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“We sort of feel we need to prove ourselves as a contemporary band now – that there’s a point to us being around,” says drummer David Sandström. “It’s perfectly understandable that there’s talk on nostalgia, but it’s a concept that I’m not familiar with. It removes any sense of progress or uncertainty or any type of danger from the artistic process, which just makes things bland.”


Recorded in mid-2014, the majority of Freedom was tracked in Los Angeles with producer Nick Launay (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Midnight Oil). However, the band also teamed up with young Swedish producer Shellback on two tracks, including ‘Elektra’. Given that Shellback made his name writing and producing songs for the likes of Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Lily Allen and Pink, it’s a most unlikely partnership.


“In July [2014] we basically felt we had the songs written,” says Sandström. “So me and Kris [Steen, guitar] were like ‘Maybe we should let someone listen to this before we go to LA to record’. We’d met Shellback and it turns out that he grew up listening to Refused and playing in metal/hardcore bands. So we just hit it off, and then, because he has a pop sensibility, we thought it would be interesting to see what he said about the songs.


“So we were getting ready to go to LA and suddenly I just get this email where one of the songs that we’d sent him – which was a six-and-a-half minute mammoth – he’d done his own version of it, recorded drums, bass and guitar in his own studio, and it was two and a half minutes long. We immediately thought that it was a better version than our song.


“The process in LA was brilliant,” he continues, “but when we got back home, we realised that particular song, ‘Elektra’, we hadn’t nailed it. So we decided to re-record the whole song back in Stockholm, and we had asked Shellback to produce it. He’s just so energetic, it’s almost painful – he’s so fucking passionate, you’ve got to run to keep up with him. We ended up doing ‘Elektra’ and ‘366’ in Stockholm with him.”


As odd as it seems, the decision to work with Shellback wasn’t made flippantly. In truth, Refused weren’t going to welcome anyone into their creative world unless they saw some constructive benefit. Launay’s got decades of experience working with fiercely independent rock bands, and he excels at preserving individual quirks while also capturing an energetic, tactile sound.



“We had been discussing different people to work with,” says Sandström. “It was something about Nick’s work; there was a consistency of vibe throughout records that he made. We’re sort of an eclectic rock band. We have somewhat disparate influences – there might be a vibe of early speed metal/early Slayer to some songs and then there’s elements of hip hop on another song and then there’s some almost classic rock, Jimi Hendrix vibe somewhere. We sort of felt like we would need someone sort of old school that could give us a consistent sound throughout the record.


“Dennis [Lyxzén, vocals] and Kris both liked stuff that that he had done,” he adds, “and when Dennis and Kris agree… that happens once in a blue moon. So when they agreed on this one guy I was like ‘Yep – that’s the guy’.”


Once the band arrived in Los Angeles, their relationship with Launay flourished. Though, they didn’t exactly get comfy with each other. Launay had a job to do and he worked damn hard at it. “He just lived and breathed that record for that entire period and he got more and more intense,” says Sandström. “During the recording we spent a week just playing the songs and he would write them down somehow in his notebooks and then he would have suggestions in the arrangements. We spent a week discussing and just being creative and he made some really important changes to the songs. We’d been working on those songs for years, but that month was revelatory. Things really started to happen once Nick got involved.”


For a record made in 1998, Shape Of Punk To Come has aged exceptionally well. Unlike many big records made at that time, the instrument sounds are quite organic, which has allowed the album to continue gaining new fans ever since its release. Sandström and Steen spearheaded the Shape Of Punk recording sessions, but this time around, they couldn’t argue with Launay’s sonic vision.


He just thinks about things in a special way,” Sandström says. “It seemed he was on a whole other level. I hardly understood a lot of the choices he made, but as soon as we listened back to stuff, we felt that he was consistently making the right decisions.”



Freedom is out now via Epitaph.