Swedish hard rockers Crazy Lixx carry the torch of rock ‘n’ roll with pride. Formed in 2002, the band has enthralled crowds with their unique brand of ‘80s hard rock. Noted as one of the last standing bands of The New Wave of Swedish Sleaze, Crazy Lixx are pioneers of Sweden’s rock music scene in their own right. Influenced by rock giants such as Kiss, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and Bon Jovi, the band etched their signature style. Bridging a lasting connection with old and new audiences alike, Crazy Lixx continued to produce energetic live performances across Europe. With more than a decade of experience and several line-up changes, they amassed five full-length studio albums and one live album including “New Religion” (2010), “Riot Avenue” (2012) and “Sound Of The LIVE Minority” (2016).
However, it wasn’t until the release of their fifth studio album, “Ruff Justice” (2017), that they began an American invasion. Hungry and ready to unleash, Crazy Lixx pushed onward with their fresh new lineup which features the mighty Danny Rexon (vocals), Joél Cirera (drums), Jens Sjöholm (bass), Chrisse Olsson (guitar) and Jens Lundgren (guitar). “Ruff Justice” (2017) is comprised of 10-tracks, three of which are featured soundtracks for the hit video game “Friday the 13th – The Game.” Tapping into ‘80s classic horror and action nostalgia, “Ruff Justice” delivered impressive guitar solos, memorable hooks and catchy choruses, big drums and defining riffs.
In 2019, this rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse returns with another undeniable sleaze metal gem that harkens back to the best of ‘80s rock, while also keeping a foot planted in the 21st Century. “Forever Wild” further cements Crazy Lixx as one of the leaders of the Scandinavian led ‘80s hard rock revival. With huge choruses, memorable hooks and riffs, wailing, emotive guitar solos, and massive production by Danny Rexon and Chris Laney, this album resonates with old fans and new listeners alike. Crazy Lixx manages to blend a love and reverence for ‘80s rock with their own stamp on each track.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with frontman Danny Rexon to discuss his musical roots, the evolution of the band and breathing life into “Forever Wild.”
Music played a huge role in your life. Tell us how the journey began.
In a sense, music has always been there. Some of my earliest memories revolve around my first favorite songs. I can remember really liking “Final Countdown” by Europe and “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. Me, being born in 1982, I think those songs are from 1986-87, so I was about 4 or 5 years old. Those early favorites really have stuck with me until today. I also remember doing my first performances when I was quite small, which were with toy guitars in front of parents at school and stuff like that. I’ve always had it in me to do something music-wise. However, it wasn’t until I was about 10 or 11 until I actually started playing an instrument for real and began to learn how to play and write music.
What was your first instrument?
I was kind of forced into playing the bass guitar because my older brother, who got me into the whole band thing. He is four years older than me and he had a band. At the time, they were lacking a bass player. I wanted to do something cooler, like play the guitar, but those slots were all filled! He said, “OK, my little brother is going to play the bass guitar.” [laughs] Soon after, I found some inspiration in Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, which was and still is one of my favorite bands. I naturally started playing with my fingers, which is still my preferred way to play the bass guitar, which might not be the most common way to play in rock music. You usually play with a pick. That style of playing happens to be the same for our bass player, Jens Sjöholm, who is also inspired by Steve Harris. That is the first instrument I got into.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music professionally? It’s a big step to take.
Yeah, in a sense, we haven’t taken that step fully as we all have part-time jobs or other stuff that brings in money. The reality of this business is that, in this day and age, it’s quite hard to find the economy to do this full-time. It also depends on what kind of standard of living you want. We could live off this if we just bought an apartment and we all lived in it together but that’s not the way I want to live! I have a family and kids, so I naturally want some standard. There is also a bit of downtime, to be honest, where you aren’t always doing band stuff. I’m actually a part-time teacher in between. I wouldn’t say we have reached the point to do this professionally, but I knew I wanted to do this as a part of my life at quite a young age. I started study at a music-oriented high school when I was 15, so that is the point where I decided this was something I wanted to pursue a career in.
What does it take to keep a project like Crazy Lixx moving forward on a day-to-day basis?
