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INTERVIEW – Nicholaus Arson, The Hives – January 2014

| 12 January 2014

INTERVIEW – Nicholaus Arson, The Hives – January 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

The Hives Nicholaus Arson 01

THE HIVES were planning some relaxing time at home through January and February after an arduous tour of North America, but then the phone call came – ‘Blur have quit the Big Day Out’, it might have said, ‘We need HIVES!!!’

Next thing you know, the Swedish band from Fagersta are one of the key replacements for the Britpop party poopers, and we got guitarist Nicholaus Arson to tell us how The Hives felt about stepping into Blur’s shoes.

“Well, I would like to see it more like we’re wrapping ourselves around Blur’s shoes in that case,” Arson [real name Niklas Almquist] says, “we’re wrapping our top-of-the-line boots around their dirty sneakers and we’ll polish off the rock n’ roll with some mariachi chrome, or something like that. I mean, I guess for us this is a position we have a million times before – we’re usually on speed dial for promoters who have a band cancel, because we have a great live reputation so they usually give us a ring. It’s a fair deal of the business that we make is stepping in and saving the day!”

The Hives 01

You’re like Swedish rock n’ roll superheroes!?

“Yeah, I’d say,” Arson laughs, “If whatever random superhero couldn’t do it, then you call Superman, and we’re Superman… or Wolverine…”

Arson is adamant, though, that stepping in for another band doesn’t put any extra pressure on The Hives.

“No. I mean, that’s like… bands cancel all the time – there’s nothing weird in that. Maybe if people bought tickets to go and see Blur, then you know, that’s a shame, but if they go and see The Hives I’m pretty sure they’ll be impressed. But obviously if you have a favourite band who cancels, you know, you can sell your ticket – it doesn’t really put pressure on us. There’s still time to sell your ticket and go somewhere else.

“People should be happy enough that they get to see The Hives, though!”

The Hives 02

With a late afternoon main stage slot of only one hour, Arson says it’s not always easy to condense all their ‘magic moments’ over five albums into their slot.

“It’s kinda hard,” he exclaims, “but an hour is okay though. We’ve done shows though – festivals – where you only get 40 minutes, sometimes you get an hour or a little more. But the 40 minute sets and the hour sets are equally great – the longer ones are the ones you wanna go see because you get more out of them, but as far as … like, you wanna go see someone great and it’s super-short, then you wanna go see it again! That’s how it is for us, basically, sort of a parade of Hives hits and magic moments – like you referred to. It’s reasonably brief but it’s still amazing – you gotta work with what you have, you know?”

Always keep ‘em wanting more!

The band are reknowned for wearing matching black & white stage outfits, whether it be white shirts and black leather jackets, white suits with black shirts, tuxedos and top hats or the mariachi outfits they wore on their latest American tour.

“Yeah I actually think we’re bringing the mariachi suits to Australia,” says Arson, “we have not worn our mariachi gear in Australia, and it’s a… let’s call it a homage to mariachi music, or to our friends Mariachi El Bronx, who tipped us off where to get the rags! We would love to honour both The Bronx and the whole mariachi culture by wearing our mariachi suits in Australia. PLUS, they look freakin’ amazing! It’s a big plus – everybody wins.”

The Hives Nicholaus Arson 02

Arson’s bandmates include fellow guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem, bassist Dr Matt Destruction, drummer Chris Dangerous, and lead singer – and little brother – Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. Arson says his little brother was always in people’s faces long before he took to the stage.

“He is a typical little brother – although right now he is asleep. He is staying at my house and he is currently asleep. But whenever he’s awake he is a typical little brother!!”

The Hives Nicholaus Arson and Howlin Pelle Almqvist

Looking past the killer live show, the unique repartee and stagecraft of every member of the band and the irresistibly catchy puck rockin’ tunes, The Hives are reknowned for something else pretty incredible: From a town of only 11,000 people, five like-minded souls with the same musical and visual vision found each other and have stayed together without a single lineup change for TWENTY YEARS. It’s quite remarkable.

“Yeah, I think that is quite remarkable,” he agrees, “and it is also maybe what you get coming from a small town. You know – if you wanted to do music, these were the fucking guys to do it with! So we stuck around for many years – we played for 7 years before we made it anywhere in the greater world of music and started touring.

