Cool and the gang

With a fierce, in­cen­di­ary de­but al­bum, a rep­u­ta­tion for men­ac­ing, edgy gigs and a front­man who knows how to get a re­ac­tion, Iceage are putting the fire back into punk rock. Jim Car­roll grabs a pick and starts chip­ping

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

“There shouldn’t be a set of rules to limit what you can and can’t do. That’s what we have the law and re­li­gion for”

WHEN ELIAS Ron­nen­felt and his friends first started play­ing mu­sic to­gether in Copen­hagen, they were sim­ply do­ing it for kicks. That was about five or six years ago, a time when Iceage, their friends and a bunch of other bands were hang­ing out in the city in places such as the Ung­domshuset (Youth House) and do­ing what teenage mu­si­cians the world over have al­ways done. Ron­nen­felt him­self was a par­tic­u­larly early starter and was play­ing punk rock from the age of 12.

Some­times, though, one thing leads to an­other, and a truly great band emerges from all that teen fer­vour. A plethora of punk bands has come out of that fer­tile sub­ter­ranean Copen­hagen scene. Acts such as Lower, Skurv and Red Flesh are all worth check­ing out, but Iceage are the ones who’ve re­ceived the bulk of the at­ten­tion. That’s down, in the main, to a fierce, in­cen­di­ary and an­gry de­but al­bum, New Bri­gade, and live shows that are men­ac­ing, sav­age and edgy. Iceage re­ally put blood in the mu­sic.

When they made New Bri­gade, the band had few plans be­yond get­ting their songs on record. “I’m not sure if we were con­sciously try­ing to em­u­late any spe­cific records,” says Ron­nen­felt, “but of course many splin­ters of in­spi­ra­tion from other mu­sic found its way into the flesh of the songs. We just start play­ing and then it might get car­ried in var­i­ous direc­tions from there on. I’m not sure if we all know ex­actly which di­rec­tion we’re try­ing to pull, but we’re def­i­nitely pulling.”

That Ung­domshuset scene was im­por­tant for Ron­nen­felt and Iceage for many rea­sons. “It was where I started go­ing to shows, had my first beers and a place you knew you could go as a young, lip­stick-wear­ing teenage boy with­out get­ting beaten up.”

It was also in­struc­tive in show­ing young­sters such as Ron­nen­felt the im­por­tance of al­ter­na­tives and ac­tivism, es­pe­cially in terms of the events lead­ing up to the po­lice-en­forced clo­sure of the house in 2007.

“In the year lead­ing up to the elim­i­na­tion, liv­ing in Copen­hagen was a great and very ex­cit­ing time. There was a very strong community vibe around the place I grew up, Nør­re­bro, with demon­stra­tions, meet­ings and ac­tiv­i­ties hap­pen­ing all the time. In the end, there was also a sense of fear and panic in the air. It felt as if the en­tire youth of Copen­hagen were gath­ered to save this house. It cul­mi­nated in the ri­ots and fi­nally the youth los­ing the house.”

“I don’t think any­thing can truly re­place Jagtvej 69 [the lo­ca­tion of the orig­i­nal the orig­i­nal Youth House], but now there is Dortheavej 61, which is a new youth house. And we have a new ware­house space called May­hem where Iceage and most of our friends re­hearse and do shows.”

It’s in­ter­est­ing to an out­sider to see how much trac­tion Dan­ish cul­ture is re­ceiv­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally of late with the likes ofTV shows like­such as Bor­gen, The Bridge and The Killing. Per­haps the grow­ing pro­file of bands like­such as Iceage and their peers is part of a sim­i­lar cul­tural swing?

Ron­nen­felt is quick to stick a pin in that pointy-headed the­ory. “I don’t think we have much to do with any TV se­ries,” he says, “and it’s not like the royal fam­ily knows who we are. Though I think all the new bands from Copen­hagen sound very much like Copen­hagen.”

Be­fore Iceage be­gan to get at­ten­tion, Ron­nen­felt found him­self in the lime­light be­cause of his hand-made fanzine, Dog­meat. He feels the re­ac­tion to some of the draw­ings in it, which some peo­ple thought were racist in tone, was out of all pro­por­tion.

“Over-re­acted is not the right word, more like tire­some” is how he puts it. “I don’t see things as be­ing that black and white, and there shouldn’t be a set of rules to limit what you can and can’t do. That’s what we have the law and re­li­gion for.

“That said, ac­tively be­ing racist or ho­mo­pho­bic might get you a beat­ing at May­hem, even though it doesn’t say so on the flyer. The draw­ings were not meant as a provo­ca­tion against PC punks or any­one re­ally. They were scenes of Western views on racism, but a lot of peo­ple pushed the wrong but­ton and said I’m pro-racism.”

“I didn’t have any idea of the kind of at­ten­tion that zine would get; it was some­thing I did 50 copies of on my school pho­to­copy ma­chine. I wouldn’t change any­thing though, and I be­lieve that any­one mak­ing se­ri­ous fas­cist ac­cu­sa­tions over that e-zine is a mo­ron.”

For Iceage, the past 18 months have been both in­ter­est­ing and in­dus­tri­ous. They have al­ready done a lot of tour­ing.

“When you’re tour­ing a lot, life on the road be­comes like life at home and some days are worse than oth­ers. It can be tough and some­times hard on the psy­che if you’re on a long one, but we ob­vi­ously wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it was worth it, and I still en­joy be­ing around the other boys as much as I ever did, if not more.”

The plan for now is, well, more of the same. “Putting out the sec­ond al­bum, writ­ing the third one, tour­ing,” says Ron­nen­felt.

This Iceage has all the mak­ings of be­ing a lengthy era. Iceage play Belfast’s Lime­light 2 on Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 21st, and Dublin’s Academy 2 on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 22nd

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