The classic punk DIY ethic is nothing new for Sweden’s scrappy garage rockers the Hives
. So when their old major label seemed to be ignoring their 2007 The Black and White Album
barnstormer in favor of promoting the latest Pussycat Dolls release, they didn’t sit idly by, twiddling their thumbs. They took the album’s most anthemic track, “Tick Tick Boom,” and ran with it. “We decided that that was our way to promote the album — just license that song to wherever and whatever, just in order to get it heard,” says frenetic band frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. “And it worked out really well. It was on action-movie trailers, a lot of sports teams used it as their go-on-the-ice song, and the words really fit well with the NFL. I think it’s pretty neat if you can put a song in that context.” Naturally, the Hives launched their own imprint — Disques Hives — for a new fifth set Lex Hives
, and trashy powerchorders like “Go Right Ahead,” “1000 Answers,” and “I Want More” [which follows a great covers EP, Tarred and Feathered
, featuring their take on the Zero Boys’ proto-punk classic “Civilization’s Dying”]. Even more old-school, the band keeps track of all of its industry friends, and annually mails Hives Christmas cards to every last well-wisher. Now that’s doing it yourself.
Read out exclusive Q&A with Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and stream four burnin' new tracks from Lex Hives below...
PureVolume: Now let me get this straight — you were an actual music teacher at one point?
Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist: Yes, I was. It was right after I’d gotten out of school. We’d recorded our first album and I think we were working on our second one, and I was a music teacher for several months, at a school for 7th and 8th graders. Which basically means that there was very little teaching of music — it was more me concentrating on getting them to sit down and shut up. Which I, uhhh, wasn’t very successful at. But it’s not like that now. I can get 80,000 people to do what I say now.
PV: Do you sometimes spot your ex-students in a Hives crowd?
HPA: Sometimes. I’ve seen them. I have very good facial recognition, and I recognize them sometimes. In a crowd of 80,000 people, I can pick them out, every time.
PV: So what — and how — did you teach the kids?
HPA: Well, there weren’t many instruments there, and I didn’t have a lot of classes per day. I was there maybe three days a week, and I had two classes per day, and I was basically just substituting for someone. So during the classes I would get them to play their favorite song and talk about it, and then sometimes I would teach them to play drums on their knees, because there was only one drum kit and they didn’t want to let the kids anywhere near it. But then when the class was over, I would sit at the drums and try to come up with stuff myself – probably most of our second album was written in that school music room.
PV: Was there one student who showed real promise?
HPA: Yeah. There was a guy who, at the end of the semester, played a show in the school assembly room, and he was very good. He played acoustic guitar and sang. And that area of Sweden — an even smaller town than the one we came from, Fagersta — is a really bad industrial one with people basically fighting on the weekends. That kind of place. So just the fact that he played acoustic guitar and sang was pretty impressive, because that alone could get you beat up in that kind of place. But the girls at school really liked it, so maybe that was worth it for him.
PV: Did you play any Hives music for your students?
HPA: Nah. We were sort of locally famous already at the time, because we were one of the bands around there who had put out a record. So they knew who we were, but I don’t think they liked us or anything. Well, some of them did. But like I said, it was very hard for me just to get them to sit down and shut up because there were so many crazy hormones in that classroom.
PV: And you’re still teaching people about music with Tarred and Feathered. How did you unearth that old Indiana outfit the Zero Boys?
HPA: Well, we released a split 7” with a band called the Pricks a really long time ago, back in ’98 or so. And the lead singer of that band, we were hanging out at his place one day, and at the time I was kind of burnt out on that style of punk rock. You can go through piles of 1977 punk rock singles, and most of them aren’t really that good. But he played me the Zero Boys, and it was that song “Civilization’s Dying,” and I immediately noticed that it was way better than most other things — it really was on a par with the Damned or the Sex Pistols, the best stuff there is. So way later, we were making this covers EP and I remembered that song. So I played it for the other guys and they flipped out.
PV: Are you a real archivist? With stacks of vinyl crowding your place?
HPA: Well, not really that much. Because I was always only interested in having the songs, so I was never collecting the first pressings of albums or anything like that. And nowadays, it’s much easier, because people buy these rare 7-inches and put them up online so you can download them. But I do have a pretty big record collection, but it’s growing at a slower rate now than it used to when I was in my 20s, I guess. And on tour, with so many record stores where you can go, eventually I got sick of carrying a suitcase full of vinyl through customs.
PV: Like Cheap Trick had its show-opening song “Hello There,” Lex Hives has a great concert rabble-rouse with “Come On.”
HPA: Yes, and I’m really glad that it’s in the form it is now, because it used to start off slow, and it was long and tedious. But now we’ve got it down to 1:10, and we can play this as our first song forever now
PV: ”Go Right Ahead” has some wailing sax, and “1000 Answers” even has some honky tonk piano in there.
HPA: Yep. All the songs have these little details. And we always like fiddling with all kinds of stuff like that. Because we’ve usually been playing guitar for six months when we get into the studio, but there are all these other instruments in the studio nowadays, and we just think it’s better if that stuff goes on there. If you can play some piano, play some maracas, or whatever you can do to slightly skew it from being the standard rock instrumentation. Like on our song “Without The Money,” where we’ll only play organ instead of using a full rock band.
PV: And Disques Hives has its own official logo and everything.
HPA: It’s kind of funny that that logo’s been on all of our records since we started. We always like continuity, so we’ve used the same one throughout all of our albums. So we already had the insignia – it was just a matter of deciding that we didn’t want to hire a staff. And that we could be the staff and just make the record ourselves, pay for it ourselves, and actually release it on our own label.