By Carmen Juarez
If you’ve been following the debate (They’re racist! … They might just not be aware of what they’re doing … They’re not racist or stupid! … They’re totally stupid… and racist) you’ve probably already made your mind up about whether these four young Danish punks are neo-Nazi fascists or just a bunch of irresponsible, naïve kids.
The reality is that contemporary Europe is becoming ever-increasingly xenophobic – see the Lega Nord Alliance (Northern League) in Italy, Golden Dawn in Greece and the Sweden Democrats, for example. Maybe this explains why this young band from Denmark – a country that is becoming more and more accepting of the far-right – have largely gotten away with using fascistic, violent imagery. Or has everyone read far too deeply into this?
About time we asked the band to explain themselves, right?
I spoke to Iceage bassist Jakob Tvilling Pless, and he wants you to know that Iceage aren’t fascists.
A debate that seems to have started almost two years ago has been re-ignited – people are up in arms about Iceage’s potential links to racism, fascism and white nationalism. I’d like to hear from you what you think about this, and what the band’s stance is?
About the political stuff, I mean, first of all I can say none of us are fascists or nazis or anything. Iceage is not political in any way, it’s only about music and, you know, feelings.
That’s just about it.
You’re a bunch of punk kids.
Does that mean you would describe the imagery the band associates themselves with as more of an aesthetic thing than a political thing?
It’s more like an aesthetic thing yes, for sure.
When your fans are looking at that sort of imagery [inferentially anarchist/white power(?) band logo, Klansmen hoods in music videos (see below), sieg-heiling fans, Death in June tattoos... ], what do you want them to identify it with? What are you trying to get across to your fans with that imagery?
I don’t know… I’ve been asked this question a lot of times. It’s not political in any way. Of course we have our political standpoints, but it has nothing to do with the nazis at all. We just do what we feel like, and it’s not like we’re trying to be part of a scene. We’re just doing what we want to do and it wasn’t the intention to have any, any you know offensive [effect]. We didn’t try to be offensive in any way. I don’t really see why people got offended by what we’ve done. We just, I mean, if you think about [it]… Elias [Rønnenfelt, singer] [doing] the Dogmeat magazine had nothing to do with Iceage. I’m sure Elias didn’t mean to, you know, he didn’t try to show any fascist side of himself in any way, because he is not a fascist. And the hoods and stuff was just like, a good friend of ours… we just used them for fun. Didn’t have anything to do with fascism.
I’ve heard the Copenhagen punk scene described as “left-wing”, would you agree with that?
I can only speak for myself and I consider myself a left-wing person. I don’t support any you know ideology or anything, but I would say my point of view is left-wing, yes.
Would you say that your views conflict with the social and political situation in Denmark now? Conflict with mainstream views?
I mean, umm, I don’t think it’s the opposite. To be honest, I don’t really follow politics that close because I think most of the politicians are just puppets. Actually do you mind if we don’t talk about politics because I don’t think it’s relevant at all.
The songs on the new album, You’re Nothing, are they about anything in particular?
About a lot of things. As I just said before, none of it is about politics. For the most part the lyrics are about personal experiences and feelings and everyday life I guess.
Everyday life in Denmark?
I don’t know, it’s not that much about Denmark. I mean at the moment we don’t really spend that much time in Denmark because we’re pretty much touring all the time. It’s not about life in Denmark in general, it’s about being a person and having, getting, yeah… I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s just about being a person, starting to express your feelings and how you feel about being a person I guess.
There has been criticism of the band’s decision to sell official Iceage knives at your shows. Where did the idea to include knives as merch come from?
That was a friend of ours [who] was just like, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, do you want me to make some knives for you to sell?”. There was really not anything to it. It was just like, we just thought it was a fun idea. It wasn’t trying to, the idea was to not to try to, you know, glorify violence or anything, we just thought it was a fun idea. And that was all.
Because they’re being sold at shows, there is the potential for people to get hurt. How would the band react to somebody getting hurt if people used your merch against each other?
Well, I mean, when we sold the knives they had like a sign saying “no stabbing”. But I mean of course it would be very unfortunate if somebody got stabbed by an Iceage knife. But if somebody’s gonna stab somebody, they could have stabbed the person with any, any knife. It’s not very hard to get a knife. So I wouldn’t blame myself if it happened, but of course I would think it was very unfortunate. But I would think it was a shame and a waste of life if anybody got stabbed with any kind of knife.
You guys have got a Jewish drummer – Dan’s [Nielsen] a Jewish drummer – people are saying you guys are racist, you guys are fascist, whatever. From what I’m hearing you’re not. You’ve got a Jewish drummer – do you think that proves anything?
Umm, it would be kind of weird if we were nazi’s and one of our best friends… I mean, all of us, I think we consider each other brothers and it would be kind of weird if we had you know a [nazi] person consider a Jew a brother.
I grew up… most of my childhood friends are either black or arabs or, I mean… I think it’s kind of a joke when people try to, you know, try to make it look like, try to make me look like a fascist. I mean, I don’t even really care if people think that we’re nazis. The only thing I think is a shame is… if black people or if Jewish people, you know, got offended by stupid people calling us fascists, and if any of our black fans or anything, you know, got upset at anything, if they were upset by that, that would be a shame. But I mean, I think most of those people who try to make us look like fascists… they are like, they are the judging ones. It’s not us. We’re just doing… we’re just making music. They’re the ones judging us even though they don’t know us.
Hopefully those people read this.
This blog kills fascists.
THE ALTERNATIVE REVIEW | Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador)
Iceage | smart and naive can be a dangerous combination too - Louis Pattison answers Iceage’s critics
Iceage | Who makes the Nazis?
Iceage | an open letter to Louis Pattison