The Hives' Pelle Almqvist (2012-12-26 Everguide)

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Words by Lauren Bertacchini

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Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, 34-year-old lead singer of Sweden’s The Hives, is in a tour bus outside of a nightclub somewhere in Europe. It’s uncomfortably close to 1am where he is, and we have little doubt that speaking to a young woman in Melbourne is not among the top 10 (or 15, or 20) things that he would want to be doing. But despite his cheekily eccentric on-stage demeanor, and the bombastic nature of the band, Pelle is perfectly happy to chat the early morning away. The scene outside the bus is chaotic and crowded but inside his mobile sanctuary it’s calm. Calm enough for him to reminisce about the last time he was out for Falls Festival (The Wet Year, for those who suffered it), his ditch-digging preferences, and his philosophy on men’s fashion.

Lauren Bertacchini: Do you remember the last Falls Festival that you were out for, in 2008/09?

Pelle Almqvist: Yeah, I remember that very well. That was really brutal, I remember the weather was a nightmare. There was a lot of worry about some boys lost in the woods; turns out they were only some metres from the campsite.

LB: You’ve done everything on your latest album, Lex Hives, yourselves, what was the reason for that?

PA: It was kind our plan to see what we were like without anyone’s assistance. Turns out we were pretty similar.

LB: Was there any essential difference between doing everything for the album this time as opposed to when you would have done everything yourself starting off in 1993?

PA: You remember your first kiss, but you maybe don’t remember your 31st kiss. You can make up for a lack of experience with youthful exuberance and excitement – ‘Shit! I’m actually playing an electric guitar!’ But that feeling kind goes away and you get experience. So that’s the main thing, and you have to work at other ways to make it exciting. You have to trick yourself. It wouldn’t be exciting if everything was the same, we’d have a hard time doing it [playing live] if there was no room for spontaneity or exploration.

LB: Do you have night’s were you really can’t be bothered?

PA: A lot of times it’s the last thing I want to do, just before I go on stage; you’re on tour, you have a fever, you’re sick and you’re tired, but as soon as I hit the stage all that goes away. No matter how boring your job is, if you have thousands of people looking at you cheering it’s pretty good. I would work shoveling a ditch if there were thousands of people cheering me on.

LB: Well Pelle, it can be arranged. Speaking of crowds, have you noticed if yours have changed over the (almost) twenty years? Aside from obviously getting larger.

PA: We have a fear as a rock band that we make a new album and the same people will come to the show. It happens to so many bands; they keep touring and the crowds get one year older and then they start to drop off because they have work or whatever commitments. We’ve always been very aware of that. In order to be a rock band you always have to recruit young people. It makes the show more fun for the older people too if there are young people jumping up and down, rather than everyone standing at the back of the bar with their arms crossed.

LB: The Hives have such a strong image across all aspects of the band. Is this reflective of the whole band, or more of some individuals? PA: Well, we’re a very democratic band. All decisions go through all members. The creativity is more evenly spread out than in other bands. It’s a bit diffused; sometimes I don’t even remember who comes up with what.

LB: Do you think that’s a good thing? That nobody has a strong sense of individual ownership over particular songs or aspects?

PA: I think one of the reasons we’ve stayed together for such a long time is that it’s a very equal partnership. We all call the shots and we all decide. I think it’s very important that everyone feels a part of it otherwise people get tired and quit.

LB: So The Hives’ shtick developed organically?

PA: It came about organically; it was just like ‘What do we like? We should do that. What don’t we like, we shouldn’t do that.’ We had like seven years of being in the band before we got popular which is where we created the identity and became a band. When we got popular it was already set, who we were and what we were doing. There were 20 people at the show when we created our identity.

LB: So the world came upon the Hives fully formed?

PA: Pretty much, yeah.

LB: That’s a great position to be in as a band.

PA: It helps us. A lot of other bands that broke through when we did struggled. The first thing they ever did got really popular, and then the second thing they ever did maybe was half as popular. Then they thought to themselves that something was wrong. We had a lot of failings before we had success. We didn’t even think of it as failing, we were just doing what we wanted to do. But then we got popular, we were like, ‘Hey, shit this is great. We’re popular.’ We had so much time before anyone liked us to form our identity. And I think it’s good for the crowd too, to feel that a band’s not dependent on their love. That’s what you want from a band. You don’t want artists to ask you what you want.

LB: Are there acts with that sort of authenticity that you admire?

PA: [There are a lot of acts] I think have that authenticity. Like ACDC, I think that is very clear and obvious vision. I really like Lykke Li as well. She has an identity.

LB: She’s someone who had trouble because her first album was so big, and then she went to NY and had some problems figuring out her second album.

PA: She changed a lot before the second album. I liked the second album better. I’m a little biased because I’m friends with her. I’m still excited about the fact that she’s making another one.

LB: Wasn’t she at the same Falls Festival that you played last time?

PA: That’s actually kind of when we became friends. We hung out for like a week and a half, or two weeks, in Australia.

LB: So you’re a pretty stylish man, who would be a favorite designer, or just well-dressed person, for you?

PA: I like consistency in style, I think that Kevin Rowland from Dexy’s Midnight Runners dresses really well. And I think Nick Cave dresses really well. Those are two people that come to mind pretty quickly. There are also like Bryan Ferry, he dresses really well… well, maybe not now. Now he looks like an old English master, I think he used to dress really cool.

LB: Have you seen Yoko Ono’s menswear line?

PA: What was that? Do I want to start a menswear line?

LB: Err… yeah, do you?

PA: Well, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it in that way. Not really, I think it would kinda be tragic, you know. Pop artists might have a menswear line, but AC/DC don’t, you know what I mean? Rock stars don’t have a menswear line. I’m into that stuff, but I want to kinda keep it out of the way.

LB: True. But what I actually asked was, ‘Have you seen Yoko Ono’s menswear line?’

PA: I haven’t really, no. Is it good?

LB: Err... Umm... Look, it’s interesting.

PA: Here’s my take on it: interesting is usually not good in a menswear line. I feel that it’s pretty different for girls and guys. A well-dressed guy is usually more classic than a well-dressed woman. She can get away with more. Whenever you try to be ‘interesting’ as a guy it’s usually a failure, in that regard. That’s just how I feel about it.

LB: For example there’s lots of neon pants with white handprints on the crotch.

PA: Yeah, I don’t think I’d be interested, the way you’ve described it.