Rig Rundown: The Hives 
The swift-riffing Swedes keep it simple with mended classics and a handful of saucy stomps.
The Hives are a ripping quintet that formed in Fagersta, Sweden, during the early ’90s. They exploded into American pop-culture consciousness during the garage-rock revival with a pair of chart-splashing, straight-forward stingers (2000’s Veni Vidi Vicious and 2004’s Tyrannosaurus Hives). And while they did take a hiatus in the mid-2010s, they’ve continued rocking the thin line between ragged and refined for nearly 30 years with a total of five albums, four EPs, and a 2020 live set recorded at Nashville’s Third Man Records.
Just after soundcheck wrapped at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl, the Hives’ redlining guitar duo of Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem welcomed PG’s Chris Kies onstage to talk gear. The resulting chat covered just how and why Carlstroem’s Flying V has split so many times (supposedly sounding better after each repair), and the reasons why Arson explains his vintage, bridge-pickup-only Fender Telecaster Custom is still the one. Both also quickly detail the torrid fuzzes that will never leave their respective boards.
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Carlstroem’s Corroding Coronet
The band has several rigs situated across the globe with varying differences. However, for Vigilante Carlstroem this early 1959 Epiphone Coronet never leaves his side and tours everywhere. He’s had the stripped-down, rock-’n’-roll machine for 20 years, but when he first acquired the Epi it was “in fucking mint condition.” Prior to owning this one, he fell for its shape and vibe in the form of the similar (3-pickup) Epiphone Crestwood Deluxe. The stage staple has endured two different headstock fractures. Since getting his mitts on the axe, he’s played every Hives show with it. And he keeps everything decked out with Ernie Ball Paradigm Not Even Slinkys (.012–.056) and punishes the strings with Dunlop Tortex 1.14 mm picks.
Come Fly with V
When Carlstroem does need a neck pickup, he’ll put on this ’90s Gibson Flying V (with Lollar pickups) that’s been snapped in half and splintered several times. He swears that both this and the Coronet sound better after their rehabs.
V Marks the Spot
Here’s a glimpse of just some of the V’s battle scars.
Just like in our 2013 Rundown with the Hives, Carlstroem is still bringing the might with a one-two amp punch. He’s using a Divided by 13 JJN 50/100 that runs into an Orange PPC412 equipped with Celestion Vintage 30s (last time he was running Celestion Heritage Greenbacks in a different cab) and a Fender Vibro-King that pumps through three 25-watt alnico Jensen P10R-Fs. The amps’ controls and circuitry are shielded with foil because they and the Epiphone are sensitive to interference. (And an Orange Custom Shop 50 lurks in the background, as a backup for either amp.)
Old and New
When it comes to Carlstroem’s pedalboard, some things have changed while others have remained the same. Holdovers include a Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (set to slapback setting), an Electro-Harmonix POG2 (used for an octave down or to imitate the saxophone on “Go Right Ahead” or organ on “My Time is Coming”), a custom Frantone Vigilantron tremolo, and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. Newcomers include a Skrydstrup R&D BF2M buffer (helping with the long cable runs) and a ZVEX Fuzz Factory Vertical. (To be fair, Carlstroem had an original Fuzz Factory—his favorite pedal—last time but has since opted for the compact version.)
T Time for Arson
Similar to Carlstroem, guitar mate Nicholaus Arson travels light when Stateside. Again, his No. 1 is a 1970s Fender Telecaster Custom that has just its overwound (stock) bridge pickup wired up. The vintage Tele once belonged to frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, who generously sold it to Arson. Both his Ts take Ernie Ball Paradigm 2020 Power Slinkys (.011–.048).
Crack My Back
Arson’s main axe has suffered several splits—none more impressive (or worrisome) than the re-glued fault line running from the cutaway to the body’s bottom.
His U.S. backup is this Sundberg The Arsonette that was designed by the guitarist. He aimed to make a crossbreed of a Telecaster and a Firebird by giving the single-cut a raised center block. (The neck still uses Fender-style, bolt-on construction.) The lone pickup is a Lace Sensor T-150 single-coil. The upper bout is chambered producing a deader, more-direct sound that Arson likens to a banjo or drum. He strives for a tone that is immediate and rhythmic, eschewing any sustain or lingering notes.
Up top, the hybrid 6-string has another cross-pollination feature: the traditional T-style headstock is elongated, similar to the old Italian Eko designs. The small text on the headstock reads: “Built by D Sundberg in favour of the hands of N Arson.”
Black-panel + Silver-panel = Fender Bliss
Keeping it all Fender, all the time, Arson plugs into both cherished time periods of Fullerton amp lore. Side A is a black-panel Bandmaster that hits a vintage Hiwatt cab outfitted with Celestion Heritage Greenback speakers. Side B is a silver-panel 1976 Fender Vibrolux. Notice Arson is plugging into the vibrato channels of both amps and each has its bright switch engaged.