I think it’s definitely different today than it was for band members back in the day. As a band member today, you have to do a lot more stuff than people in the ‘80s had to do. That, of course, is due to the fact that there is less money in the business, so we can’t have a guy for every single thing we want to do. That means that we have to take care of a lot of the marketing and production ourselves. There is a lot more stuff that goes into it than I think people imagine. I also think that is what separates the bands that stick together and are able to get somewhere in this day and age. The bands that aren’t dependent on a label, a team of people or a manager to get by are the ones who survive. With Crazy Lixx, I do a lot of the graphics. We do the designs for our T-shirts, a lot of the online marketing and video production. Everything is based on ideas from us, we build our own sets and do basically everything but hold the camera. There is a lot of creative work involved but there is a daily grind behind it, apart from making the music. I think that’s a lot different than how it used to be.
What are the biggest challenges you faced as a band?
We’ve had a lot of lineup changes. I’ve always imagined a band that doesn’t have that because I prefer the bands that keep their members. For different reasons, we’ve actually had different lineups on every album until these last two. “Forever Wild” is the first album that we’ve released that has the same lineup as the previous album. I think that’s been the biggest challenge, to start over with new people and get it all rolling again. I hope I don’t have to do that anymore, to be honest. I’m not sure why it works so well now but maybe it has to do with age. We are all older than when we started playing and I think there is a sense of maturity to it. People know what it takes, and which fights to take, along with which ones not to bring up. There is not as much ego in the band as maybe there is in a band full of 20-year olds. We have a really solid lineup now, so I hope it stays like this for a long time.
Did you have a vision in mind for this new album as you entered into the creative process?
Well, in a sense, I did. On the last album, it started out with us getting a commission to do three songs for this videogame, “Friday The 13th.” When we did those songs, they kind of laid the overlying theme for the entire album. Those songs were quite dark, and horror inspired, so naturally, the rest of the album followed suit. I wanted to do something similar moving forward. Of course, we didn’t have a commission this time, so we invented this hypothetical action movie and set out to make a soundtrack for it. That action movie was this ‘80s-inspired, fighter jet pilot movie that we imagined being called “Silent Thunder.” That was the first we had written for this album back in the winter of 2017. That laid the groundwork for the rest of the album. So, we had a vision and I think it came out a lot more lighthearted and has more of a summer-vibe compared to the last album. That is something that we aimed to do.
Tell us about the writing process for Crazy Lixx. Has it evolved through the years?
We’ve reached a point where most of the writing goes on alone. What I usually do is finish a song and record a demo. Sometimes there won’t even be words in it, instead it’s just me singing mumbo-jumbo with programmed drums, just to give the guys an idea of what I mean. A lot of times, the song itself gets rejected. I think we at least double the amount of songs that we actually landed on the album, so we do have a lot of stuff left over from the process. A lot of the stuff is frankly not good enough to use but it does happen where we do reuse stuff that has been left out. Anyway, I will show the guys what I have done and, if we come to the conclusion that we want to use it, then we start the recording process. This is where we polish every part when we are in the studio. Sometimes when you listen to the demo and the finished version, they can be very similar but other times there are a lot of changes made in between the recorded demo and the finished result. We kind of take it as we go along in the studio.
Was there anything you wanted to attempt on this record you didn’t have the chance to in the past?
As I said earlier, we had the same lineup for the first time. We were also blessed by having the same studio as well and, another first, we also had the same mixing guy, who was Chris Laney. I also got to produce the album, which was the same as the last one. A lot of things were actually the same with this album, which was a first for us. What we wanted to do was evolve all of the things that we did well on the last album but also change some of the stuff we were a bit less happy with. We really evolved and refined the process with this album. When it comes to the songwriting itself, I would say we broke some new ground. The song “Eagle” for example, I feel differs a lot from what we’ve done in the past, both in the overall feeling but also the amount of synthesizers that were on that song. The guitars on that song aren’t playing riffs really but single-string kind of melodies. It’s more if Def Leppard would produce a song, I think, when it comes to how the instruments are being used. That’s definitely something new for us on this record!
Which of the songs on “Forever Wild” came easiest and which were harder to nail down?
