Pelle Almqvist (The Hives)
Swedish rock band The Hives have a series of successful albums under their belt including ‘Barely Legal’ and ‘The Black and White Album’. With a set at Green Day’s British Summertime Festival in London imminent Pete sat down for an exclusive chat with frontman Pelle:
JLTT: Good afternoon to you.
Good afternoon to you too, hi.
The reason we are talking is that you have the honour of being on the Green Day bill for British Summertime Festival in London in July.
Yeah it’s great. I mean I love playing in Hyde Park. It always feels massive and classic and so forth.
Well I’m very old and I went to the free ones with The Rolling Stones and stuff back in the day. Roger McGuinn and The Byrds.
(Laughs) It’s a different game now fella!
(Laughs) Yeah they’re not free anymore!
Where are you right now?
I’m at my house in Stockholm.
Cool. One question I was going to ask you; time flies doesn’t it Pelle. Its twenty years since ‘Barely Legal’.
I was seventeen when we made that but it feels ok that it was twenty years ago.
It may be that record that made you fairly international. Would that be a fair thing to say?
It would yeah. Also for me, the ‘Barely Legal’ album is sort of earlier Hives and that was where we found it was gonna be going forward.
At what point did you decide as a band that you were going to have this black and white visual and look like a traditional band?
I think it was around 96’, 97’. Around the time of ‘Barely Legal’. It was the easiest way of getting a very specific look on a very steep budget. It would’ve been horrible if it was pink and purple. It wouldn’t have worked. Black and white clothes you can find at thrift stores.
The strange thing is, in the early days of colour TV in the sixties Kenny Rogers decided that everyone should wear black and white for all the shows just to be different from everyone wearing psychedelic colours.
It’s not a bad idea is it?
No it isn’t! Then it was soundly monochrome on a colour backdrop. You seem to put an album out when you’ve got a whole set of punchy songs. Is that a fair reflection on how you work?
Yeah we need to be like the best thing we can do as we don’t just want to put something out. There’s so much mediocre music and making something really good is actually quite hard.
But your harvest, if that’s the right word, is that your songs do sound like they were recorded last night. I’m thinking of ‘Tick Tick Boom’.
That is why albums take so long to make. You have to realise how high the bar is. You can’t just compare yourself to what came out this year you have to compare yourself favourable to what came out forever. It is hard to do. With all the work we’ve put out, we put it out the only way we could’ve but we’re really proud of it.
If you create a song, you could play that song almost every show you play and not get bored of it.
I was thinking of ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ and here we are in the Donald Trump era and that sounds kinda relevant to me!
We live in a world where everything is changing all the time. You can see all of the political turmoil and it seems to me that music and humour are the things we can rely upon to bring us together because politics and religion will cause friction forever more aren’t they?
Yeah that’s probably right. I mean, religion can bring a few people together but it is always a different religion of something.
Have you met Green Day before?
Yeah we’ve played a couple of times together with them. We went to see them do a show in our hometown when we were kids and it was right before they blew up. It was in like 93’ or something.
Wow! I heard The Hives on TV and a friend of mine asked ‘What are they like?’ I said to him ‘Imagine a mixture of Paul Revere of Los Lobos in the snow! You might be offended!
When you first appeared you reminded me of Paul Revere and I’ll tell you why; Paul had very strong songs like The Kinks and your sound reminded me of an edgier version of Paul Revere especially with your look.
I thought “We need this because too many bands are going down the disco and the remix route.” What do you think are the dangers of following the fashion? Do you think you surrender a lot?
I think so far the danger of following fashion is that you are always going to be second on the ball because you are following something. You have to create your own fashion I think in order to be the winner. Otherwise you are always gonna be second.
There is a band and I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, that I like a lot called The Hellacopters.
Yeah I know them well. We toured with them and I’ve always been a fan of that band since they first came out.
Oh I’m really pleased because when I was young I used to hang out with The MC5 from Detroit.
Oh cool! I love The MC5.
Well ‘Back in the USA’ is the best rock record ever because every song is a winner and it doesn’t hang about.
Yeah that is a great album.
What I love about The Hives is that you’ve got that touch of The MC5, that ‘we’re here to play listen up!’ I love it.
How do you approach a festival?
Well my approach is basically this: I’m gonna obliterate every other band on the bill!
I think every band tries to do that and I hope all the bands do try to do that.
You wanna be the act that everyone remembers?
(Laughs) I will stop at nothing. I’ll do whatever I can! I’ll get naked if I have too!
That’s the Iggy Pop spirit isn’t it?
Yeah exactly. It is about what happens on stage there and then and very few bands can beat us.
That’s a goal to have man.
When can we expect a new Hives album?
I wish I could say very soon. We have a few of those classic songs but we haven’t really worked out the overall theme of the album.
I appreciate this and thanks very much for the chat.
Thank you and take care. I’ll see you in the UK.
(Thanks Pelle and Sacha)
Feature Image Credit: Luke Hannaford
The Hives perform at Barclaycard Presents British Summertime Festival on Saturday 1st July 2017 with Green Day at Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom. Tickets are available here: https://www.bst-hydepark.com/