He’s been called “the most difficult frontman in rock” and it certainly was a little like drawing blood from a stone with Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. The band recently played an east coast tour in Australia, performing their brilliant third album Plowing Into The Field Of Love. An artful departure from their brooding punk purist beginnings of debut New Brigade and sophomore You’re Nothing, their sound has broadened to a more complex, bolder version of previous outputs featuring horns, pianos, mandolins, and violas. Despite his history of apparent dislike for interviews, Rønnenfelt took some time out to chat about the record, Iceage’s hectic tour schedule and the mysterious land of Oz.
Hey Elias, how are you going?
Hey Ash, I’m going good. I’m lying down on a staircase.
What have you been up to today?
I’ve had coffee and I’ve had all these interviews and now I’m sitting outside on the staircase.
Where abouts are you?
I’m in Copenhagen.
You guys were just in Australia on tour a little while ago, how did you find the shows?
Well foremost, I found out Australia existed and I found it kind of weird that it’s a very secluded country. I didn’t have much of an idea of what a street in Australia would look like or anything, I didn’t know there were palm trees. Also, it seemed a little bit wrong that such an established western civilisation would exist on this side of the shore. It’s not any more wrong than America for example but I guess you’re not as culturally aware of it.
Right. How did you find the audiences here? You have a pretty big following in Australia.
Yeah, the shows were packed in Melbourne and Sydney. I didn’t know that people even knew about us. Apparently they did.
You guys have been touring pretty consistently all year around the world, how have you found the response has been to your new material bringing it to a live setting?
Some people have had a passionate disliking and some people can be very appreciative and there’s not that much middle ground.
What’s the creative dynamic like between you guys? How does your music come together?
Pretty much, straight after “You’re Nothing” we started writing new ideas for songs and the music came together over the span of a year or so. Some of the songs were written straight after we put out the second album and some were written a few months before we went into the studio with the new one which is the way we always did thing. The difference this time around was that the lyrics used to be written in the same way for a long period of time but this time I kind of retrained myself to writing notes in notebooks and then I locked myself in an apartment in Berlin for a week or two and kind of wrote the whole thing in one go.
What kind of stuff did you listen to growing up?
The first thing I can remember getting into was this I’m not sure what you call them in English… It’s like this organ that has a handle on it and you turn the handle on it and you turn it and it plays music when I was about five. Later, I got into David Bowie, he was my first shining musical hero. Hunky Dory was the first music I got into. When I befriended Dan and the other guys, we were all into David Bowie and The Stooges and some punk bands, and we discovered some more obscure sides of music together. Just being fanatics and taking in some musical history and playing each other records that we found. In that sense, we had a very similar musical upbringing because we were playing each other records that we fucking loved from an early age.
You guys have a hectic tour schedule for the rest of the year with European and US tours starting next month. Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to?
Not really, they’re all places we’ve played a few times before. I’m looking forward to going to the cities where I have good friends that I haven’t seen for a while, catching up with people that I don’t get to see often enough.
You guys are involved with other projects as well, how do you manage keeping each project so active?
Just not sitting around on your ass and actually putting some hard work into it I guess.
What else are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I don’t have much spare time, I guess just touring. I guess that’s all I can do. I’m getting kicked out of my apartment in a couple of days so I hopefully look forward to finding a new place but it’s not going too well.
Plowing Into The Field Of Love is out now via Matador Records.