Glorious Noise Interview:
Inge Johansson of the (International) Noise Conspiracy
Glorious Noise interviewed Inge Johansson, bass player of the International Noise Conspiracy and asked him about the politics of the INC, why Sweden is kicking so much rock and roll booty, and why the Rickenbacher is the bad-assed rock bass that it is. Read the interview.
Interview with Inge Johansson of the (International) Noise Conspiracy
Who knew the best rock in ages would be coming from Sweden? Sure, you expect impeccable pop tunes, honed to razor sharp perfection ala Abba, but messy three-minute rock songs with neck wringing power? Add to the mix a dab of good old-fashioned socialism and you have a Molotov cocktail the flavor of which is likely served on punk-themed Carnival cruises. Well, on this boat the Hives may be Captain Steubing but the International Noise Conspiracy is Isaac and it’s happy hour.
Glorious Noise interviewed Inge Johansson, bass player of the International Noise Conspiracy and asked him about the politics of the INC, why Sweden is kicking so much rock and roll booty, and why the Rickenbacher is the bad-assed rock bass that it is.
GLONO: International Noise Conspiracy is a political band. What are the politics of the band?
Inge:The (International) Noise Conspiracy is a socialist band. And we say that mostly because it’s the easiest way to express what we stand for, because there are so many ideologies that fit under the “socialist umbrella.” I think that it’s impossible to not take notice of the politics when you listen to the INC, but on the other hand we are not the band telling you what to do. Our politics are very much about saying “this is how we feel about things, this is our way of thinking… now make up your own mind.”
GLONO:There’s been a lot of attention paid to the ultra right rising in parts of Europe (France, Netherlands in particular).
Inge:I think the uprising of the far right is a consequence of the leaders of the European Union complete inability to raise issues and put up platforms that people outside of the political class can relate to or even are interested in. And of course, they are never affected by the consequences of their own decisions and social politics. So when people get their lives destroyed by the neo-liberal politics that rule Europe at the moment, they start seeking answers. And the most powerful thing about fascism is that it raises all the “right” questions… such as jobs, environment, the old people, the kids, schools and stuff like that. But they have the most fucked up answers ever. And people want easy solutions and therefore the far right can advance its positions in hard times like these. It’s very sad.
Fascism is a political construction by the bourgeois. We have to remember that.
GLONO:How is the political climate in Sweden?
Inge:The political climate in Sweden? On a parliamentarian level, it’s very bad. The political spectrum is turning further and further to the right. Sweden is still ruled by the “leftist” social democrats, who have completely sold out their social politics to private corporations and neo-liberal market forces. But we have been spared the ultra right wing rise that we see in Europe today, but there’s nothing that guarantees that it won’t happen here…
GLONO:Is there more fear of immigration in Europe or is there just more attention paid to it?
Inge:I don’t think people are afraid of immigration in Europe. People are afraid because of basic things such as unemployment and so on… And they start to, as I mentioned, seek answers. But the European Union is a very racist project in itself with the Schengen agreement and the Europol and institutions like that.
GLONO:Where do you think politics belong in music?
Inge:Hmmm…. Everywhere! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel whenever I see Rage Against The Machine on MTV instead of The Strokes or Limp Bizkit and bands like that. We need more political rock bands… Music is entertainment, but life isn’t…
GLONO:Where does the MC5 fall in the band’s list of influences?
Inge:I think we were really inspired by bands like that when we started the band. The whole 60s garage thing you know… And they are still a source of inspiration, but musically a lot of other bands and artists have broadened our spectrum of influence since then. I still like them a lot tough.
GLONO:Does it bother you at all that the MC5 didn’t really buy into the politics they were promoting? Has that contributed to the sense of cynicism regarding politics in rock?
Inge:Interesting question. I think that after all, most of their songs weren’t political at all when it came to lyrical content, and nowadays they are more remembered for their great music than their political involvement. And that’s maybe a little bit sad, but I don’t think it necessarily contributed to the cynicism regarding politics in rock. I think that people like Bob Geldof and Bono are more to blame for that. The whole 80s charity thing, the substitute for real political involvement. Seeing rock stars crying on TV over children starving in Africa just because they know it gives more substance to the shit content of their shitty records IS revolting! And Bono having lunch with Bush as some kind of representation of a progressive movement or something. As a representative of something “alternative.” For what movement? And who the hell elected Bono??? I think those things make people cynical about political rock bands far more than MC5. They at least tried to play at some riots… They tried to put their music into political contexts, even if their songs weren’t all that political. And I really respect that.
