"So I jumped and landed on my head on some concrete" - DiS meets The Hives Pt.II
For for those of you who didn't tune into the first half of our interview with The Hives, you join us deep in conversation with the often hilarious Howlin' Pelle Almqvist and co.
The Hives have returned five years after The Black & White Album and they've got a point to prove. They're still fully committed to rock and roll.
They're so committed that a little concussion four songs into a Swiss festival set didn't stop Pelle finishing the remaining hour's worth of songs. Even if a trip to the hospital to check for internal bleeding was required afterwards.
But you'll find out all about that in a minute. We're chatting about what makes a good Hives song at the moment...
What’s the difference between a good Hives song and a bad Hives song. I read you said that each album should be better than the last, so how do you tell?
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist - PA: Well it takes longer every record that’s for sure and the bad Hives songs are way rarer and harder to spot.
Chris Dangerous - CD: There are songs on the records, if we’re not 100% about them we don’t play them live.
Nicholaus Arson - NA: The bad Hives songs aren’t on the album. For this album we recorded around 300 demos and maybe 150 of those were different ideas. When I went through the demo archives I only liked three or four of those songs. In the beginning we had less time recording, less time to choose what goes in the record.
PA: I have to say that those 300 songs were not actually songs but someone humming into a tape recorder.
NA: No, no, no. They were proper songs. We have way more recorded material than you might think. It’s sick.
PA: Just because you wrote a song doesn’t mean it’s good. A lot of people think, ‘I put these two chords together, let’s release this’. Because everybody can’t shit gold all the time but often there’s a little speck of gold in that shit.
Do you wish that you were sometimes taken a bit more seriously?
PA: Well we are very serious.
NA: We’re taking ourselves seriously to the point where you can’t help cracking jokes all the time. When we make records, that’s the part when you’re basically throwing up because of the pressure. Like, ‘This is not good enough.’ You’re panicking and that’s why it takes a long time to make records. At the end of the day once we’re done, we’re so proud of the record that.... [laughs]
PA: I see what you mean, people are used to bands that aren’t fun. I think that’s why rock and roll is losing out to hip-hop in a lot of ways. You know, white boy music because no-one’s having any fucking fun. They’re all whining.
NA: Rock and roll started with people in a room who wanted to have fun and that’s how you ended up with Little Richard and Chuck Berry. That stuff was all fun and at some point rock and roll started taking itself too seriously.
PA: It went to college in the 60s and when it got older those people still liked the same music but they had to explain it in an intellectual way. There’s a sort of epicness to most sort of rock music now where everyone wants to hold a long note and be in a stadium. Basically everyone’s ripping off U2... [warbles an incomprehensible impression of Bono]
NA: All of our favourite bands growing up had a really strong sense of humour like The Dead Kennedys, Manowar...
The Replacements’ drummer Chris Mars used to get drunk and go on stage in a clown costume
NA: All that stuff appealed to us as people who were having fun with music but then we noticed that some bands were having fun but weren’t writing any good songs.
PA: A lot of groups or artists feel like they have to take that out of the equation. Like you have to portray emotions of being lonely or angry or all these things but you can’t have fun.
Moving on, Pelle you concussed yourself quite badly last summer...
PA: The ground managed to concuss me.
How did that happen?
PA: Well I climbed onto the lighting rig at a Swiss music festival, as I sometimes do, and I was trying to jump back on stage. I was trying to jump round a corner which I thought was possible at the time because there was rock and roll music blasting in the background and I got my foot caught in some cabling. So jumped and landed on my head on some concrete.
What happened immediately afterwards?
PA: I passed out, woke up. I’d missed a few lines in the song. I was pretty confused and shaking. It was the adrenaline that woke me up I guess. There was a doctor that came over and said, ‘How are you doing?’ He shook me just in case i had any neck damage. ‘Is your neck okay?!’ [Mimes vigorous shaking]
He said, ‘It’s your call do you want to keep going. I said ‘I think I’m fine.’
NA: I diagnosed him. I was like, ‘Did you throw up? No? Then you’re probably alright.’
PA: Then we played the last hour of the show because this was only on the fourth song. Afterwards the doctor asked, ‘The guys said you passed out. I want you to go to the hospital.’
If you get a concussion you should remove all sorts of impressions. Be in a dark silent room, not in front of blaring guitar amps, 50,000 screaming kids and strobe lights. So then I went to the hospital and I stayed there. There was a nurse called Troll who would wake me up once an hour by flashing a flashlight in my eyes to see if my pupils were dilating or not. That’s pretty much the end of the story and I felt slowly better.
So the hospital was a precautionary thing?
PA: Yeah, in case there was internal bleeding in my brain. It’s pretty miraculous really, it’s worse odds that I would have hurt myself pretty seriously.
On a similar note, you’ve managed to keep the same band line-up going for all of your existence?
PA: [Still chuckling] Well that’s Swedish music, you form a band and you stick with that band rather than everyone being their own hired gun. It’s the only band we’ve ever been in so we don’t know how to do it any other way. There have been older bands who have told us, ‘That’s amazing’.
