Like A Hammer In The Temple: Kristian From NEXØ

NEXØ – Copenhagen, Denmark

All Photos: Adam Grønne

Worthwhile endeavours take time and that is precisely why “Like A Hammer In The Temple: Kristian From NEXØ” graces your ocular sight balls at this very moment. But just over a year ago now, NEXØ released or should I say unleashed an album that would earn them a well-deserved 2022, a year that would be noted down in their history as the band’s best year to date. 2019’s New Normal may have been released just before the “what?” times but its foundation was one that 2022’s False Flag honoured before rightfully aggrandising an already reputable clout. The NEXØ of False Flag were a different beast, one whose honesty-propelled catharsis, rage and dwarfing presence resulted in one of the finest examples of contemporary Punk and Hardcore in recent years.

If you haven’t already or simply haven’t for a while, blast both New Normal and False Flag as you read this as we to get to the bottom of it all.

Like A Hammer In The Temple: Kristian From NEXØ, then.

This interview was carried out in the precious moments modern life affords us between November 2022 and March 2023.

Kristian! Though it seems strange having only seen you a short time ago in London! – Please tell us who are and what you do in the style of someone who has never listened to Punk music before.

We are NEXØ from Copenhagen and the experience of our music is sorta like tripping on MDMA inside a washing machine going at full speed while being caressed by mermaids and beaten by socky laundry consisting of only worn-out ANTIFA shirts with political slogans.

Next question!

That’s quite the image!

So, before we get into the actual nitty-gritty of NEXØ, how are you feeling after your 2022 is now on the wind-down? What did you expect after the past two years of – whatever that was?

We postponed the release of our album ‘False Flag’ again and again, not wanting to release it in a concert vacuum. It felt weird and wrong to keep it to ourselves when it was finished, but we’re so glad we waited. The album came out in April 2022 to a world hungry for new music and live shows, and ever since the release it has been nothing but a great experience, visiting five different countries, receiving rave reviews from around the world and most importantly: Sweating and screaming with crowds again.

We were afraid that people would not party the same way, or touch each other the same way. We’re so glad to see that people actively choose to be in a big loving group as soon as they get the chance. It’s human nature.

That was especially the case at Manchester Punk Festival (2022). So, on that note, how was your time at the festival, what impression did you get of the UK scene at that time? I’ll ask you about your most recent tour later on.

And also, what did you think of the Zombie Shack?

Manchester Punk Festival blew us away. Our own show was unforgettable – sure – but we were particularly impressed by the vibe and by the people. There was a sense of community all over. All the concerts we went to had great crowds and everyone we met on the streets were like old friends. It was a pleasure to witness.

We play our very first UK gig and so many people show up at the Zombie Shack that they have to turn people away at the door! That was totally unexpected. To this day there are still people telling us how that concert blew their socks off…

It was near-full when I arrived so it can’t have been long before it filled.

Speaking of Manchester, how did your relationship with the UK Punk start? It is no secret TNSrecords have had a foot in Denmark for a while now. Have you personally played here before?

None of us has ever played in the UK before. Our drummer (Alex) had a quite successful Ska band called Patchanka that played in tons of places, but never the British Isles. So it was a first for all of us. And yes, it was all down to Andy, Bev and TNSrecords. Our good friends in the Pop-Punk band Forever Unclean have had some great experiences in the UK though, so we were able to benefit from their experiences as well.

Playing Punk, you have to go to the UK.  So many important high water marks in the tsunami of Punk-Rock took place there.

That’s a fantastic turn of phrase! – How did that come to pass? Did they approach you for ‘False Flag’ or was it the classic case of romanticised demos?

We sent out demos of a few songs off of ‘False Flag’ to a number of labels all over the world. Fortunately, people liked what they heard! After talks with different people, we ended up cooperating with three labels: Kink Records in Germany, 5FeetUnder Records from Denmark and TNSrecords from the UK.

At what point did you begin writing ‘False Flag’? Are there any tracks that didn’t make the final cut?

And in greater depth, did the writing process differ from ‘New Normal’? I ask, as lyrically, both albums seem to be almost eerily tied to the last few years of human history. Via a little Orwellian conditioning perhaps.

