you have to pound out all the vocals in four days no matter how your voice sounds. It was really great just to go into the studio and when it’s done, it’s done.”
The group also got some A-list help on keyboards from Billy Preston after keyboardist Sara Almgren left the group. “Rick said, ‘I know this guy Billy Preston,” Lyxzen recalls. “We were like, ‘Yeah, I’m sure he can play organ.’ Once you’ve done something with Billy Preston you’re connected to the real music history. He was on the roof, one of the guys playing with the Beatles. He played with the Stones. It was just amazing.”
One thing band members continue to find puzzling is how North American audiences often sees established Swedish bands like INC, the Hives or Soundtrack Of Our Lives as new, up-and-coming acts.
“I was talking to Pelle from the Hives the other day,” Lyxzen says. “We were talking about how crazy it was — two years ago the Hives were these newcomers on the scene and last year they we’re getting to be an established band. They’ve been around for 11 years, I think. And Noise Conspiracy has been around for seven years and people still see us as a new band. They see us as we’re just getting started and yet we’ve played 600 shows.”
Despite this, Lyxzen can’t dodge questions about his time with Refused. The group, which has proven to be a major influence on hordes of current punk and emo bands, released its classic (and prophetically titled) final album, “The Shape of Punk To Come,” in 1998. It seems like a lifetime ago to Lyxzen.
“From day one with Noise Conspiracy, I think we proved ourselves to be a very, very different band,” he says. “I think for every record that we’ve done with Noise Conspiracy we’ve stepped it up a bit and distanced ourselves from people asking us questions about Refused. The past is the past — we don’t want to forget about that, but people move on.”
While Lyxzen says there’s nothing left in the Refused vaults that is worthy of release, a documentary about the group is expected to be released later this year. Earlier this year, Lyxzen also released a self-titled album with his side project, the Lost Patrol, and says he’d love to tour with the group, but that INC remains his first priority.
The group will be in New York Saturday (Sept. 17) for a showcase as part of the CMJ Music Marathon, and will return to North America for a fall tour beginning Oct. 2 in Sauget, Ill. INC has already thought about writing new material for its next album, but isn’t looking too far ahead just yet.
“We didn’t want to get out of synch with this,” Lyxzen says. “The worst thing that happens is when you’re waiting for the record to come out you start writing news songs. Then you get excited about those songs and when you go play live you play those news songs. It’s one of those things where a band becomes its own worst enemy when it happens.”