March 27, 2015 Interview – Mike Kroeger of Nickelback
Success comes with sacrifice, determination, and hard work. Canadian rockers Nickelback began that long journey two decades ago as an independent band fighting their way to get noticed in a tough industry. Finally breaking through with the major label release of The State in 2000, the band would soon rise to the top of a roller-coaster that has steadily climbed since with multi-platinum records and countless awards, dubbing them one of the most successful Rock acts of the 21st century. While a household name in the mainstream, Nickelback has often be discounted by some Rock fans due to their mass popularity, but do they really know what this band is all about? Recently we sat down with bassist Mike Kroeger for a closer look into Nickelback’s world, their dedication to being a live band, life on the road, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Nickelback has had quite an amazing run over the past two decades. You quickly went from an independent band in 1995 to platinum success in a few years. Tell us what has the journey been like for yourself and the band?
Mike Kroeger – Well it is kind of one of those overnight successes that was eight years in the making. It looks like it just came out of nowhere as it always does. You look at Metallica’s career, before they even became cult favorites, they had been out for over ten years. That is just what it takes. It takes a long time to build something, and it is no different for us. It was a lot of work, no pay, and very few people paying attention or caring. You just soldier through it and hope that your music somehow reacts with people if you keep going, and blessedly, thankfully for us, Chad wrote a bunch of killer songs. The people loved it, and the people kind of claimed us.
CrypticRock.com – It really seemed things started taking off around the 2000’s with The State (1999). That was a turning point into the mainstream, but when Silver Side Up (2001) came out, that is when everything went to a different stratosphere. What was your reaction when you saw the overwhelming positive response to that record?
Mike Kroeger – I remember very clearly the day when that album came out. Silver Side Up was release September 11th of 2001. There was a deep wound in the country and of the hearts of America. I think that we were a part of healing that and giving some comfort to people without milling it or being obvious about it. People were emotionally robbed and ready for something that felt good. Luckily, we had the right song at the right time.
CrypticRock.com – It has been a long time, but yes you are right. The band has since become one of the biggest in modern Rock. Obviously, with such success there are always going to be naysayers. Many unjustifiably discount the band when in fact, if they actually listened to each album, they will hear that this band is quite a heavy Rock band and does not simply write radio hits. How do you and the band look at that criticism by some?
Mike Kroeger – You kind of illustrated it very well right there in that explanation, especially at the end. People can easily draw conclusions that are inaccurate if you do not have all the information. I think that you assertion is absolutely correct. The people that think that all our songs sound the same are the people that are listening to the radio. That is the only place that they hear us, and the reason is that the radio plays a certain kind of song. We have recorded a lot of songs that radio likes, but we have recorded a lot of songs that radio just would not play, and we knew it. There are heavy Rock songs, and that is where our core is. Heavy Rock is a big part of our core and our being. Those songs, I am sure have not been heard by the people that suggest that we roll from one Pop power ballad to another. I do not think that they have all the information. Although you know it is not different than anything else, the story is what you want it to be. If you do not go looking, you won’t find what you do not want to find (laughing). You can miss inform yourself, anyone can do it. It is about getting what you want and that is truly what this becomes. It is not about news truths or news facts, it is about news stories, so that is ok.
CrypticRock.com – Right, exactly. What is so amazing about Nickelback is the band does in fact still sells records in an era where no one is buying music anymore. The band’s latest record No Fixed Address came out in late 2014. Many are turning heads and saying this could be the band’s most diverse to date. What was the writing process like this time around?
Mike Kroeger – As the name of it implies, the reason of the title of the album is because we traveled around the world as we made this record. We recorded at different locals whether it be California, Western Canada, Hawaii, or Europe. We traveled all over the place and set up a studio. We would rent a house for two to eight weeks at a time, we would just set up a studio there, write and record, and then move out and just pack up everything and head out to the next destination, wherever that is. It kept things fresh, it kept things feeling new. Also, when you unpack all the things, you put up the track that you recorded at the last house, you listen to it, and sometimes you can hear things that you would like to do differently. You hear and give it that high quality control because you get those breaks in time to keep it fresh.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and that is actually pretty cool that you guys wrote the album in different locations like that. There are certainly a lot of heavy tracks on the album as well as ones which feature some other styling, for example, “She Keeps Me Up” almost has a very dancy, Disco vibe. Was it the band’s intent to make this a record that had no boundaries?
