They'd hate me for saying it, but Danish four-piece Iceage are the sexiest thing to happen to punk in forever. The band play loud and fast, with the violent, trance-like body-flinging of frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt seeming the all the more vital when backed with the understated stage presence and deft musicianship of Johan Surrballe Wieth, Dan Kjær Nielsen and Jakob Tvilling Pless. Iceage's new album You're Nothing is a wildly diverse and unexpectedly catchy ride through post-punk, hardcore and experimental noise with strikingly imagistic lyrics that hit like a bullet. In the remarkable new track 'Awake', Elias launches from throbbing riffs into an unsettling deeply-intoned monologue: "The walls began to crack/ They launched the guns at their sons heads."
Much has been made of the supposedly fascist undertones the of the band's work: Wieth has a tattoo of equally controversial 80s neofolk band Death In June's Whip-Hand logo the interlocking letters of their own band symbol form a cultish geometry. At Iceage gigs, collected fans pump their fists at Rønnenfelt – as attendees of punk gigs have done at every show since 1978. If Iceage's first album New Brigade was their statement of intent in 2-minute throttling blasts, then You're Nothing is the sound of the band widening their view and finding just as much fear, hope, and lust. And while their vision is often unpretty - even sinister - it's far from the F-word.
A lot of the time anger is directed inwards. But on You're Nothing, for every lyric like "If I could/ leave my body then I would/ Bleed into a lake/Dashing away/ Disappear" there's an optimistic payoff, like in 'Ecstasy', where Rønnenfelt sings of being "adorned in carnal ecstasy… A mere blow of wind could turn me into light." There's an urgent and ever-quickening pulse beneath the bloody knuckles as they self-assuredly articulate their message. Iceage are a band to believe in - you can even buy the pinbadge to declare it.
DD: Your new album's called You're Nothing. Who's that sentiment directed at?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Both the way you see other people sometimes, but also how things can feel like nothing in a certain light. It's written from a personal point of view. It's not pointed at a specific person, it's more of an emotion.
DD: My favourite track on the album is 'Morals'. The use of piano is new for the band.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: I don't know how conscious it was. There's not really any boundaries when you write, and sometimes it goes in unexpected places. That song is inspired by an old Italian singer called Mina. I can't remember how I found out about her, but I was listening to a lot of old Italian music, and I found a song of hers, and 'Morals' is kind of based on the piano that song. I think she might be singing "someone like you", which is a lyric in the song.
DD: Do you think there's a lack of morals in society, or in people you observe?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Yeah, just in surroundings. It's not necessarily written from a political view, but more of human view. It's more about self-respect, when people are insincere and stuff like that. I write most of the lyrics but we all contribute.
DD: I love the monologue in 'Awake' -"The fire broke out, we were running the night" - and then there's the sound of glass breaking.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: It's partly about society, but also that lyric is also very much about imagery. Those lyrics are quite theatrical. We were trying rock opera. [laughs] I guess it's our 'Bohemian Rapsody'.
DD: Is it tongue-in-cheek?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: No.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: I guess the lyrics are a bit about the walls of society, however that may sound.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Just the boundaries and stuff. Not actual walls. The state, and institutions in general.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: If we need to smash a glass to have a revolution…? It's a big question to answer. We're not really a political band.
DD: I read that you refer to your fans as victims. How come?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: That's a thing that keeps getting misinterpreted again and again. We get asked about it a lot, but people don't really seem to get it. On a blog ages ago, there was a friend of ours who got pushed into a pit, and got seven stitches or something, and he had a picture there that said "Victim". It's not anything that we thought that much about. Obviously we don't see our fans as victims.
DD: Do you feel differently about this new album to your first, New Brigade (2011)?
Dan Kjær Nielsen: Yeah. I think there's more going on. We've tried to do more things, and not to be restricting ourselves.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: I think it's much better.
DD: Is it true that you took your name from the Warsaw song 'Living In The Ice Age'?
Dan Kjær Nielsen: No. We were brainstorming words.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: It sounded like a band name. We thought it was kind of stupid to call ourselves Ice Age, 'cause we don't wanna be associated with the Ice Age! So we spelled it in one word.
DD: Elias, your presence onstage seems quite trance-like. Does it feel that way to you?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Sometimes. If it's a good show, I guess I sometimes forget about what I'm doing.
DD: There was a lot of body contact too, it seemed like an intimate experience
Dan Kjær Nielsen: We're working together. We have a brotherly relationship.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: We've known each other for a really long time. I started hanging out with these guys since I was 11 or 12 or something. We just grew up in the same neighbourhood.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: Johan was in my class since we were six years old.
DD: What were you listening to at six years old?
Dan Kjær Nielsen: Kids' music. Michael Jackson. Me and my mother shared a Spice Girls CD, but I would only listen to it when she put it on.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: I don't think I cared that much for music back then.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: My father taught me to like KISS, but I mostly just looked at them.
DD: Well, KISS put on a great show. Is it important to you to put on a great live experience?
Dan Kjær Nielsen: Well, if it is a great live experience! Sometimes it is pretty shit. We're not a band you can rely on. Sometimes everything falls apart and it's nothing, and sometimes it's like we're the greatest band in the world.
DD: Who's your dream band to play with.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Ah, we like to play with our friends.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: (deadpans) KISS!
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: We decided one time to do support shows for Fucked Up, but we weren't really into it. We'd rather do our own thing and maybe play for less people, but at least we're playing for our people.
DD: Elias, what your influences in terms of literature?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: I like writers like George Bataille, The Story of the Eye. There are a couple of references to that in our lyrics. I think I was reading it around these guys - we all took turns to read it.
Dan Kjær Nielsen: (grins) It's a pretty dirty book.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Yukio Mishima, and Jean Genet is awesome. I've read The Thief's Journal and now I'm reading The Miracle of the Rose.