A Chat with Dr. Matt Destruction, The Hives interview, Black and White Album

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The Swedish punk-new wavers the Hives' new Black and White Album features not only the usual distortion and bombast old fans have come to know and love, but also some new sounds that might surprise all comers. The band's touring like maniacs in support of the album, and also crop up in all sorts of peculiar places, such as in a Cartoon Network promo as well as, possibly, at an (American) football game near you.

Bass player Dr. Matt Destruction sets the record straight on how the band worked with many producers on the record, and learned a bit from each to evolve their sound.

Bullz-Eye: Hello, this is Mojo from Bullz-Eye.com. How are you doing today?

Dr. Matt Destruction: I’ve had a cold now for weeks, but I think I'm getting rid of it.

BE: Well, good luck with that. That must be tough when you’re out on the road, huh?

DD: Yeah, you sweat a lot and you wake up dehydrated every day.

BE: Where are you this morning?

DD: Now we are in Wiesbaden, in Germany, and it’s a place called the Schlachthof. We played here many times, maybe like four or five times, I guess, through the years.

BE: And you’re in the middle of a European swing of your tour?

DD: We’re actually in the end of the European tour. We’re just at the end of it. We’ve got Munich and Stockholm left.

BE: And then are you going to take a break before coming over here?

DD: Yeah, we’re going to have two months – Christmas and January off, basically; we’re going back on tour on the 14th of February, and we’ll do an American tour.

BE: Tell me about the new record. You must be excited that it’s out.

DD: Yes, yes. People say, "Why [has] it taken so long a time?" Well, there’s a lot of hard work behind it, and trying to get things to work logistically and waiting for the right people that we want to work with and stuff. So I’m really happy that we actually now have got it out the doors.

BE: It sounds like you have an interesting mix of producers working on it, from Pharrell Williams to some of those other guys. Tell me a little bit about how you arrived to working with those people.

DD: Basically, the first thing – we’ve always done a record by ourselves, produced it ourselves. We have had one guy called Pelle Gunnerfeldt that had produced and made a lot of the sounds on our records. We kind of know how to get there, and get those sounds together, so we wanted to try something new, to make maybe some different sounds. You know, try to get the sounds to be a bit different.

“We’ve come up with songs, we have the song, and then we work on that song for a year. While [Pharrell Williams] was like, if the song doesn’t sound good right away, then let it go and do something new.”

We didn’t really like the idea of having someone else come in our living room and swapping around stuff, so we felt like if you’re going to have someone produce, not just take one producer. We want to try them all out to see if it’s good or bad or how it is, you know. You do one record every fourth year, or every third year, and then you don’t just want to have one producer and try that guy and then next [time you use] the next producer. You never know what’s going to turn up and how it’s going to turn out, so we’d rather just record a lot of stuff. So we picked a couple of producers.

We met Pharrell Williams when we played in the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan and he met us up and he told us, “I’d like to record with you guys,” and we said, “Yeah, yeah, that would be fun.” We had that in mind, and then when we started making our own record we tried to find producers we knew that we wanted to record with. Dennis Herring – we had to wait for him for six months before his projects were done. So meanwhile, we thought, let’s go to ask Pharrell if he has some time, and he had some time off in September last year, so we went in the studio and recorded three songs over there. Two of them turned out good, two we were happy with.

BE: Which ones were they?

DD: They were “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” and “Well All Right!” And then we had one more song that [doesn’t have] a title yet, but we had three songs that we basically finished.

BE: Describe the different things the producers brought to the table, like a certain sound? How do you explain the creative aspects that each different producer brought? Is it possible?

DD: Pharrell, he loves hip-hop and he’s a really talented musical guy, plays by the ear, and he, and I reckon Timbaland as well, they make a lot of music at the same time; they have their sessions, and they would come up with music [that we] recorded right away, at the spot. Whatever turns out good, directly: This is good, go with it. And just go for the next one, next song. They brought the creative part; you know, it’s fun to make music. It’s more like…make demos and, okay, but you don’t have to, as we’ve done before, we’ve been thinking about stuff for years.

We’ve come up with songs, we have the song, and then we work on that song for a year. While he was like, if the song doesn’t sound good right away, then let it go and do something new. He brought a lot of his musical talent in timing and pretty basic—I would say he brought a lot of energy in how we would record stuff in the future, with making demos in that sense.

Dennis Herring is like a rock producer, so he is really, really thorough, with every sound, every hit, every chord or whatever we play, he is really, really thorough with everything. So he brought that, if you like.… He listened to us for two or three weeks before, while we were rehearsing, listened to how we worked as a band and how we sounded, and then he did, I would say, a totally different thing from Pharrell and the guys. They just let us play, and we would play as we sounded and then put it together as good as possible. It’s kind of hard to explain exactly what – I would say that they brought a lot of really good things that we have stuck with. We liked the arrangements that we had; some of the songs were demos, and the demo versions we made, we weren’t really happy with. We tried to slop around a lot; they bring a lot of good ideas for the arrangements, some of the stuff that we maybe had stuck for a couple of months with, they really put in another way of thinking. Some things that we wouldn’t do. They came up with a lot of good stuff and ideas, how to make music and how to arrange it.

