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 CARROLLgrabs a pick and starts chipping
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.”