Top Hats, Blood, Thunder And Lightning: Our Interview With The Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist

CREDIT: Annika Berglund

The Hives, regarded by many as one of the greatest live bands in the world, are set to begin a North American tour tonight at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. We were lucky enough to chat with frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist about the tour, Lex Hives, self-financed albums, music videos, the Batmobile, and Cyndi Lauper. Here's what he had to say:

How are things today?
Things are great! We are finally back in the states and we know it's been a hard wait for both yoU-S-A and us.

You've been releasing albums and touring non-stop for almost twenty years and at this point, critics unanimously agree that you are one of the best live bands in the world with a stage show that brings the greatness like someone's life depends on it. What do you have in store for this upcoming tour and will there be top hats?
There will be top hats and there will be blood and there will be some extremely excited Swedes putting out like nobody's business. It will be thunder, lightning, and all you thought rock shows could be. Then we will play the second song.

Your North American tour is only nine dates with no West Coast shows. Do you have plans to return to our shores in the Fall?
Yup! We shall return in September and again in October if all goes well.

Lots of bands have been touring the past few years where they'll play one of their most popular albums live from start to finish. Have you thought of doing this? If you did, which album would you choose?
I feel like that is something you do when you admit that your finest work is behind you and we are not ready to do that yet. If you twist my arm, maybe Veni Vidi Vicious because it is where we zeroed in on what we are as a band.

Hives fans have been starving during the five-year time period between The Black And White Album and Lex Hives. It was clearly worth the wait, but do you think you'll go the self-funded and self-produced route again? What were some of the advantages of disadvantages of creating your "own" record?
I don't know. It was a lot of work and usually we like to go to the opposite end of what the last album was. I think it would be fun with a brilliant producer! Send your CVs this way please.

The hardest part was being democratic without an outside person. Getting everybody to agree on the songs and having no natural deadline. It can be very time consuming. The best part was the feeling of self sufficiency. That we could make this album on a desert island with just one coconut and strings tied to trees and still rock like mad men.

Lex Hives has received great reviews. Spin, Rolling Stone, MTV, NME--they all love the album! Were you a little surprised with the nearly universal acclaim for the album?
Yes, a little. We keep waiting for the backlash after years of good critique but it hasn't really happened yet. Maybe they actually are listening to the albums. It actually feels really good to know that people appreciate the time and effort you spend on it.

We love your "Go Right Ahead" video! Do you guys enjoy making music videos? How much say do you have in the process? Are your videos self-financed as well?
Yes we do! We usually are very involved in the entire process but it is really important to do it with great people. Most of the ideas will be ours but so much of it is in the way it is carried through. In a way, all bands videos are self-financed. I am not sure all bands know this though.

In the "Go Right Ahead" video, you guys are performing the song from the base of a zeppelin. If you could have any Hives vehicle--plane, car, boat, tank, whatever--what would it be and why?
Since I was a kid, I always wanted the Batmobile so it would be a Hives version of that. It would be cool if it could fly too, but mostly I just want it to be the Batmobile.

Lex Hives has two cover songs on the deluxe version and your last EP, Tarred And Feathered, was nothing but cover songs. Any plans to do a full album of covers in the future? Do you have any new cover songs you're working on that might sneak their way into the tour?
Tarred And Feathered was sort of it but we really like finding songs and playing then to what is usually a bigger audience than when they first came out. I hope we can work one or two in. I am actually thinking of something right now. A full cover album. Maybe, if we can come up with enough songs.

From the first time I heard it, I have put "A Christmas Duel" on my yearly holiday mixes and it has become one of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs. What was it like working with Cyndi Lauper and how did that collaboration come about? Think you've got another holiday tune in you?
Thanks! Working with Cyndi was so much fun. She is one of our favorite singers of all time! We asked her through a friend if she would do a duet with us a long time ago and then this song sort of fell out of the sky and it felt perfect. As synchronicity would have it, she also played Sweden two weeks later so we could record the track. We had to convince her that the lyrics were OK, but after that it was real smooth. The songs just came to us that way. We didn't even know that would come, so maybe there will be another one. No idea.

Two last questions, the same we ask every guest. First album, cassette, or CD you purchased with your own money?
I think it was Skid Row by Skid Row and yes, I still think it kicks ass.

You're the opening act of a music festival and you get to choose any five acts, dead or alive, to perform on the bill with you. Which five do you choose and what song do you all perform as the final jam?
Jimi Hendrix to hear what the fuzz is all about, David Bowie and we write the set list and decide what he wears, Howlin' Wolf, The Moscow Men's Choir performing Carmina Burana by Orff along with Swedish death metal band Entombed, and the original Dead Kennedys. The final song would be "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks 'cause we wouldn't have to rehearse.

The Hives' North American Tour Dates

06.19.12 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
06.20.12 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
06.22.12 Terminal 5, New York, NY
06.23.12 House of Blues, Boston, MA
06.25.12 Metropolis, Montreal, QC
06.26.12 Sound Academy, Toronto, ON
06.27.12 Clutch Cargo's, Pontiac, MI
06.29.12 Summerfest Rock Stage, Milwaukee, WI
06.30.12 The Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL

More Hives: Official | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

CREDIT: Travis Schneider

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