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Image for The Hives In The Firing Line: "I’d rather people sing about fucking unicorns"

The Hives In The Firing Line:"I’d rather people singabout fucking unicorns"

Blood, piss and cheese. The Hives’ Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist goes In The Firing Line with DAVID SWAN to discuss, among other things, the various things fans have hurled at him on stage.

They’ve spent the past two decades doggedly out-performing their contemporaries in an attempt to prove their self-proclaimed status as “saviours of rock ‘n’ roll”. And few who’ve witnessed The Hives’ live show could disagree: The Swedish garage rock revivalists truly are one of the 50 Bands You Must See Before You Die.

When I reach their enigmatic leader Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist he is wandering around one of the seedier corners of Hamburg, Germany, which he describes as a “rock-costume area, where the local alcoholics are staring me down … it’s a lot like Australia, actually.” With a curious mix of bravado and that infamous Swedish sense of humour, Almqvist is the perfect contender for FL’s “In The Firing Line” series of hard-hitting interviews, and when challenged to defend his band’s legacy, albums and decision to record a duet with Cyndi Lauper, the “greatest frontman in rock ‘n’ roll” comes out swinging.

The Hives are famous for their on-stage attire – what are you wearing right now?
I’m wearing our off-stage uniform: A large leather jacket, some black jeans, some black boots, and a white shirt, to balance it up.

Just a plain white shirt?
It’s a pretty plain white shirt. I like to keep it regular. It’s a Ramones sort of look, it’s my little tribute to them.

Are your albums just excuses to add songs to your live set-lists?
No, our albums are hard work in and of themselves. We couldn’t tour if we didn’t make albums, but the album always comes first.

Is your on-stage banter really 100 per cent off-the-cuff?
It really is 100 per cent off the cuff, which means that I’m nervous about losing my identity. I always go up on stage kind of frightened that it won’t work, and I won’t come up with anything to say. But usually the second the music stops, I just say something and it’s always the perfect thing to say [laughs].

Why is rock ‘n’ roll so serious 99 percent of the time?
It’s a different generation. A lot of [bands] have such fantastic lives they don’t know what to complain about. Every time they run into a bump along the road, they start whining about it in the music, which I’m not that into. I prefer rock ‘n’ roll to be an escape from everyday problems, not nagging on about your everyday problems. If you work nine to five, Monday through Friday, and then you go to see a rock show on Saturday and they sing about working nine to five, I don’t see the point in that. I’d rather people sing about fucking unicorns, that’s what I want to listen to. All I want is for someone to put on a good fucking Saturday night show singing about unicorns [laughs].

“It’s hard work being the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Would you ever do a serious album?
Our albums are serious! It’s not something we just do for kicks, it’s something we take really, really seriously. I don’t think there has to be a disconnect between being serious and having fun. I think that serious things can be done in fun ways, like being a comedian. Sometimes comedians have the most serious points to make, but they do it in a funny way. To make a serious album, it doesn’t have to be a black funeral affair. I think every album we make is serious, that’s how I look at it.

How much of your on-stage energy is due to alcohol and how much is just raw personality?
It’s just the way I am, I think. And also I think what people don’t realise about energy is that you get more, the more you spend. The more energy you spend, the more energy your body will give you – you’ve just got to keep at it. The energy you get from the crowd plays into it too, big time. I’m also in the best shape of my life at the moment, I attribute that to rock ‘n’ roll.

Are there any cities around the world that just don’t “get” The Hives sense of humour?
Yeah, it’s happened a lot. We used to even get into fights on our earlier tours – people would just be confused by us so they wouldn’t know how to react. And sometimes people either just stare blankly at us or leave altogether, but hey that’s part of the show [laughs]. Generally now if people come to see us, they know what they’re in for.

What is the singular most fucked up thing that’s happened on tour?
OK, jeepers – this is difficult! I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one, that would be an injustice to everyone that’s thrown stuff at us. We’ve had blood thrown at us while we were onstage. We’ve gotten piss thrown at us a few times. I’ve got a big chunk of cheese thrown into my face while I was onstage – a friend of mine threw them actually. And then there’s the classic bras and panties, but they’re a given, aren’t they? So I think blood, piss and cheese. It’s hard to single it out though, because that sort of stuff becomes normal.

