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| 20 November 2015 | 1 Reply


By Shane Pinnegar

Howlin Pelle Almqvist 01

Last in Australia to save the day when Blur pulled out of the 2014 Big Day Out, The Hives return this month as main support for AC/DC’s Australian tour. SHANE PINNEGAR talked to singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist.

Hailed as one of Spin Magazine’s ’50 Greatest Frontmen Of All Time’, and his band The Hives as The Best Live Band In The World, Almqvist is an electric and charismatic performer. Down the line from America he’s somewhat more subdued, but his enthusiasm for Australia’s biggest rock n’ roll export comes through loud and clear.

“Yeah, we’re huge AC/DC fans, I mean who isn’t? Anyone with half a brain is,” he laughs. “AC/DC was the first band that I listened to, it’s the first band I remember, the first artist I remember liking when I was, maybe, 5 or 6 years old.

“It’s a long time… it’s like a 30 year love affair with AC/DC. I think I’ve been an AC/DC fan longer than I’ve done anything in my life, bar maybe going on the toilet! It’s a pretty fucking big deal for me.”

The Hives - Big Day Out 2014 Sydney

I remind the singer that The Hives even recorded a cover of Back In Black in their very early days.

“Yeah that’s a long time ago, though. We were, I think we were 17, no, 16, maybe when we recorded that… it’s an unbelievably long time ago…”

Almqvist makes no bones about his excitement at the prospect of meeting Angus Young and the rest of the band.

“I’m mostly happy, I think,” he says, “I’ve met my fair share of my heroes. Pretty much all of them besides AC/DC. I know, sort of, what it’s like – you’re meeting a person, you know… I’ll be pretty starstruck, I think, but it’s also like, ‘what are you really gonna do?’ You can’t just start interviewing them. Just act cool.

“I’ll be pretty starstruck, but I’m going to pretend I’m not!”

With AC/DC’s rabidly loyal fans looking forward to their idols’ huge stage show, Almqvist says The Hives will be relying on their

“We can’t have a huge stage show, so that’s sort of out of the picture – [but] we never really did. All we can do is… it’s usually I toot my own horn – I guess I’m going to do it again: I think we, basically, show up and we play our show, and I think that’s what we’re going to do. I must say, I think everyone should show up early and see it.”

Howlin Pelle Almqvist 04
In The States taking care of Hives business – “mixing business with pleasure, [like] alcohol with soda pop, gin and tonic. I’m doing a bit of both. I like being here but I’m also getting work and shit done, so it’s the best of both worlds, really,” he says, “I feel embarrassed every time I call it a job” – Almqvist says the band will be working in between their Australian gigs.

“Because there’s so many days off on the AC/DC tour, we’re gonna spend most of the time working on new stuff. Rehearsing and things like that. We’re hoping we come back from the tour with half of a new album or something.” Before adding, “Yeah, a ton of days off. I think the answer is surf and make music. You could have a worse life than that!”

Howlin Pelle Almqvist 02

Being hailed as one of the greatest frontmen of all time is quite an honour for the 37-year-old Almqvist, so I want to find out where he got his main inspiration for his magnetic stagecraft.

“I remember once, when I was kid,” he remembers, “I was watching TV on New Years Eve and I think that day is probably the biggest influence on our stage show, even though I was maybe only 8 or 9 years old. There was some New Years show playing stuff that happened in the past, or whatever, and they played one thing of James Brown, where he was performing with his band. I can’t remember what song he was playing, I think it was I Feel Good or one of those songs. Then it was The Who at that TV show [The Smothers Brothers] where Keith Moon blows up his drum kit [after performing My Generation.] It had Pete Townshend wind-milling [his guitar] and Roger Daltrey throwing his microphone around… basically I’ve been making do with those two influences most of my life.

“Basically I stole half the James Brown moves and then I stole half the Roger Daltrey moves!”

Getting back to AC/DC, Almqvist says it’s so hard to choose a personal favourite song from the Aussie legends.

“Oh, there’s so many, it’s truly difficult. Maybe… I always, whenever I find a guitar, I play Riff Raff, so I guess I’m going to have to say Riff Raff, then. [But] there’s too much good stuff.”

Howlin Pelle Almqvist 03

One thing’s for sure: when The Hives first got together (under a different name) as teenagers in Sweden’s industrial town of Fagersta in 1989, they couldn’t have dreamt they would one day be playing with AC/DC around Australia!

“Not really, no. I mean, it feels huge for us. It’s really cool,” Almqvist concurs. “Anything that’s happened with The Hives, the music and so forth, it’s probably the best thing that ever happened in my life. I love it. I love my quote/unquote ‘job’. If I could call it a job… more like a hobby that gives me money!”

After appearing at On The Bright Side Festival in 2011, the 2014 Big Day Out tour and this coming trip with AC/DC, it will be about ten years since The Hives toured Australia as headliners. Almqvist hopes they’ll be back for their own tour soon.

“I really hope so. We’re ready at the drop of a hat. Australia always has a pretty big place in our heart, so whenever we get an offer from Australia, it’s bound to be more considered than offers from most other places. Yeah, just call us. Pay us and we will come. It’s that simple!”

With a new album to be recorded soon, I float the question of whether it will be a ‘back to basics’ affair, or whether they will again draft in big-name producers like they did for 2007’s The Black And White Album. Almqvist parries the question expertly.

“I don’t know, I mean you can go back to basics with a [producer] – we did it without a producer last time, it was basically just us making records. Usually, when we make a record and then we make the next one, we try to react and sort of, in some way, do the opposite of what we did. I feel like, in order to get that, we should work with a producer again, but I don’t really know who. Got any ideas?”

The Hives 02

How about Rick Rubin? He might be a good one.

“I’ve heard he does good work,” he replies thoughtfully.

He’s probably pretty expensive, though.

“Yeah, possibly,” Almqvist muses. “Quite possibly quite busy, too.”

So from Fantasy Record Producers to Time’s Up, Almqvist leaves us with a, “see you soon, Australia,” and we’re counting the days until The Hives hit the country to support AC/DC.

An edited version of this story was first published in X-Press Magazine’s 11 November, 2015 issue

Category: Interviews

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