The Hives: Jake Curtis / RetnaUK

Sweden's the Hives on their next album and more -- Frontman Pelle Almqvist discusses ''Spider-Man,'' the garage-rock resurgence, and whether he ripped off Blur

August 22, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

It seems as if the hype behind Sweden’s dapper garage-rockers the Hives should have peaked by now, but it’s just getting started. They’ve reportedly signed a three-album deal with Universal Music that’s worth more than $10 million — only months after their most recent album, ”Veni Vidi Vicious,” was rereleased by another major label, Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, their battering ram of a single, ”Hate to Say I Told You So,” has hit No. 7 on alt-rock radio, and the video has snagged a Video Music Award nomination and finally crossed over from MTV2 to MTV. (MTV2 has shifted to the follow-up video, ”Main Offender.”) The Hives will also join the likes of Bruce Springsteen and P. Diddy as performers at the Aug. 29 VMA ceremony.

Before word of the new record deal broke, we caught up with Hives frontman Pelle Almqvist, who revealed the band’s hopes for its future and shared some of the mordant wit that led the band to call a song ”The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime.”

How do you feel about being constantly grouped with the Strokes and the White Stripes?
Those bands make more sense to me than most things that are popular in guitar music in America today. As such, I think it’s good. But we don’t sound anything like them and they don’t sound like us. It’s oddly entertaining that people would compare us. Maybe it’s a haircut thing.

Meanwhile, what are you doing alongside the likes of Alien Ant Farm and Chad Kroeger on the ”Spider-Man” soundtrack?
Spider-Man was always my favorite comic book hero — that’s why we’re on it. There are some good songs; the Strokes are on it. Other than that, there’s a bunch of crap on it. That theme song [”Hero”] doesn’t agree with me. But it just makes us sound better if we’re on a compilation with bad music.

What makes the Hives different from other garage-rock bands?
We’re not as orthodox. For a lot of bands that do the garage thing, it’s almost like a historical reenactment of rock & roll, and that’s not really what we’re trying to do. Our music would never sound the way we sound without us being big punk rock fans, and punk rock wasn’t around in 1967.

You’ve said Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels are your favorite band. How did you discover them?
I found some sort of compilation in a record store in my hometown in Sweden. It was called ”Detroit Breakout” and [Ryder] wore a green sparkly suit on the cover. I figured if a guy has a green sparkly suit and red shoes on the cover of a record, it should be good. It was.

Why do you think ”Hate to Say I Told You So” is so popular in the U.S.?
It’s pretty easy to get. It’s total spinal rock. There’s nothing intellectual about it. It hits your reptile brain. Plus, it’s fairly monotonous, and I think people need that on the radio.

Also, it sounds an awful lot like Blur’s ”Song 2,” don’t you think?
Like I said, I didn’t really listen to modern rock. I’ve heard that song, and there’s one part that might sound a bit like it. But we were trying to rip off a bunch of other things. The Hives do rip off a bunch, but I don’t think Blur is one of them.

You don’t seem to talk much anymore about Randy Fitzimmons, the mysterious figure who allegedly assembled your band and writes all your songs. Is that because the New Musical Express proved that you made him up?
The NME is wrong. They called one person and asked them. Then they printed a big article without consulting us or even asking us about it. Randy Fitzsimmons is the sixth member of the band, but he doesn’t tour with us. People can believe whatever they want. I really couldn’t care less because we know what’s true.

Does Fitzsimmons write your songs, then?
He is involved in a lot of songs. We’re six people collaborating.

What do you want out of the next Hives album?
I want it to be really good. Whether it’ll be more disco or less death metal, that’s hard to really say. It’s still on a very philosophical level. Someone might say it should sound like a mountain. Then we have to figure out what rock music that sounds like a mountain sounds like. I’m not saying that it’s going to sound like a mountain, though.

Does that mean it could sound like the ocean, instead?
Probably not. I got a bit too new-wave there. Sorry about that. My prediction for the future is we’ll sell more records and more people will care. Or maybe more people will care less.

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