A long time between albums means there's been a few changes too.
Since their seminal 1998 record The Shape of Punk To Come Refused went through a mighty long hiatus before reforming for a slew of European Summer festival shows in 2012. After touring the world the band slipped back into hiatus before reuniting once again in 2014. Sure this is familiar news to long-time fans but for those who do not know the critically acclaimed band have just released their first studio album in 17 fucking years. That’s a long ass time. We got guitarist Kristofer Steen on the line to chat about what's changed over the past 17 years.
Hey Kristofer, how are you doing?
I’m good! How are you?
I’m really well thanks, I’ve had a pretty good day looking at travel locations and stuff like that. What have you been up to?
It’s still the morning here, so not that much right now really. We got back from a tour of the states and I’ve got a vicious cold. I’m a little bit under the weather so to speak.
It’s the middle of winter in Australia so I’ve just recovered from a cold recently as well.
Oh yeah, of course!
I've listened to the new record and it fucking rips, 17 years off didn’t have an effect on your ability to create and craft music?
Sure there’s been a change, but I think it has been improved. I think the create level is pretty much intact from say The Shape [of Punk to come], but I think what has changed is that we have become better songwriters, it might be less idiosyncratic and less schizophrenic, which I don’t mean in a negative sense about Shape... but it was more like that and I think this new one has a bit more cohesion. I mean I think risk-taking and experimentation is sort of what this band is about. We’re still up to our old tricks.
I listened to The Shape of Punk to Come and Freedom back to back. Freedom definitely sounds entirely more polished. Is this due to more focused songwriting or an advance in production technology in the past 17 years?
I think a little bit of both really, Shape... and everything else we did was recorded locally and we did it in our own town with a local guy so, and they were good! It was probably good for the sound too, I’m not sure if this sonic style would have fit the The Shape... songs. The Shape... sound was great. It’s simply done in a different way. I think it is a little bit of both. We worked with a producer for the first time. I think it’s a deeper sound, deeper and a bigger sound. That’s how I would describe it.
What were some other differences between the recording sessions from Shape and the new record Freedom?
It was so long ago! Everything was pretty much up for grabs during Shape...! It was just sort of me and David who were in charge of the operation and we just went for it. Every idea we had ended up on tape. We followed every instinct and decided to fulfil every idea that we had. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it worked less well. In some ways the two are pretty similar but this time we were more in control of what we were doing. We took a long time to write songs, we had a few months to really prepare.
To me The Shape of Punk to come still holds relevance and is a killer album to this day, are you happy with how it has held up?
Yeah! I love Shape... I’m really, really proud of it. I wouldn’t have done it in any other way. I think the great thing about certain records is that they reflect the particular moment and they reflect the times. Shape... was pretty much a document of who we were as people at that time. I’m extremely happy with it, I love to play the songs live, I think it holds up fine. Although once you’ve done something you do view it in a different light, depending on how you are as a person, I always tend to find faults. There’s definitely things that I think should not have been on that record, I think they could have been better but I love it. It’s been one of the most important things in my life.
What were some of the things on Shape that you weren’t so impressed with that you think could have been better?
From Shape... I think there were a few songs that shouldn’t have been there. Some of the things in between the songs were pretty rushed I think they were lacking in the execution. Some of the stuff feels rushed. I also feel like some of the songs have a sort of stiff feel in the way we recorded it, it sounds sort of “Chop chop!” There was a lot of editing going on. It made it sound in a less organic way, but that was part of the style. We were really influenced by The Chemical Brothers and those thought of big beats thing that was going on.
Now to me Freedom is a fantastic album, it definitely won’t disappoint, but I’m unsure if it will have the same effect as The Shape Of Punk To Come. Where do you think Freedom will stand in this light?
Of course there will be a different reception to it, because of course you have to remember that Shape... is something that has been maturing for 17 years! I feel people will just view this as a band releasing an album.
Refused’s first studio album in 17 years entitled Freedom is available now in all good record stores or online HERE, and I’m telling you now that you should definitely expect the unexpected! Refused are also set to his Australian shores in early 2016 for what will be the first time in 4 years.