You know, most of the songs come very organically. I usually start writing quite early in the process. When we know that we want an album out at a certain date, and we knew we were aiming for spring of 2019, we started writing a year-and-a-half prior. During that time, a lot of the songs come organically. At the end of the process, you have a bunch of songs and it’s usually enough to make an album, but you still feel there is a certain type of song missing. Maybe you don’t have the down-tempo song, the ballad or the hard-rocking, straight-forward song. At those points, you sit down and crunch. You write until you have something! Those songs don’t necessarily have to be worse or better than the other ones. In fact, they usually take more work and you have to throw more stuff out the window before you are happy with it. The ones that come easiest are the ones that come organically. With that said, I can still have a month where nothing pops up in my head. When you are at the end of the recording process, you have to sit down and force those things. Those are the hardest to do but the result is very often very good. I think some of the songs on “Forever Wild” came late in the process. The last song that I wrote was way into the recording process; we had already recorded half of the album when the last song was written. That was “She’s Wearing Yesterday’s Face.” The reason for that is because we felt we needed something more that was more of a hard rock, gritty, sort of sleazy song, so the album wasn’t too soft. We have definitely softened down this album as compared to the last one, but we didn’t want to go all the way. That is one song where we had to go with it and do something very specific.
As we mentioned, you play a lot of roles in Crazy Lixx from writing to producing to promotion. What are the biggest challenges you faced with this record?
You are always on a deadline! No matter how you plan it, it seems that you are always kind of stressed out at the end. As usual, we were still not finished with the recording when I wanted it. We had to, I wouldn’t say rush because we did it very carefully, but we had to put in a lot of hours during the end. When we are finished, I turned over the finals to the mixing guy, who was Chris Laney in this case, who is in Stockholm. That is pretty far from here, so I go up to him and we spend a day or two together finalizing the mix. I remember doing that and it was a couple of days before we had to turn in the audio masters for the album. That was quite stressful! Of course, when the audio master is in, you have to get started on the cover, booklet and overall design of the album. In our case, that meant a photoshoot that had to be done. You always have a deadline hanging over you but that comes with the territory. Honestly, I think that is when we perform the best, when we know there is something on the horizon to work towards. If someone said, “You guys can record an album and put it out whenever.” Chances are we would take too much time on everything and it would take years and years to finish! It is stressful at times, but I think that’s the way it has to be!
You have great command of the crowd when you take the stage and make it look easy. Did that come naturally or something you eased into?
It definitely took a lot of time. I can honestly say that I have only been comfortable for the past few years. At first, I was uncomfortable with the idea of being a frontman because that was not what I intended when I started out in music. As I said, I started with the bass guitar and then when on to play the rhythm guitar. That was the first instrument I played in Crazy Lixx. The reason I became the lead vocalist is because we were missing a lead vocalist. We recorded a demo early on where I play the guitar. The idea was that we were going to release this demo in Sweden and look for a singer based on that demo. We wanted to attract someone based on our songs, but we still had to sing all the songs and demonstrate how they would sound. The guys said, “OK, you can do it and then we will look for a lead singer.” When the result came back, they were quite happy, so they asked me to switch to lead vocalist and we started looking for a guitarist instead! That’s how I started. Naturally, I wasn’t very comfortable as a frontman because that wasn’t what I had planned. For a long time, I felt that we were lacking in quality when we played live. I didn’t think we were sounding the way we could for different reasoning. A lot of it has to do with gear and inexperience. When you start out as a band, everything is working against you. You have a crowd that is quite small and maybe you don’t get a lot of feedback from the crowd because they don’t know your songs. That’s quite hard to work against. Then maybe the gear at the venue you are playing is bad, so the sound is bad, or you don’t hear yourself very well. Of course, your gear might be bad as well. All of that combined makes it quite hard. I think a lot of bands stop at that point because it is too much to bear in the beginning. Once you get past a certain point, you start to get the feedback from the audience, they will start to recognize and sing your songs and it gets a lot easier. I would say that it is just really recently that I had gotten comfortable with being the frontman on the stage. It definitely hasn’t always been like that!
While the songs on “Forever Wild” are fresh to us, you lived with them for quite some time.