We began writing the songs for ‘False Flag’ right after the release of our debut. We still had so much creative energy! The pandemic ended up postponing the whole recording process, so some of the oldest songs, like ‘Out Of Sight’ and ‘Headline Stress Disorder’, were almost three years in the making when we finally released ‘False Flag’.

I don’t think the writing process differed very much, but we were far more critical towards our own music, so each song took a lot longer to write. Songs like ‘Anger’, ‘Demise’ and ‘White Lies’ literally took several years to finish. Then again there were also songs that just jumped straight at us and felt complete from the beginning – art is fascinating like that.

When we make new songs, the music always comes first. When the song starts to reveal its shape and tone I add the lyrics. I write about what I find important – the themes that we need to talk about. And the mad world we’ve been living in these last couple of years is a never-ending source of inspiration and frustration.

NEXØ - 'False Flag'

Do you think that’s why the music of ‘False Flag’ is so much darker and more aggravated? Due to the, as you say, “mad world” we’ve been living in? ‘New Normal’ very much carries a scathing Punk demeanour but there is something far more writhing and aggravated on ‘False Flag’.

So with that in mind, tell us what directly inspired the words for both ‘Conspiraturlist’ and ‘Lachrymator’ . Is there more to the latter than the obvious?

Traditional Punk deals with absolutes: Wrong/right. Black/white. But truth is found in the grey mush in between two polar opposites. That realization hit us like a hammer in the temple. Nothing seemed certain anymore, other than the fact that something was terribly wrong with the world. Our outlook on life and hopes for the future were more and more clouded in doubt.

Of course, we have to believe we can change the world for the better, but with a rise in Fascism – and particularly a climate apocalypse completely ignored by politicians – it gets harder to see light at the end of the tunnel of capitalism. That’s why ‘False Flag’ focuses on objective truth as a washed-up term – nothing seems certain except impending doom. We all see the injustice, we all see the procrastination of the politicians to the climate crisis, but we don’t see many steps in the right direction. However, while there’s frustration (so much frustration), we have yet to succumb to complete apathy. Things can still get better. We have to believe that.

About the specific songs you mentioned:

‘Lachrymator’ is about the riots in Copenhagen in 2007 after the demolition of the Youth House, which was a life-changing experience for all of us. A rite of passage. The lyrics quite simply describe the feeling of being trapped in a massive cloud of tear gas, desperate, scared and fiercely angry.

‘Conspiritualist’ deals with the spiritual hippie conspiracy theorists that multiplied during the pandemic. Suddenly there was an overlap with anti-vaxers, freedom-loving hippies and proper Fascists. People we respected and loved started sharing right-wing propaganda because it fit their agenda. The ironic (and deeply upsetting) thing was that they kept talking about critical thinking while sharing pseudo-science and Proto-Fascist lies without considering the sources or the consequences. It is vital that we are critical of any power structure, obviously, but to doubt any and all science is both ignorant, lazy and straight-up dangerous.

With that said, conspiracy theories are fucking exciting and we are definitely also prone to getting sucked down the rabbit hole occasionally – we have tried to illustrate that with the animated music video for the song.

I actually studied history at university and I’ve been earnestly arguing that this period of our history is perhaps one of the most morbidly fascinating when considering the “progression” of the human race. You’re not wrong about the pandemic’s innate ability to encourage dangerous, divisive, almost cultist-level adherence to pseudo-science and such. I personally struggled to process how all this new “information” spread so quickly.

On a more specific note but still adjacent to the above, how has the Danish Punk scene reacted, survived and adapted to the post-restriction period? Are gigs and festivals commonplace again now?

And to focus on the politicised nature of your previous answer, how has the Danish scene reacted to both the rise of the right and also how would you say it’s doing regarding the greater Punk scene’s drive towards being a welcome, inclusive place? It’s not a secret that though the scene in the UK is facing in the right direction, it still has some considerable work to do.

After COVID the live scene was back to normal very quickly here in Denmark. We played a Punk/Hardcore festival called Ilter the day after you no longer had to sit at shows and it was beautiful to see how every person in attendance watched every fucking band, even if they sucked. People were famished for a good moshpit.

