Chris Dangerous is a super-serious cycling fan as well as the drummer for the Swedish rock group, The Hives, which is considered one of today’s greatest live bands—and always with a sense of humor. Dangerous, whose given name is Christian Grahn, spends a lot of time on the bicycle at home in Sweden, and when The Hives are touring he takes his bike along with him. Most recently, he sound-tracked the video promotion for the cycling cookbook “Outside is Free: A food and cycle adventure with Vélochef,” by Henrik Orre, the former Team Sky chef, with a first solo release.
Chris, you’re quite a fan of cycling, and a strong rider yourself; what role does cycling play in your daily life at home in Sweden and as a musician who travels the world? Yeah, it’s my favorite thing to do when I have time off, whether at home in between shows/tours or when I’m on the road. I love the feeling I get from it—keeps my mind and body in somewhat okay condition, at least. I try to ride as much as possible. On tour though I can’t really do long hard rides on show days, as I need to save some power for the show—drumming takes it out of you. At home it’s very different. I can ride all kinds of bikes whenever I feel like it, and it’s just pure meditation to me.
Some folks may know that you’re good friends with former Team BMC rider Manuel Quinziato. How did you two meet and what kind of parallels are there, if any, between being a professional cyclist and a professional musician? I met Manuel the first time when I was on tour in Spain in 2012. A couple days before we were playing Madrid, this guy contacted me on Instagram and said that he could show me a nice ride around Madrid if I was up for it. I didn’t know who he was at the time so I Googled him and, well, basically I said yes and was nervous as hell when he came to pick me up in the morning a couple days later in Madrid!
We’ve found that there are a bunch of similarities in our lives. Always being ready to perform 100 percent when it’s time to do go to work. Obviously there’s all the traveling and all the preparation that has to be done in order to be able to perform at your very best.
Manuel is a great guy and I’m very happy he is such a music fan and that I’m a fan of cycling; if not, we wouldn’t be friends today.
What’s the coolest ride you’ve ever gotten in during one of The Hives tours? Do you sneak those in before sound check, or how does it work? There have been some great rides all around the world; just the fact that I´ve been able to ride in all these places is incredible. One I’ll never forget is when Manuel Q put me and Jacopo Guarnieri in contact when we were in Australia. They were there training for the Tour Down Under so him and Rick Zabel came to our show and the day after I went on a ride with them and some Team Sky guys—including Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard. They were doing intervals going up a hill and it was the first time I was that close to a pro pedaling at full power. I was trying to survive going up and these guys just took off as if they’d been shot out of a cannon. My mind still gets blown by that memory!
Here in the States, we describe “rock star parking” as anytime you get to park really close to a bar, restaurant or wherever it is you’re going to. As an actual rock star, is there such a thing as “rock star parking” or is this just nonsense? Ha-ha, I think a lot of people do that kind of thing, but it’s easier to spot a rock star climbing out of a Lambo’ than, let’s say, a banker.
The Vélochef’s “Outside is Free” project looked like a lot of fun and some really epic riding—the video was well produced, great soundtrack too. How did you get to know Henrik Orre and decide to get involved in this effort, both musically and on the bike? Henrik’s business partner and photographer Patrik Engström once did a photo shoot with me for an online bike site called Velonode; they did a thing on Henrik too, so that’s how Patrik got to know both Henrik and me. I think it was Patrik’s idea to call me up and ask if I’d be interested in going to Norway and ride bikes and eat good food for a week. I said “yes” right away, as I love doing projects like this. Like you said, the riding was nothing short of epic, as well as the food and the company.
When it comes to the music, my initial plan was to put some Hives songs in the video but that all changed when I got there. The mood of the whole thing was just so different from what The Hives are. I’ve been writing other types of music for a long time and “DNF” was the song that I immediately thought would fit the pictures and feel perfect. So when I got home I started to work on the process of rewriting and finishing the DNF skeleton that I knew I had somewhere.
In terms of perhaps breaking new ground, are you the only rock musician to ever create a soundtrack to a cookbook? At least, that you’re aware? And which of those amazing-looking campfire dishes that Henrik made on that trip was your favorite? Ha-ha, yeah, no one has contacted me saying anything different so I think that’s correct. The best meal on that trip, and there were many to choose from, has gotta be a simple tomato soup that Henrik made for us after a 12-kilometer climb; I don’t think food has ever tasted that good! But, seriously, that man knows how to cook.
Your “DNF” 7-inch vinyl single is a solo effort after a long career behind the drum kit with The Hives. You played drums of course on this track, along with guitar and synths, as well as doing the vocals. Is making your own music something you’ve always been dabbling in or was this a really new experience for you? I´ve been writing songs and playing instruments for a long time, so there’s always been a plan to release something different someday. However, my plan was not to do it just yet, but now that one song is out it doesn’t feel as weird if I were to put a full album out; but everything has its own time and place, so we’ll see when that happens.
Aside from the title, the lyrics certainly resonate with me as someone who has DNF’d a few cyclocross races; but perhaps since Kraftwerk there hasn’t been a musical homage to cycling. Was there a particular event or ride that you did that was the inspiration for the song and the lyrics? The skeleton that I had for “DNF” was really about something completely different than you’d think. It was a serious song about a tragedy that lyrically just happened to correlate really well with cycling, and cycling was also the way for me to get through that tragedy, so it really felt like the right song in the right place.
What’s next for either Chris Dangerous or The Hives, and do you have any more cool cycling projects or big planned rides in the works? We’re constantly working on stuff and hopefully there will be new music available within a somewhat near future; that’d be nice. And as far as rides, there’s always big plans about that too. Me and my other Henrik friend are trying to find a gravel stage race somewhere in Europe next year that we can ride. So if anyone has any good tips, just let me know! Pm
Follow Chris Dangerous on Instagram at @christiangrahn, and, who knows, maybe you and he might be hitting the gravel the next time The Hives come through your town.