Nickelback: The band we love to hate

By Scott Kara

It's fashionable to diss Nickelback but as Scott Kara is reminded, they still have legions of fans and sell millions of concert tickets all over the world.

Nickelback. Photo / Supplied
Nickelback. Photo / Supplied

Mike Kroeger - brother of Nickelback frontman Chad - knows he is in one of the most derided rock bands on the planet. The thing is, the Canadian hard rockers are also one of the biggest bands in the world. So, well, so there, reckons Kroeger.

And on the phone from Nickelback's home base of Vancouver, ahead of their show at Vector Arena on November 30, the chipper-sounding bass player and founding member of the band says he'd rather people had a yarn with him about "what they think of my band" than vent their hate online.

"The fact of the matter is, probably a lot of those people have our records and come to our shows," he laughs. "We sell millions of concert tickets and I can't help but think some of those haters are posting these things and there is a delicious irony there."

He's probably right, because they have legions of fans, with 50 million albums sold around the world and have played venues like the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in London for years now.

But many people can't stand them - from those who see their music as formulaic and safe, to more high-profile haters like fellow November touring band the Black Keys who recently blamed Nickelback for the death of rock 'n' roll.

"Rock and roll is dying because people became okay with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world," drummer Patrick Carney told Rolling Stone magazine recently. "So they became okay with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit."

Carney later apologised.

Kroeger, who, it has to be pointed out again, really doesn't give a hoot about the haters, reasons that the band has been a high-profile target because their career has evolved in line with the rise of social media.

"Being a hater used to be a lot harder," he says. "Before the advent of the internet, blogs, and social media it used to be very inconvenient to be a hater because you couldn't really spread your hate world-wide with a key stroke like you can now."

Kroeger remembers back to his late teens when Metallica released the "Black" album and fans hit out at the band for selling out with a more commercial and accessible sound.

"But they couldn't do it in a world-wide fashion so it didn't really get out there. Now, there is some sort of weird lightning rod or whatever for that sort of stuff and it's such an easy thing to do to spew hate, and it can go around the globe in five seconds."

Then again, the Kroegers have never been scared of confrontation and a bit of rabble-rousing - especially Chad, who was a Metallica-loving bad boy when he was growing up.

Mike Kroeger says his brother has always been creative, but "he lacked direction as a kid and that's why I think he was always getting into trouble".

Once young Chad realised he could write songs he knuckled down and his creative streak kicked in. And these days he is - whether you like it or not - one of the most popular songwriters in the world.

"This guy - regardless of what anybody thinks - the fact of the matter is you can put Chad in a room with any songwriter in the world and he is a creative force."

Kroeger says producer Mutt Lange - Shania Twain's ex and producer of albums such as AC/DC's Highway to Hell, Def Leppard's Hysteria, and Nickelback's Dark Horse from 2008 - referred to his brother as a "tap".

"Turn it on and the creative stuff just comes out," he says proudly. "And he's constantly working his songwriting talent, learning and evolving as a songwriter. It's one of those things; if you have a gift as a songwriter, it's like a muscle that the more you work the stronger you become. That's what he's doing. I think he's getting really good, and I think that is the most prevalent evolution that we've undergone."

It's been just over 10 years since Nickelback broke through with third album Silver Side Up, which included Kroeger's aching rock anthem and most well-known song, How You Remind Me.

From then on Nickelback became heavy rock torchbearers. Silverside follow-up The Long Road did okay, but with the release of 2005's All the Right Reasons they were bigger than ever.

That album, with staples Photograph and Faraway on it (both of which they still play live), became their biggest record with more than 11 million sales.

The band's latest album, Here and Now, has a noticeably more aggressive edge to it - even though naysayers won't believe it - like on opener This is War.

"Chad was going through something at the time, that I'm not going to go into, but he had a personal struggle and at the same moment we were really looking for some heavy rock and anger is the perfect channel for heavy music and there was a little bit of anger there."

Though being musically adventurous is probably not what makes Nickelback an enduring band, Kroeger puts the band's longevity down to loyalty and unity.

"We are a family and have been for a long time," he says. "We've been through all kinds of things - loss, success, failure, hard times, good times, and we've brought new children into the world. We've gone through all the emotions and we're still together. So it becomes one of those things it's no longer just the band, no longer just the business, it's family."

So Nickelback are doing okay, which, says Kroeger, means they have the luxury of doing things on their own terms and having a good work-life balance.

"I talk to other musicians and they ask me what I do when Nickelback aren't touring. 'Do you do side projects? What do you do to occupy yourself?'.

"I sure don't do music," he laughs.

"I'd much rather spend time with my family, or surf, and do pretty much everything but play music.

"And besides I'm not actually that interested in playing with any one else but Nickelback. That's what my thing is."

Who: Nickelback
What: Canadian hard rockers
Where and when: Vector Arena, November 30
Latest album: Here and Now (2011)
Also listen to: Silver Side Up (2001); All the Right Reasons (2005)

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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