Q&A: Pelle Almqvist

The Hives' frontman thinks Destiny's Child sound fabulous and Muddy Waters looks even better

Pelle Almqvist of The Hives performs on stage on the first day of 'The Carling Weekend: Reading Festival' in Reading, England, on August 27th, 2004 Credit: Jo Hale/Getty

THE REHEARSAL SPACE AT Hive Manor in southern Sweden is adorned with nothing but the awards these five Swedes have won along with gold-framed photos of themselves. Here, basking in the afterglow of their breakthrough, Veni Vidi Vicious, the Hives wrote Tyrannosaurus Hives, an album of eleven snarling punk workouts and one standout soul screamer, "Diabolic Scheme." In it, frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist conjures the spirit of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, backed by a relaxed two-chord groove and synthesized strings. "Every record should have at least one slow song," says Almqvist. As for breaking tradition with the fake strings, he adds, "We do love horror movies and disco."

Tyrannosaurus Hives features your second song with idiot in the title. In the music biz, do you meet a lot of idiots?

In bands, actually, they're not under-represented. I won't name any names, but there are a lot of fools running around playing in bands. Our drummer, Chris Dangerous, says seventy percent of the world's population is idiots.

You've got good moves, but which musicians could show you up on the dance floor?

I know a few who could probably beat me: James Brown and that new guy Usher. He's a good dancer. I have a different style, though. It's more style-based than skill-based. I'd have to explain that to the judges beforehand.

When was the last time you paid to see a concert?

It's been a while. That's the biggest perk about being in a band. The last one was Steve Earle in Stockholm. I like a few of his records. I Feel Alright is really good.

What are your favorite record stores around the world?

I find more stuff I like buying on secondhand vinyl as opposed to new CDs. There's a great shop in Stockholm called Mike's that's open all the time – everything else there closes at six. I like going to Amoeba in L.A. and San Francisco because it's so easy to find what you want. And Antone's in Austin.

Have you ever had the hives?

Never. Being one myself, I'm immune.

What instrument do you wish you could play?

I'd like to be really good at playing the piano. I like hearing it on records, and I like Little Richard, but that's not really the style I'm going for. I'd like to be a concert pianist. That'd be kind of unexpected, wouldn't it?

What three Swedish albums should Hives fans own? [A]If you can deal with Swedish lyrics, KSMB's Sardjentpepper album. It's one of Sweden's earliest punk bands. It's punk, but it's diverse – reggae bits with a horn section. There's a compilation by Union Carbide Productions called The Golden Age. And Rockers Delight, by Monster. Hives fans should like them – it's like soul punk.

When was your last karaoke experience?

Last November, for my girlfriend's birthday, I did karaoke at a Japanese restaurant. I did a really good version of [Neil Diamond's] "Solitary Man." People wouldn't know, but I'm a great baritone.

What was the reaction like?

Absolute awe. It was dark, though, so I couldn't see if they were crying.

What are your favorite slow songs by rock bands?

On the Saints' second album, Eternally Yours, a song called "Memories Are Made of This." Not the Dean Martin tune. My dad says one of the best moments in music history is Sid Vicious doing "My Way," and I think I agree. There's some feeling there – most people assume it's a joke.

Is there a recent song you wish you'd written?

Three famous ones would be the OutKast tune "Hey Ya!," [the White Stripes'] "Seven Nation Army" and "Say My Name," by Destiny's Child. What a fantastic pop song! It's fabulous.

Have you ever trashed a hotel room?

I have, but not in a fit of rock-star craziness. We were having fun, moving all the furniture from a few rooms into one, and we weren't trying to break anything, but we did. It was more like redecorating than trashing.

What's the most beautiful thing you've seen from a stage?

People. At one show they all dressed like us, which was kinda weird. It was when we were wearing the black-shirt/white-tie combination, which was really easy to copy. Now there's more work involved in copying.

What bands, besides the Hives, of course, look best onstage?

Muddy Waters and Kraftwerk. Muddy always dressed really well, and Kraftwerk, they dress up their robots really well. Also, Crime, the punk band, used to wear police uniforms – they looked really good.

What's your favorite smell onstage? Weed? Sweat?

Myself. I don't really sniff a lot onstage. I'm busy doing other stuff.

You have to sniff sometimes! Do you wear cologne?

No, I just naturally smell good.

Have you been pelted onstage?

If they throw stuff, I take it as a token of their appreciation. And it's the mark of a good performer if you ignore it and go about your business. I actually got a bunch of keys to my head once. Someone's house keys, like fifty of them. They must've had a lot of houses. Crowd members have tried to beat us up in the past.

Now why would they do that?

Because they felt small compared to our larger-than-life stage presence.