Posted March 5, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist of the Hives: Right where he matters

Hives photo by Travis Schneider
Hives photo by Travis Schneider

The Hives, a high energy garage rock outfit from Sweden, caught a fair bit of attention in the States in the early 2000s when rock pundits lumped them in with the Strokes and White Stripes as part of a burgeoning garage revival. The band is still going strong and returned to form on last year’s kinetic Lex Hives, its first studio release in five years. Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist recently phoned in from an Atlanta stop and spoke about the current tour which pairs the band with punk-pop singer Pink.

What’s it been like opening for Pink?
It’s going well. It’s pretty cool to see them react to us. We’ve been in a band for a long time and you don’t get that many chances to play for a completely new audience. Most of these people have never heard us before. That keeps our tools sharp.

So, we take it Pink likes the band?
Yes, she asked us to come. She came to a show in France and hung out. It’s been cool.

Talk about last year’s Lex Hives. What did you try to do differently?
We tried to boil it down to the bare essentials. We were going to do everything ourselves. We were going to take the photos, build a studio, maybe build the guitars. We were going to take DIY as far as we could. Along the way, someone told us there was a Zen Buddhist who said that if you want to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. We realized it would be a lot of trouble. But that ethos is still there with the producing and the recording. It was a fun experience.

Were you trying to do anything differently musically?
I think our last album was more experimental. There was some hip-hop and a lot of playing piano instead of guitars. We wanted to make this album “not that” and go the opposite direction. We wanted to make a simple rock ’n’ roll album. Most of our favorite rock n’ roll albums are everybody singing at the same time in the studio. We wanted it to be a live rock’ n’ roll album and that’s what it is.


 There was either horror movies or AC/DC. I went the AC/DC route.

What first drew you to rock?
It was the only thing that was semi-interesting that was around. There was either horror movies or AC/DC. I went the AC/DC route. I was maybe six at the time. I liked the way it sounded. It felt like a place for me and where what I was mattered. In other sectors of society, my skill sets wouldn’t matter so much.

Were there other Swedish bands you could look to for inspiration?
There was a lot of good rock and punk bands that we liked. Our first influences were Swedish and U.S. punk bands. So when we started the band in 1992, most of us hadn’t even played instruments before.

You’re such a great front person. How did you gravitate toward that role?
I was the worst at drums and guitar. Then by necessity, you adapt. I was also probably the one who had the guts to scream into the microphone at a time when my voice was cracking as it was when we formed the band. I was the worst at guitar and drums but also the least embarrassed.

Not everyone has that swagger.
I guess that’s always kind of been there. I don’t know or why other people don’t do what I do. To me, it’s pretty easy. I just kind of do it.  It’s like you can teach a skill but you can’t teach a gift.

You were originally lumped in with a other neo-garage rock acts like the Strokes and the White Stripes.
That was cool. We used to get lumped in with bands that were much worse. I liked the White Stripes and the Strokes. On the other hand, I don’t think we sounded anything alike. I was happy because it was the only music around at the time that was good. If you looked two years before that, the popular music was Limp Bizkit. While it was alright with me, getting all that attention made us paranoid. When other people get involved, there is a worry that it will cheapen what you have done. As it turns out, there wasn’t that much to worry about.

Did you ever almost break up?
No. I think we always knew we were better together than alone. We were always interested in what we would do next. The band is its own thing and its inner voice that we all follow. We all have a part in it but we can’t really control it. It’s interesting to be led by that.

Tour Dates

March 4, 2013

March 5, 2013

March 6, 2013

March 8, 2013

March 09, 2013

March 10, 2013

March 11, 2013

March 12, 2013

March 14, 2013

March 22, 2013

March 23, 2013

March 24, 2013

March 25, 2013

March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013

Indianapolis, IN, The Vogue Theatre

Detroit, MI, The Palace of Auburn Hills

Columbus, OH, Schottenstein

Louisville, KY, KFC Yum! Center

Chicago, IL, United Center

Cleveland, OH, House of Blues

Toronto, ON, Air Canada Centre

Montreal, QC, Bell Centre

Washington DC, Verizon Center

New York, NY, Madison Square Garden

E. Rutherford, NJ, Izod Center

New York, NY, Irving Plaza

Uniondale, NY, Nassau Coliseum

Uncasville, CT, Mohegan Sun Arena

Boston, MA, TD Garden


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].