Tyrannosaurus Hives (Interscope)
An interview with drummer Chris Dangerous
By Scott Hefflon
photos by Deborah McCarthy
I’ve reviewed four CDs by you, dating back to ’96 with Oh Lord! When? How? on Sidekick Records. Is that part of Burning Heart Records?
That was a five-song mini-CD, and yes, Sidekick was a label that Burning Heart started to work with new bands. We were the first band on that label.
Most people seem to start your discography with Barely Legal or even A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T or Veni Vidi Vicious...
In America, yes, because Epitaph didn’t want to put out Barely Legal.
But Gearhead did. I’ve worked with them for years, they know their shit.
We play the Gearhead festivals in Sweden and Norway, but we haven’t played the one in America.
One thing that’s always impressed me about The Hives is your work ethic. Unlike all the bling-obsessed rappers, boasting rap metal bands, fashion punk, and carefully shy indie posterboys, you’re all about the work. You’re a band and you want to make great music.
One thing to keep in mind is we were 13 or 14 years old when we started. We really liked music, and we wanted to play. We thought we were really good, even then. It sounded like shit, of course, but everything we’ve ever done has been to make the band better. The goal was never – and I mean never – to make money or be successful. We do this purely to make the best songs we can. We want to make songs we will still like when we’re old and can’t play anymore, songs we can listen to and say “Yes, we did this and it’s really good.”
And the thing about becoming successful, we never thought of it. We thought we were a lot smarter than the people on the charts. Something has to change. The charts have been mostly shit for a long time now.
The media seems to like to claim “saviors of rock’n’roll” a lot, but you guys didn’t really set out to save rock’n’roll, just to show that it could be done a whole lot more vitally, show that other stuff really was watered-down, formulaic shit.
Pretty much. And to show ourselves how it could be done. Cuz ya know, we don’t think most bands try hard enough… If you want to make something good, whether it’s a painting or building a house, you can’t make it quickly, without effort. You have to give it the extra thought, you have to keep perfecting it, you have to never be satisfied, really.
Didn’t you kind of anticipate, or at least hope, that as hard as you worked on your craft, that sooner or later it would catch on like it now has?
No, we really had no idea. When you look at it now, it looks like it was bound to happen… If you work really hard and get really good at something – and it doesn’t really matter what it is – people will generally notice. But we never really looked at it that way…
Because popularity wasn’t the goal, it was a byproduct. Being good was the goal.
Is reality TV as big in Sweden as it is in America?
(disgusted) We have it in Sweden as well. People will do anything to get on TV. It’s really amazing and stupid.
It’s always bugged me that people want to be famous, but that it doesn’t matter to them what they’re famous for. I’ve always thought becoming famous, or at least respected in your circle, for what you’re capable of was the goal. To work hard to be good at something, then to achieve success as a result. Reality TV has undermined – on a cultural level, and has infected many cultures – the drive and the need to actually be good at anything.
Exactly. But if you set out with a goal and you work on achieving that goal, success doesn’t affect the work toward that goal. It’s not different. We tour. We’ve done that for a long time. We play a show every night, and we have a really good time. That’s what it’s all about, playing the shows. Sure, there are more people at the shows now, but it’s built gradually, and it’s still playing a show. We’re still the same band.
The bio for Tyrannosaurus Hives makes kind of a big deal about you digging back into older music – vintage garage and rock’n’roll and R&B, all genre titles which have since been stretched and exploited to include modern, weak strains of the original DNA – but always done that, right?
We pick up music every day. Everything from the ’40s to current hip-hop. There’s a lot of great recorded music out there, you just have to find it. We’re not into just one style or time-period of music, we’re into good music, and so we’re always finding great new music we’ve never heard before.
We often joke that our audience is a mix of 14 year old girls and 60 year old record collectors.
Why do you think that is?
I think older people are into us because our music has quality, and the young girls are into us because we’re on MTV. And as long as good bands get airplay and are played on MTV, I think it’s ok. The more people who are exposed to good music, the better.
You also put on a real show. You dress snappily and you’re dangerously active on stage. What inspired your show in the beginning?
It’s not like we sat down and studied other people’s moves… We started dressing and performing the way we wanted to see a band dress and perform. Bands used to dress as a unit, and that looked good. And we saw lots of photos of new bands jumping, and that looked good too. So we started jumping all the time, and only later did we realize that most bands just jump for photos.
I hate talking directly about fashion, cuz I think style is personal expression, not designer brands and where to buy them, but tell me a bit about the psychology of dressing sharply.
It means a lot to us. We’ve always liked bands who dressed the same, from Devo to Kraftwerk to all the garage bands of the ’60s. We think it looks good, and we like the gang mentality thing. As far as black and white goes, it just seemed classic, and that people would notice us from a mile away. We wanted to look like the Hives, on and off-stage. It doesn’t have any political meaning, it’s just fun. It’s a show: People get dressed up to go to a show or to play a show, and this is how we dress.
Do you refer to yourselves in the third person? Like “Chris Dangerous doesn’t wear short pants. Short pants are not Hives attire.”
Yeah, but we like the expression that something is or isn’t a Hives thing. That’s how we work, that’s how we look at things. Things are either Hives or they’re not. We are the Hives, this is who we are.
You’ve had the same line-up since day one, what happens if someone leaves the band?
If a member leaves, there is no more Hives.
What about side projects? Does the Hives fulfill every creative desire of each band member?
It does. When we end this band, we will continue to play music because we like doing it so much, and we may even play together in another band.
The Hives have toured pretty constantly since the early days, but you took quite a long break from touring before this record.
Yeah, to make the record. We can’t do that while on tour.
You can’t write material on the road?
No, not at all. And it’s a slow process for us. Songs aren’t completely done until we record them. We keep thinking about how to make the songs better, we keep changing things right up until we record. When we stopped touring about two years ago, we had about one week off, and then we started to make this record.
Do you lock yourselves in a room and not come out until you have the record done?
In Hives Manor, Fagersta, Sweden.
And you have nothing before that, no scribbled lyrics, no guitar licks you’ve been playing around with, nothing?
What about little stuff you think of on the road that might get forgotten?
The great ideas will stick in your head until you get off tour. If you have to record ideas before you forget them, they’re not great.