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Interview: The Hives’ Vigilante Carlstroem Pushes Clean into Chaos

Interview: The Hives’ Vigilante Carlstroem Pushes Clean into Chaos

Some people believe that there’s “no money above the fifth fret” and just do away with guitar solos. Do you guys operate with a similar logic?
It depends. For us, we feel that the band together should be more like one instrument, so we’ve never really been interested in having guitar solos in our songs. And also for the music we do, we kind of like it without guitar solos. Although sometimes we have little bits of guitar solos, it’s not that typical bluesy kind of thing. It’s more like chaos when we’re doing guitar solos.

Meanwhile, your fellow Swede, Yngwie Malmsteen takes a completely opposite approach.
Yeah! He’s fucking great, though. It’s not that we don’t like it, but for our music we want to keep it to a minimum. When Niklas was young, Yngwie was his favorite guitarist.

Really? I never would have guessed.
Yeah, I like him, too. He’s cool. I guess when we were younger we wanted to practice more. Niklas wanted to be like Yngwie when he was younger, but not anymore. When I’m home, I don’t play a lot of guitar anymore.

Let’s talk about gear now. On “My Time is Coming,” there’s some tremolo in the beginning. Is that coming from an old amp or a pedal?
It’s actually a pedal. It’s made by a Swedish guy named Björn Juhl, who makes amazing pedals. I think his company is called BJFE Pedals.

On “Take Back the Toys,” the tone is really thick and fat. What did you use on that?
My Magnatone Mark III. I think it’s from ’66, and it’s one of my favorite guitars. It’s a really small guitar with a big, fat pickup. I think it’s kind of like the old Bigsby pickups. It sounds really muscle-y.

I understand that you have a nice collection of vintage gear. What are some highlights of your collection?
A lot of us in the band have been collecting vintage amps and guitars for many years now, everything from ’50s Les Pauls to Teles and Strats to crazy ’60s guitars.

Do you take the vintage equipment out on the road?
We toured with vintage stuff for a long time but it kind of breaks down, so the amps we use on tour now are newer amps. I use Divided by 13 amps. I have a few different ones but the one I like the most is the FTR 37, the 37-watt one. I also have one of the 100-watt heads. I think it’s called the JJN 50/100. I still use vintage guitars for touring and the Divided by 13 amps work really well with capturing the sound of all of the guitars I use.


Magnatone Mark III, Travis Bean, Gibson Les Paul, Fender Telecaster, Fender Stratocaster

Roland Jazz Chorus, Fender Tweed Bassman, Divided by 13 FTR37, Divided by 13 JJN 50/100

BJFE Pedals tremolo, Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

D’Addario .012–.054

Dunlop 1mm

Is your road rig what you also use in the studio?
For touring it’s one setup, but for recording it’s very different from song to song. It could be anything from a really nice, expensive, early ’50s, vintage Fender to a crappy guitar. Sometimes a crappy guitar and crappy amp works better in a song than the best stuff we have. For recording it’s pretty much old stuff. We never really use new stuff for recording. My favorite amp is my ’57 Fender Tweed Bassman, which I love. But sometimes we use a lot of small ’50s Gibson or Supro amps. I also love the Roland Jazz Chorus.

For the clean sounds?
No, you plug it in to the clean channel and then you play it so loud that it starts distorting.

Wow, that’s like the loudest clean amp around. You’ll go deaf before it distorts.
Yeah [laughs]. We’ve been using Jazz Choruses since our first record.

Do you prefer a cranked Jazz Chorus to a cranked tube amp?
Sometimes a tube amp can be too nice, too round, and too clean. If you push a Jazz Chorus and then you use, like, a Travis Bean guitar, it sounds really good.

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