Sarah J. Edwards sits down with one of the most electrifying live bands, The Hives. The interview is packed with quips and hilarious stories which disclose recording studio secrets, parking lots beefs and style advice.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 2 Nø 9 print edition in 2008, this is an edited version.
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
Styling by The Hives
Location: Shepherd’s Bush, London
The first time I witnessed The Hives ‘in the flesh’ was in the pit at Brixton Academy, during my old career as a photographer for Rolling Stone, (read with an element of wit – it was short lived and is a long story.)
The quintet wowed the South London crowd with their rip roaring set and dazzling dress sense. That was six years ago and The Hives – by then already going strong for a decade – haven’t lost any energy, they’ve gained a whole lot more.
We meet again on the eve of ‘The Black & White Album’ release, packed with tracks that are sure likely to get the BLAG ladies and gents up on the dance floor, including ‘T.H.E H.I.V.E.S,’ ‘Giddy Up,’ ‘Well Alright’ and ‘Dress Up For Armageddon’ to the thought provoking ‘A Stroll Through the Hives Manor Corridors.’ Production credits, as you know are honoured to Pharrell Williams, Jacknife Lee, Dennis Herring and of course, the band themselves.
The Hives congregate in the lobby of their bright West London boutique hotel. All decked out in their own new Season’s collection of Black and White Public – or Private, depending on which continent you’re reading this, School authoritarian-evoking suits. Each detailed and tailored impeccably.
Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, greets with a firm handshake and little hint of a smile, as does, Nicholaus Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction and Chris Dangerous.
First impressions lean towards formal, but after our 45 minute ‘Days and Nights’ themed set it’s professionalism and their famous Swedish humour that takes precedence. They’re entertaining, the dictionary definition of ‘Gentlemanly’ and fun to say the least. Which is a wonderful thing.
So, how’s about it? Your (new) favourite band in your (new) favourite BLAG... here we go...
MILK, CEREAL & NIGHTS OUT
Sarah: Can you introduce yourself, then describe the person to your left’s ideal night out or favourite breakfast, please?
Howlin’ Pelle: OK, my name is Pelle, I’m the singer and Vigilante Carlstroem’s favourite night out would start, probably with Joachim who works with us and it would probably start at... There’s a bar with a great view over Stockholm called ‘Gondolen’ or The Gondola and it would probably start there and stay there for quite some time. Then they would go somewhere else, but they wouldn’t remember a lot about that. And they wouldn’t talk during the entire session.
Vigilante Carlstroem: My name is Vigilante Carlstroem and I play guitar. To my left is Chris Dangerous and his favourite breakfast would be a cheese sandwich at Elsa’s in Norberg, Sweden (Elsa Andersons Konditori) and I would imagine, maybe a cup of coffee.
Howlin’ Pelle: That’s pretty much anywhere in the world! [Laughs]
Chris Dangerous: Alright, so I’m Chris Dangerous, I play drums. And to my left is Nicholaus Arson, guitar player. His favourite breakfast would probably be fresh mangos in Australia, right before surfing.
Nicholaus Arson: That doesn’t sound very bad. Am I only doing the Breakfast thing as well?
Howlin’ Pelle: Breakfast or night out.
Nicholaus Arson: OK, I think I’ll take the night out then. My name is Nicholaus Arson and Matt Destruction’s favourite night out would probably be something in relation to either a wedding, or a birthday or chocolate.
Howlin’ Pelle: Or Korean barbecue! [Laughs]
Nicholaus Arson: Korean barbecue! [Laughs]. Now then, it would just go down hill from there. That would be a good night out.
Howlin’ Pelle: Chocolate and Korean barbecue!
Dr. Matt Destruction: I’m called Matt Destruction, yes and to the left of me is Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. His perfect breakfast would be milk and cereal. Because, even if we were in a hurry, he would have his cereal and milk before we leave.
Howlin’ Pelle: I’m sorry about the last ten years.
Dr. Matt Destruction: That’s the thing!
Howlin’ Pelle: Yes, it’s crucial! [Laughs]
Dr. Matt Destruction: If there isn’t cereal and milk, there isn’t Howlin’ Pelle.
Nicholaus Arson: Have you seen a British 70’s movie where there’s a guy who’s always carrying around a packet of cereal and a bowl in a napkin?
[Gestures bringing this out from his inside jacket pocket.]
Howlin’ Pelle: Sounds great!
Nicholaus Arson: There’s a gang and they’re stealing stainless steel sinks at this warehouse. It’s really funny and there’s this guy, I forgot what his name is, but he’s like a small guy and he wears a jacket like this, but he always carries around cereal and a bowl! And he eats it in parts; he always takes out his little napkin and eats milk and cereal.
