Interviewed by Alan Gilkeson
Over the past few years I’ve read about what some call the "New Wave of Swedish Sleaze" and for the most part I’ve blown it off. For some reason the re-emergence of other styles of metal, the likes of thrash and speed, seemed more legitimate. As the years pass I’ve fallen victim to the cliche that hair/glam/sleaze metal was not good music, that it was Hollywood make-up and hair, without substance. Then a few weeks ago, tasked with a review of another Swedish glam act, my mind opened up a bit as I listened to a really nice record from a band called Lippstixx ‘n’ Bulletz. A week later I interviewed Ron Keel, remembering that 80s L.A. metal had some excellent acts. Then when presented with NEW RELIGION from Crazy Lixx, being more then ready to check out this new glam scene, I was pleasantly surprised!!! If you have an open mind about glam metal, then this is a new band that you would do well to check out. We caught up with vocalist Danny Rexon to discuss the band’s 2010 release ‘New Religion’…enjoy.
The album is out in Europe in a few days, and here in the U.S. it’ll be a few more weeks, the buzz on this record is making a steady incline, and review after review is coming back positive. I’m sure when you guys finished NEW RELIGION up, you had to feel like you’d done a tremendous job? When you do something great, do you know it right away or do you still need to wait for acclaim from critics and fans before you start to feel good about it?
Well, we knew we were very happy with the result within the band but as you say, you’re still not sure what people will think until those reviews start coming in. And at that point, you’re still a bit worried how the fans will feel about it so from the time you actually finish recording and mixing the album you’re pretty unsure of how people will react to it, even though you feel you’ve done a good job with it.
Obviously, you guys made public that you wanted to ‘beat the living shit out of LOUD MINORITY.’ But still, LOUD MINORITY was a really good record. There’s some powerful choruses and great arrangements on that record. It’s no small challenge to top that. What were the areas you guys really wanted to improve on?
We knew that there was no point for us to record an album that was worse than our debut so we just took the time we needed to gather up great songs and really put our best effort in doing the most of them. I think the main differences are first of all the quality of the song writing but also the vocals, the guitar work and the production which I feel is a lot stronger this time. I mean two and a half years have passed since the first album and we didn’t want to have people thinking we were just laying around doing nothing during that time.
Now I don’t know any details of your recording budget and such, but I assume that with Frontiers you had a bit more money, and you guys definitely took the time to put the record together once you got that deal. Does being on the bigger label create the atmosphere that this record has to be really big? During the process of writing and recording NEW RELIGION do you feel like this is your big shot to really break through a bit?
I sure hope so. Most of all, being on a bigger label gave us confidence from the fact that someone seems to believe in us enough to give us the recording budget to make it possible to record this album where we wanted to do it, and with whom. I’m very happy with the backing up of Frontiers so far and I really feel that we wouldn’t have done such a good album if we didn’t believe we could land a deal with a bigger label than our first one.
Here’s a few lines from my METAL RULES review of NEW RELIGION: ‘Without doubt or exception, NEW RELIGION is a powerhouse record, an 80’s styled rock monolith that does more than lend tribute to that era, but surpasses much of it with inspired vocal melodies, great bluesy up-tuned riffs, and mighty memorable choruses.’ I do believe that you and your band are onto something quite remarkable, and I think that you are the biggest reason for that. Your vocal melodies are right in the pocket on this record and you really grow the choruses into these great explosions. Was there a point along the way, since the last record, that you realized that you were starting to get really good, to take your skills to the next level, so to speak?
Actually I was quite surprised that I’ve grown so much vocally since the last recording. We really didn’t notice that much of it until I started laying down the tracks in the studio. I was really nervous about it at first but then everything just started to come together perfectly and with the splendid vocal coaching of our producer Chris Laney we really took it up a notch. I think one of the explanations for why I’ve gotten better is probably that I’ve recorded lots and lots of demos since the last album. I’ve set up a small home studio and every idea for a song gets recorded there, so I’ve really had a lot of practice from that. Then, of course, we have toured quite a bit and that has to count for something too I guess.
