Refused Record Music for ‘Cyberpunk 2077′ Video Game Band Featuring Keanu Reeves
Refused once gave us The Shape of Punk to Come. Now, in 2020, they're ready to shape the stylings of "Cyberpunk" to come, providing the music for the band Samurai in the highly anticipated new video game, Cyberpunk 2077.
Cyberpunk 2077 sets you right into a dangerous megacity in the future, allowing you to play as a cyber-enhanced mercenary outlaw on the hunt for a one-of-a-kind implant that provides the key to immortality. As you might expect, there's some pretty great music within the game itself as well.
Within the world of Cyberpunk 2077, one of the key figures is the band Samurai with a very familiar looking character named Johnny Silverhand. This is where Refused comes in, recording the music for the band and giving them that edge needed to fit the mood of the dystopian future.
In advance of the video game release this fall, we had a chance to speak with Refused vocalist Dennis Lyxzen, who shared his experiences delving into the Cyberpunk 2077 world, discussing some of the challenges and expressing his fascination for taking on this new musical experiment with the band. Check out the chat below and you can also pre-order Cyberpunk 2077 here.
How did you first come to be involved with the Cyberpunk 2077 game?
It’s pretty insane given the level of hugeness with this whole project. They got in touch with me on an Instagram DM, which is pretty wild. Someone wrote me, and I get a lot of messages, and someone was like, ‘Hey, we’re doing this video game. Would you want to be a voice in the game or would you want to be part of this?’ I’m not a gamer, so I just passed it on to my management and they were like, ‘Holy shit, this is a huge deal.’
So then we said yes and we started talking and they wanted to do this band Samurai in the game kind of based on Refused. So we just figured what better way than to just have Refused be Samurai. We ended up doing that and it was pretty awesome.
What were you shown in advance? Were you given any notes or shown any of the gameplay?
The composer and director of the game had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted the music to be like, which was kind of like a futuristic version of Refused. But when writing the lyrics and coming up with the themes for the songs, they did send me a bunch of the Cyberpunk material and showed us some ideas behind the game and the book and everything, so I had to dig in a little bit and learn about the Cyberpunk mythology and understand what that was all about so [I] could write the lyrics to it.
Usually when you write lyrics, you write it from your perspective. You write it from stuff you see in this world, but this time we had to write stuff that was definitely not of this world, so there was definitely a different approach to it because the composer knew what he wanted out of the band.
Given our background and our agenda and our political ideas and our DIY attitude toward how we approach music, I think it just made a lot of sense to connect us to Samurai.
Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer
Did recording as Samurai give you some freedoms that maybe you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Of course. We stepped into the role of being an imaginary band. They definitely gave us some freedom, and it didn’t lower the bar, it just moved it to a different place. Usually for Refused it takes two years to record a record, and the recording on these songs were actually done in two weeks, from the time that P.T. Adamczyk came from Warsaw to Stockholm to meet with Kris [Steen] and David [Sandstrom] and they recorded basic tracking and sent stuff up to me and I did vocals. So it was all done in two weeks.
That was just a process that we’re not used to, which was also liberating. This is being done right now. I think we have a tendency to tinker with things forever. If it was up to David and Kris the songs would never be finalized (laughs). They’re the type of guys where there’s always another angle. So it was kind of nice to be in a situation where this is happening right now and we’re recording these songs. It was quite refreshing.
Can you discuss the other band members’ take on doing something that has a more visual element to it?
Everyone was super excited, and when I first got the question they asked if they wanted just my voice. We thought maybe we should ask if Refused were into it, but it was just on the tail end of finishing up War Music, so we thought everyone might be burned out. But David and Kris, as the main songwriters, they both had toyed with the idea that they would like to write music for games or TV or stuff like that, so when we got this chance, they jumped on it.
This was so awesome as it was something they were wanting to do for a while, and then we could do it as a band together. It games a certain freedom and a chance to do things differently, but everyone was excited about this idea when it fell into our lap.
Keanu Reeves Speaks About What's Cool in Cyberpunk 2077
Who is Johnny Silverhand within this game and can you talk about your thoughts once you saw the famous actor who was going to be presenting your music?
He definitely is one of the more important characters in the game. He’s kind of a revolutionary, rogue, punk kind of character. They told me about the character and the mythology behind it and what it was going to be about and the band in connection to him, and then one day a friend texted me and asked, ‘Is this your song?’
It was when they announced that Keanu Reeves was in the game and it was our song in the background. So I texted my friend back and was like, ‘Am I singing the Keanu Reeves parts?’ and they were like, ‘Yes.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit! That’s pretty cool.’ Yeah, it was a very unexpected bonus.
Getting into some of these songs. “Chipping In” is very much a call to arms, with a great punk vibe but some funk swing in there. Can you discuss the song and what you were trying to accomplish with how it fits in the game?
It’s funny because there’s a bunch of songs in the Cyberpunk book or mythos and one of the songs in there is called ‘Chippin’ In.’ They had an early demo for the song already but it sounded more like Aerosmith or something like that. But the CD Projekt Red people were like, ‘We really want this song ‘Chippin’ In’’ So we decided we wanted to do it really anthem and like you said, a call to arms. But the idea and mythology was something that comes from the mythology of Cyberpunk already.
