Still Bloody Vicious
Recording in the American South with Chris Dangerous
Words by Martin Halo
‘Clap your hands if you want more!’ I stood stunned at what was transpiring before my very eyes. ‘Come On!’, screamed Pelle Almqvist as he pandered the New York City audience. I was drenched in sweat, and my senses were violated. It was at that moment, that I developed a special connection with The Hives. I don’t know what was more seducing, their resemblance to The Stones in the early part of the 1960s or their intensity. The answer was unclear but what I did know was that these guys wouldn’t dare slip in a ballad on me.
It has been close to six years since that night at Hammerstein Ballroom. I had lost track of the band since then. They seemed to fade into the oblivion of the hyped rock ensembles surrounding millennium. Spoiled and mistreated. But like bumping into an old romance at the airport, it was a friend who recently made the move from Capitol to Interscope Records, which brought The Hives back front and center. This garage rock audible assault of explosive nostalgia was about to cross paths with a very different person that was squashed against the barricade in 2002.
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway oozed with traffic and there I was stuck in it. The only thing to break up the monotony was the occasional bird flying out of a passing car window; that was, until the phone rang.
“That is why I choose to live on the countryside. I don’t have to put up with that sort of stuff”, snickers drummer Chris Dangerous as he references the serenity of his Swedish villa two hours outside of Stockholm. “Let’s put it this way, if I lived in America I would probably have an apartment in New York where I would spend most of my time. I would go to LA to party for a week, at least few times a year, and then I would have a cabin in Colorado so I could go skiing. I always like to relax”, he says.
Life has turned sweet for The Hives since fulfilling their three-album obligation with the Swedish punk label Burning Heart. Their lineup has remained intact but the ideology of the fold is changing.
“The original plan was to make three punk rock records that we could look back on when we were 50 and be proud of”, those being Barely Legal (1997), Veni Vidi Vicious (2002), and Tyrannosaurus Hives (2004). “We didn’t think anyone would ever buy more than twenty copies of each record. We just thought that when we were 50 the kids would find them an enjoy them”, explains Dangerous before he delivers the antithesis. “But then we got popular and it fucked that all up. So when we decided to make this fourth record we had to deviate from the original plan started when we were seventeen, the plan to make three records. It was time to do something different, something new.”
That fourth record would be entitled The Black and White Album, which was released in October of 2007, and echoed the octane brilliance of the playfully arrogant band we have come to love. The recording is still forceful, still filled with vengeance, and still littered with punk.
“We recorded in Oxford, Mississippi”, Dangerous explains. “The previous records took us about three weeks in total to record. We recorded for ten weeks in Mississippi and didn’t even finish nine songs. We had to go back to Sweden to finish recording. I will tell you this much – Mississippi is a fucking slow place”, as laughter follows. “It is not a very efficient place when you want to play punk rock. We are so used to setting up some drums and pushing red buttons.”
You might not be able to tell them apart by their dress but the sounds they make are unmistakable. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s vocals, Dr. Matt Destruction’s bass, Chris Dangerous’ percussion, coupled with the guitar gang of Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem, fuse to fixate the listener in a trance of scorching American garage rock.
“There has always been a lot of American influence. All of Sweden speaks English so it is 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 you [America] invented rock n’ roll.”
“We didn’t even know there was something called garage rock until pretty late. We started playing punk 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.”
The conversation then transitions to intentions.
“Our intentions on 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, the punks, were the most stuck up assholes we had ever saw. If you had the wrong kind of beer you were getting a beating. That is not what punk was about for us at least. We started as a punk band, but there was a time when we wanted to rebel against punk.”
“When people come to see our band, it is a Saturday night even if it is a Tuesday and its raining”, as Dangerous 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. I think that is what we are trying to do with our music. We are trying to have the most fun out of playing that we can. I guess that is what I believe in.”
“The adrenaline rush of it all is enormous. Of course it is amazing. To be honest with you people say we are ˜the greatest live band’ and blahh blahh blahh, you know? But I mean, honestly, it is supposed to be a show. It is supposed to entertain people. You can’t do that by looking at your feet. We are not up there with acoustic guitars. That is not our thing at least. To get all of that energy we have to put a hell of a lot into it. I think more people should do that because we are having such a good time every night on stage. I think a lot more fun that a lot of other bands.”
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