BE: Tell me a little bit about the songs. “A Stroll through the Hive Manor Corridors” and “Puppet on a String” are a little bit different from the stuff your fans are used to hearing you play.

DD: Yeah, that’s like, basically, mainly the rehearsal space. “A Stroll through the Hive Manor Corridors” is just Nicholaus playing on a [1960s organ]. We always had that kind of strange stuff, for every record, but none of them have ended up on our records before. So, the things that you hear, it’s not like things that we haven’t done before – in that sense, we’ve done really, really strange stuff sometimes – but it just hadn’t fitted into our master plans before.

This time, the plan was to let that kind of stuff come through as well and make the record more interesting, so you have to play it a lot of times, over and over, and you discover new stuff. So we were really happy that we could put it on there, and by having people use it, like Pharrell and stuff like that, it would be pretty natural to put our own stuff on there as well.

BE: Tell me how the University of Mississippi cheerleaders ended up on the chorus of "Try It Again." Whose idea was that? And was it kind of fun to have them around?

DD: I would say that it started like this: We went to football, like warming up for the season, the Ole Miss team, and then we had this song, and we felt there was really kind of a cheering part in that song, in the chorus. So we really felt that it would be great. So we got in touch with the guy who is like the leader for the cheerleading team, and we said we’d like to have like five or six girls come over and do some singing.

So they came over in their full outfits in the studio, and they brought in so much fun. The studio was smelling like beer and farts, you know? For like two months, or like one and a half months, and then they came in and it smelled like strawberries and flowers for an entire day. It was really, really fun. They’re cheerleaders, so we were happy, everybody, the whole day.

BE: Was this your first contact with American football, or are you guys closet fans?

DD: It was my first contact, but I think some of the guys – Mike had been to baseball games and I think American football games as well. It was my first time I saw a game and actually met cheerleaders.

BE: You worked a little bit with Timbaland and the songs didn’t end up on the record, but one of them is a Cartoon Network promo or something?

DD: No, that’s not a Timbaland song, that’s our own song that we made up ourselves.

BE: What happened to the material that Timbaland produced? Is that going to be on another record, or B-sides? Or did it end up on the album?

DD: We had one that we sent over, ripped some parts on a CD to him, and he got to listen to it, and then when he was playing Sweden with Justin Timberlake, he came over like two days before.
We worked two nights in Stockholm in Pelle and Vigilante’s studio and he came over and we made three songs. We let him listen to our [stuff, and he said] this is great and this is great and so on and then we started recording. It ended up basically the same on the “Throw It on Me” record, that he would make the song and we would put on our riffs and Pelle singing, basically.

So it didn’t feel really like us, you know; well, it’s our riffs, and that’s cool, but it didn’t feel really like it was as much the Hives as we may have wanted. But there are great songs, and I’m glad we went in to record them. We worked with him, and we learned stuff, how he likes beat boxes and stuff – Pharrell, he would play on his keyboard, but [Timbaland] was beat boxing all day.

You know the song “Giddy Up!” on the record? That one we made ourselves, but we had that song and we played it for Timbaland. We would have liked to have his kind of beats on it, at first, but the song we made with him – it turned out great, too, but we felt that maybe the idea we had on that was a bit different. We wanted it more to be its own record, so that part we made ourselves, but we used his, by the way, Pharrell and Timbaland used to work, so we maybe stole a little bit of their thinking or how to do it, you know?

BE: Give them a credit or whatever?

DD: No, more like, we’re really happy that we got to see how they work and we knew how we could get the better song that we wanted with that.

“The studio was smelling like beer and farts, you know? For like two months, or like one and a half months, and then [the cheerleaders] came in and it smelled like strawberries and flowers for an entire day.”

BE: Very nice. Now, the song “T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.” is sort of a little funk joint there. Is that more interesting for you to play, as a bass player? You get a little feature there, on-stage.

DD: I like it when you can slow down in a set. You know, in a set you play 190 kilometers an hour, a hundred miles an hour, for a whole set, and then you can slow down and do something like that. It’s interesting, it’s hard work, when you’re so excited, to play something like that. It’s really hard work, but I like it. It’s not musically difficult…. But to make a song like that in the Hives sound good, it’s interesting work.

BE: What message would you have to, say, to your old fans who might not have checked out the record yet?

DD: It’s definitely the Hives; it’s still interesting, still amazing, and we still have a lot of fun with what we do. I think you’ve got some really good added value on the album. There is some new stuff as well. We still rock. Don’t worry.

BE: How would you describe the shows on the latest tour? How are they different or the same from the stuff that the fans have seen in the past?

DD: Well, the thing is that some people, I know, if they went to the shows where we supported Maroon 5, that was a totally new experience for old Hives fans, to see the Hives go out on stage and play for between 10,000 to 17,000 people that don’t know you. That’s pretty interesting, because we still had our own energy and cockiness. But many people never heard you before, it was really funny to experience that every day, with people standing up that never heard of you. I think we’ve got some great songs to mix up the set that we have, so it’s still, you go to a the Hives concert, it’s still unique one to another.

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