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Friday, May 2, 2008

Same Hives, New Sound

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As Chris Dangerous tells it, The Hives formed with expiration in mind.

“We always had these plans to record three of the best punk albums ever, then just break up,” the group’s drummer says.

Of course, those plans changed after their single “Hate to Say I Told You So” became an international hit, making The Hives a bankable commodity—or, to put it in words the infamously self-aggrandizing group would use, one of the biggest bands in the world.

Unable to bring themselves to break up amid such success, the band settled on a happy medium, distancing themselves from the direct garage-punk of their early releases for their latest album, The Black and White Album.

“We needed to do something else, so we figured we would do everything different this time around,” Dangerous explained. “We’d bring in different producers, we’d sell our songs to commercials, we’d tour more, we’d tour less. Anything we did before, we’d do the exact opposite this time.”

The result was an unexpected departure from a band that critics had respected precisely because of their commitment to just one fully realized sound, but Dangerous says he always viewed the band in a different light than the critics.

“Although I always liked bands like AC/DC and The Ramones, bands that stuck to one style, I never saw us as like one of those bands,” he says. “I always thought we changed a lot from album to album, but apparently, nobody else did.”

Featuring longer, often funkier and more melodic songs than before—and evena couple of songs produced by The Neptunes—the album was likened by critics to The Rolling Stones’ freewheeling, disco-era records, Some Girls and Emotional Rescue, comparisons Dangerous takes as a complement of the highest order.

“I like ‘Miss You’ every bit as much as I like ‘Satisfaction,’” he says, explaining that the Stones were one of the groups that made him realize he was misguided to believe that bands do their best work in their first three albums.

For all the attention that The Hives’ stylistic 180 has garnered, Dangerous insists they’re still the same band—still the same five guys, putting on more or less the same show. They haven’t added any grand stage show (“We’ve never been the type of band to play in front of four giant TV screens”); they haven’t brought in any ringers to help them pull off the new material (“We’ve always handled synths ourselves, so it’s no problem,”) and they certainly haven’t fallen back on any pre-recorded cues (bands that use DATs or CD back-up tracks are “wussies,” Dangerous insists.) The band’s not-so-modest goal is still the same: “To put on a show people will be telling their grandchildren about.”

This month, The Hives do a short tour of America, including a concert at The Rave in Milwaukee on Sunday, May 18. Dangerous says he enjoys playing America—although he qualifies that, adding that “really, there isn’t a place in the world where it isn’t good to take the stage and be The Hives”—but when asked whether Americans are misinformed about Swedes, he concedes, “a lot of Americans can be really fucking stupid.”

“We get questions like, ‘Are you from the country with the watches?’ and we’re like, ‘No, that’s Switzerland.’ Or we get asked if we drove here or took a plane. They think we drove from Sweden. It’s like, Jesus, learn that there is a world that exists outside of America.

“I’m not saying everyone in America is this way,” he adds cautiously, “but there are a lot of dumb people. You’ve seen those ‘Jaywalking’ segments on ‘Leno,’ you know what I’m talking about.”