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Last Word: The Hives’ Pelle Almqvist on rock n’roll, dying and jumping in a hornet’s nest

A rock n' roll legend gives us his indisputable guide to life...

By Nick Reilly

The Hives at Glastonbury (Picture: Aaron Parsons/Rolling Stone UK)

Taken from the latest issue of Rolling Stone UK, this is Last Word. It’s our final section of the magazine where we take a bonafide music legend and ask them about life, navigating the tricky waters of the music biz and how far they’d go to prove their legendary credentials. Up first, it’s Pelle Almqvist, legendary frontman of The Hives.

You recently said that rock’n’roll is a “perpetual teenager”. Does rock’n’roll keep you young?

Yeah, in a way I think it does. Since we toured with the Rolling Stones, I’ve seen them differently because they’re slightly older than my parents, but they do look younger. And Iggy Pop is about the same age as my dad, I think. There’s definitely something about rock’n’roll being the fountain of youth. As long as you don’t die at 27, you can make it for quite a while. Our shows involve a lot of cardio, so maybe that’s what it is! It’s also important to not have a mind-numbing job that you hate. That would [age you by] 10 extra years.

Do you think rock’n’roll will ever die?

Well, rock’n’roll has the distinction of being the only musical form that people talk about dying all the time. Like, no one’s ever said chamber pop is dead or Dixieland jazz is dead. There are a lot of other musical forms that are way more dead than rock’n’roll. There was a feeling that was there before they even called it rock’n’roll. I think it’s, like, a basic human urge that’s somewhere in between something sexual, something destructive and something euphoric. I think that feeling was there with teenagers in the fucking Roman times and in the Stone Age! 

The new album is called The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons. Are you scared of dying?

I think about it way too little because I feel invincible and at a certain point, I’m gonna realise that I’m gonna die soon and fall apart. I should probably think about it more, but then again, you only have so many hours in the day. Whatever I’m doing now is not coming with terms with it; just pretending it won’t happen. That’s the way most of us deal with it. My grandmother died recently at 96, and in the last year of her life, I think she realised that no one else was there anymore. I think it’s a weird realisation, but one better than thinking about it through your teenage years and adulthood.

What’s the most chaotic gig you’ve ever played? 

There have been too many to mention. I guess falling off stage, landing on my head and getting concussion in Switzerland was one thing; then another time where I jumped off the drum kit and destroyed the lighting rig so the whole stage was black. Oh my God, there was the time too when we played in Spain with the whole festival connected to one power outlet. Something was always giving out. First, the PA gave out, and then the back line, and then the lighting rig for bands across the festival. You also see all kinds of weird stuff in the crowd, too.

Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self?

I guess it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if we had taken a short break for a while. We’ve been at it constantly and never had a proper break. There have been years when we do fewer shows and stuff, but we’re never actually taking a break and thinking about the other things we could be doing with our lives. I mean, the pandemic kind of did that to us anyway and made us realise how much we missed being in the house. So that was good. But I think we could have done that earlier.

I don’t know what to call it, I guess it’s a work ethic, but we have a sense of duty in our band where everybody wants to do everything all the time. You know, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world if we had done a bit less of some things.

Other than that, there’s a whole bunch of people we shouldn’t have hired and there’s some people we should have hired! 

Finally, you’re the frontman of The Hives. But how much would we have to pay you to get up close with some hornets without the necessary protection? 

I mean, I’m pretty rich, but I’d do it for a million pounds. I’m kind of into it, actually. Does Rolling Stone UK have a million pounds? I think it’d be quite cool, and money well spent from you guys! I think it’d be very cool.

The Hives’ latest album, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, is set for release on August 11.