Also, I find it a bit ironic that when you first started this band you were the guitar player, and had no plans of being the singer. You have a really tight group of musicians in your band, and your guitar player Andy Dawson does a phenomenal job on the record, but I think it is your vocal that sets the band a step above the rest. You can hit the notes in those big choruses. Had you ever thought of yourself as lead singer before Crazy Lixx? I’ve watched a bunch of live clips and you really seem to have a fine grasp of the stage and performance. Did you have to work hard to make that adjustment? Was it difficult shoes to fill?
Before Crazy Lixx I only did backing vocals in the bands I played in. I’ve played both the bass guitar and rhythm guitar in my previous bands and it was actually a bit of a coincidence that I started singing the lead vocals in Crazy Lixx. A couple of months after we started the band, it must have been in 2002 or 2003, we were without singer and we wanted to record a demo of our songs in hopes of attracting a vocalist. I figured I could do the lead vocals on this recording and then go back to being the rhythm guitarist. Everyone in the band was so happy with the result that we decided to keep me as vocalist instead and that’s how it’s been since then.
At first it was a little difficult since being the lead vocalist almost always includes being the main front man as well, and that was something I wasn’t really comfortable with in the beginning. I think I’ve come a long way since then but I still feel I have a lot to improve in the future, both vocally and stage performance-wise.
Having a background in guitar, what’s your thoughts on the guitar sound on the record? It sounds to me like Andy kind of used a lot of equipment, played a bit with tones and textures. I really like the guitar approach on this record. ‘Blame It On Love’ is awesome guitar wise, I wonder what he’s doing there? How much input do you have with Andy when it comes to how he approaches a song? Is a better player than you 🙂 ?
Andy is infinitely better than me at guitar. I just use the guitar to write and record songs for demos and even if I write the occasional riff I leave most of it to Andy. I really like that he plays with different styles to fit the song and this time we’ve also worked a lot with getting different sounds to match the songs and again our producer, Chris Laney, has had a huge part in that process.
When it became apparent that Vic couldn’t do both Crazy Lixx and Hardcore Superstar was it a difficult transition for you? Is it just part of the business when something like that happens? Would you give up Crazy Lixx if Def Leppard called and said Joe Elliot left the band and they want you to replace him?
Naturally we were a bit disappointed but we all understood his decision. For me, I don’t think there is any band that would make me leave Crazy Lixx right now though. Everything feels very good at the moment.
You’ve moved decidedly towards a more Arena Rock sound on NEW RELIGION, man ‘My Medicine’ is just a perfect song that evolves, sticks in your head, a perfect Arena Rock tune. Did you guys consciously decide to stray a bit from the more Glam/Sleaze elements of the last record? Would I be correct in saying that NEW RELIGION is generally much more focused? As much as I like LOUD MINORITY, in whole it seems like you guys weren’t so sure who you were yet on that album.
Yes, we’ve definitely tried to move towards an Arena Rock sound on this album. I think the dirtier, more punky elements of the sleaze rock genre just don’t speak to me as much anymore. We want to do music that will sound awesome on a big stage ´cause that’s where we want to be playing.
I’m also digging the lyrics quite a bit Danny. Obviously English is a second language for you, and I can’t imagine writing a sentence in Swedish, let alone some of the amazing word plays, juxtapositions, re-workings of cliched phrases that you kick out here. You remind me of Jon Bon Jovi in this manner. How much effort do you put into your words? Is it something that flows out of you or is it more of a craft, something you have re-work, then re-work again?
