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.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.