The Hives are back. Braggadocious and cocky as ever. Rightfully so, because ‘The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons’ is yet another Hives-record that provides young and aspiring bands with a manual on how to craft the perfect rock n roll album. Right now, the Swedish powerhouse is rocking hard and high-kicking butts all over the world with sold out shows. We caught up with longtime guitarist Vigilante Karlstroem to fanboy a little bit, but also to talk about the new album and other things before they tore Brussels a new poop-chute. Figuratively.
PRT: To start off, congratulations on the new album. What is your main feeling now that it's out?
Vigilante: Yeah, thank you. I'm just happy that it's done, to be honest. It’s been too long. Like 11 years since the last one? But I really like the record, I'm happy that it's out and it's fun to play new songs again. Maybe you could call it a bit of a relief that there Is some new stuff in the set? I mean, I don't mind playing the old songs, but new stuff makes the shows just that little bit more interesting.
PRT: Haven’t you ever felt that 11 years without new songs make the shows a bit, say, tedious or repetitive?
Vigilante: No. We’ve been playing some songs for about 30 years and I’m still not tired of ‘em. For example: ‘Main Offender’ is still one of my favorite songs. It's a crowd pleaser and those are always fun to play. You see and you feel the reaction of the crowd.
PRT: Yeah, they sure do get a room going. Now, those 11 years in between records… Was that some kind of “downtime” you needed after a few wild years?
Vigilante: Not really. We never stopped touring, we kept going and played all the festivals and stuff. So, for us, it didn't feel like 11 years. It might’ve felt longer for the fans, but we always tour for maybe three or four years nonstop after we put a record out. This time, that was followed by the pandemic where we couldn't play anything at all. But even then, we kept on going. We actually started on this record a long time ago, but it just ended up taking forever.
PRT: What was the reason behind it?
Vigilante: I don't know the reason really. Maybe it's hard to know when it's really done or whatever. But it sure is very hard to make a new record. It takes a lot of energy, and I don’t really think it’s the most fun thing in the world. But it's out now. That's what counts.
PRT: And it sounds quite amazing.
Vigilante: Yeah. We had some help for this one. On ‘Lex Hives’ we did everything ourselves. And on ‘The Black & White Album’ we had some bigtime producers. This is middle ground. Which is good. We didn’t think that much about what we were doing this time. We just tried to make a good record and don’t overthink it too much.
PRT: A couple of the songs sound darker and heavier than the older stuff, some sound like ‘Veni Vidi Vicious’-era Hives. And then there are nods to old school rhythm & blues. There’s a lot of variation.
Vigilante: Well, we always want to have a certain dynamic on our records. If you ask me, we have written songs that I think were better. But you can’t have 12 songs in the same style. Your record will get boring after a while. So, if you want to have a record that feels good all the way through, you choose to add something that sounds a bit different.
PRT: The whole “album”-philosophy is still a thing for you guys?
Vigilante: Yeah. Today, people don't really listen to albums the same way as we used to, I think. But we grew up on albums. We want the album to feel like an album. We want it to be everything that a good LP is supposed to be. The A-side must be an A-side, and you flip it over and it has to have a good B-side. With some different stuff on it, so you keep the listeners from getting bored. That's how we think, at least. And I don’t think we’ll ever stop doing it any other way.
PRT: But the album is called ‘the Death of Randy Fitzsimons’, which is this mythical figure who is said to write all the Hives’ songs. Is this your swan song? Is this going to be the last album?
Vigilante: You never know. (laughs) But really, I don’t think we’re done just yet.
PRT: Obviously, if you see how much energy you guys still have on stage.
Vigilante: Yeah, it's been fun getting on proper, big tours again.
PRT: As opposed to smaller venues and festivals like you did the past few years?
Vigilante: Well, no… For us, it doesn't really matter where we play, so long as we get to play. And so long as the crowd is loving it. We just wanted to keep on playing. But if you haven't had a record out for 11 years, you obviously don't play the big festivals. Anyway, we’re back in the big leagues now.
PRT: You sound reassured?
Vigilante: We see the regulars showing up at the gigs, but a lot of new people as well. That’s something that keeps us moving forward. It makes us care enough about what we do to keep moving forward.
I mean, of course it's fun to always see the people that have been there for 20 years or whatever. But if it was just dying men like us who kept coming to the shows… I wouldn’t say it’d be boring, but I’d figure we probably did something wrong. So it’s good to see new and young faces in the crowd.
PRT: Old fans bringing their kids, maybe?
Vigilante: Could be, but there is a whole new generation as well. Look at what happened to Arctic Monkeys. They had a song trending on TikTok and suddenly their fanbase is full of 15-year-old kids that didn't grow up on rock & roll. They found out about it through social media. Which is obviously good for rock & roll. And for us.
PRT: Is that also a reason why you guys are very active on social media as well? Like, do you make funny and punchy content to appeal to younger generations?
Vigilante: Not at all. I think it's just the way we are. We’re still comedians at heart, I guess. I just meant that it’s good to see that rock & roll is making its way back to the big festival scene. It seemed to be gone for a while. And now it's going taking back the throne.
PRT: The unfortunate thing is, though, that it’s mostly the older bands that are on top of the game. Like Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys and of course you guys. It seems as if there’s no room for younger bands to make it to the top.
Vigilante: Yeah, I agree. Like, who’s going to fill all the rock stadiums after all the classic bands like AC/DC, Metallica, Foo Fighters and others are gone? All those classic bands are going quit… or die… at a certain moment. Arctic Monkeys is one of those bands that has done it, which I think is great. And they're still kind of young, but they're not a new band either. So, I mean, what’s going to happen to those huge classic rock & roll arena concerts? I’m a bit worried.
PRT: Well, could you give some advice to young bands on how to become an arena rock band?
Vigilante: We are not an arena rock band. If I knew the trick, I would probably make it happen, but no, I don't know.
PRT: You have played arenas, haven’t you?
Vigilante: Yeah, but we haven't really filled them on our own. That's the problem. So, my trick is: get a support slot for AC/DC.
PRT: With all the crazy tours you’ve done, do you still have any real ambitions left?
Vigilante: I don't know. To be honest, well over 20 years ago I wanted to break through and get really popular. Today, I’m just amazed that we’re still here and thankful that enough people still show up after all these years to sell out a place like Ancienne Belgique. A lot of those bands that got popular back in our earlier days just seem to have disappeared.
PRT: Longevity and consistency do seem rather rare. But in 30 years Dr. Matt Destruction is the only one who left the band. Is there a secret?
Vigilante: Yeah, Matt left 10 years ago. But secrets? I dunno man… I think now that we made it this far, there's no point in doing something else. I guess if we would've broken up already, we would've done it 20 years ago or 25 years ago. After a certain amount of years, you know how you can get it to work. And it just works. Maybe we don't hang out every day anymore when we're back home. But I guess we don't have to. We just keep rolling and enjoy the ride now that we a new record out.
PRT: If you could go back to the very beginning, what advice would you give yourself?
Vigilante: None. I think mean we had a really good time. And we still do. There have been ups and downs of course, but I don't think I’d want to change anything. I’d probably just go back in time and give myself a high five.