March 17, 2009
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In our on-going quest to recruit international stars to help people around the world learn English, today on English, baby! there is a lesson on the terms “a.k.a.” and “alter ego” with Nicholaus Arson, who, as guitar player, is one of the leading creative forces behind the gold-selling Swedish garage rock sensation, the Hives.
The Hives just finished a fourth month break, and starting next week will tour Sweden, Finland and Japan, so we figured now would be a good time to feature them on the site. I was thrilled that Nicholaus took my interview request–I remember listening to the Hives’ 2000 album, Vidi Vidi Vicious over and over in my car as a teenager. I got it out to refresh my memory before the interview and still remembered most of the words. Just before we got on the phone I was listening to the Hives’ most recent The Black and White Album and found myself literally dancing in my office. They’ve only gotten better. Here is the unedited text of my phone conversation with Nicholaus.
Jason: So you guys just took a break from playing shows. What were you doing?
Nicholaus: Oh, just having time off, pretty much. Not playing was the main plan, I think.
Jason: How do you relax when you take a few months off like that?
Nicholaus: Well, most of us go home. And I don’t know…Once you’re in a touring mode, you’re used to working at least some portion of the day or at least doing stuff that’s very band-related all the time. You come home and you have a hard time winding down like the first few weeks or so. You pretty much get up in the morning and you start playing instruments and stuff. You work on new stuff. But after a while you get into a more easy-going mode where you can sort of kick back and just do whatever.
Jason: Right on. So you guys weren’t working on new material or anything?
Nicholaus: We are every once in a while. I think we’re working more than we expected to be working, but it’s your hobby. It’s what you do. I suppose it’s a job as well, but it’s what I do when I want to have fun, you know?
Jason: I’ve heard you might have a new album this year. Is that true?
Jason: What’s your next album going to sound like?
Nicholaus: I have no idea yet, actually. We’ve worked on a bunch of songs, but we’re not in a state where we’ve decided what songs to go with yet or anything. We’re more bulking up for something.
Jason: So you guys are about to do five shows in Sweden and I feel like a lot of bands that aren’t from Sweden will only do one or two cities and I just wondered what you think they’re missing if you don’t do five shows in Sweden.
Nicholaus: There is the possibility of doing five shows in Sweden for most bands. But if you’re on tour…like, we go to Czech Republic, we pretty much only play Prague, you know? Or if it’s summer, we may do a festival here and there, but it’s pretty much what we’re used to doing. But for us it’s a thing where we used to tour Sweden a lot like in ‘99 or 2000, we did tours of Sweden, so we played every bush in this country. For us it’s sort of like going back to places we haven’t played in a long time.
Jason: What’s the hidden gem? What’s the spot that people don’t usually go to but they might should?
Nicholaus: Well, up north is usually good and they’re not spoiled with shows at all, you know. So it’s great to go up north. I guess it’s like…I don’t know…Canada. Canada is usually good. Going up north is something that you may not want to miss out on.
Jason: Gotcha. I wanted to ask you about Randy Fitzsimmons, the songwriter for the Hives.
Nicholaus: No comment. That’s a touchy subject.
Jason: Oh, is it? I didn’t realize it was touchy…
Nicholaus: Touchy for some…for Randy, you know. We’ve sworn allegiance to him. He wants to remain anonymous.
Jason: Right. Definitely. But you collect his checks, right? You have like an alias of Randy so you can pick up his checks?
Jason: And you guys also have a well-known song, “A.K.A. I.D.I.O.T.” and so I was just wondering if you could explain for our members who are learning English, what “a.k.a.” means?
Nicholaus: Also known as.
Jason: Yeah. Some people think that Randy might be an alter ego of a band member since he’s so hidden. Do you have an alter ego?
Nicholaus: Well, people usually think that we have alter egos because we’re sometimes very calm off-stage and then we’re, perhaps, energetic onstage. People usually think that it’s an alter ego. But it’s not really. You’re the same guy, but that’s how you move to music that you like, you know. We don’t use alter egos in the band, and Randy Fitzsimmons is not an alias for anybody in the band. I collect the money and then we split it six ways. He’s always been a part of the band, but he doesn’t tour and doesn’t show his face.
Jason: That’s so cool. That’s so unusual. One last thing. Can I ask you about Japan real quick?
Nicholaus: Yeah, Japan, yeah sure.
Jason: You’re about to play there and you’ve been there quite a few times. Is it different than playing other places? Is there something special about Japan?
Nicholaus: It is a bit different, actually. It’s a very controlled environment. People aren’t drunk at the shows or anything, but they go crazy. They might be drunk at the club afterwards, or they’re very well-behaved drunks or something. I don’t really know. It’s hard to tell. As soon as you stop playing a song, they’re quiet to listen to what you’re going to say. But as soon as you start playing a song, they go completely nuts.
Nicholaus: Unlike maybe England or Germany or Sweden. Any place where people drink a lot, you know. Then you’re sort of playing to a sounding amoeba. It’s just a pack of sweaty people forming into one, falling over and screaming and never being quiet. Which is sort of what we always get used to playing to. There is something weird about playing Japan.
Jason: Do you guys like that contrast, being able to play to a calmer audience or an audience that at least slows down when you slow down?
Nicholaus: Um, I don’t know. It’s sort of like trying to outrun your shadow, you know. There’s a freakiness to it that I’m not used to since I’m used to playing to the amoeba type crowd. But I think it’s a respect thing and I appreciate it. They want to show you respect by quieting down and listening to what you have to say.
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