Burn The World
Ny Våg / Deathwish / Shock
Swedish hardcore punks AC4 blast nuclear policy on their new album, Burn the World. Green Left's Mat Ward spoke to frontman Dennis Lyxzén and main songwriter Karl Backman.
You've said: "Burn The World is about the EU using economical pressure to force Ukraine to restart their old Soviet era nuclear power plants, so that we can import cheap electricity while we close down our own plants, pretending to go green." What's the situation like for renewable energy specifically in your home country of Sweden?
Karl: It's not even an anti-nuclear song, it's just a song about all the politicians' bullshit. We have a very influential but sometimes ill-informed green movement in the west and it has forced the politicians to start thinking about decommissioning our relatively safe nuclear power plants here, just to secretly replace them with the incredibly unsafe plants originating from the Soviet Era in Ukraine. The construction of these plants was stopped half way through when the Chernobyl accident happened, and the idea is to finish them now, with western money. It's not so much a financial decision as a political one. Outsourcing danger to the poor neighbours to keep our own middle class intellectuals happy. I play guitar in a punk band, I don't provide solutions to the world's energy problems. I'm not absolutely sure it is a problem we deserve to solve either. The earth is made out of a limited number of chemical elements and they will continue to exist long after mankind is gone. And in another million years, in some pond somewhere, some bacteria will change the DNA of whatever lives there and it will develop a nervous system and a spine and eventually a nice, big brain and then it's gonna crawl up on a rock and discover sex, drugs and rock'n'roll all over again. Maybe the idea of having grand- grand- grand- grandchildren is just vanity. UK animator Jonathan Lindley just made a cool video for the song. Check it out [below].
Dennis: I just chalk it up to the economical system that we live under. If people are surprised over developments like these then they are clueless to what kind of world we are living in. Capitalism has no morals and no conscience and is a system constructed on these sort of principles.
You wrote it after you visited the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Pripyat inside the Exclusion Zone in 2010. Tell us about that experience.
Karl: Visiting Pripyat is just walking around in what was once 50,000 peoples' normal, everyday lives inside a communist dictatorship. Everything is still there, decaying. It's sad and strange, and beautiful in a dystopic, post-human way. Nature has started to take over and there's a thick forest growing between every block so you don't really get the feel of being in a city. The buildings are starting to collapse too. In a few years not even the official personnel will be allowed to enter the place and it will be completely left to the animals. The power plant is very different. I have never felt as close to understanding the very essence of humanity as when I stood in front of the Reactor 4 sarcophagus. It's probably the closest thing to a spiritual experience I've ever had. It represents mankind as a species better than anything else. The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. And we have burned so very, very brightly.
A Reuters report recently hailed a nuclear Saudi Arabia as "a lifeline for the atomic energy industry". What are your thoughts?
Karl: Yes, it seems like a correct observation; the western atomic energy industry will make money developing plants in the Middle East. And that market is very much going to be a lifeline for that industry as the popularity of nuclear power decreases in the west. Is it good to give greedy, religious fundamentalist scum any help in any way? No. Probably even less so when it comes to nuclear power.
What would you say to journalists like the Guardian's Nick Davies and George Monbiot, who argue nuclear is safe? [In his book Flat Earth News, Davies points to arguments that low-level radiation "could even be positively good for health".]
Karl: I can't remember ever hearing Nick Davies actually saying it's safe? In the scale of things, he's a nobody who wants to sell a book. Let him. Nothing is absolutely safe, but the small scale water turbines that they have in Japanese high-rise buildings and sewer systems seem like an interesting idea.
Your new track "Extraordinary Rendition" says: "Angry dissident a thing of the past / Better shut up if you wanna last." What's your opinion of the whole saga between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Sweden?
Karl: All I know is that there's a European arrest warrant out for him, he is wanted for questioning in three sexual offence investigations in our country and he has chosen to lock himself inside the embassy of Ecuador in London, in fear of extradition to the US. I have no idea to what degree he's guilty. To me he's just another creepy computer geek who probably had both good and bad ideas back when he mattered. I doubt that the leaked documents and films did any real harm to the war industry in the long run, nor put anyone working for the US forces in harm's way. Still, having the focus on Julian Assange instead of Bradley Manning is very much in the interest of the war industry and for some reason a part of the left wing seems really eager to help them with that.
Dennis: Yeah, the world is in a sad state of affairs when someone like Julian Assange becomes a left-wing hero.
WikiLeaks as a project and idea is not bad, but our constant focus on Assange makes it hard to see anything but that, which becomes problematic.
In that song you also say: "Compute the restriction / There's hardly any movement left." A firm in Germany now charges $30 million a year to record all the phone calls of people in a country for a year - cheap compared with the $100 million cost of a jet fighter. It's said governments are now taking a "record now, worry about the legal consequences later approach". What are your thoughts?