Actually one of the weirdest things that happened during a show was when [lead guitarist] Nicholaus [Arson] jumped over the drums and landed on the cords for the entire lighting rig, so we had to do the rest of the show in pitch black darkness. On that same tour, [rhythm guitarist] Vigilante [Carlstroem] had to play lying down the entire show because some skinheads had jumped on his back before the show. It’s hard work being the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll.

Click through to page two for more Pelle

What can you say that will convince our readers that [possibly fictional manager/songwriter] Randy Fitzsimmons is a real guy?
Well, I think nothing. If they don’t believe it at this point, then I’m not sure there’s anything more I can say about it. Whatever I would say that would make you maybe believe that he’s a real guy would also disclose his identity, and I wouldn’t want to do that. It’s sort of a catch 22. I can’t say anything about him, as much as I want to!

You did a duet with Cyndi Lauper, how would something as bizarre as that come about?
She was a friend of a friend. A friend of ours is friends with her, and we were having drinks with our friend – who’s from Lund in Sweden – and Cyndi Lauper came on the radio in the bar, and we said, “Oh we’d love to do something with her”, and our friend said “Oh really, I know her!” And so we decided then and there that’d we’d love to do a duet. Our friend contacted Cyndi and asked if she’d be happy to do it, and she said “yes”. Then we wrote a Christmas song, and Cindy came to Stockholm, and it all came together really quickly. We got into the studio and we convinced her to sing these really raunchy lyrics. It was perfect.

Who’s more nuts, you or her?
It’s a tough call – she might be my equal, I think.

If you ditched your Hives bandmates and went solo, what do you think it would sound like?
I think I would want it to sound different from The Hives. I think I would want it to be nothing to do with The Hives. I mean everything the Hives do…it’s pretty hard to beat. I couldn’t do it better on my own, so I’d just have to do something else instead. So I wouldn’t do [anything] as energetic or as rock ‘n’ roll as The Hives. But I feel like I would have to play all the instruments myself, because I’m the best instrumentalist in the world, so I wouldn’t want anyone else playing on my album. I just have to learn how to play drums and keyboards first. I’d want to make it a proper solo album.

The Black and White Album has been described as being a bit of an experiment. Was it a failed experiment?
No, not at all. I mean some people are always going to think that, but you get the best reaction that way – from experimenting. The best art isn’t always safe. And it did really well. I think that the point of making an experiment is that it doesn’t matter if it fails or not, that’s the nature of experimentation. Half the record was very “classic Hives”, a lot of it was very us. The other half of it was experimental, and that’s why we called it The Black and White Album. It’s half and half. I really like it a lot.

If the Hives are the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll, which bands are killing rock ‘n’ roll?
Oh, wow … there’s quite a few of them. I don’t think pop music is killing rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t think house music is killing rock ‘n’ roll. The thing that’s killing rock ‘n’ roll is, honestly, rock ‘n’ roll.

Can you name and shame?
The problem with the music industry is that, believe it or not, it’s full of super nice guys [laughs]. So whenever I say something about any of them, I’ll hurt someone that’s nice and I can’t do that!

“The thing that’s killing rock ‘n’ roll is, honestly, rock ‘n’ roll.”

Your bio describes The Hives as being the world’s wisest musical council, what’s the wisest bit of advice you have for FL readers?
If they wanna be in a band or just generally in their life?

Life advice would be good.
I think that you just have to know that it gets better. There are times when you’re going to feel like shit, but it’s just an opportunity to change yourself and to change your situation. So whatever your situation is, it will change, and it’ll change for the better.

Maybe you really are the wisest musical council.
Thank you. And I’m really, really looking forward to coming to Australia. I heard it’s the best time of year for a beer there. We can’t wait.

FL presents The Hives sideshows

Wednesday, January 2 – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Sunday, January 6- The Forum, Melbourne
Monday, January 7 – The Metro, Sydney

Tickets on sale now

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RocknrollHendo

RocknrollHendo said on the 17th Dec, 2012

blood, piss and cheese

don't know what would be worse.

batdan

batdan said on the 18th Dec, 2012

blood, piss and cheese

don't know what would be worse.

being a Kiwi I would suggest.

RocknrollHendo

RocknrollHendo said on the 18th Dec, 2012



na it's choice as being a kiwi bro.