Samurai, "Chippin' In"
You mentioned the mythology. How much research did you end up doing and was there anything that kind of surprised you the more you read into it?
There was a little bit, but I wish I’d done more research. They sent me a bunch of stuff that was connected to the ideas they wanted for the songs, so I read up on that, but it’s now over a year ago since I recorded it, so it’s now a little vague to me. When you’re an artist, you do stuff and you kind of move on.
But yeah, I did look into it and it’s a cool story, and we’ll always have the Billy Idol record, you know (laughs).
I also wanted to hit on “The Ballad of Buck Ravers,” which is a dark track. The total drudgery of the corporate work world and yearning to escape it ….
I think a lot of the topical matter is very Refused-esque, but you have to shift it to this different world. That was one of the challenges of writing these songs. Every band that you do has a different language in how you present things and Refused has a very distinct language, so when you start to write, you write in that language. But when we sent lyrics around, it was like, ‘Well you can’t say this as this doesn’t apply to this world.’
So we had to find this very wage slave revolutionary song that we could do as Refused, but set it in a different reality where the terms of your oppression or lust for freedom are different and the terminology is different. So it was quite interesting to be thrown into something where you couldn’t really use your language or you could use half of your language and the other half you had to sort of adjust to this reality.
I remember writing this one lyric and being told, ‘These words don’t exist in this future.’ It was like, ‘Oh shit.’ (laughs). It was really quite exciting to do that.
Samurai, "The Ballad of Buck Ravers"
Because this is a dystopian future that we’re looking at …
Now it just looks like the future (laughs). But yes, it is a dystopian future, but how it’s divided is slightly different from what we have today. There’s no real politicians, there’s just corpos who run the world, which is kind of like how it is today with corporations running things and having economical power. It’s just a different future and you have to approach it differently.
Since you recorded the music a while ago, I’m assuming you’ve seen how the game looks and how the music fits in. What’s your response to what you’ve seen?
It looks pretty amazing. It’s such an ambitious game and the scope of it is so vast with the whole mythology around it. Plus there’s so much excitement around the game. It’s interesting to see how as a band, Refused, there’s like a new song, a new single and you know the impact that that will have. But then you put out a song as a fictitious band in a game and it’s amazing how huge that impact is. It’s quite fascinating.
I was in Warsaw with my other band INVSN and we went to the CD Projekt Red headquarters and they showed me stuff from the game, how they incorporated the sounds and I got to see how they composed the music. It’s pretty amazing in how huge that is and how cool it is to be part of something that is going to be a pop cultural landmark. That’s pretty awesome.
Samurai, "Never Fade Away"
I had read where punk and hardcore introduced you to art and literature. Can you take me back into the past and how music has lead you to expand your horizons in different parts of culture?
I grew up a working class kid in the middle of Sweden. I still live here, in the north of Sweden and my parents weren’t into culture and my parents weren’t into politics or art or anything. When I discovered music, especially punk and hardcore, it opened up the idea that anything is possible.
I was a total school dropout. I was one of those kids that didn’t have the attention span to go to school, but when music came along it educated me. It made me interested in art, it made me interested in culture, it made me interested in all these things that once seemed out of reach for me as a young person, cause I didn’t have that in my family.
The old Bruce Springsteen records taught me more than I got taught in school. It opened my world to all these different ideas and political ideas and everything. It’s one of those things where discovering this type of music was the big defining moment of my entire life.
While I’ve got you as well, I did want to ask about Refused. You’ve got a great record with War Music, but then the pandemic hit and it’s kind of messed up 2020. Where does the band stand at the moment?
That’s the sad thing about this pandemic thing is that Refused is one of those deals where it’s an on and off thing for us. So for 2021, everyone already had other plans. It’ll be one of those things where we did half a campaign of War Music, but we have some stuff coming out. There is new music coming out after the summer, a BBC Session and some other stuff that we’re working on. We’re going to do some more music, but I’m not sure how we’re going to proceed with picking up the campaign. As of now, I think the future is pretty unwritten for everyone. People are trying to be optimistic and say maybe after the summer, but I don’t really see that happening yet. So it’s a bit of a mess actually for us.
You mentioned 2021 being planned for other things. Did you have something in the works for next year?
Yes, I have this other band INVSN. We’ll have another record coming out late this year or early next year some time. I also have this band Fake Names with some old punk people and we put out a record in May and I think we’re going to try to work on that.
I know that Mattias is doing some scoring. David is writing a novel. Kris is a director, so everyone is doing something and you just fill up your calendar. So 2020 was going to be the Refused year. But we’ll see how everything plays out. We don’t know how anything is going to happen yet, but that’s how life is sometimes.
Our thanks to Refused's Dennis Lyxzen for the interview. Be on the lookout for Cyberpunk 2077 coming to Xbox One, PS4 and personal computers on Nov. 19, 2020. Pre-orders for the game, which includes music from Refused as the band Samurai, are currently underway at this location. You can also check out the brand new song, "A Like Supreme," that just dropped today (Aug. 10) below:
Samurai, "A Like Supreme"
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