D-Beat from Hardcore’s Mecca: An Interview with Hive
It’s no secret that Minneapolis has a legendary punk scene. In addition to iconic bands like Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, the fiercely independent Extreme Noise Records and Amphetamine Reptile label both call Minneapolis home. Since the early ’80s, the Twin Cities area has fostered a vibrant DIY culture, fueled by house shows, political awareness, and some of the gnarliest hardcore and punk around. Distant from New York and LA — and the hunger for fame that can easily take hold of bands in those industry-heavy cities — punk musicians from Minneapolis are often rooted by the ideal to make music that they want to hear.
Crust quartet Hive perfectly fits into that tradition. The band’s latest LP, Parasitic Twin, is blistering and relentlessly bleak, much like the albums of His Hero Is Gone and Tragedy. Parasitic Twin weds biting social commentary with unswerving D-beat, each gaining power from the other.
Pre-order the Parasitic Twin vinyl from Crown & Throne Ltd. here. Listen to an exclusive stream of the record below.
The members of Hive are lifers in the truest sense, having served time in Disembodied, 108, Threadbare, Endeavor, Harvest, Xaphan, Bosnia, Black Sleep of Kali, Malachi and Wolfbite. These are musicians who play for the right reasons and will likely grow old doing so. While some hardcore bands still get caught up in the live-fast-die-young cliché, Hive shows us that it’s way more punk to balance tireless musical dedication with the quotidian demands of adult life.
Guitarist-vocalist Morgan Carpenter, bassist Emma Grey, guitarist Mike Duffy and drummer Mike Paradise of Hive recently sat down with Invisible Oranges to talk about their new record and playing music in Minneapolis.
Can we get a musical history from each of you?
Morgan Carpenter: I’ve been playing in bands for roughly 22 years. I got started young and knew right away that I wanted to play punk (or at least music rooted in punk in some capacity). I’ve played in more than 30 bands over that time, though the majority of which were the result of playing in up to five active projects at once during my teens. Most of those were never really heard outside my hometown of Halifax, Canada. The more significant ones were Envision, Shrine of American Martyr, Existench and Useless Solution. In 2002, I relocated to Denver, Colorado, where I played in Bosnia, Black Sleep of Kali and Big Trouble among others. Since 2012, I’ve been in Minneapolis, where in addition to Hive, I’ve played in Xaphan with Mike Paradise, as well as doing two solo projects: Prey for Death and Prison Shank.
(Shrine of American Martyr)
Mike Duffy: I picked up guitar when I was eight or nine and started playing in bands in high school. I played in a few bands in Philly before I moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey to play in Endeavor. After we split up, I moved to New York and started going to school for music. I was a percussion and composition major in undergrad and then moved out to Minneapolis for graduate school in composition. I’ve done different improv groups, including a noise duo called Shield Your Eyes. I played in the re-formed version of Harvest a few years ago and then hooked up with Morgan and Mike playing bass and now guitar in Hive.
Mike Paradise: I started playing drums when I was eight years old and started my first band in 1990 when I was still in high school. We put out a 7” a year later and I haven’t really stopped playing since. Most notably I played in Threadbare, Xaphan, 108 and Disembodied for a minute.
(Threadbare show in 1995)
Emma Grey: I stole my first bass in high school from a shitty guitar shop and used to play out of my mom’s stereo until I blew the speakers. I really haven’t stopped since then. I also took up guitar in my early 20s and have played bass and guitar in a lot of bands. I’ve also been on a few tours, including a European one with the band Malachi. Other highlights have been Wolfbite, Architects of the Aftermath and Shut-In. Besides playing bass in Hive, I also currently play guitar in a local queercore band, Contentious.
Considering how long you’ve all been playing aggressive music, how do you keep yourselves motivated?
Carpenter: I’ve never had a problem finding inspiration. I’ve always been a rabid music fan and constantly and obsessively seek out new bands to listen to. I love to hear new bands pushing aggression and intensity to new limits as the waves and generations of musicians swell and fade, as well as hearing new spins on styles of the past. I’m constantly inspired by this and it lights a fire under me to write. Lyrically, there is never a shortage of subjects to write about, especially right now.