Mis-information throughout the pandemic spread as quickly as the virus itself. The irony is so thick you can cut it with a blunt knife. We (kinda) deal with how information spreads and festers in a hyper-connected online society on our track ‘Headlight Stress Disorder’, but that’s another story.

About politics in Danish Punk and the scene as an inclusive place:

Bands are generally far less explicit about their political stance than traditionally in Punk, but if you pay attention it’s all still there. I think the reason for this change is the frustratingly confusing state of the world. The whole “fuck the system” rhetoric, pink mohawks and middle-fingers-galore seems a bit… I don’t know, dated? It still exists in the Danish Punk scene, but what you see far more are people that look like accountants playing murderously-hard music with lyrics dealing with the rise of the right and the constraints of capitalism, but delivered in a more intellectual, dubious and emotional way.

Generally speaking, the Punk scene in Denmark is a very inclusive space. You really have to search for the dickheads, compared to some other countries. There’s still a lot of macho bullshit, unfortunately, but I feel like it’s going in the right direction. The bands have a role to play here. If you tell people to fight all the time, you will exclude most people that are not big, burly men. I’m not saying there should be no fighting – it’s great fun – but you can do it in far more inclusive ways. If the music is good enough you don’t need to tell people to mosh. It will happen by itself.

That’s a very interesting point regarding the aesthetic of those in the scene, from the “look” onward to the content of the actual songs. It’s really quite pertinent and I think you’ll garner a sizable agreement with that. I often find myself considering how amorphous, yet oddly consistent the “scene” is here, as I stand in crowds and take in the people standing on either side of the stage.

So, before we move back to the UK so to speak, on the same lines, what has been your experience in other (continental) European scenes and cities? Would you say this more, shall we say, considered aesthetic you’ve described has been your experience outside of Denmark as well?

It’s definitely something we see everywhere. But we can’t help noticing that Punk music is gaining some popularity outside the traditional “scene”. People who are not punks at all start coming to shows because they like the energy and that’s obviously a good thing, as long as the underground is still thriving.

The fact that bands like Idles, Viagra Boys and Turnstile are huge all of a sudden is a beautiful thing to behold.

I can see some parallels, perhaps, to when this became popular in the ’90s, which is nice because I was in “single digits” for all of it…

So, now you’re finished for the year, I want to ask you about your trip to the UK. It was a pleasure to catch up with you in London but before all that, how long had the UK tour been in the works and how were you feeling about the incoming slew of shows, after both the release of ‘False Flag’ and your MPF show?

After the overwhelming experience at Manchester Punk Festival, we knew we had something to build on, so we told our fantastic booking agent Troels from Lasher Agency (and lead singer of Mighty Midgets and Vægtløs) to start setting up a tour. With his contacts and the support from TNS we knew we had the potential of a great tour, but you can never be sure, and since none of us had played in the UK before we were a bit anxious. Will people show up? Can we figure out driving on the left side of the road?

It turned out to be one hell of a trip!

We had some setbacks, of course. We had a show in Kingston cancelled on the night. People generally had a very laissez-faire attitude to what “sleeping arrangements” meant. There were some obnoxious border control and a car that had to be jump-started in the Scottish rain.

But, what we will remember is the blast at Til The Fest in London, the crowd-surfing lunatics in Glasgow and Dundee, and the insane Monday at the Cavern in Exeter. We will remember driving through Snowdonia and getting hammered in Manchester. And above all, we will remember all the new friends we made and all the praise we were showered with. If people keep asking when you’ll be back, you’ve done something right.

Well, that can only be a positive thing, I’m sure you will be back soon enough!

In more detail, I wanted to ask and then compare your experience here as a continental European band to your experience in Europe itself. I hear a lot of people say the crowds in Europe (and elsewhere) are less tame than here in the UK and that hospitality given to bands is less, considered. Using the, as you say, “laissez-faire” attitude to sleeping arrangements as an example, how did your tour here compare to elsewhere?

