Hives still play by their own rules
Singer Pelle Almqvist of The Hives performs onstage during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella/AFP)
The Hives have always played by their own rules. Literally.
"When we formed the band, we had a big blackboard where we wrote down rules for what we could do and not do," claims Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, the charismatic and energetic frontman of the Swedish garage-rock veterans. "We drew a line down the middle and on one side we wrote 'What We Don't Want.' And under that we wrote things like 'Beatles- style melodies' and 'jazz.' And on the other side we wrote 'What We Do Want,' and under that we wrote things like 'to only wear black and white.' "
More than 15 years later, the 34-year-old Almqvist and his cohorts -- guitarists Nicholaus Arson (Pelle's brother) and Vigilante Carlstroem, bassist Dr. Matt Destruction and drummer Chris Dangerous -- are still cranking out Stones-meets-Stooges garage-rock on their fifth disc Lex Hives. They're still wearing black and white (now it's top hats and tails). And still planning their moves ahead of time.
"Before we made our new album, we sat down and went, 'OK, what is this going to be like?' " Almqvist says. "We decided we were only going to play live in the studio. So we wrote that down. It's a good way to get your bearings straight. Besides, you need to have rules in order to break them."
As he drove through rural Sweden at night while chatting over a crackly cellphone, the surprisingly serious and thoughtful Almqvist explained naked music, the hive mind and why Latin rules.
Your songs seem simple, but simplicity is often difficult to achieve. What's your secret?
The secret with us is tenacity. We won't give up until we like it. It's a matter of details -- taking something out here, putting something in there. But you're right; it is hard to make simple music that lasts and sticks with you. If you make complicated music, you can impress people with noodling. But when you play straightforward music, there is no hiding. It's very naked.
After producing this record yourselves for the first time, you said it\ was hard to get all five of you to agree. Shouldn't The Hives have a hive mind?
Well, we do, kind of. But you know how it is, even in your own mind. Sometimes you don't even agree with yourself. But you studied psychology.
Shouldn't you be able to use your powers to bend the others to your will?
Yeah, I try to do that. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. We're all pretty screwed-up characters. That's probably why it doesn't work.
After Veni Vidi Vicious and Tyrannosaurus Hives, this is your third album with Latin in the title. Whose doing is that?
It's Nicholaus, really. He's the only one who knows a little bit of Latin. The thing is, Latin is cool because anything you're trying to say, Latin makes it seem a lot more important.
You're playing Toronto and Montreal in late June. What's the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Canada?
Big trees. Big mountains. And amazing trendy hot dogs that you can buy on the streetcorners. I'm glad we're finally coming back to Canada. It's sort of like Sweden, both geography-wise and nature-wise, and also a little bit in spirit. It's very similar. I'm actually driving through country that looks like Canada right now.
Your songs are popular in the sports world -- they're played a lot in games and ads. What sports do The Hives enjoy?
They love everything to varying degrees. Some like watching soccer. I myself am completely uninterested in sports -- though I do like sumo wrestling and dirt-track racing.
If anyone left The Hives, would you carry on or stop?
We would call it quits, I think. We wrote on one of our albums that we are The Hives now, then and forever. So it would really be strange to go on without one of the guys. But it would also be very strange if one of them left and said we could no longer do this.
If you did make a solo album, what would it sound like?
I would have to do something very different from The Hives. For hard- ass rock 'n' roll, this is my favourite band. So I would have to go really far in the other direction and do classic ballads or something.
I think we would all like to hear that.
(Laughs) I would like to hear it too. I don't know if it could pull it off, though.