Music Interviews

The Hives’ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist: “We are in a really good band and we want to tell people that with everything we do and say” – Q&A

The Hives

The Hives

What about this as a recipe for success: A Kylie Minogue video where she’s riding a mechanical bull wearing nothing but seductive lingerie and – here comes the clever bit – instead of the usual pop pap ruining an otherwise perfect scene, there’s a guitar-fuelled, high-energy rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack? Genius!

You can just picture the ad man who proposed this being carried around the office shoulder-high. His colleagues would whoop and holler, safe in the knowledge that they could not fail to win the Agent Provocateur account, whilst secretly plotting how to make the idea their own.

And win the account they did, as you will know if you’ve been to the cinema recently. The additional exposure gained by the email of the short film (doing the rounds and clogging up servers since Christmas) is a very welcome bonus for the high-class knicker seller.

It has also been a masterstroke for the band that provides the soundtrack in question; The Hives. This and other stealth marketing antics have subliminally introduced their sound to a host of new and excited punters.

Your New Favourite Band, released on Poptones, is the ‘best of – so far’ for the five Swedish mod-punksters. A ‘catch up’ album, introducing the uninitiated to their particular brand of high-energy rock and roll, the album has already earned them a gold disk. Their recent Mean Fiddler gig was moved ‘upstairs’ to the much larger capacity Astoria and they have announced a headlining gig at Brixton Academy later in the year.

Oh and another thing – they have outrageous names! Isn’t this tricky on a daily basis? Which is one of the first questions I ask Hives front man, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, when trying to discover how I should address him…

Pelle: We have lots of nicknames for each other, short versions ‘Doctor’ and so on…

musicOMH: On the subject of names where does the band get its own?
Pelle: Well it isn’t a bee house, it’s definitely a rash. We once considered it might be the haircut, but it is the rash. We irritate people. We get under their skin.

musicOMH: So you aren’t sure then?
Pelle: Positive.

musicOMH: Hmmmm, is it true that your ‘manager’ Randy Fitzsimmons gave you the name along with your look and all of your songs? (The Hives were apparently formed in 1993 when, as teenagers living in the small Swedish industrial town of Fagersta, they each received a letter from a shady and enigmatic character (Fitzsimmons), instructing them to be in a certain place at a certain time. Fitzsimmons is credited with writing all their songs, and guiding their career so far.)
Pelle: It is true that Randy is a very clever man and he created the phenomenon that is The Hives but I am afraid that I cannot say any more than that. (It is also wildly suspected that it might be an elaborate gag, and that the improbably named Randy doesn’t exist.)

musicOMH: So, what makes you different from a boy band?
Pelle: (Totally unfazed) The only thing we have in common with a boy band is the way we were formed. We have a manager but he doesn’t make all the decisions. Also boy bands don’t have testicles. My brother’s (Nicolaus Arson) in particular are massive. Wherever the names are from, the fact is the whole world is going to know them soon enough.

musicOMH: Would you say that statement is fuelled by confidence or arrogance?
Pelle: (Beaming like Jim Carrey with a very similar glint in his eye) We are right, history will prove it. I don’t care about now. There is always a section of the audience who hate us, but hate is a strong emotion to bring out in someone, it is definitely better than nothing. We have a few people who hate us and still pay money to be at our gigs. They need to tell us they hate us. I like that, it’s special. I enjoy winding people up.

musicOMH: So do you ever do modesty?
Pelle: I don’t think there is much room for it in a band, outside yes, but we are in a band, a really good band and we want to tell people that with everything we do and say.

musicOMH: So apart from ‘Randy’ are you the boss?
Pelle: We are a band and I’m the idiot in the band. The rest of the band have cool covered but I’m not cool at all. If all you want to do is try to be cool, you won’t make it.

musicOMH: And finally what is with the outfits? (They each wear a uniform of black shirt, white tie, black trousers and white shoes)
Pelle: The world might be a better place if more young people wore ties. In Sweden school kids don’t wear ties to school like they do here, they aren’t ‘tied-out’ like UK kids.

So the message is clear. Get some attitude, some gut-busting tunes and, most importantly, wear a tie and you will have Kylie Minogue down to her underwear before you will know what has hit you.

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More on The Hives
The Hives – The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons
The Hives – Lex Hives
The Hives’ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist: “Something takes over when I’m on stage. It’s the closest I get to a religious experience” – Interview
The Hives + Dan Sartain @ Hammersmith Apollo, London
The Hives – The Black And White Album