“We are trying to perfect some kind of punk rock and I think we are getting pretty close to doing it.” The Hives will never be accused of modesty and their drummer Chris Dangerous is not one to break rank.
In Chris’s head it is 2.30am, but he has just stepped off a flight from Switzerland to Washington, so it’s actually 7.30pm. “What day is it?” he asks, and after explaining the concept of time zones and the fact that Australia is in another completely different time zone and day, the implosion of hangover and jet lag is palpably heard in his groan.
“I really love Australia”, Chris adamantly admits without the gratuitous prompt, “I can’t tell you enough how much we love playing there, we’re not even touring there till later in the year and I’m still on the phone to you at 2 o’clock in the morning.” Reminding Mr Dangerous that in Washington it’s 7.30pm he corrects himself, “right, right, the show in Switzerland was amazing, so much energy, it feels like 2am.”
Energy is a word that comes back again and again when describing The Hives and put simply, if you haven’t seen them live you won’t really know what people are talking about. Their philosophy on rock’n'roll has never been articulated as clearly as when their lead singer Pelle stated earlier this year, “we’re into that idea of being one of those bands that doesn’t really have to change that much, like The Ramones or Iron Maiden.”
Lex Hives is their fifth album and the opening track ‘Come On’ consists of the title being repeated numerous, some might say an excessive amount of times. It is a sound that could be found on any one of their frenetic, ADD-suffering albums and anyone that criticises this must see it as a perfunctory argument, The Hives know they sound the same as they did in 2004, that’s just not the point of their music.
Considering their hyperactive tendencies it is natural to wonder whether The Hives are producing albums just to create a reason to get back out on the road and continue their quest to blow up speakers. “You would think that, but no,” retorts Mr Dangerous, “we actually pride ourselves on our albums, that is why we don’t make one per year, we tour a lot because we love playing live more than anything else but we can’t do the two at the same time so at some point we need to stop and write.”
The Hives’ inability to multi-task has nothing to do with them being male, (thank you very much female stereotypers); it is because a primary contributor, Randy Fitzsimmonds – their George Martin – is a ghostly sixth member of the band that prefers to abstain from all band duties apart from writing. Queries about Fitzsimmonds, and their matching black and white suits, are the two most over-asked questions in the history of interviews with The Hives. Not going to go there.
Their latest long player has been heralded on both sides of The Atlantic as, well… vintage Hives. No one else really does what they do and it seems they are doing it better than they ever have been.
When broached with the idea of burning out rather than fading away, the drummer is adamant that he’s closer to finding another tank of gasoline, “we like this album more than any one we’ve produced, it’s the album that we wanted to make back in 1993 but didn’t know how. If someone said to me that it was shit, I would want to sit them down and find out why, and then convince them they are wrong.”
“I really feel like we are only hitting our stride now, I feel like we are halfway down the road not close to the end. We will stop when it’s not fun or when we are getting worse at what we do or when there is another band out there that does what we do better.” Does a band ever know when they are on a downward spiral though? “Oh no” laughs Dangerous, “we will have to get told, we are so far up our own asses that we wouldn’t have a clue.”
This ambition and determination to constantly improve, both in the studio and on stage, is most acutely described in their track ‘The Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics’; which vehemently pisses on the notion of bands touring back catalogues and resting on the laurels of past hits.
“There’s no point making an album that’s worse than the previous one and we are always getting better at our sound,” Chris states, without a shred of self-awareness, “The only change we have ever made was on our first record we tried to play everything as fast as we could, now we just try to play as hard and as loud as we can.”
The Hives are the purveyors of beautifully clichéd fast, loud and hard rock’n'roll. Even with garage rock collapsing around them and Jack White turning his back on his vintage sound in favour of some Alabama-shaken folk, it’s interesting to hear what a man who was double-kicking his way through the good times of the early 2000s thinks about the current state of rock’n'roll.
Our snare loving Swede manages a laugh, “The White Stripes were fucking great and what Jack White is up to now doesn’t interest me as much but that doesn’t matter. I think the entire industry of rock’n'roll is going back to how it was in the 1950s, it’s more about singles and not albums. People aren’t buying albums off iTunes as much as individual tracks they like and we don’t feel like we’re done. We have a lot more songs to write and lot more songs for people to lose their shit to, that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Lex Hives is out now through Universal and Dew Process. You can read the Tone Deaf album review here – Go Right Ahead.