[To Howlin’ Pelle] That’s you!
Howlin’ Pelle: I should start doing that, I need to sew in an extra pocket.
(For your info, the film Nicholaus Arson is talking about is Bill Forsyth’s ‘That Sinking Feeling.’)
MOVING FLOORS, ARMED GUARDS & PARKING LOT BEEFS
Sarah: I heard that you recorded the new album in seven or eight different studios, is that right?
Howlin’ Pelle: There’s a lot, I don’t know how many. Probably, it could be seven.
Sweden, London, Mississippi, was there anywhere else?
[Talking over each other.]
Howlin’ Pelle: Miami.
Vigilante Carlstroem: Two in Mississippi.
Howlin’ Pelle: Two studios in Mississippi.
Nicholaus Arson: Hives Manor as well.
Dr. Matt Destruction: Olympic.
Howlin’ Pelle: Three studios in Sweden. Actually, no it is... It’s two studios in Mississippi, two studios in Stockholm, two studios or places in Fagestra and London. And Miami and Cornwall, right?
Nicholaus Arson: Cornwall?
Howlin’ Pelle: Oh, whatever... Gareth’s House.
Nicholaus Arson: Oh no, it’s not Cornwall, it’s down towards... where the train goes...
Howlin’ Pelle: That would make, eight.
Nicholaus Arson: ...that goes across the channel. It passes his house.
Vigilante Carlstroem: So, you were right, that’s good.
Howlin’ Pelle: Yeah, you were absolutely right! [Laughs] Sorry, that took some time.
Howlin’ Pelle: You can edit that down.
Sarah: So I wondered if you could pick a studio each. Describe the surroundings and atmosphere and how that influenced the song?
Howlin’ Pelle: I get to pick first then... [Thinking out loud] I could describe... I wasn’t there when that happened though, so I couldn’t describe that. I could describe Delta Recording Services in Como, Mississippi. Como, Mississippi is a teeny-weeny town. It was Como, right? Yes. It just has a post office, a barbecue place, a gas station – that’s kinda off to the side – a church, it’s very little in fact. Anyway, it’s like 300 people and there’s a studio there called Delta Recording Services. It used to be in Clarksdale, where the blues supposedly comes from.
Nicholaus Arson: Where it does come from!
Howlin’ Pelle: Actually, [Laughs]... Where the blues comes from! And it’s a teeny-weeny little room and you can’t hear what it sounds like, when you’re recording something, because the room you’re listening back to the music in makes everything sound... it’s all bass basically, so you can’t really hear anything.
Nicholaus Arson: Sounds great on the record.
Howlin’ Pelle: Yeah. You can’t... you’re basically just standing in a room playing. And it looks like a little...
Nicholaus Arson: It’s an old radio studio.
Howlin’ Pelle: Yeah, it’s an old radio studio from the 40’s or 50’s I think.
Nicholaus Arson: It’s a typical one of those old studios, it looks a bit like Sun Studio.
Howlin’ Pelle: And how it influenced what we recorded there, was to all be very spontaneous. It was basically us just standing around playing. We have a film of it too, somewhere. And the power... there was a power-out. There was thunder and lightening. So, we had a fantastic take of a song going and then the power went. We have that on video too. It influenced what we recorded there in a way that it felt really good, after being in the other studio in Mississippi and being really kind of... You know, listening to what you are doing and thinking about what you were doing, to just go there for a couple of days and just play basically. That felt good.
Vigilante Carlstroem: Errr, I’ll do...erm...
Howlin’ Pelle: Tell them about Lil’ Wayne?! [Laughs]
Vigilante Carlstroem: I can do the London one, what’s it called? Olympic studios. It’s an older one, it’s been around since, I would guess the 60’s. The Rolling Stones recorded there, which album?
Nicholaus Arson and Howlin’ Pelle race to answer: ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.
Howlin’ Pelle: All The Who records.
Vigilante Carlstroem: So, it’s just a big fancy place. (Pauses for thought.) Very posh...features.
Howlin’ Pelle: You can lower and raise the ceiling with buttons.
Vigilante Carlstroem: So, it’s kind of a boring studio... [Deadpan. Pauses for thought again.]
[Everyone starts laughing.]
Vigilante Carlstroem: It’s not very... I didn’t really get influenced by anything.
[Everyone creases up.]
Vigilante Carlstroem: And err... yeah, it was alright.
[Everyone cracks up.]
Howlin’ Pelle: Good work.
