There’s something about Nickelback and their indomitable frontman Chad Kroeger that really winds people up. If it’s not Nickelback’s unstoppable global sales or their self-assured, radio-play-engulfing alt.rock anthems that gets under the skin of certain people (mainly music critics), it’s Kroeger’s appearance or his uncompromising personal life. But with a recent global No.1 single, an imminent fifth album, and an enormous tour management deal worth roughly $70 million just signed, Nickelback seem to be having the last laugh. Classic Rock gets the low-down on superstardom, sex and life after How You Remind Me from the man it seems the world loves to hate.
Q&A: Chad Kroeger
The Nickelback frontman on hitting supernova after This Is How You Remind Me. He considers whether he'd trade commercial success for the status of critics' darling... would he hell!
What can we expect from Dark Horse, Nickelback's album number six?
There’s heavy, thrown-down party songs on this one, and then there’s party songs that are more laidback and sound like we’re in a pub; there’s some nasty, filthy sex songs on there – Next Go Around and S.E.X. It’s just all over the map. One track is called If Today Was Your Last Day, a motivational-type song: if you knew that you weren’t gonna be on this earth in a week, what would you do? You’d probably try to do all the things that you talked about doing but put them off, because you’re taking your days for granted. Live ’em all like they’re your last.
Is this Nickelback’s most hedonistic album so far?
We’ve joked so many times that we should just call the album Sex And Drinking [laughs]. There is some filthy shit there.
I mean, when your band members start turning to you, going: “Are you really gonna say that?”, that’s when you know you’ve got something good.
Where does all that testosterone come from? I thought you were happily married with kids?
No, I’m not. I wanna push the envelope.
I don’t want everybody to say: “Oh, it’s another nice little Nickelback song.” I want people going: “Wow! He just said that!” [laughs] I wanna shock some people. We’ve gotten about as heavy as we’re gonna get, and as melodic I think as we’re gonna get. So now what else do we do? Well, let’s go sideways [laughs].
Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange is producing. You could have done this yourself, like the last one. Why hire someone so iconic?
I always told the band: “Hey, we’ll just continue to do it ourselves, but if there was any chance that Mutt Lange would ever be interested in working with us, then I would definitely let him man the ship.”
Apparently he’s a very reclusive guy.
He’s an introvert but I wouldn’t call him a recluse – he loves sports. There has to be sports on at all times in the control room. I know every single Olympic Gold medal that was handed out, because we watched them all.
Twenty-six million albums sold. Did you find the golden key to radio airplay?
I just think it has something to do with making sure that every song that you put out is the best it can be. I find it disappointing sometimes – you can tell an artist probably put 45 days into something that should have taken six months. I would never wanna do that to a fan of ours and have them go: “Hmm, it’s like Rambo 3 – not as good as Rambo 2. And still not as good as Rambo.”
Why are you the guy people love to hate?
I don’t know. Everybody formulates an opinion when they know who you are. Are we the whipping boy of the critics? Probably. Do we mind? No! And would I ever trade our success with our fans for good reviews? Not in a heartbeat.
You just signed this massive deal with Live Nation to handle merchandise, website, licensing, sponsorship, fan club, DVD and broadcasting rights.
It’s a good company. I think Nickelback and Live Nation are both very like-minded, just in our work ethic alone. They wanna go out and make the band as big as they possibly can as a promoter. That’s fantastic. We enjoy working hard, and we love going around the world and playing our music for as many people as we can. Is it because there’s now more money to be made from touring than from record sales? These days I don’t think we’re doing it for the money. It’s not really about that. Is the money nice? Yeah, it’s fantastic. But I’m terrified to see the day where we don’t care about the music anymore. When we were four kids sitting in a garage, we were never thinking: “God, I just can’t wait to be rich.” More like, “God, I can’t wait to see all the chicks in the front row” [laughs].
You’re still the same guys as when you started this band 10 years ago.
I think a lot of people thought the last record would be the end and that we would just continue to decline into nothing. It almost never happens where a band comes out with a big bang and then comes up with another one. We’ve already defied what most people thought we would ever do, so I’m very happy with that.
Are you a workaholic?
Mike [Kroeger, bass] goes back to Maui and hangs out and does the family thing, and Ryan [Peake, guitar] does the same thing but not in Maui. But Daniel [Adair, drums] and I just keep making music. Creating something, you get so excited to show it somebody else and hope they enjoy it.
You've got 604 Records, you've got the band. Are you still into building houses?
Not so much with the real estate anymore. That was fun for a little while, but it starts getting really stressful. It’s just something else I wanted to try, you know.
In the Playboy interview you did you talked about your days as a juvenile delinquent and sucking your own penis for a case of beer. That was hilarious.
I was definitely trying to get a rise out of them! I was also hammered, by the way. It was supposed to be a bit light-hearted, but I also told him some pretty dark family secrets that my mom wasn’t too happy about.
So next time I should bring some wine and be more pushy?
No, not at all! But you know the drill, right? I mean, what winds up on that page is only half of what gets talked about in the room. But it was funny.
“I’M NOT HITLER!”
Chad Kroeger has shrugged off most of the personal and professional batterings he's received over the years, but occasionally cracks appear.
In 2002 he invited a British journalist to a revenge boxing match. He derided critical status with: “Who’s the most famous music critic that ever lived? They’ve never made a statue.” And on whether Kroeger had lost sleep over a bad review, he said: “Probably. But do you think I would tell a music critic? If my music is fucking up your life, change the station, dude. I’m a guy who sings in a rock’n’roll band. I’m not Hitler.”