Three of Arson’s pedals are exactly as they were in 2013: a Crowther Audio Prunes & Custard fuzz for songs like “Tick Tick Boom,” a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay for short echo on “Take Back the Toys” and “Bigger Hole to Fill,” and a Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah used for the intro to “Hate to Say I Told You So.” Last time he had an EHX Micro POG, but because the band was playing a fresh set of jams, he swapped it out for a TC Electronic Classic TC XII Phaser.
A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit cancer research.
Cypress, CA (October 22, 2015) -- Cypress, Ca- Lace Music Products a worldwide known brand for guitar pickups has teamed up with the F.C. Cancer Foundation of Costa Mesa for a model of humbucker guitar pickups with the infamous “F*ck Cancer” logo laser cut into the pickup cover.
The “F*ck Cancer” cause was founded in Huntington Beach, California 2005 by Brandon McGuinness an avid surfer, snowboarder and music lover. The Foundation which uses the donations to grant wishes to those stricken with cancer to fulfill a dream or request under the “Dyin 2 Live” program, which grants those stricken with terminal cancer an opportunity to have “a dream come true”.
The Lace-“F*ck Cancer” project, is for promoting the early detection and information for early screening of this disease, that has stricken so many. Lace is proud to be involved with this grass roots endeavor that is growing thru awareness and attendance at many Rock and Roll, Heavy Metal events around the country. The “F*ck Cancer” logo is growing in popularity along all musical events where the Foundation is participating, including “Crazy Dave’s Music Experience” featured at many outdoor festivals and more . The foundation is a (501) nonprofit organization.
Lace will donate a portion of all proceeds from the “F*ck Cancer” equipped Lace pickup line. These pickups available in Pink for “Breast Cancer Awareness” month of October and a black crackle finish.
For more information:
Tools for the Task: PAF-Style Pickups
Ten PAF-style options to freshen your tone.
Gibson’s early “Patent Applied For” humbuckers are the stuff of legend, and Seth Lover’s pickup creation is widely regarded as one of the most important advances in the electric guitar’s evolution. If you’re chasing the holy grail vintage-PAF sound but find yourself a few a thousand short of the price of an original mint set, you may want to check out some of these modern—and affordable—alternatives.
SEYMOUR DUNCAN SH-18 Whole Lotta HumbuckerWound with 42-gauge plain-enamel wire and housing rough-cast alnico 5 magnets, these humbuckers are exact replicas of the custom pickups Seymour Duncan made for the likes of Clapton, Beck, and Page in the early ’70s.
$189 street (set)
LOLLAR ImperialThe unbalanced-coil Imperials were designed to provide airy top end, tight lows, balanced midrange, and complex overtones. The alnico 2s in the neck and alnico 5s in the bridge are degaussed to specific levels unique to each position.
$350 street (set)
DYLAN PICKUPS DAF“Dylan Applied For” humbuckers are available in both alnico 3 and alnico 5 versions. They’re wax-potted and feature 4-conductor wiring for coil-splitting and phasing options. They come in a variety of finishes. (Toaster-top and clear bobbin models shown.)
$299 street (set)
Designed to recapture the tonal magic of the original PAF humbuckers, BurstBuckers are not potted. They boast vintage-style 2-conductor wiring, unmatched bobbin windings, and alnico 2 magnets. The Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 models offer varying output levels.
$176 street (single)
BARE KNUCKLE PG BluesDesigned to replicate the famous out-of-phase mid-position sound of Peter Green’s ’59 Les Paul, this pair features sand-cast alnico 2 magnets, scatterwound bridge coils of plain-enamel 42AWG wire, and Formvar-coated wire in the neck coils.
$289 street (set)
DIMARZIO PAF MastersThe PAF Master Bridge pickup employs alnico 4 magnets for their high iron content, while the Master Neck pickup houses alnico 5s. Both feature 4-conductor wire. Several patented DiMarzio techniques contribute to their quiet, bright, and dynamic performance.
$149 street (set)
RIO GRANDE Buffalo Texas SetThis set consists of a Genuine Texas bridge pickup and a Buffalo Bucker for the neck. Available with 2- or 4-conductor wiring and in a variety of colors/covers ($50 less for standard nickel covers), these alnico 5 pickups are wound to 8k for the neck and 9k for the bridge.
$296 street (set as shown)
LINDY FRALIN Pure PAFWound at 7.5k-7.8k in the neck and 8k-8.4k in the bridge, these humbuckers use alnico 2 magnets to soften the treble and smooth the grind. Pure PAFs are built to look like the real deal. A partial-tap kit is available separately.
$260 street (set)
SUHR ThornbuckerCreated to have all the best attributes of ’50s PAF-style pickups without the downsides, these humbuckers are available in a range of colors. They feature such modern touches as 4-conductor wiring and a variety of spacings. The neck pickup houses an alnico 5 magnet while the bridge holds an alnico 4.
$119 street (per pickup)
LACE Big BlockThis barium-ferrite set offers tones reminiscent of classic twin-humbucker guitars from the ’50s and ’60s, but with the modern features of a Lace humbucker: low magnetic string pull, low noise, and coil-splitting capability.
$195 street (set)