The Hives' frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist has previewed the band's first album in over a decade in a new interview with Music Week.
The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons drops this Friday, August 11, via Fuga. Named after the Swedish rockers' (fictional) founder, mentor and songwriter, it is the group's sixth album overall and their first full-length release since 2012's Lex Hives.
Trailed by the singles Bogus Operandi, Trapdoor Solution and The Bomb, it is also their first LP to feature bassist The Johan And Only, who joined Almqvist, Chris Dangerous, Vigilante Carlstroem amd Nicholaus Arson as a full band member following the departure of Dr Matt Destruction in 2013.
Here, Amqvist reflects on 30 years of The Hives, their recent Arctic Monkeys support slot and why rock & roll is doing just fine...
How are you feeling about unleashing your new album into the world?
"Mostly, I feel relieved that it's done and it's coming out. It's been a hell of a trek trying to get something happening. I'm pretty sure it's good. I mean, I am sure that it's good, but we do a very specific thing and we've done a very specific thing for a very long time. Whether it's a worldwide super-hit has more to do with how the world is feeling, so that's out of my control. But I don't think about whether it's going to be successful or not, I'm just happy that it exists."
It's been 11 years since your last LP, why so long?
"I don't have a good answer for that. I wish it was two years. It has not been fun, but the main problem is that Randy Fitzsimmons, our principal songwriter, has not been with us and then two years ago or so, we finally got the songs that he had left behind for us. It was also because Dr Matt Destruction, our bass player, left and that took a lot of restructuring, like, what's the band like without one of the five founding members? There are a lot of things that happened in 10 years. I can't sum it up, but I am as mad about it as everyone else - probably more so."
What was the recording process like?
"Actually kind of easy and fun compared to our other albums. There's a lot of arguing every time we make a record, but this time once we had the songs, like I said, there was a sense of relief after all this time, so it was fairly painless and quick. Easy is wrong to say, but we argued less than we usually do."
What made sense about the Fuga deal?
"Well, we've always been interested in owning our music, so that was part of it. That's why we didn't sign a traditional record deal. We talked to a bunch of people, but Fuga seemed to be the right fit. Everything felt pretty good about it – from the deal terms to the people – and so it's coming out on our own label, but obviously we don't do everything a record label does and neither does Fuga. So it's kind of like one of these label services things where they give us money and then we hire some staff together and that becomes the record company essentially."
How would you sum up your experiences with record labels down the years?
"There are certainly things about the major label experience that have been good. The bad thing is that there is a lot of competition for attention. I remember putting out an album and there was like a week or two of hard work on it and then The Pussycat Dolls released an album, so we had to step aside. And that obviously sucked, whereas on an independent you can keep their interest for a longer time. On the other hand, if you have a hit on a major label, it's way more effective than if you have a hit on an independent label - they can put a lot of firepower behind it very quickly.
"Usually, when people say they self-release an album, they're not really - not like in the way that you would DIY press the records and go around to record stores trying to sell them. It's more that you put your own name on it and then you still have someone doing the label stuff, but you own the intellectual property, so to speak, or you own the record. So that's kind of what we're doing. We're not actually self-releasing as in calling the printers and all that. Fuga does that bit, but it's our album."
There's a lot of arguing every time we make a record, but this time once we had the songs there was a sense of relief
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist
Creation Records founder Alan McGee signed you to his Poptones label in the early 2000s, how important a figure was he in building your career?
"Well, I think that's more visible from the outside. To us, Alan McGee was a great friend and he really helped us out as a kind of advisor, I guess, and the fact that he put out the record [Your New Favourite Band] gave it more attention. I think he was very important for us, but the most important thing is that we had a lot of fun with Alan McGee throughout the years and we still love hanging out with him. The career trajectory thing is impossible to quantify, like, would we have [reached] the same popularity level without Alan McGee? There's no way of answering that. But he certainly did a good job for the time we were with him."
Touring has been such an important aspect of your career, how important was it that the new songs worked well live?
"If it gives us the right feeling that we want to record it, it usually is good live too. We don't have to think about it that much. Sometimes when you're rehearsing a new song, you can feel, 'Oh, this is going to go nuts live,' but it's not really a consideration. It's just kind of natural that if it works in one field, it works in the other for us."
Your live show is famously high-octane, how hard is that to sustain as you get older?
"It's not really. We're in amazing shape, so it's fine. I mean, if Mick Jagger can do it at 80, you've just got to stop complaining and get on with it."
You recently supported the Arctic Monkeys on their stadium tour, how was that?
"Great. No complaints. A+ tour. Everyone was really nice to us. There were a shit-ton of people watching the shows. We got paid decently. It was really fucking fun and the weather was amazing throughout the whole tour. Also I like Arctic Monkeys. I think they're pretty much the only good really big band I know [laughs]."
That said, their last couple of albums have split opinion to a degree. What have you made of their recent direction?
"I think they should do what feels right. I think everything they've done has been good, it's just different genres. I can see that someone who loved the first album maybe isn't into the last album and vice-versa, but who gives a shit? They're doing what they feel like they should be doing and that's all there is to it. I like all their stuff, basically."
Rock music still does great live business even if the records don't sell in the same quantities as before. What's your take on the overall health of rock and roll?
"I think that's the answer. Everyone's like, 'Oh, rock & roll is dead.' But I don't know, name a genre of music that they say is popular these days."
"Yeah, okay. So the hip-hop concert business has nothing on the rock & roll concert business. So rock & roll is fine [laughs]."
How do you reflect on your journey so far and where do you want The Hives to go next?
"Where do we want to go next? I'll answer that first: onwards [laughs]. Thirty years is too much time to really reflect on but I feel like we're very much the same people. You think you'd get cynical and hard to impress as you get older, but we were never very impressed with anything even when we were 17 [laughs], which is a shame because then all these amazing things happened to us."
Finally, after 30 years as a band, what keeps you motivated?
"I think the fact that the first seven or eight years we lived in a really small town, and there was no one else who wanted to be in our band. So it was just us basically for seven, eight years, and that cemented that foundation. What keeps us together now is the fact that there are a lot of advantages. We love doing it, it's great. You get a lot of endorphin rushes and shit. You get see the world, get paid really well and none of us know how to do anything else."
INTERVIEW: James Hanley
PHOTO: Bisse Bengtsson