Dennis: Well, that line was also in reference to any sort of movement of resistance. In the late '90s early 2000s there was an anti-globalisation movement that for the first time in years was actually questioning capitalism and the structures that we lived under. After 20 years of personal politics, it felt like a good development and an all-out attack on the world, not only single issues. But 9/11 and the aftermath of that pretty much destroyed any sort of organised political movement. Since we made it more or less illegal to even think radical thoughts, it has been very effective in making people censor their own radicality. And once again, we are back to the idea that politics are a Facebook update or a "personal" opinion.
Karl: It's not exactly news that big corporations develop and sell new technology to politicians who use it to keep themselves in power. People who kill children for money rarely see a moral problem with tapping someone's phone.
You also sing "More of the same good old control / So update your status so we can all know." Assange has called Facebook the "most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented." Thoughts?
Karl: So don't use your Facebook account for things you don't want the scum to know about.
Dennis: But to blame Facebook for the development is a bit naive, to think that a social network has that sort of power. We need to look at the structures and trends in society in general and what sort of ideas are being promoted. In a world where existence is based on the new dogma of "if I am not being seen, I do not exist", people will use these social networks to be seen at any cost. We choose to give out all our personal information to the world because we believe that is what we need to do to be able to be seen. You choose, yourself, what you want to include and how you want to use the social networks. It can be a platform for information and communication, but as long as we choose to inform everyone around us about every fucking trivial event or thought that we have, it can and will be used to control us.
How come Facebook removed the new video for "Curva del Diablo"?
Karl: It was for no exciting reason at all, I'm afraid. We don't pay for our official Facebook page, so they occasionally fuck with it, just to remind us it's their site, not ours, I guess. You can watch the video on Deathwish Inc's YouTube channel [below].
Tell us about your lyrics on your 2009 song "Let's go to war", and how pertinent those lyrics still are in Iraq today:
Thief of Bagdad get the loot
Fuck me Kellog, Brown and Root
Paint the town oily black
Nuclear heads not shooting back
Karl: As most songs about politicians handing the military over to the businessmen, it is still not dated in any major way.
Dennis: We all know that there was never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and if you had any sort of analysis of the world, two things were really easy to see: first of all, the privatised war-industry is controlling large parts of the political landscape in the states. War is profitable for them and they will always lobby for that. Oil is of course another reason. This we all knew. Also, since America is losing its status as the #1 economical power in the world, it was important to once again demonstrate its superiority. Since economy and great ideas have declined in a steady rate from the US and made them fall way behind in the role of world police and controller, they have to resort to weapons to maintain their position. The ironic conclusion is, of course, that to go to war against Iraq and Afghanistan and not funding it through taxes and the backing of the people will lead to the up-and-coming collapse of their infrastructure and economy!
Tell us about your lyrics on "Diplomacy Is Dead":
Diplomacy is dead, diplomacy is dead
We shot it in the head, now diplomacy lies dead
Diplomacy is dead, diplomacy is dead
No longer kissing babies, just bombing them instead
Diplomacy is dead, diplomacy is dead
Our campaign contribution is a bag of severed heads
Karl: What can I say? It's a very, very straightforward lyric about the state of the world and the leaders we allow to lead us. They are there only because we let them. It's a power we choose not to take away from them. I think we fear the unknown alternative too much, so we'd rather just complain about them, but still go on with things as they are.
Tell us about your new song "Breakout" from Burn The World:
Hateful and spiteful with other needs
We'll bite the hand that pretends to feed
Imprisons my body and dumbs down my mind
We'll make you pay when we burn it all down
Dennis: Well, as stated above, we allow ourselves to be slaves and we continue to accept this world. It is fairly easy to see that we have different needs and desires than those that are being projected on us. Well, in all honesty, we do buy in on a lot of the desires that we are supposed to have. But, that being said, there is still only a small percentage of the people that live in this world that does benefit from it.
Many people think music has the power to change the world, but you don't. Tell us about that.
Karl: It's a nice, romantic notion that picking up a guitar will change the world, but if you wanna do that, you should probably go into science instead. Picking up a guitar will get you girls, though.
Dennis: I think that music has the ability to change small worlds, like our own. Me and Karl would not be answering this interview if it were not for some random political punk band that caught our attention years and years ago. However, if music at one time had any real power, it is long gone - but for me it is still more fun than trying to be a politician or something equally meaningless. At least when we play in a band we can say exactly what we think and we can exaggerate and make shit up, then get a raise or reaction out of people and that will always be more fun than to constantly compromise and fight for a position. Plus, we don't really know how to do anything else!
What have been your thoughts and observations about Australia and its politics when you've been here? No need to be polite.
Karl: When you're jet-lagged and on tour you don't really notice that much except for the van, the venues, the audience and the hotels, but Glenn Eloranta from the booking agency told us a lot about the White Australia Policy and how Aboriginals weren't considered human until sometime in the '60s. Not the Australia that they present to the tourists, but - then again - most countries have their share of dark and hidden history. We spent most of our free time hanging out with koalas and kangaroos when we were there. Drinking beer with a wombat beats talking about politics every time.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Karl: Thank you for your interest in our band.
Dennis: If you, by any chance, made it this far in the interview, you should check out the music that we create. It is way more interesting than us talking about Julian Assange!! Stay wild!!