Dr. Matt Destruction - MD: I would say it like this. As long as it’s rock and roll we won’t have a problem.
NA: We always had fun with it and we always consider ourselves to be one the best bands at it.
It’s hard to envisage The Hives as individuals, you’re more of a collective
PA: I don’t know how other bands do it. Sometimes we meet other bands and they’re all in separate rooms and I kind of don’t get.
Are there any specific examples of that?
PA: Most bands don’t seem to get on that well or they’re sick of each other.
PA: I’ve heard that they don’t like each other but it never happened that way for us. We can be angry at each other or sick of each other but not so much that it’s worth firing anyone or quitting.
It doesn’t seem like you’ve got a particular leader either. Is there one person who calls the shots?
PA: No not really.
NA: Sometimes it’s the person with the most energy and sometimes it’s the guy with the idea.
CD: If someone starts to run, there’s gonna be four people right behind you.
You’re a rock and roll band from Sweden which from the outside looking in is a bit of an anomaly?
NA: When we started in the 90s, there was a huge scene of guitar based bands.
PA: It’s very easy for Swedes to write pop melodies, it’s just we’ve chosen to go the hard way and write rock and roll songs instead which don’t come as naturally. I don’t know what it is with Swedes but it’s always easy to write a catchy tune.
Would you ever do the Eurovision Song Contest?
PA: I don’t think so because it sucks.
CD: I feel like that’s one of those things where we wouldn’t be in charge of what’s happening.
PA: Maybe I could appreciate the spectacle of it if it weren’t for the fact it sucks.
NA: I don’t think I would be okay with the possibility of not winning.
PA: It’s like a pole vaulter going for the 100 metres. We’ve been practising other shit for such a long time.
What’s your favourite memory of being in The Hives so far?
PA: What’s your favourite memory of life so far?
Seeing The Hives
PA: Touché. Well, actually the first thing that comes to mind is this show we played in a super tiny punk rock club in Stockholm when we were 17. We played there again a month or so ago. It’s really tiny, we got 150 kids in there, then we emptied out the place and got 150 new ones in there. Somewhere in the middle of that show being covered in 15-year-old punks it was pretty... I had some sort of moment myself.
NA: It’s almost a religious feeling, that’s exactly what your music is designed to be. You were exactly that guy or girl when you were a kid. You wanted to see those bands and be completely covered in sweat in the front row.
PA: Being an atheist and all, it’s as close religion as I’m going to get. Until I get old and convert to Christianity.
On that note, are there any regrets you have from being in the band so far?
MD: We don’t regret anything.
PA: I think we could have made some wiser business decisions but as far as the music goes...
NA: And they were all calls we made ourselves, they could have been wiser but they wouldn’t have been our calls. We used to manage ourselves and we’d just go, ‘No, no, no’. It was a way to protect our own integrity. So I don’t regret that at all.
We have the best life in the world and we’ve been able to do it... I mean next year I think we’ve been a band for 20 years and we’ve been a touring band for 14 years.
PA: We’re at a pretty great level of fame too, where we’re not mobbed wherever we go but every day someone comes up and says, ‘You’re amazing’.
NA: We get to do interviews about music and not for tabloids.
From the perspective of an average Drowned In Sound reader they might think, 'I’ve heard The Hives before, why should I listen to Lex Hives?' What you you say to change their minds?
PA: There’s some stuff on this record which could not have been on any other Hives album. I feel like all our songs have a strong identity but here there are some songs which actually are very different from what we’ve done in the past.
Like which ones?
PA: ‘Without the Money’ and ‘My Time Is Coming’.
NA: ‘Midnight Shifter’ is pretty different too. It’s more like a soul song. I guess its a mix of country, soul, gospel and drunken soul ballads.
CD: ‘Patrolling Days’ is like a Hives song but it’s at least twice as long as any Hives song before. The funny thing is we tried to make it shorter but it didn’t work.
When was the last time you listened to Barely Legal?
PA: I listened to it a year ago, six months ago.
NA: I’m very proud of that record because we were very young when we made it. Like 18 or 19 or something like that and some of my favourite songs are on that album. ‘Here We Go Again’, A.K.A. I.D.I.O.T.’. Plus, I love the fact that record is so fucking full on in the speed and the sound.
MD: When we soundcheck for something and play those songs for fun it’s just like it was on the record, everything at 110 kmph.
PA: It was fun also that show in Stockholm I was talking about, the studio we recorded Barely Legal in is right next door to that venue. We were even thinking about recording Barely Legal by pulling the wires over the road and recording in the venue.
You’ve never done a live record, it’s just struck me
NA: It’s really weird. We’ve only done one live DVD, we should have made 100. It’s just stupid we definitely should have done more with it.
Well at least you’re aware of the problem, you can always solve it...
And just like that, our time with The Hives is up. They've been brilliantly entertaining in interview and should you wish to catch them live, they'll be returning to the UK for a full scale tour/invasion later this year.
Lex Hives is released on 4 June through Disque Hives