Yes! These songs are fresh to you, but they are definitely not fresh for us! [laughs] I have heard these songs since the first conception of me playing on the guitar to when they are finished hundreds of times! For us, we are really looking forward to playing them live because that will breathe new air into them. I think that is quite common for a band. At the point of the release of the album, they aren’t always hyped up about the song and are more focused on going out and performing them. That is definitely what we are looking forward to. That will put some energy into us about this album. Another big component is the feedback we get when we release the singles and the videos, and that people are really happy with the results. That’s when it all comes back to you. In all honesty, there is a very long period of time when you don’t know how something will be received. With this album, we turned the audio and graphical masters in December. When you release the first single, you get some feedback or get a review back. Then you start to get those pieces together and realize that this works and the fans seem to dig it. The time in between the recording and the release is quite uncertain. We are very happy with the response that we have now!
You’ve been doing a series of livestreams lately to connect with fans. What impact has that direct connection to the fans had on Crazy Lixx?
The livestream thing is quite new for me. I started doing it with the buildup for the release of “Forever Wild,” so I didn’t have any prior experience with that. I think it turned out really good and I’m surprised that so many people started turning up, sending me questions and wanted to ask about the band but also stuff from my personal life. I think that connection is quite important. The era when rock musicians were these unreachable, almost god-like idols standing above everyone else is gone. The direct connection between the entertainer and the fan is more important than ever. I think we have returned to that. When you think about it, looking back at history, that has always been the case. Before you could even record anything, whether it comes to movies or music, you had to perform your music or theatre to a live audience and meet them face to face. I think we are coming back to that but through digital means like social media for example.
You have seen your share of ups and downs. What has kept you passionate and driven when it comes to moving Crazy Lixx forward?
At times, I’ve felt like it was time to call it quits, especially after our two guitarists left in 2015, shortly after the release of our self-titled album. That was a point when I actually considered just putting it to rest. I’m not sure what is driving me forward. There are so many positive things about being in a band, making music and getting it out there. All of that outweighs all of those tougher moments. There is a lot of work I have to put into this, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. That has been the case for many years, since I was a little kid. I guess there’s just something pushing me forward even through those hard times.
We love the music you create and want to keep your art moving forward, What’s the best way for fans to help support Crazy Lixx in this day and age?
I would say start by buying a CD, even if you are streaming it. The income is still a big thing for a band. A T-shirt is even better. The T-shirts that we sell is income that comes straight into our pocket, so that’s actually the best thing. Compared to a CD sale, a T-shirt sale is so much more worth it to us. Of course, when you’ve listened to that CD and bought that T-shirt, you should come to a show. We try to play for as many people as possible and, if you consider yourself a fan, I think you should definitely come check us out live. Those things combined are what makes it possible to keep moving forward, releasing music and to do this for a living.
You’ve come a long way since first picking up a bass guitar. How have you evolved as an artist over the course of your career?
For me, I always think about the songwriting. Quite early on, I knew that was the role I wanted to have. That’s the most important thing for me, to write songs and get them out there. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t planning on being the lead vocalist or front person from the start and I also never reached the point where I’m really any good at any instrument. I don’t consider myself a very good vocalist. I am sufficiently good to do this but I’m certainly not among the best. The same goes for guitar, bass guitar and I play some piano and keyboards as well. I’ve never sat down and learned to really play it to be a virtuoso on any instrument. For me, the songwriting was the stuff that I was putting most of the work into. I think that is where I have evolved the most and where I continue to evolve. The same is true when it comes to the production. I have taken on that role quite recently with the last two albums where I’ve been the sole producer. That’s also something I have learned along the way.
What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
For the young people out there wondering if they should do this, you should definitely do this. I don’t think you should expect making a living out of it or to get rich. If that is your motivation to do something like this, I think those days are gone. Naturally, you can become rich because there are a bunch of people getting rich off of music but, for everyone who gets rich, there are 1,000 people who just can’t make a living doing this. I think we have proved that you can still play the music that you love, even if it’s not the popular or in music at the moment. Usually, there is a following. It may be an underground following but, if you do produce good stuff within that sub-genre that you chose, people will start to notice it. There are so many positive things about getting that kind of feedback from fans who like the art that you are creating. I would say, if this is what you love, GO FOR IT! The worst thing that can happen is that you fail but at least you tried!
Thanks for all the hard work you put in, Danny. It’s an inspiration and I wish you continued success!
Thanks for talking and I look forward to speaking with you soon! Cheers!