GLONO:Are you worried at all that that cynicism could undermine INC’s message and damage your legitimacy in some people’s eyes?
Inge:To be honest I don’t really care. It’s always a bit of a paradox being a political rock band. It just doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and if you have controversial opinions you can’t expect to be accepted by everyone.
GLONO:Your bio says that INC is using the media and the industry, which you hate, to get your message across, but aren’t you also enjoying the fruits that exposure in the media and backing form the industry brings?
Inge:That depends on how you look at it. I see a lot of privilege in being exposed on MTV and at the same time getting to say what I think about things. The fact that people actually come and pay to watch us play still amazes me. Of course I like that a lot, but I would feel that it would all be a waste of time if we weren’t talking about the things we are talking about. Because all this media exposure is very shallow and doesn’t really mean that much to you, because there’s no one that really cares about you as a person, it’s only the words you get through that can really affect people.
GLONO:Are you afraid that you’ll just end up being turned into commodities and sold as slaves?
Inge:We are all cultural prostitutes.
GLONO:INC says it is putting passion back into revolution. What is the revolution this time around and will it be televised?
Inge:It’s not really up to me or the INC to shape the revolution and what it will be like. It will come, there are so many historical examples of the cycles of revolution and there will be one, hopefully in our lifetime. But until then we must educate ourselves and our friends to know how to handle a social situation like that, and maybe more about what we want to come after, because there will be a lot of work and conflicts. And we can’t let it be sold to totalitarian ideas. If it will be televised I don’t know… But I can assure you that making history is much more fun than staying home and watching it on TV.
GLONO:Dennis (Lyxzén, lead vocals) has said that he doesn’t see music as a platform for change anymore. Do you believe that and if so, then what’s the point?
Inge:Music can’t change anything but people. I know that because music changed me. And people can change the world. The point of doing political rock music is because we love music and we love politics and politics should be all about emotions as far as I am concerned. If you are not passionate about political struggle, you will fail…
GLONO:INC’s bio page describes an idea of a band that “would be the perfect symbiosis of Elvis and Che Guevara.” What elements of each are you specifically going for?
Inge:What we are going for is the star quality and popular impact of Elvis and the revolutionary spirit and acts of Ernesto Che Guevara.
GLONO:What the fuck is going on in Sweden? Between the INC and the Hives, some of the best rock in the world is coming out of your home country.
Inge:I don’t know. Sweden has always had a lot of good rock music and I think it’s a product of the social security system. Every little town has its own youth centers where you can practice with bands for free and you get to learn music in school and English too. I think these are the most apparent reasons why there are so many bands coming out from here.
GLONO:Why is the Rickenbacher bass THE premier kick ass rock and roll bass? What is it about that guitar? All the great garage rock bands have had a Rick bass in their arsenal: INC, the Jam, the Vantrells, Twister, etc.
Inge:I don’t know. I bought it because my old Epiphone got stolen. I like the look and sound of it. Very original. But the bass players that influenced me that used a Rickenbacker were guys like [Metallica’s] Cliff Burton, [Black Sabbath’s] Geezer Butler, [Motörhead’s] Lemmy [Kilmister] and [the Jam’s] Bruce Foxton.
GLONO:Has your exposure on MTV2 changed the crowds at your US shows?
Inge:I’m sure it did help us a lot, but we did two tours as a support band for bigger acts and that probably opened up a couple of doors for us. Thanks to those bands from us.
GLONO:Anything you’d like to say to US President George W. Bush?
Inge:No. I don’t want to meet him at all. The people who want to talk to the power are the people who don’t want a radical change in politics. I’m not interested in that. But if I had the chance to make him change three things it would be:
1. Stop the war in Afghanistan
2. Call off the drug war in the U.S
3. Stop all U.S. support to Israel and give back the country to the ones it got stolen from, the Palestinians.
And the conspiracy continues. Strapped for time and grouchy after a grueling tour, Inge shrugged off some questions. The most compelling though is his refusal to answer, “What is the conspiracy and how can we be sure the INC isn’t just a patsy?” GLONO needs a Warren Commission on Rock and Roll and the (International) Noise Conspiracy are in our sights.