That depends really, sometimes the lyrics just come to me all at once and I basically write the whole song from start to end in one session but most often I get stuck with one phrase that makes up the chorus and then I try to work it from there. Very often I search online dictionaries and stuff like that to get help with idioms, rhymes and such. I have put a lot more work into the lyrics this time compared to the first album and I really think that’s another thing that has evolved in a good way during the past years. The themes of the lyrics may still be the same but I think the lyrics over all are a little better written.
Chris Laney said in a recent interview that he thinks you are the new Desmond Child. He might as well of called you the King Of The World! Desmond Child is probably the greatest hit writer in Rock history, and here’s a guy making that comparison. Of course Crazy Lixx is your main gig, but have you ever been approached by other bands to help write songs? Have you or have you considered trying your hand at writing songs as an additional career?
First of all, I’m really happy about that, Desmond Child is my biggest influence when it comes to the song writing part, so those are some really kind words from our producer there. I have been asked to co-write or co-arrange songs for other bands and I think it’s something I’d be happy to do in future, but right now Crazy Lixx just takes up so much time that I’ve put those plans aside for the time being. But I’ll definitely give it a shot later on in my career.
"The New Wave of Swedish Sleaze" has become the term in vogue for what you guys are doing, along with some of your countrymen, reviving an almost lost art in Glam/Hair/Sleaze Metal/ Arena Rock. Someone told me that you actually coined that phrase. Is that true? Do you feel like you guys are part of a movement? And if so, do you think the scene in general takes these styles to greater heights or is more about perfecting the art form?
I’m not totally sure, but it might have been me that came up with the name. We put that phrase on a poster that we spread out all over Sweden’s biggest rock festival back when we were still a demo band. Some months later other bands started to use it and now it has really caught on. The term of course comes from "The New Wave of British Heavy Metal" that I really thought sounded cool, that’s why we wanted something similar for our music. Nowadays I’m not sure it’s very fitting to describe the kind of music we play but still it’s a term that’s widely used for numerous Swedish bands. I think the funniest thing about it is that compared to the L.A. scene in the 80’s there was never really much of an old wave of Swedish sleaze, but what the heck, I think the name works.
Probably the question bands get most often from fans is, ‘when are you coming to Japan, America, Brazil, etc. etc.? Since you got the Frontiers deal you have been around Europe a bit while you worked on NEW RELIGION, but is there any extensive touring plans in the works for you guys, or is still wait and see? I do believe that there’s a market out there for a nice tour featuring you guys along with your peers in the genre. Have you guys ever spoken with other groups lumped into the "Swedish Sleaze" scene about such a thing?
I’m sorry to say that there are no real plans for any touring outside of Europe as of yet but I really think you’re on to something with the whole package thinking. More and more venues are asking for that kind of deal. To bring two or more bands from the same genre to do a little theme evening rather than having the standard big touring band with local support act. Maybe we will see a "New Wave of Swedish Sleaze" on tour in America some day. I’d definitely want to be on that, that’s for sure.
Even though the power of the music video isn’t what it once was, it’s still important to reach another level, and I think especially so because your style of music is traditionally very visual. Let’s face it, there weren’t to many 80’s Metal bands that made it big with beer bellies and bald spots. Do you think you’ll be able to make a substantial video off this record and do you think your visual representation is important to success?
For me, having grown up with MTV, there’s a feeling that you’re not really a band for real until you release a video that gets aired on TV. Nowadays, that’s not an easy thing to do and the cost of making a video compared to the promotion value you get out of it is quite high. I’d love to do as many videos as we possibly can but there’s a lot of other places that that kind of money can be invested in instead. I do however think that we will record some kind of video to be released on the Internet at least, but there are no real plans for that yet.
Thanks so much for your time Danny. I think the record is great and you guys are really onto something. I think your style of music, and how well you do it, not only represents you guys as great artists in your own right, but reminds people of just how great the genre it’s self is and was. People forget about how good some of those 80’s bands were, how great the music was. I look forward to the day you make it to this side of the planet.
Thanx! If you book us, we will come…
Official site: www.crazylixx.com