» Danny/Joél - Crazy Lixx
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Interview conducted April 21 2017
Interview published May 16

Swedish rockers Crazy Lixx launched their new album Ruff Justice on April 21st and on the exact same day they visited Stockholm for a show and earlier that night Metal Covenant was able to seal an appointment with the original members lead vocalist Danny Rexon and drummer Joél Cirera.

Tobbe: Okay. It's your fifth album now and what has Crazy Lixx been looking for this time with its record?

Danny: Well, we have been looking back a little bit. Maybe it comes to that with new members and we didn't have a set plan and we pretty early were given indications of what they thought we ought to make. They were fans of the previous records, you know. We have also realized that New Religion [2010], our second album, is the most appreciated one, so we kind of followed that line to see what made that one good and why it is popular, you know, and can we redo that in a sense? And they were all in for it and we even picked up old demos that have just been put aside for many, many years.

(Joél:) We voted about which songs to end up on the record and instead of just settle for, like, 12 songs and then go in the studio and just go, we have chosen to take, like, two at a time and record them from scratch, you know. And then after some time between those two and the next time to record, then maybe our way of thinking was like "The song I liked three months ago is maybe not the song I still like, but another one." and in some cases it was. But the ones we voted for were the best fit in the end.

But I also think that the album sounds a lot more unison because, with the exception of one song and one riff, it's completely Danny and it hasn't really been that way on the previous records. It has always been some songs belonging to one of our former guitarists or if they haven't made it themselves they have at least co-written it with Danny and therefore they have been getting their input on the whole album too, which hasn't been bad in any way, but now when it's only one songwriter, who we other follow, it's a different thing and we have been getting a more straight line about what's going on on the album.

Tobbe: So in what way do you then follow the line from the previous records, musically?

Danny: Well, pretty early on we got a kind of feeling because we were contacted by a computer game company who were going to make a game, Friday The 13th, and they wanted a thematic song. It was gonna be about the 80's and they couldn't afford licensing real 80's music, like hits, you know, but they wanted something that sounded like that, but was new and that they could buy out eventually, you know.

So we made the song XIII [X triple I] and that was the first one we gave to them and we felt that it was really great and that set the tone for the rest of the album quite a bit. We've had that line in mind, like action movies and horror movies from the 80's in terms of both cover and songwriting. It's far from a theme album, but still there's kind of a red line in it.

(Joél:) Kind of a tribute to the 80's, I would almost say. Everything we thought was best with the 80's has kind of been gathered on one record in some sort of a tribute, which we nevertheless have done all the time and Crazy Lixx has always been about recreating the 80's and the early 90's sound when a lot of great albums came out. It's always been our thing, but this time to an even greater extent.

Tobbe: You have your foundation 30 years back in sleaze rock or hard rock or sleaze metal or whatever you wanna call it, but how do you try to always put your own imprint and your own idea to your music from that foundation?

Danny: It comes pretty natural, you know. What's pretty interesting is that you have an image of the 80's sound, but when you actually listen to it you realize that you have kind of a misrepresenting view about it. It happened a couple of times when I sent a song to Chris Laney for mixing. I had a bombastic power ballad and he asked me how I wanted it to sound and I was like "Make it like Loves Bites by Def Leppard. Just go!" and he was like "Are you really sure about that?", you know. And then we listened to it and it sounds like computer drums with short reverbs on the snare drum and not so much guitars, so I realized that my image of the sound isn't really correct. So we have to update.

A lot of the 80's are great, but at the same time also shabby in many ways production-wise and that wouldn't work today, because people have completely different expectations about the sound. So we have tried to capture the feeling of the 80's, but also have a cutting-edge production. In some way we put our own print to it because we sound in a certain way and my voice sounds in a certain way. We even have a song [Shot With A Needle Of Love. Originally by Pretty Boy] on this album that was written in '89 and very few have noticed that there's a song which we didn't write ourselves, so I think it just comes natural.

(Joél:) Danny has a very characteristic voice that I can't recognize from any other band, at least bands playing now. Nothing against them, but for example H.E.A.T. has an incredible singer in Erik Grönwall and had one in their former singer too [Kenny Leckremo] and there are many singers who are really great and can sing high C's for all I know, but Danny has a voice that is very special, in terms of when you hear a song you instantly hear that it's Danny.

Tobbe: Recording techniques have changed over the decade you've been active with record releases and in what have you learned to utilize new techniques during this time?