We have limited experience to rely on, but we certainly were surprised that food and drinks are not automatically a given – that’s the case in all other countries we’ve played. As it should be. Most bands will spend half the day at the venue setting up and waiting for the show. To ask them to pay for their own food and drinks (while paying them almost nothing for playing) would be unacceptable in most other professions. On three occasions in England, we also had to pay for a last-minute Airbnb, cause they [promoters] never supplied us with a place to crash, which is both a mental and a financial strain.

As underground musicians, we’re used to challenging working conditions, but England was hard. People were very nice to us though, and that makes it all worth it.

In terms of the crowd reactions it was a lot like home. Nordic people are reserved and will only freak out if you really give them a reason to, but afterwards, people who have not moved an inch will come to tell you what a great gig it was… Scotland was very different. People were moshing and crowd-surfing from the very first song. We were very impressed by the Scots. What an amazing bunch of people.

Sadly, that’s not the first time I’ve heard such from touring bands in the UK. There seems to be prevailing reticence in the people from these Islands. I am glad though that you found people to have been nice to you, however. That and you’re also not the first to tell me of the high-octane nature of the Scottish shows!

On that note, how did you find the venues you played, the staff of said venues, sound techs and promoters to be throughout the tour? It’s all well and good when the crowd is on your side, but there is always more to it.

It was all pretty underground, to put it euphemistically. Some of the backline provided was kinda falling apart, but hey, we’re used to that. We play Punk, for fucks sake. The sound techs were generally really good at working with what they had, and we love playing in small rough venues. So it was basically as expected.

One of the great things about playing in trashy small places is that both the audience and the volunteers have such ownership and love for the venue and that’s how you end up with this electric atmosphere so prevalent in the DIY community. It’s OURS and we’re gonna OWN it.

Would your impression of the UK be one wholly positive then, now you’ve got a tour under your belts? Of those I’ve spoken to in the last year or so, there have been some mixed responses to that question.

Do you have any venues you’d want to prospectively return to on a later tour of UK?

When you’re involved with the DIY movement, you don’t expect particularly high standards. You expect dedication and comradery. And we were met with just that! So we’d LOVE to repeat the feat – even if it rained most of the time, the cigarettes are expensive and you drive on the wrong side of the road.

We were particularly impressed with The Cavern in Exeter, Conroy’s Basement in Dundee and Glasgow in general. Honourable mention to The Matchstick Piehouse in London, which might not have been the best venue, but the people were fantastic. Both the sound tec, the organizers, the bar staff and the crowd. And like I said before: That’s what you really hope for in a Punk venue.

OK then, off the back of that question. If YOU or perhaps the band known as NEXØ were to put on a DIY festival, who would you have as an ideal line-up from the European scene as a whole? And importantly, where would you host it?

For our festival, we would take over this abandoned prison on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Stage in the middle of the hall with several floors of balconies to jump/cheer from. [There would be] ample accommodation for everyone in the nearby cells.

The line-up would consist of bands that we either adore as musicians or comrades – preferably both. This means that a lot of Danish bands would be invited, but honestly, the scene is booming. Some say that creative energy and innovation have never been better than right now. We could make a festival with just very good Danish bands, but [for this] we would have to include acts like EYES, Tvivler, Syl, Galge and Indre Krig, for sure.

From the UK we would invite at least Pizzatramp, The Restarts, Incisions and Bratakus. Then Norway needs to be present with heavy-duty stuff like Daufødt and one of my personal favourite Punk bands ever, Honningbarna (if they can still be considered DIY…) France with Tukatukas, Youth Avoiders and Anti-Clockwise. Tons of interesting stuff from Spain and Italy. We could keep going… This could turn out to be a very big festival!

A five-day festival in a prison, why ever not? Speaking of bands and favourites, tell me about yours and I believe your drummer’s feelings on Ska? I hear you’re quite the connoisseur! Has it influenced what would become NEXØ in any way?

There was an overlap between the radical left wing and the Ska scene in Copenhagen for a while. That’s how we all met. Alex (drums) played in a very successful Ska band called Patchanka, while me and Jonas (bass) had a crazy Ska concept called Larica. Jakob (guitar) was a temporary member of Larica on several occasions. Larica came to an end in 2015 after 8 years of massive fun, and when the need to play came creeping back a couple of years later something had changed inside us and with the world. It seemed natural to start playing darker music. I feel there was a need to distance us from our past, so no, I don’t think there was a lot of inspiration from Ska in NEXØ. But our stage presence and our desire to have fun on stage can probably be traced back to the Ska days.

