By: Martin Halo
Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City was filled to capacity. The air inside the venue was coated in muck. While the tiers of general admission seating gazed down on the floor, mayhem ensued. Fueling the fire was a gang of musicians dressed in black shirts, black pants and white snake skinned boots. "Clap your hands if you want more," screamed vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist in a classic Mick Jagger strut. "Come on, do you want more!" The audience couldn't help but to beg for it.
I was 18 years old and there I was squashed up against the stage barricade, like a piece of meat, my ears happily harassed by the down strum of barring electric guitars. It was my introduction to The Hives. I didn't know their names, I didn't know their catalog, but what I did know was that these guys were never going to slip in a ballad on me. They were raw, like a bleeding piece of prime rib direct from the butcher's seasoned hand, and they worked the crowd like a hooker at a high priced Bunny Ranch. Once you walked in that door, you were prepared to sell off the house, the wife and the kids for just one more taste.
From that moment forward I've held a soft spot for The Hives, even when they seemed to fade into the oblivion of hyped rock projects surrounding the millennium. I am a changed man these days, having worked inside the pulsating nexus of the music industry for a spell, and it is sad to say that some of the mystique is wearing off. But, like picking up a new lover while in the communion line at church, the spark returned when a friend recently brought the band back to my attention.
Consisting of the aforementioned Almqvist (vox), Nicholaus Arson (guitar), Vigilante Carlstroem (guitar), Dr. Matt Destruction (bass) and Chris Dangerous (drums), The Hives exploded onto the world stage in 2000. "Hate to Say I Told You So," part of the Veni Vidi Vicious sessions, climbed the charts. The Strokes and The Vines were American darlings, and these Europeans were bringing the rock, too. It was a time that didn't stay intact for long. Tyrannosaurus Hives followed in 2004, but soon the band retreated back into the shadows.
Now in 2008, the names remain the same but the band I first crossed paths with in the summer of 2002 was much different. They are still filled with scorching hi-octane garage rock, and they are still pleasantly fucking arrogant. But the process by which The Hives recorded The Black and White Album, released in late 2007, stood as drastically uncharacteristic.
When Hives drummer Chris Dangerous phoned me from his Swedish country villa two hours outside of Stockholm, what transpired was a conversation that uprooted the inspiration behind rebelling against punk, their teenage dreams, and what it was like for the band to record in Mississippi. Welcome to a raw, unapologetic glimpse into the mind of a Hive.
JamBase: Is there a strong American influence present in the Swedish music scene?
Chris Dangerous: There has always been a lot of American influences. The whole country speaks English, so it's not only people our age that grew up listening to American, British or Australian music. It goes a long way back; probably from the time [America] invented rock 'n' roll, pretty much. It was big in the '50s to listen to Elvis. I don't really know why that is because if you go to Finland it is not the same thing at all. They listen to more of their own traditional music. I don't know why that is.
JamBase: I know in the early '60s blues music invaded the American countryside. I was wondering since you guys were more of a garage band, what American garage bands influenced you?
Chris Dangerous: We didn't even know there was something called garage rock until pretty late. We started playing and listening to punk. We listened to stuff like The Ramones and the Sex Pistols. We didn't find stuff like The Sonics until later on. We didn't really listen to garage rock in the beginning. We got curious to where punk came from. I grew up listening to music everyday. My father was a record collector and a singer. I grew up with it everyday. He was an Elvis collector, so at Christmas we always had an Elvis Christmas. He was a big Stones fan, too.
The Hives by Bill Pratt
What is it about music that you believe in? What are you all about? What do you believe to be true?
I would say to live with peace and to have a lot of fun [laughs]. That would be something, to end all misery. It is not political for us. When people come to see our band, of course there are deeper thoughts in the lyrics, but when people come to see us play it is a Saturday night, even if it is a Tuesday and it's raining [laughs]. We want to make people feel happy, no matter how miserable things are. For an hour and a half they can really forget about everything that sucks and really just have a good time. I think that is what we are trying to do with our music for ourselves. We are trying to get the most fun out of playing that we can. I guess we believe in that.
I have seen you guys a couple time, and the first time I saw the band you reminded me of very early Stones. When you talk about being musicians and you talk about making art, what would your intentions be?
Our intentions in the beginning were to rebel against everything. We were teenagers. It didn't take us very long to realize that the people who were supposed to be rebellious and different, which were the punks, were the most stuck up assholes we had ever seen. If you had the wrong kind of beer you would get beaten. That is not what punk was about, for us at least. We started as a punk band, but then we changed and wanted to rebel against punk.
Continue reading for more on The Hives...