Joél: Especially with this album we have utilized modern technology, so to speak. It's like we wanted to make a record that is very true, like "Let's use a Marshall rig and tweak it and let's do this part with a Stratocaster!" and that's the honest sound. But we realized quickly that we limit ourselves in that way and in fact we used digital amps on this one and that has worked out really well because suddenly if you want to change something or fix something you just use a computer and just do it and honestly, I mean, I haven't heard anyone saying that we use digital guitars.

(Danny:) You know, many of the albums we look up to and get influenced by are million dollar projects and if we should try to recreate that sound, and don't have that budget and the possibility and, honestly, that knowledge doesn't really exist in the industry either, we have to utilize today's technique. And when we started out it was something in between and certain trends regarding production were hard to combine with what we wanted to do, like close-miking drums and there were dry productions and a lot of stuff was going to be fixed during mixing. It was very hard to get an image of the album and when you left the studio you were very undone overall. Now we have rather followed the concept that what we deliver should principally sound like we wouldn't be ashamed of releasing it as it is and the mixing guy should just fine tune it, you know.

(Joél:) And our new guitarists Chrisse [Olsson] and Jens [Lundgren] have both great knowledge in setting the sound too. It wasn't really until we met Chris Laney that we actually came close to what we wanted. Prior to meeting him we have been in the studio and paid a lot of money and we've been having some kind of pre-production and like, you know "Yeah, but this guitar sound and this drum sound…" and they've been saying "No problem, guys. We'll fix this. No problem.". And then in the end it sounds really crappy and you've paid a hell of a lot of money for it.

But then Chris came into the picture and he has definitely helped us to become what we are today and that's why we stubbornly have kept working with him, aside from one record, and it's easy to see which record is the most popular, or rather the least popular. It's because we have a sound that he helps us with, even if he has on the new record only been mixing, but even there his input is important because he has the knowledge.

(Danny:) We've learned from him as well, by working together, how to produce, how to structure the work, like layers and choirs and guitars and whatever. And this isn't trying to talk shit about our former members and we've had fantastic players in terms of guitarists, but not people who have been so interested in the sound, really. Just technically very skilled. But I think the difference now is that they really know how to set the sound. Like I had an idea in my head and approached them with a song and "Guys. I want a guitar sound like this. I have no clue of how to do it." and they very often answered quickly, like "It's this and that guitar and this effect.", you know.

Tobbe: When you write songs today, as you have put out over 50 songs, is it hard sometimes to not end up in the same kind of track as before? You know, like recognizable drum fills and vocal melodies or anything.

Joél: But on the other hand, don't you get disappointed when your old favorite band puts out a record that is completely different than what they have done before? You know, even if Dio is dead now, but if he hadn't made records that were reminiscent of what he had done before and what I dug in the 80's and 90's I would have been very disappointed. Yes, it's a little bit the same drum fills and a guitar solo and some wailing vocals and whatever, but on the other hand it's what we built our name and our band on. Maybe we make the songs even better, but all the characteristics are still there, making it sound, you know, a little 80's, yet it sounds good.

Tobbe: Regarding the lyrics, Danny, since you're the one who is singing them. How important are they in the whole Crazy Lixx experience? Or are the lyrics just one part, like 20 percent of everything else?

Danny: I have always imagined that it's the last important thing that you must do. Like I said, we have a cover song on this record. Well, cover… It was hardly released when it was written in '89. But what the band reacted to was its more pubertal lyrics than what we're used to and the lyrics aren't of best quality, really. It's very much straightforward and you can see that it's written by two 19 year olds in the US in '89. So, certainly there is a difference.

Sometimes I meet people who have a tattoo of one of our lyric lines, you know. And I got an email just the other day from a girl who was in a terrible accident and, you know, told us that one of our texts had helped her to make it back. To me it's a little strange because I almost never write autobiographical stuff, but it's more that I try to enter someone else's mind and tell a story or something. But I've started to think that the lyrics are more important, but it seldom starts with a text though, but that comes after a while. Often I have a hook maybe, like a chorus line and then you build something around that.

But I think generally that the lyrics take more room now than before and maybe it's a maturity thing too. I wouldn't say it's great poetry in any way, but still there's a thought in there and it's hard to sing about party, party, yeah, yeah all night long on a whole record, you know. But of course it's still much about chicks and the dream of playing rock 'n' roll, so the theme is kind of the same. You know, a little bit rebellious.

Tobbe: The band hasn't really gotten great success yet, but maybe it's about to happen and in what way do you try to get things rolling big-time?