Chris Dangerous: I can tell you something about in Miami, The Hit Factory, where we recorded with Pharrell Williams. That’s just, the most expensive parking lot seen to man.
Howlin’ Pelle: The funniest parking lot I’ve ever been at.
Chris Dangerous: Yeah, it’s just amazing, it’s got big gates and stuff, so all the...
Vigilante Carlstroem: Armed guards...
Chris Dangerous: ... Armed guards and shit...
Howlin’ Pelle: It’s where all the hip hop people record their stuff.
Chris Dangerous: So, they’d have all the luxury cars and they would all party out there.
Howlin’ Pelle: And gang face-offs. [Laughs] Lil’ Wayne’s Rolls Royce. Timbaland’s Lamborghini. Then they go into separate studios and fight on their records.
Chris Dangerous: Amazing.
Howlin’ Pelle: It was fun. The most celebrity packed parking lot known to man.
Chris Dangerous: Yeah. And there was also a small beef with Vigilante and Lil’ Wayne. That had to do with a backpack full of money and a pool table.
Howlin’ Pelle: And later they came and apologised to Vigilante.
[Vigilante Carlstroem’s face is expressionless.]
Sarah: Is that how you took the apology, as that’d be pretty scary.
Vigilante Carlstroem: I told them if they’re not nice to me, I’ll send them to the London studio.
Everyone creases up.
Nicholaus Arson: We also recorded some stuff in our own studio. It’s situated in The Hives Manor, it’s called Soviet Rocket Place Studios. That’s where we record stuff when we’re on our home turf, if we’re not recording in other places.
Howlin’ Pelle: You’re non-stop, you recorded at home on your organ and on your Dictaphone.
Nicholaus Arson: Yeah.
Howlin’ Pelle: You can explain your Dictaphone.
Nicholaus Arson: That’s another studio though, pretty much everything that we record outside of any proper studio, that we do record ourselves is recorded onto the Soviet Rocket Place Studio. That’s where we record the weird shit, when we want it to sound like weird shit. So, if we want to keep the weird shit, that’s where we record it.
Howlin’ Pelle: If we record it there, basically it’s beyond repair. It is weird.
Chris Dangerous: It’s very weird.
Nicholaus Arson: It’s what our early demos would sound like!
Howlin’ Pelle: It’s beyond help!
Nicholaus Arson: It’s like when we started recording demos and it’s kinda like what it sounds like when we send demos to our record company nowadays...
Howlin’ Pelle: And they freak out! [Laughs] ‘What is this?’ ‘It very raw! And kinda strange.’ [Laughs]
Chris Dangerous: I was just about to say AKA Demos. That could’ve been the album title!
Nicholaus Arson: Matt.
Dr. Matt Destruction: Then, we have our own studio, that Pelle and Vigilante Carlstroem has. We like that one very much; we’ve done a lot of our records in that one.
Vigilante Carlstroem: Studio Vanguard.
Howlin’ Pelle: It’s where we recorded ‘Veni Vidi Vicious’ and most of ‘Tyrannosaurus Hives.’
Dr. Matt Destruction: That’s a really good studio because it changes; you can change the ceilings or whatever, the room moves around every three years or something. Something at least happens, you don’t get bored!
Nicholaus Arson: It’s our room, when we feel like we’ve been fucked over too much, going around playing elsewhere. We can go home and record there and make it sound the way we want it to sound. It’s very comforting.
Howlin’ Pelle: Everything makes sense to us there, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I think we were a bit sick of it, that’s why we had to go to other places to record, ‘cause it’s too easy to make...it’s naturally easy for us to make it sound...
Nicholaus Arson: ...We can make it sound exactly – in that studio – how we want it to sound. And sometimes it just bores you. Sometimes you want to wear a red patch over your left eye. [Laughs]
Howlin’ Pelle: It feels really good to come back to.
Nicholaus Arson: We can fix anything there, if we want to.
Sarah: Alright, can you...
Howlin’ Pelle: This is a fun interview.
Sarah: Thanks. That’s good; I haven’t even really started yet. Just warming up.
Howlin’ Pelle: This is just a sound check. [Laughs]
SCREAMING, WRESTLING STARS & FOOT STOMPING
Sarah: Can you talk about your collaborations outside of the album, because there’s your work with Timbaland and... Was that the first time Timbaland had worked with a band?
Howlin’ Pelle: It’s not really.
Sarah: It’s not, oh OK.
