Nickelback: Heavy, we’re telling you!

Nickelback as a band is the victim of a huge misunderstanding, that of being perceived as a “ballad band” whereas its discography is actually full of irresistible heavy hits. After all, it is indeed the band’s ballads, and only its ballads, that we consistently hear on the radio. The band would actually like to see the mass media focus on the variety of its discography, and particularly its heavier songs, as Mike Kroeger, bass player and the brother of frontman Chad, explains in the following interview. But this is how things work in the big music industry which pretends to care for the wellbeing of the people’s innocent ears.

Mocked by a conservative segment of the metal community, which locks itself deep into assumptions and codes, Nickelback can’t however be bothered. Kroeger even shows some understanding for the metalhead community to which he considers belonging to.

« The one thing that I’m not necessarily happy with no matter the record is the feeling that we kind of have to rush it again. »

Radio Metal: How are you doing?

Mike Kroeger (bass): I’m doing OK, it’s just that I’m just getting up right now, we’ve been in the studio for the last few nights, it’s been late work!

Is it work for the new album?

Actually, we’re recording some music for future things, I don’t know if it’s going to be on the new album or not!

What does it sound like?

This one just starts developing right now, it sounds epic and kind of big! I’m sure you’ll hear it one way or another. We’ll see what it will get used for.

Is it possible that you release that on another project than Nickelback?

It will for sure be for Nickelback; but it may be a Nickelback album or it may be for something else, we never know…

Your last album was released two years ago. What do you think of this album, now that some time has passed?

I’m pretty happy with it. I guess you always look back at your work, and there are always a few things that you’re not happy with. And the one thing that I’m not necessarily happy with no matter the record is the feeling that we kind of have to rush it again. I can hear things and I know things that are in there that could be better. It’s always that way when you’re doing art, you look back and there are things that you want to go back and change!

How was the album perceived by the fans from your perspective?

Fantastic, everybody seem to be really good with it! They seem to like it. To the best of my knowledge, they liked it! (laughs)

« When I do hear people say or print those things; I instantly realize that they haven’t listened to any of our other music… »

Nickelback tours are always quite long; you release an album every three years, while most of the bands do it every two years. Do you need to be on the road and those long tours to get inspired?

I don’t know if it’s to get inspired so much, but you try to get out in front of fans of around the world as much as you possibly can, and that’s really the goal! Of course it is inspiring to get out there and see that people are enjoying the work you do. That helps a lot!

Nickelback’s music is often very heavy and especially on the last few albums. Yet, the band is known essentially for its ballads. Because of that, some metalheads still see Nickelback as this very “soft” rock band. Does that bother you somehow?

I don’t know if it bothers me. What it does is when I do hear people say or print those things; I instantly realize that they haven’t listened to any of our other music… And, that’s OK. The Metalheads community in which I’m in, people can sometimes write off an artist for sounding kind of commercial or mainstream… That’s OK.

Chad recently said in an interview: “Many Nickelback haters secretly love us”. Do you think some true metalheads actually love your band but are too ashamed to say it because it’s not “true metal” to like Nickelback?

Yeah, I wouldn’t blame them. Let’s put it this way: as a metalhead, I wouldn’t blame any metalhead who didn’t want to go on the record and say “it’s my band!” (laughs) You know what I mean? If he or she listens to it and didn’t want to go out in public and say that, I would be fine with it, because I know that there is a sort of a code among metalheads concerning bands like us, or any other band that aren’t “cool” to like… that’s OK. But the fact and the matter is I know that we record music on every record that is heavy, that has a lot of impact and we produce very heavy sounding music at times.

« I know that there is a sort of a code among metalheads concerning bands like us, or any other band that aren’t “cool” to like… »

Nickelback is a sort of combination between rock, grunge and metal. What are the influences of the metal side of your music? What are your favorite metal bands?

The Big 4 is one of my favorites. All four of those bands, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax are of course standards. But I do listen to Meshuggah quite a lot. I really like them a lot. That’s my version of what’s heavy. Meshuggah is heavy, very heavy. And I like Deftones a lot. There’s also a lot of really good metal out there that are just coming around too.

Can we expect Nickeback using a heavy song as a single in the future, instead of a ballad?

We really wish we could, but no one would play it [on the radio], especially in Europe, that’s the trouble. It’s completely unpalatable for the radio and TV, like MTV or whoever does actually playing music videos now. To release heavy things into that world is virtual suicide, you know? They won’t play it or recognize it at all, because they think that nobody wants to hear it, you know? I think they’re wrong, but… We wish we could release songs like that into the world for the public, so that you wouldn’t have to buy a Nickelback album to hear a heavy metal song, you could hear it on the radio, but they’re just never going to play it. The gatekeepers of the music industry make sure that nothing like that makes it out there.

Do you record attractive and simple ballads because you have to in order to be sure that you will be broadcasted?

Well, the thing is that we actually write music like that and we write heavy metal songs and we write mid-tempo kind of rock songs. We write all those things and we try to touch as many styles as we can, just because you know, if you listen to our music, that we go through many, many styles. We want to touch as many styles as possible. It just turns out that they broadcast only our ballads.

« To release heavy things into that world is virtual suicide. […] Because they think that nobody wants to hear it, you know? I think they’re wrong. »

You’ll be releasing a “best-of” compilation this year. Will you try to have on this compilation a balance between ballads and some more heavy stuff in order to well represent the work of the band?

The thing is it’s going to be hard finding the songs that fit. Because, it’s not being groomed as a “best-of” necessarily; it’s being groomed as the “hits”. In being the “hits”, we have to go with songs that have had some commercial success. And I think a lot of those are going to be the ballads, but I’m sure we’ll try to sneak in [some other type of songs]. Because we have had some songs that have been number one in North America that are a little bit heavier, we’ll try to get those into.

I have a kind of joke question for the end of this interview: did Steel Panther play at your brother’s wedding (with Avril Lavigne)?

(laughs) No, they didn’t. I think they were trying to do that but they didn’t come in the end.

Do you think that in the next album, Chad’s happiness after being married will somehow influence him in the writing? That we will have a very positive album thanks to that?

Well, he seems to be very happy right now, so I guess that that very well could be, that it could have more of a positive influence because he’s happy on his marriage. But that remains to be seen, because we still like to write heavy songs, happy or not, it’s sort of where we are coming from, you know? We all come from that “Big Four” metal world, you know? So, I’m sure there will be some more heavy music in there.

That will be it for us, do you have one last thing to say?

I just can’t wait being over there and play for the people in France!

Interview conducted by phone on July, 23rd 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Amphisbaena.

Nickelback’s official website: www.nickelback.com

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