The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

There are rock bands and then there are Rock Bands—groups who embody a particular and baldly mythological definition of the term so completely that it’s difficult to imagine them doing normal things like taking the garbage out or wearing shorts. (This is why people have spent years marveling at a photo of Glenn Danzig buying cat litter.) And few bands have embodied this ideal more than The Hives have across three decades. Which is why the most shocking moment on the Swedish garage-punk traditionalists’ first album in over 11 years is on “Rigor Mortis Radio,” when Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist sneers, “I got your emails, yeah/Delete, delete.” With their matching custom suits and quasi-supervillain alter egos—bassist Dr. Matt Destruction is no longer in the band, but that name is forever—the whole idea of The Hives is rooted in timelessness, and breaking character feels like a record scratch. “It’s very much on purpose,” Almqvist tells Apple Music. “It's been 11 years, but in The Hives' world, it's the same.” While so many of the bands they were lumped in with during the great Rock Is Back! bonanza of the early 2000s are gone or diminished, The Hives have doubled down on their Hivesness, right down to the title referencing the demise of their mysterious Svengali and mentor (who may not have been alive to begin with). “We're five individuals who are in the band, but The Hives are something different than that. It's not a sum of its parts at all,” Almqvist says. “We wanted to invent our favorite band and then become that band. We have too much respect for what we do onstage to treat it like it's a fucking living room. We're like The Last Samurai or something.” Below, Howlin' Pelle talks through each of the songs on his favorite band's comeback album. “Bogus Operandi” “I think it was always a favorite of ours when we were rehearsing. And even in the demo stage, it always felt like a thing; the riffs felt great. It had a bunch of different verse things, or a bunch of different choruses at some point, but we decided to use them all. We have a lot of songs where we're not even in agreement on what is the chorus. That's also a thing The Misfits and ABBA have in common, where you think this is where the chorus ends and then there's another fucking chorus.” “Trapdoor Solution” “We always have those songs that are really, really fast and really, really short. It's like to put a shot of adrenaline into the record. And we love playing that stuff live, where it's like, 'Oh, it's a cool song. Oh, it ended. Okay, well, play it twice.' We've always loved that type of song, and most of our records have one or two of them. It seems like a thing that some of our favorite bands were doing a long time ago, but I don't think anyone's really doing that anymore." “Countdown to Shutdown” “It was actually two songs from the beginning; we took the chorus from one and the verse from one and just like, ‘Oh, this sits together really well.’ It all just fell together in an afternoon. So I think it's the one we spent the least amount of time on. But it's also one of the best ones, I think.” “Rigor Mortis Radio” “Amy Winehouse did this thing where the music's super retro and old-soul, it sounds like it could be the ’40s or something, but she's singing about getting Slick Rick tickets. And it's such a cool mood, we wanted to use that. Because otherwise in song lyrics it ends at 'magazine' and 'telephone.' Nobody sings about anything more modern than that. But it's so fun to go just like, 'I'm going to delete your email.' It's such a lame burn.” “Stick Up” “To me, it sounds very traditional, like a blues thing almost, like a crooner. There's probably an early YouTube recording of it from maybe 2015. The demo is all piano and voice, but we wanted to play it live so much that we made that version. We even had a weird version of it where it was a soft version in one headphone and the energetic version through one headphone. It was so bizarre to listen to them at the same time.” “Smoke & Mirrors” “It's way more pop in structure, chords, melodies, and that kind of thing. It's not riff-based. And usually there's some fight in putting some of those songs on the record. It's a great change of pace, I think. It reminds me of Ramones or power-pop or something.” “Crash Into the Weekend” “Even though the music's at times pretty extreme, we still want there to be a tune somewhere in there. But 'Crash Into the Weekend' was also like, 'Oh, this weekend's going to be fun, but it's also getting kind of weird.' It wasn't just a fun weekend, there was also something scary about it. The Damned, The Cramps, and The Misfits were some of the first bands we really loved together and we always thought that aesthetic was kind of cool. I guess it just kind of came out more on this album and the title. And that's as dark as we've been.” “Two Kinds of Trouble” “It's one of the oldest songs of the record, but it's also kind of a style. It feels like it belongs more on like [2004's] Tyrannosaurus Hives—really robotic, almost like we were trying to play synth music or program music on instruments, which we did a lot of on that album. So it was cool to put it after 'Crash Into the Weekend.' It's like a juxtaposition, if you would.” “That’s the Way the Story Goes” “It always sounded good in our heads, but it was hard to get it to sound that way when we recorded it. I guess that riff was kind of inspired by Ty Segall or something like that. At first it was kind of really rocking, and it was kind of all over the place. There was a version that sounded a lot like Saul Williams’ ‘List of Demands (Reparations),’ where it was just kind of the beat and a bass. And then we went back to the rocking thing, and put a lot of reverb on it, and then we liked it again.” “The Bomb” “It's a dumb idea and then we did it. But we spent years trying to make that what it is. In the beginning it was, 'What do you want to do? Party. What do you not want to do? Not party.' It's one of the ones we put the most effort into, but most bands wouldn't even have put it on the record. It's kind of self-referencing a little bit—it's what the Ramones did and Motörhead did, like, Grow some confidence, man.” “What Did I Ever Do to You?” “When we were making that, we were not sure that The Hives were going to do anything. We weren't getting anything to float and it just kind of felt boring. And we stopped rehearsing and stopped trying for a bit, to see if something came out of that. I bought this thing on Swedish Craigslist, an organ connected to a guitar, connected to a microphone, connected to a drum machine. Some guy built this one-man-band machine, and he sold it to me for 300 bucks with the patent. This was the first thing we wrote when we got that. It's almost not meant for The Hives, but the album needed a palate cleanser.” “Step Out of the Way” “We always had a fast short blast at the beginning of the record, at the top of the record. What was the last song? ‘What Did I Ever Do to You,’ right? So that one feels like it's the end of the record, but then it was cool to just, like, 'Oh no, we got another one.'”

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