Howlin’ Pelle: I don’t know if it’s that, but I don’t know whether it is the band that’s on there actually, it’s singing and guitars courtesy of The Hives. Yeah, he wanted us to contribute to his album and we think that he’s done some really great stuff, so we said yes, basically. He sent over the files and we played around with them a bit, just put down different sounds. Played guitar and just screamed a bunch of random stuff on top of it. Then it came up that they wanted to make it a single and make a video for it, so, we went to Los Angeles and hung out with the female wrestling stars for a day.
Sarah: Did you get any tips from them?
Howlin’ Pelle: Yeah, they showed Matt a bunch of moves.
Dr. Matt Destruction: I showed them mine.
Sarah: Did you? [Laughs]
Dr. Matt Destruction: Yeah, that was later.
Everyone cracks up laughing.
Sarah: And is it true you’ve been working with The Raconteurs?
Howlin’ Pelle: Yeah. [Laughs] We’ve told this story a couple of times, recently.
Sarah: Oh, have you? [Laughs]
Howlin’ Pelle: Here’s what happened! We were in Nashville and we went to the studio to say ‘Hi’, because they were recording their record and we like those guys. And we recorded footsteps, is what it said on the homepage and it’s not a song called ‘Footsteps’; it’s actually us doing this (stomps his feet on the floor). [Laughs] The Raconteurs album will feature me doing this (stomps again). The record sounds really good, what I heard sounds really good. So, it wasn’t really a collaboration in that way.
Sarah: It’s a good story though, I like that.
Howlin’ Pelle: Obviously they had to get me to Nashville to do their footsteps for them. They can play guitar and stuff, but they can’t do footsteps!
Sarah: Going back to the album, please can you let us know if there was anything that struck you while recording - be it something you learnt from a particular producer or something you taught them?
Howlin’ Pelle: We distinctly remember recording with Pharrell Williams and him being kinda new to rock music. He had a suggestion for a bass line that was the riff to ‘Smoke on the Water.’ I said, ‘That’s ‘Smoke on the Water’. He said, ‘That’s a great title!’ It was great working with someone who could hear rock music with fresh ears and no baggage.
Sarah: You’ve said the album’s style is ‘all over the place’ can you describe two songs that are completely different to each other?
Howlin’ Pelle: There is one called ‘Puppet on a String’ that is basically just some Westside Story style finger-snapping and a piano playing a looping bass line. Very little else. There is another one called ‘Hey Little World’ that has tons of stuff on it. A fully overloaded ELO style production of a song, which sounds like AC/DC playing disco.
HOWLIN' PELLE ALMQVIST'S MISCELLANY QUESTIONS
Sarah: Are any of you particularly more a night person or a day person?
Howlin' Pelle: Nicholaus is a morning person, he has usually called all the other band members at least five times by the time they wake up. [I] wake up but [my] brain doesn’t work until later when Nicholaus brain stops working. This sometimes makes collaboration difficult. Chris is up most of the time any time.”
Sarah: To represent the day, please can you...a) Tell us a good recipe for a great lunch - your favourite dish to cook.
Howlin' Pelle: Black beans pan seared with Cholula Hot Sauce. Raw rice, sour cream and some vegetables.
Sarah: And b) What would be your absolute ideal day off?
Howlin' Pelle: Lie on a cliff in the Stockholm Archipelago, eat ice cream and swim.
Sarah: To represent the night, please can you...a) Invent a cocktail and tell us the ingredients and name?
Howlin' Pelle: Iceberg is the name. It features neat vodka with as big a block of ice as you can fit while still getting enough liquid in there.”
Sarah: And b) Describe your best winning dance move?
The split. It is self explanatory.
Sarah: Please pick three situations where style is of the utmost importance and offer your advice - can be dos and don’ts.
Howlin' Pelle: One, when going to a wedding make sure you don’t wear something that is more attention grabbing then the couple getting married. That is rude. Two, do pick up some flowers for your special someone for their birthday. It’s class. If you are away on tour with your famous rock band. Send a delivery. Three, don't drink and drive.
Sarah: You're very well known to be open-minded about music, please can you give us a playlist of five songs you think shouldn't be missed – one’s that you wish were songs by The Hives?
Howlin' Pelle: Well. Lets see: ‘Blank Generation’ by Richard Hell, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ by ZZ Top, ‘Bangkok’ by Alex Chilton, ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes ‘Mainline’ by Zeke. That should do it.”
Sarah: Finally, as you have too many good songs for the new record, would you consider doing a Kill Bill?
Howlin' Pelle: Yes, actually. It would have made sense to put out a Black and a White album as a set, but we will have to listen to the songs a few months from now and see what we could put with them to make a record.