Joél: We have noticed that the video game has really helped us a lot, with what they put out, and made YouTube videos, and whatever. Suddenly people even started to check out our old videos and write to us, like "Jason led me to you.", you know. The reviews in the past have been just okay maybe, but from what we've seen now almost everything has been 8/10, 9/10 and a whole lot of 10/10 and 5/5 and it's been overwhelming since we didn't really expect that. We knew that we had made an album that we are extremely happy with, but we couldn't foresee this reception. Hopefully this will set things into motion and we can tour more and maybe do bigger stuff, but that's up to the fans, really.

And we will see if they show up to the gigs, buy records and whatever, then suddenly we will get room to work with. I mean, we played in Russia last year and we knew nothing about what welcome we were going to get. Our bass player [Jens Sjöholm] has been there before, with his former band [Solity] and the venues were kind of shabby, to say the least, you know. So we were like "Okay. Let's see what happens.", you know, which in the end instead proven to be one of the best places we've ever been to. We've never had so many fans that, you know, were waiting for autographs and talking with us and there were like 20 youngsters that were waiting outside the venue 5 hours before the show. One guy was even from Kazakhstan, like 600 miles away, and he had found out which hotel we were staying in. Don't ask me how the hell he managed to do that, but he stood there and he had found out that we had an interest in history and he had brought a leaflet with history about Kazakhstan, you know.

(Danny:) They're very into gifts. When you start going a little outside of Europe it's really common that you receive gifts. (Joél:) And you got this one from the Russians. [Grabs one of Danny's bracelets.] (Danny:) Yes, and I'm still wearing it. Anyways, you know, we mentioned New Religion and that album was kind of our chance to get a breakthrough in the first place, but now, afterwards, I realize that we weren't prepared in a lot of ways. You know, we had a good number of chances to get gigs to play, but we never really seized the opportunity and we're miles better now, I think, to deliver live and we know how everything works in a sense. So I think we're prepared for it in a whole different way now and if the opportunity will come now it's a completely different situation. We were a little bit naïve back then and in some way missed that chance. And of course some member chances have affected this as well.

Tobbe: You know, hard work usually pays off in the end, so have you guys played in pretty much every shithole that can provide a stage?

Joél: Yes. We have played everywhere and beyond. But the thing is that we're getting older too and priorities change. I'm 36 and Danny is soon to be 34. (Danny:) 35. (Joél:) 35? Old man. (Danny:) Aren't you turning 37 this year? (Joél:) Shut up. We're not talking about that. Turn the recording off. [Laughs] Anyways, we have families and kids, you know, and suddenly the old times, like in 2010 when we just had a girlfriend, are gone. It was just like "By the way. We're going out playing this and this and this weekend and we have no clue if it's gonna be 10 people or 3000 people coming down for the show. I don't know.". And that was cool, but now we're not really up for it every time. But if it's a place where we haven't been to, like Russia, of course we do it, but if it's a place where we know that only 10 people will come down to the show, maybe we're not so keen on going there again.

(Danny:) We have a better feeling now for what's worth it or not. But sure, in the beginning it was definitely like we were happy if we broke even. We played for gas money and so, but we have realized that the audience we had in 2003 up to 2007, when we released our first album, I mean, they have also grown up and have families too and it's maybe not the people we see when we play now. So we have been able to reach a new crowd of young people, who are very hard to reach nowadays. And we notice that too, when we see people comment on our videos we release, that it's not like it used to be, that specifically just our fans are there, but more like a mix of people who find us in different ways now. But we absolutely see an opening now, so we will see what happens.

(Joél:) Then I also question the actual concept to tour yourselves to a fanbase. I don't think that concept lives, in a sense, anymore. I understand that bands want to do it and, God knows, we've done it. We have worked hard over all the years that we have worked with the band, even during times when we put out albums, and we have done it for the love of our music and for the love of just meeting 20 people who love our music and pay $15 to see us play.

Of course we appreciate that, but today, just touring, touring, touring is maybe not what really does the job for us, because we could tour until we're turning blue around our eyes, but if only 10 people show up for the gigs, because people don't know we're playing there and it's hard to promote the gig, you know, it gets tough in the end. And especially in this day and age. I mean, in 2010 downloading was going on, but today it's a whole different digital forum and it's not like just release a video and hope MTV is gonna pick it up, because, the Gods know, they don't play any fucking music anymore.

(Danny:) I remember a typical case where we started to doubt the point in doing certain things. We were going to play a club and we were sitting in the jacuzzi at the hotel before the gig and a guy asked us for a picture. So we took that picture and put it up on Instagram and we instantly got a couple of hundred likes and then we played the gig and there were like 20 people in the audience. So that fucking picture was a better promotional tool than our actual gig was, you know. So it was like "Is there actually any value in doing this or should we put our effort on the web or doing music videos?".

