"I kind of wished Kiss would sound like AC/DC": The Hives' Pelle Almqvist on the soundtrack of his life

Pelle Almqvist onstage
(Image credit: Sergione Infuso - Corbis)

"I feel like I’ve been knighted now that I’m in Classic Rock,” says Pelle Almqvist, charismatic frontman with Swedish garage-rockers The Hives. “I guess we’ve been at it for so long that we’re now considered part of that genre.” 

The pugnacious quintet have actually been at it for 30 years, although it wasn’t until 2001’s Your New Favourite Band compilation (issued on Alan McGee’s Poptones label) that they broke through internationally. The recently-released, much anticipated The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons is the band’s first studio album in over a decade.


The first song I remember hearing

Hearing AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock when I was six made me feel excited. I was into comic-book heroes, so I liked the way Kiss looked, but I didn’t like the way they sounded. I kind of wished Kiss would sound like AC/DC. The Hives toured with AC/DC a few years back, and that was the most full-circle moment in my life.

The first song I performed live

It was at a school disco, where we played some silly punk rock song about laundry. The band was pretty much all the same members of The Hives that are still going to this day, except it was just called Hives then, with no ‘The’.

The greatest album of all time

The albums I’ve listened to the most are The Saints’ Eternally Yours and a Sonics compilation, which you can probably tell from listening to The Hives. I found that at a formative age. And Television’s Marquee Moon. I bought that on the same day I bought Raw Power by The Stooges.

The guitar hero

The sound of East Bay Ray, from Dead Kennedys, was a big thing for me. There’s something about that kind of intersection of hardcore punk, spy movie themes and soundtrack music. We had a neighbour whose older sister was into punk, so we’d go to their basement and listen to Dead Kennedys. Their album covers scared me. And the music too.

The songwriter

There are different schools of songwriting. I think writing a rock’n’roll song is very different from writing in other areas. For me, both in terms of making a nasty noise and also making something beautiful, it’s a tie between Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

The singer

I was maybe nine, and there was a New Year’s show on Swedish TV, late at night, where they showed sixties clips of James Brown and The Who. I realised later that I’m still doing the same shit I saw on TV that night. A lot of my moves were taken from them. I think singer and frontman are two different skills. I wouldn’t consider myself a great singer, but I’m a good frontman. But as far as singers go, my favourites are Dion DiMucci, Glenn Danzig and Little Richard.

The best record I've made

I have a soft spot for our second album, Veni Vidi Vicious, because that’s when The Hives kind of found our feet. It’s probably a tie between that and The Black And White Album, because even though it doesn’t sound as cool, that one has a lot of very well-crafted rock songs.

The worst record I've made

We did our best to pour everything we had into every album, so I’ve got no real regrets. Looking back, I kind of wish that Tyrannosaurus Hives sounded a bit more like Veni Vidi Vicious, but we were so interested in making it sound as different as we could. I sometimes would’ve wanted to hear that record sound looser, but it’s a lot of people’s favourite Hives record, so I don’t want to fuck with their feelings about that

The most underrated band ever

The Saints should’ve been bigger than they were. That was my favourite punk band for a long time, and Chris Bailey was an amazing frontman. The lyrics are way better than most other punk bands. I guess it’s because the music is more complicated than just saying: “Fuck the man!” or whatever punks were saying at the time.

The song that makes me cry

Tom Waits and Nick Cave both have songs that make me cry. My two favourite ballads are Take It With Me by Tom Waits, and Into My Arms by Nick Cave. I can also be pretty basic when it comes to that stuff. Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World is amazing. It’s a happier kind of tears though.

My Saturday night party song

Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top. There’s something I call ‘six beers music’ – a scale of a certain amount of beers until you like something. ZZ Top and Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild are right around that four-to-six-beer range. That’s when that music starts to sound amazing.

My guilty pleasure

I love commercial seventies disco. My favourite is Boney M, because it’s insane. It’s so dumb and strange. It has what I like to call the Wooly Bully factor: why is that song a hit? It makes no sense on any other level than that it feels good. It’s good for driving, too. There’s something about disco that just eats the miles.

The song I want played at my funeral

It’d probably be Come On Up To The House by Tom Waits. It’s kind of about dying, I think. At least in my interpretation. And it’s a great song.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.