Duffy: The motivation comes from being part of something satisfying with inspiring people who I care about.
Paradise: I’m inspired by the people I’m lucky enough to collaborate with. I can’t do what I do without other creative, expressive people. I’ve always played with people I want to be challenged by and learn from. For me, aggression is best expressed through my playing rather than my behavior.
Grey: I have always had a ton of pent up aggression that has needed a release. Listening to and playing heavy music gives me an outlet for that. It is what keeps me calm and centered. It is catharsis for me. I also think that heavy music can just be so powerful and beautiful. Music has always been there for me through my darkest times and has literally saved my life.
What Minneapolis bands have influenced you most?
Carpenter: In the 90’s, I was an insane fan of Minneapolis crust punk, putting the city on the same pedestal as Seattle, NYC and Boston in that regard. Destroy was a favorite band of mine for years and years before I would ever relocate to the USA, let alone Minneapolis itself. When we started Hive, I wanted the influence of the classic Minneapolis crust sound to be recognizable, but to not be a clone either. In the same breath, Dillinger Four have always been another favorite. While musically there’s a long distance between Hive and D4, the cynicism and wit they’ve always harnessed has been a big influence on me lyrically.
Duffy: Disembodied and Code 13 both loom large for me.
Grey: All the Profane Existence and Havoc Records stuff was and is a big influence on me, but I tend to think about this in the present tense more than the past. There are just so many unbelievable bands in the Cities right now, and the fact that we are a bit isolated tends to create stranger and better art since we aren’t so influenced by the coasts.
How would you describe the punk/hardcore scene in the Twin Cities?
Carpenter: The hardcore scene in the Twin Cities is one of the strongest, truly underground punk scenes that I’ve encountered. Granted, there is plenty of history and heritage here that keeps larger bands and venues afloat, but I’ve never experienced a DIY scene like the one we have here. You’ve got a plethora of bands that run the entire gamut of punk and hardcore, as well as many punk houses, basements, DIY spaces, cafes and bars all regularly hosting shows for underground bands, both local and visiting. But what stands out the most is the thirst we all have for it. People show up. Punks constantly volunteer their time, money and patience to keep these things going. That unquenchable thirst seems to be continually passed down through the generations of punks.
Paradise: It’s definitely thriving. I’ve seen it ebb and flow over the years. I’ve lived here my whole life and have seen many people come and go, but there is a core group of people that have never left and continue to support punk in the Twin Cities as passionately today as they did 25 years ago. There is always something happening here and today it feels as inspired and robust as I’ve ever seen it.
Grey: The Minneapolis scene is pretty fucking wonderful and supportive.
What makes the Minneapolis scene different from other cities’?
Carpenter: We have Extreme Noise Records — simple as that. It’s been the mecca of punk for over 20 years, and it’s still going strong. It really is the cornerstone of the thriving punk scene in Minneapolis. Extreme Noise provides a physical address for like-minded people to converge in so many ways with this music. Because so many aspects of life have gone digital, I feel like it’s really special to have a resource like EN, and not just for its records — the volunteers, information on shows, bands, labels, benefits, community outreach, support and the fact that it’s been volunteer-owned and run for so long. It connects everything in extreme music in the Twin Cities.
Grey: The “island effect” that manifests in the Cities really lets people be who they are, and we tend to not be as influenced by trends and fads. People in this scene just do what they do and aren’t afraid to be who they are and are therefore extremely passionate about their crafts. There is also a massive amount of support for art in general here, and people are real and not cocky about it. I have so much respect for so many people here.
Hive doesn’t shy away from social and political commentary, which comes up a lot on Parasitic Twin. Does the title carry a specific meaning in that sense?
Carpenter: The title Parasitic Twin is basically a metaphor for duality, with both positive and negative connotations. I’ve written several songs for Hive that deal with the adoration of false idols in a literal sense, ranging from politicians to the hierarchy of the punk scene. In that regard, the song “Acephalite” is about power figures and essentially waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is an inverse twin to every person in the political sense, and each side struggles to not be consumed by the other.