Tobbe: So over the years, how have you been able to keep going with the band?

Danny: You know, I usually say that the member changes have been tough, but in a sense it has given us a new certain energy. It wouldn't in any way be a lie to say that we had our doubts when both of our guitarists [Edd Liam and Adde Eriksson] left the band after the last record [Crazy Lixx, 2014] and asked ourselves like "Should we keep doing this? It maybe isn't worth the effort.". But since we found two new guitarists so quickly and that they came in with such enthusiasm I'm glad we did it, because I truly believe that we have the best record of our career, you know. A lot of fans thank them and it was kind of the fans' decision that we would continue. We told people on facebook, like "We actually don't know. We're in search of new guitarists, but this is our situation right now.".

(Joél:) Even if we were in search of two guitarist we already had Jens Lundgren on the way in since he helped us out on two gigs when our former guitarist Edd couldn't do them. He was with us, we knew him, he was a friend and he did a really good job, so it was like "Okay. Maybe we only need one guitarist then.". Because if it were two guys coming in from scratch, who have to get into the band, get to know the band and everything else, it would maybe have been like "Do we really have enough energy to do this again?", you know.

(Danny:) And there's no guarantee that we tally on a personal plane, you know. So we've been really lucky this time actually. And both guys lived near by too. Before, we have kind of imported Edd from Värmland [Western Swedish county] and Adde from Stockholm and it had its problem because they had their family and connection to their home town. So we feel like we're more tight-knit in a different way than before and that was completely decisive if we would have the energy to make another record.

Tobbe: And like you said, Joél, the record has been getting great reviews so far.

Joél: Yes, and it's been great. You know, like "People actually like what we do.". Usually it's like, you know "Sleaze rockers…". (Danny:) Yes, and it feels more even. And we have left the Sleaze epithet for the most part too. (Joél:) I have never liked that fucking label. (Danny:) Exactly. But honestly, when we started this band we didn't know if there was an audience for this whatsoever. We had a metal band earlier, I, Joél and our first guitarist, Vic [Zino]. (Joél:) We've played together since '98.

(Danny:) Yes, we've played for quite some time. So we had a metal band, very unclear of genre though, as Joél wanted to play death metal and I wanted to play power metal, you know. So at some point we just said "Fuck it! Let's go for this instead, because everybody loves 80's hard rock.". We didn't knew what we were going to call the band and we didn't know if there was an audience. And then we heard something about a movement in the Stockholm area, so we went up there and played the pubs and we played every little shitty festival there is and then this label "Sleaze" was coming on strong and we said like "Okay. Then we're also sleaze. We must belong to this. It's similar enough.". But image-wise and visually we have never really been there, but it was more that we got lumped together with the movement that started.

(Joél:) We've looked more like Skid Row than Mötley Crüe and then we can't hide from the fact that Crashdïet opened up a lot of gates with their first record [Rest In Sleaze, 2005]. They also got great support from their record company too [Universal], with making a fucking music video for the commercial for 3 [Cell phone network company] in the Philippines. I mean, they opened a lot of doors and then everybody called themselves sleaze, but then I noticed around 2011 or 2012 that nobody wanted to be called sleaze anymore. But of course you jump on the trend if you have that possibility because you hope that it will generate some listeners, even if I personally have always felt that the term sleaze doesn't work. I would have preferred simply being called 80's hard rock.

Tobbe: Yes, I saw how you guys cringed when I mentioned the word sleaze in the beginning of our conversation.

Danny: But abroad the label sleaze metal is still more current and I've seen that they have started to use hair metal too, which I think is a more neutral term because it broadens the whole thing. (Joél:) Really? Because hair metal to me is Poison. (Danny:) But it's also, like, Warrant and a lot more. But above all it's press and media who want to be clear with these genre terms, and I get it, and it's a way for the fans to be able to sort out bands. Then of course, with a name like Crazy Lixx you get labeled too, you know.

(Joél:) We were actually briefly talking in the past about changing the name because it felt so wrong, but at the same time we have worked with the band for 10 years with albums and for 15 years as a band and if we would have another name it wouldn't work out. (Danny:) No, it wouldn't work out. I have always said that a good band name is a result of a good band. I can't honestly say that Judas Priest is a fantastic band name either. It's a little bit amusing, but if the band would have sucked it would have been pathetic, so. So you have to make it to what it is, you know.

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