Some of us never listen to Ska anymore, but I personally still enjoy it. It just makes me happy! Whether it’s grooving out to some 60s originals or getting ridiculous to some Streetlight Manifesto 4th-wave stuff. Back in high school, I was “that guy that always talks about Ska”, and I’ve outgrown the mad obsession, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop listening to Ska. Recently NEXØ were asked to play at a tribute show for Terry Hall of The Specials (which we were unable to do) and that felt like a blast from the past, almost like a return to where we started.

Speaking of where you started, sort of, what would young Kristian think if he heard ‘False Flag’ for the first time off the mixing desk or witnessed NEXØ live? What would he say to you?

I think young Kristian would be blown back by the sheer aggression and speed of the music. Generally, I’m a soft guy that listens to soft music. I remember being 17 and thinking no music could ever be harder or faster than ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ by Dead Kennedys. So the musical energy and anger of NEXØ would be hard to stomach for acne-ridden, teenage-angsty Kristian.

Lyrically I don’t think I would be too appalled, though. My thoughts on the rampant injustice of global capitalism were pretty much the same back then, albeit with more nuance and linguistic prowess today. I would probably need a dictionary to fully understand the lyrics of ‘False Flag’, though.

As we come to a close, though there are a couple more questions I’d like to ask. I have a couple about the band’s “style” and live show as it stands. Are there any hidden, perhaps less obvious influences on NEXØ that listeners may not immediately notice? Or with specificity to you in your role in the band?

I also have to ask about your microphone setup for the band, how did that come about?

I used to jam hand-played house music in a band with Jonas, and that’s how I got into vocal effects. When NEXØ started using it in select songs, we discovered that it added another dimension to our music. That’s how it became a staple and now we use it actively when writing new songs. Since I don’t use it all the time on stage and want to be flexible about when I use it, I had to insist on having two microphones. More is more!

I think all musicians get influenced by what they like – even if it’s just subconsciously. So there’s some House/Techno influence in there. There’s some Psychedelic Rock. There’s some Noise and Jazz. There’s plenty of Metal. For me personally a lot of the vocalists I love influence my sound, although it’s not on purpose. People like Jim Morrison and Kasper Eistrup, for instance. Probably some others, too, that I’m simply not aware of.

That’s a very good point and I couldn’t agree more. Quite ironically it doesn’t seem to be an answer you hear as often as you’d think in these interviews.

Speaking of influences, again, is there anything that’s propagating any particularly fervent creativity for you at the moment? Is NEXØ working on anything you can allude to? 

People want to be unique, I guess. For some, it’s difficult to accept that we’re merely replicating and re-creating what has touched us before. I’m not pretending that nothing new comes of this – of course, it does – I’m just highlighting the fact that nobody is completely and wholly original. And that is after all a beautiful and unifying thought.

In that vein, I hear tons of influences in our new music – the music that we’re creating right now, which still doesn’t have a real shape. In one of our new compositions, we’re dealing with some Viagra Boys-kinda Kraut Rock with heavily modified drone vocals. It is so far from anything we’ve done before. In another new composition you’ll hear a beat reminiscent of Queens Of The Stone Age, but every time I get it under my skin it morphs and skips a beat because the guys need to challenge the predictable. I really don’t know where the hell we’re going right now, but I do know that that seems to be the common denominator: The need to challenge the predictable.

Whether that’s a wholly good thing or just pretentious dribble, we’ll have to wait and see.

I agree entirely there, on both counts and as far as the progress of new music goes, I think fans of the band will take that gladly, along with such a sizable dose of mystery on the side.

To close, I have a couple more for you:

If you had to compile a three-track sampler of NEXØ tracks in order to properly illustrate the band? What would you choose and why? What is your instinctual reaction?

Truthicide / Conspiritualist / Demise

First of all: They’re some of our greatest songs. ‘Truthicide’ because of the sheer aggression to go with lyrics that I’m pretty proud of.

