Nickelback happy to be music critics' punching bag
Do Alberta-raised rockers Nickelback even care about their naysayers after 50 million in album sales over the last two decades?
In the U.S. alone, the group is the second best-selling foreign artist after The Beatles in the 2000s.
Apparently, commercial success comes with its own set of problems.
“It sparks (critical backlash),” said lead singer Chad Kroeger with guitarist Ryan Peake in Toronto recently before Nickelback’s nine-city, month-long arena tour of Canada begins Feb. 17.
“I mean we are the critics' punching bag so when all these stats keep getting thrown out that have to do with our success that just pisses them off, which totally makes me happy.”
Added Peake (joking) of the critics: “They’re mentioned in the same sentence as The Beatles? How DARE they!”
Said Kroeger with a laugh: “I tried to put a banner over the bed but the wife (Avril Lavigne) was not having it. She just does not like that statistic at all.”
Their appropriately named new LP No Fixed Address found the band – rounded out by bassist Mike Kroeger (Chad’s older brother) and drummer Daniel Adair – recording with a portable studio in dressing rooms, tour buses and arenas on their last European tour and in rented places in Los Angeles, Maui (where Mike lives) and Vancouver (where Peake and Adair reside).
The album includes rapper Flo Rida on the song Got Me Runnin’ Around, and the band’s most political song to date, Edge of a Revolution.
“We’ve kind of been trying to get a little bit heavier and more melodic and go in more directions with each record,” said Kroeger. “And then we just kind of got to a point where, ‘Well, we can’t really get any heavier so what do you want to do? What should we try now?’ Then it was just like, ‘Well, why don’t we try something a little bit funky?' At one point the song is reaching a stage where you could really hear everything that was going on and our engineer-slash-producer that’s been working on this whole record with us, his name is Chris Baseford, we looked at each other and just went, ‘Horns. Let’s get some horns.’ So we hired the guys that did Michael Jackson’s Thriller and got ‘em in there and hired some ladies to do some singing on it and the next thing you know Flo Rida’s rapping on it. And all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Alright, THIS is a left turn.’”
Edge of a Revolution, meanwhile, has been attributed in the press as being inspired by the police shooting of civilian Michael Brown in Ferguson last August, but it was written and recorded long before that incident even occurred.
“It was completely taken out of context,” said Peake. “It was brought up because there’s a lot of civil unrest these days... and that (Ferguson shooting) was just brought up as an example and then all of sudden media were running with it saying, ‘It was the inspiration for the song.’ We were just like, ‘God, we just get things twisted.’ It’s so unfortunate you almost don’t want to elaborate on these things. It’s a snapshot of what is happening in the world.
“Writing songs about politics is a razor’s edge we’re finding,” Peake continued. “I’ve seen somebody comment about the Hong Kong riots saying that we’re helping to cause uprising and discontent over there.”
Added Kroeger, laughing: “I’d love to see somebody actually pin a revolution on us. ‘Well, if it wasn’t for that Nickelback song, none of this s--- would have happened!’”
Said Peake: “Yeah, I thought we’d always be like Bill and Ted’s (fledgling band) Wyld Stallyns where we’re like a wild card knucklehead band that unites the world. Oh, no, no, we’re the one that’s just going to slice it right in half.”
How the new songs will be reflected in the new tour’s production remains to be seen, Kroeger said.
“We’ve seen all this mock-up and computer generated images of what it’s going to look like and so they’re building this monstrosity and it’ll be fun to ‘insert band here.’”
Added Peake: “In the same breath, we want to show off the songs too. We had such a great experience with the last tour we had in Europe. It just felt like every show was a great sing-along. It felt like a celebration of songs in a way. And I like that. Whether we incorporate some toys or tricks and stuff, it’s always back to the songs.”
But both men say coming home to play Canada is always a unique experience.
“There’s just something about it,” said Kroeger. “We know a bunch of our friends are going to be in the crowd.”
Added Peake: “We’ve been to a lot of cities and sometimes if feels like Groundhog Day. And then in Canada there’s something about it, I feel, is a little special.”
“I want to make sure that there isn’t one ounce of energy left when I get off the stage in Calgary and Edmonton,” summed up Kroeger. “I just give it everything. And I hope that they can feel that because it is special for me – that’s going home.”
'Chavril' doing fine, Chad Kroeger says
Despite reports to the contrary last September suggesting they were separating, Chavril is still going strong.
So says Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, who married fellow Canadian music star Avril Lavigne (10 years his junior) on July 1, 2013.
“It’s been great,” said Kroeger. “Our biggest concern is trying to find 10 minutes when we can spend with each other because when she’s not travelling, I am. I flew from South Africa to New York, finished my six-week run in Europe and got on her tour bus and that was a little hard. But these are the things we do for love.”
So will Lavigne (who direct messaged a fan in December after this interview took place saying that she was having “health issues”) be on the Nickelback tour bus in February and March?
“I think she’ll probably be on and off,” said Kroeger. “Yeah, we try and spend two weeks on, two weeks off, when one of us is touring. We’ve got a big one coming. And every time someone keeps asking us about it – 62 dates – ‘G--, can we do this? Can we pull this off?’ And that’s just North America.”
As for her influencing the songs on the new Nickelback album, No Fixed Address, Kroeger - who helped write and produce Lavigne’s self-titled 2013 fifth album - says not so much.
“Not really,” he said. “She was a good sounding board. I would just play her things and ask her opinion on stuff.”