In a less dark sense, the Parasitic Twin metaphor has taken on meanings to me personally as someone at or nearing mid-life with a spouse, children, career and other responsibilities. Yet I’m still unable to stop writing and playing music. When you reach this stage in life, you end up seeing many talented people decide to close the book on playing music, who can’t be faulted at all for that choice. Music was a labor of love at best in your 20s. By the time your 30s and 40s roll around, it can seem like agony staying active in underground music without making big sacrifices at home. It can be said that Parasitic Twin is the delicate balancing act.
Grey: The title of the album has special significance for me as a trans woman. We started to record this LP right when I had made the decision to transition, and the record has evolved with me throughout that process. For me the “twins” represent the gender binary of male and female, with the Parasitic Twin being symbolic of male gender expectations, and my transition to a woman being representative of freeing myself from something that was literally killing me.
When some bands decide to “get political,” it seems like many of them succumb to empty idealism. But songs like “Low Hanging Fruit of War” and “Gated Community” convey a much bleaker outlook.
Carpenter: “Low Hanging Fruit of War” was one of the first songs that was written for Parasitic Twin. The song focuses on military recruiters that target low-income and disenfranchised areas of the country, creating an insult-to-injury scenario. To me, this type of targeting reinforces the often-bleak outlooks which are prevalent in those areas — feeding off of false senses of patriotism, duty and honor — and providing nothing more than a “what do you have to lose” sentiment.
“Gated Community” was a song written early in 2016, when the election cycle was ending and Trump was gaining steam as a front-runner. It was unbelievable to me at the time that he had any supporters getting behind him with the ridiculous campaign promises he was making — most specifically the threats he posed to immigrants and immigration. As a naturalized US citizen, I’m very familiar with the American immigration process and have met many people in the same situation, but who don’t have the privilege of white skin like I did. This song is one of two on the record dealing directly with the notion of this lunatic building a wall around his sanctuary, and the social fallout for normal people who have to face those he’s empowered with dangerous rhetoric.
Does the music itself reflect that?
Carpenter: I would like to think that the music carries the same weight and tension that the social and political commentary of the lyrics do. I have to often remind myself that we are a band, and some people really just want to get lost in the music and not the words. But at the same time, being the lyricist for a band gives me a rare platform that not many people have. I have a passion for writing good music, but I also cannot waste the medium. There are so many “fuck you’s” to give, and it would be an atrocity if I didn’t utilize every chance I have to hurl them.
Hive strikes me as a very grounded band in terms of expectations. Can you talk about that?
Carpenter: When Paradise and I first brainstormed what would become Hive, we had very clear intentions and goals in mind. As products of the ’90s hardcore scene, we both longed for certain aspects of what made us passionate about this music in the first place. Especially now, as the age gap between us and our peers in hardcore grows considerably. Essentially, we set out to ignore several of the things that are commonplace for bands that would only stand to complicate Hive: touring schedules, social media presence, social contracts, etc. We want to play music and engage people in real life. We are far from the first band to reject it, but we maintain no social media presence. We maintain a Bandcamp to make our music available to people, but will not take part in hollow interactions as means to further our name. We are just people playing music and trying hard to not bastardize that fact.
Paradise: We were very intentional from the start about doing things the old-fashioned way. We didn’t feel the need to compete using social media to market ourselves, because we simply aren’t competing. We are participating in something that is best experienced in a room together with other people that want to interact with one another personally and physically. I have never played music to gain anything other than the personal satisfaction I get out of creatively expressing myself through music played with friends. This has ensured that it will always be enjoyable, inspiring, and satisfying to me.
Grey: Hive is a fun project, and I love making music with my friends, but we really strive to do things in a way that is reflective of our lives in general. We are all serious people and are serious about playing music. We want to create art that is as good as it can be while staying true to the vision of this band and the vision of the people we would like to be in the world.
J.J. Anselmi is the author of ’Heavy: A Memoir of Wyoming, BMX, Drugs, and Heavy Fucking Music’. He sent us a copy once. We read it then never wrote about it, or even told him that we read it. But it’s good.