‘Conspiritualist’ represents the more experimental side of our band, which takes up more and more space in our creative process. It’s not just a linear Punk song and we love that. It’s also great fun to play!

‘Demise’ is just a fucking banger. It’s one of my personal favourites. We have to include that, because what would NEXØ be without speed? The climate apocalypse is enough reason to include it.

Remaining with answers from your gut, what bands have you been enjoying from the UK and Denmark recently, and who should those reading investigate?

From Denmark I have to say Tvivler. They are a fantastic live band and their creative songwriting is a big inspiration. I know the other members of NEXØ want me to say EYES, too. That band will own any stage they set their feet on – you don’t want to follow them on the bill…

Our good friends from Syl have to be mentioned as well. They just released their debut, and already sound like themselves. Very impressive.

If you’re more into Post-Metal you should check out bands like Omsorg and Vægtløs, and for traditional Punk there’s a new project called Indre Krig.

The majority of the UK bands I listen to are not part of the DIY scene – not even punk – but there are a couple. I have to send love to our friends from The Restarts as well as the crazy guys from Pizzatramp. Our drummer Alex sent me a way too long list of UK bands that he felt deserved mention and after telling him to chill he narrowed it down to Bratakus, Bruise Control, Shooting Daggers and Bob Vylan. I need to mention Idles too, cause we listen to them all the time, but they’re not exactly a secret to anyone in the Punk scene.

And finally, I hear from a fellow Danish Punk, that in your home scene, you are known as the “The Sticker Band”. Can you shed any light on such an accusation?

It’s true, we do take our sticker game very seriously 😀 – We aim to be everywhere at once! That might be overly ambitious, but it’s great fun. And the fact of the matter is that several people have shown up at gigs and told us that they discovered us because they kept seeing that goddamn sticker everywhere and had to find out what it was all about. Anyway, I dearly hope that people know us as more than just “the sticker band”. We do our best to make music that says more than a thousand stickers.

The system works. Well, it doesn’t but your stickering certainly does!

Right, finally-finally! You’re in a band with members from The Simpsons universe. Tell me the album’s name, who is playing what and who gets fired from the band and why? They will also need to be replaced.

Okay, so I didn’t think this through, but here is a quick answer: Our band is Ned Flanders on guitar, Snake on drums, Disco Stu on bass. I’m Groundskeeper Willy and I’d get kicked out of the band for losing my temper ALL the time, despite us just having finished ‘Duff can’t save you now – The Tavern Sessions’ where we played live at Moe’s twice a week for a month until we finally had enough material to release a messy 7″. I think the others would replace me with Love Joy and start playing Black Metal with his deep vocals.

That was fun! Another answer: As lead singer I’m Marge, trying to make this dysfunctional band family function (in vain) while my partners in crime are Lisa on guitars (brilliant know-it-all), Bart on drums (a bit of a handful with his heart in the right place) and Maggie on bass (silent, but secretly the biggest genius of them all). Yes.

Wow! I feel you need to write to them and pitch this! Thanks for your time, Kristian! It’s been fun! Just to close do you have anything you wish to sign off with?

It’s been great fun answering your questions, Matt! I loved the format. Not just in the music business, but everything in this hyper-digitalized online presence has become so superficial that we rarely take time to dwell on things. I hope this type of article will reach people nonetheless. And I hope that the people who read all the way to the end will hear this prayer:

Show up to gigs, talk to people, and come chat with the band afterwards. The bands need your support, sure, but YOU also need it. You need live music to creep under your skin and make it boil with delight. You need to scream in strangers’ faces that this is the best day of your life. You need to sweat and jump and feel you’re alive. Magic happens in the physical presence of others. So let’s meet out there, in shady clubs and smokey rooms, and let’s make some noise together and dance the night away. It’s romantic and simple, but sometimes that’s all life has to be.

That was Like A Hammer In The Temple: Kristian From NEXØ” and what a fantastic time it was! You can find all you need from the Danish-four below!

Founder of Ear Nutrition, Matt is sadly over 30 and first cut his words writing for the now defunct site, Musically Fresh. He enjoys a variety of guitar-driven music but can usually be found navigating a web of Skate Punk, Hardcore and everything in between.