The Hives 03

“You bond, over those years, over the course of time when you do something together that’s NOT successful, then you really bond. You put a lot of time and work into something that’s not successful, then you bond, and then… things kind of loosen up once you get some success, and that’s something that bonds you even more – or at least, you have a foundation to stand on. You know, if you were to meet four guys that you never knew before and you start a band and instantly you have success where you’re bringing in the million dollars, then you might have another type of problem, you might have other type of issues, but for us, we already kind of knew what we had with each other – we stuck up for each other before we had success. That’s part of the reasons we still hang out together.”

According to Wikipedia, Fagersta is known for it’s steel industry. English industrial towns like Sheffield and Birmingham were very big heavy metal towns – yet The Hives are well and truly a punk rock n’ roll outfit.

“In Fagersta it was rock n’ roll and punk, that’s what was popular here,” recalls Arson. “That’s what the factory workers listen to here. They go out for a drink at the weekends and they have a show at the local club – it’s always rock n’ roll and punk, that was the type of music you would inherit from your older siblings or from people in the street – like, for us, we’d get cassettes from people older than us living in the same street. So, yeah, rock n’ roll and punk… it’s such an instant way to start music – an instant way to get into it. Because early on, it [all] sounds like punk! And then it can evolve into more genius punk unless it already is sounding like genius punk…”

When you learn to play a bit more?

“…Yeah,” he responds, “but sometimes genius punk is without playing good, and sometimes genius punk is with playing great – there’s both kinds. So that’s what was popular here.”

The Hives Nicholaus Arson 04

Arson will be playing the first of two Sydney Big Day Outs on Australia Day – his birthday – not that he was aware of that before our interview.

“I don’t remember [if I have played an Australia Day show in Australia before]” he shares, “maybe on our last Big Day Out tour? But my birthday is always on the same date, and I don’t know if that’s Australia Day!”

Yep, 26th January – same time every year!

“…so that’s Australia Day,” he muses, “and it’s my birthday, and it’s also Wayne Gretsky, the hockey player’s birthday!”

Yes, of course! And it’s also my wife’s birthday, actually!

“Well there you go – and two of my next door neighbours have the same birthdate! Yeah, must be something happen [nine months before that]! Well, I’ll be happy to celebrate myself as well as Australia on the day of our Sydney show!”

Yeah, you might need those four days off afterwards to recover!!

“Yeah,” he laughs, “bake [me] a beer cake or something! So people come out, every year, to then celebrate Australia, Nicholaus Arson and your wife? That’s it – I’m there! Sounds amazing!”

The Hives 05

Having stepped into the breach to fill Blur’s void, means their demoing and recording plans have had to be postponed. Arson says that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be a new Hives album in 2014.

“You never really know.” Arson declares, “Sometimes we can be pretty fast working on music, and sometimes it takes more time. It all depends on… you know, it’s supposed to be a finished record at the end of it, so you never really know. But we were planning on recording some stuff and possibly releasing some 7 inch stuff this [European] Spring, and working on stuff here over January… but you can’t really say no to going down for some Summer fun and celebrating your birthday on Australia Day!!”

And have the whole country celebrate your birthday with you!

“Well, basically having a whole continent celebrate my birthday!” he laughs, “who couldn’t say yes to that!?”

You’re looking forward to it a little bit more now, aren’t you?

“Yes I am. Like I said before, it’s one of those festivals where we have a lot of time in between – I’d love to go in the studio in between [shows] in Australia and record a few songs, because I think we have songs that we could record. And that would be pretty cool just to start demoing stuff, but you never know what happens. There’s always some stuff that shows up on tour that has to be solved before you can do that sort of stuff – but I’d love to do that.”

That would be cool, maybe release a special Australian 7 inch – there you go!

“Yeah that’d be rad!”
Big Day Out 2014 dates:

Friday, January 17 – Western Springs, Auckland
Sunday, January 19 – Metricon Stadium & Carrara Parklands, Gold Coast
Friday, January 24 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Sunday, January 26 – Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney
Monday, January 27 – Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney
Friday, January 31 – Bonython Park, Adelaide
Sunday, February 2 – Claremont Showgrounds, Perth


Category: Interviews

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