The kids are alright, if a bit knackered. In the dressing room of a Shoreditch pub, the quartet that has been hailed as heirs to the legendary hardcore rapid deployment force that was Refused sit around, popping open bottles of import lager and lighting cigarettes. From reading other, mainly monosyllabic interviews, I’ve gathered that the band aren’t really the sort to sit back and open up about their hopes and fears, but the opportunity to face the group who, according to The Quietus, had produced “one of the best punk rock albums in recent years” was too good to pass up.
So down I sit, staring into the heartbreakingly sleepy faces of Johan, Dan and Jakob, the guitarist, drummer and bassist of Danish buzz magnet Iceage, a few days before their debut, ‘New Brigade’, is due to launch in the UK. The record is a fiery 24 minutes long and features the kind of hypnotic, fat-free post-punk Joy Division played when they were still called Warsaw and the contemptuous, no-hope-no-care wave noise that was made almost simultaneously in NYC squats by people like James Chance & The Contortions. It’s great, is what I’m trying to say, and while parts of the internet and industry excitement revolves around the fact that none of the band members are over 20, a lot of it is also about how incredibly well (in)formed their sound is. This, combined with their bruise-inducing live shows and martial aesthetics should make for engaging interviews, but you have to remember that these boys a) don’t speak English as their first language, and b) are still kids, and thus resent few things more than having to explain anything to anyone more than two years older than themselves.
With this in mind, I try breaking the ice by asking them what they thought of America (they have come back from a two-month jaunt over there just this afternoon).
Johan: “Some places are nice, some places are not so nice. Austin is nice.”
Jakob: “The mountains and the deserts and the forests are beautiful.”
Cool. Your US tour montage video for ‘You’re Blessed’ looks pretty, erm, boisterous. Do you have any “crazy” tour stories to share?
Dan: “One of our amps caught fire.”
Johan: “But we weren’t actually using it at the time so it wasn’t too bad.”
You must have seen and talked to tons of people over there. Are you tired of giving interviews now?
Johan: “Yeah, I hate everything about it. People just ask the same questions over and over.”
Johan: “Like, ‘So what did you make of America?’”
Burn. It quickly becomes clear that the three of them (Elias, the singer, is off somewhere else) are not big fans of the British way of making conversation. The rings under their eyes visible in pretty much all press shots are even more prominent up close, and their mumbled, often elliptical answers, delivered in Scandinavian High-School English (which admittedly is far better than most Brits’ Danish) adds to the impression of a band that couldn’t give a shit about interviews. Considering they seem to have grown up partly in lefty-run Copenhagen youth clubs, partly on message boards dedicated to black and death metal, but without monthly printed music magazines, this makes perfect sense.
We chat a bit about the August riots in the UK (Johan: “I think sometimes it can be fun destroying things. And obviously if you have a good reason, that’s OK, too.”) and how the devastating throb of ‘White Runes’ would have made a great soundtrack to the Sky News video footage. But when asked about their influences Iceage are not as forthcoming.
“We didn’t have any particular bands in mind when we wrote our songs”, says Jakob, while the others shrug or light another cigarette.
By now, Elias has joined us, looking unfeasibly cool considering how dishevelled he appears and sounds. I decide this is as good a time as any to ask them about their perceived fascination with fascism.
In another interview, you mentioned the German right-wing pagan metal band Absurd’s ‘Facta Loquuntur’ as one of your favourite albums…
Elias: “Yeah, we got a lot of shit for that. I don’t know. We just really like that album.”
Johan: “Ok, I would now like to say now: I hate that band. No, seriously, it’s just that we have enough intelligence to laugh at ridiculous things, like National Socialism, which I think is a ridiculous theory. It’s not about the politics at all.”
At the time, I take their answer at face value (Fucked Up’s Damien Abraham got into similar trouble when expressing a liking for some of [British white power band] Skrewdriver’s music), but it’s only later that I come across a blog post drawing attention to Johan’s Death in June tattoo, another band with murky links to Neonazi ideas. I’m no longer sure that Johan’s initial answer – “I know that these people are idiots, but I can’t help the fact that they make music I like” – will be enough to dispel rumours that Iceage are riding the hype wave on a board made of race hate.
It won’t do their intrigue any harm, however – after our brief conversation, I’m still left scratching my head as to who these guys are and what they want. They know enough about obscure punk rock to use aural characteristics of the genre to indie-cred-baiting effect, and they are well-read enough (Elias has just finished the filth classic The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille and is currently getting into Joseph Conrad’s jungle nightmare Heart of Darkness) to create a Ballardian dystopia very much of our time. They are also, despite the jetlag and the dullness of my questions, very polite boys. I finish by asking them what it feels like to be professional musicians. Johan shoots back: “We’re not professionals. In the sense of where we make a living out of our music? No. We make a bit of money, but nowhere near enough to live off.”
Would you like to get to that stage at some point?
What do you want to do?
Jakob: “Don’t know.”
Johan: “Go back to school.”
Told you they were knackered.