Mike Kroeger – Over the years, more and more, each time we have kind of pressed outward and then tried to explore new territory. This one is no exception. This is the first time we ever had a rapper (Flo Rida) on board, which is really unusual. It is also the first time that we have had a dominant guest female singer (Ali Tamposi) on board, so that is cool. It is just that we have got to try some new things and it worked out.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, they certainly did. It is really a great record. Now, as we mentioned earlier about misconceptions many make about Nickelback, this band is actually a killer live act. You are extremely heavy and full of life on stage. Do you look forward to going out there and surprising people with the live performances?
Mike Kroeger – It is kind of how we got where we are. We have always been a live band from the beginning. That is where we have made this band what it is as far as getting out there and playing live. Without that we would still be writing songs in the basement. If we did not have an impressive, tight, and strong live show, this never would have worked. In that spirit, we continue to keep it up and keep it strong so that when people do come, whether it be the people that have only heard us on the radio or the hardcore fans that know the lyrics to every song, we want everybody to leave going, “Wow, I just saw a real live band.” I know for a fact that there is a lot of artists out there that can write great songs and can record great albums, but when it comes time to do it live, they cannot do it. We have worked very diligently to make sure that when it comes time to do it live, that we can do it live.
CrypticRock.com – You certainly do, and as stated, it is a great live band. You are actually in the midst of the No Fixed Address tour which will run all the way through December. This is quite a long run with only a month’s break. How do you approach this massive tour and how is it going?
Mike Kroeger – When we booked in America through the period that you described, also in that break there is a three week tour of Australia and Japan. Then it is off to Europe and Russia to finish up just before Christmas, and then we start up again during 2016 with South America, South Africa, and probably more and more and more. It is just that we have been blessed to go out there. It is cool to walk on stage in a city that you have never been in and a country that you have never been in. The crowd looks just like the crowd looks in wherever, whether it is Grand Rapids, or whatever. They are going nuts, they know all the words, and sometimes it cooler where you are in a country that does not even speak English and they know all the words. We were in Japan and the crowd knew all the words and the people in Japan do not typically speak a lot of English. They are not a culture that they encourage people to use a lot of English, they just do not, but they knew all of our lyrics. It was crazy.
CrypticRock.com – That is unbelievable and that is actually even bigger than I had thought. That is an amazingly long run tour of shows as well. How do you keep yourself healthy through all that, because being on the road can be a stressful lifestyle sometimes?
Mike Kroeger – That is hilarious that you ask, I am sick right now (Coughing and laughing). I think it is just due to the cold weather and the lack of sunshine. I moved to Hawaii about nine years ago and I kind of got used to seeing the sun and being warm every day. We started the tour in Pennsylvania in February and then went up to Canada. Yes, so I guess staying healthy is all just a work in progress (Laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Yes, definitely. Obviously as an experienced touring musician, it is about keeping a good balance with a healthy diet and getting enough rest, right?
Mike Kroeger – You try. The reason people get sick out here is really because it is just a really physically taxing thing to do. You do not really ever sleep very well. You are performing probably more than you should and the conditions are not optimum. There is too many shows and there is not enough rest, and when you do rest, it is not adequate. The diet part is also difficult because sometimes you do not have a lot of choices. You eat what you get, you eat what is there. You do not have time to source things. You do not have time to go out and hunt and gather. You get twenty minutes between interviews and sound check to get lunch, and you are going to have what is at hand. That is going to be it.
CrypticRock.com – Right, completely understandable, and just even more of a testament of the effort that you guys put forth every night with all that going on. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Mike Kroeger – I am not a huge fan of Horror movies. There are the obvious classics like the Hitchcock’s, those are classic. I am a fan of Franz Kafka. He was one of the first prolific Horror writers. He was from Prague, I have read a couple of his books. He has one that is called The Metamorphosis (1915) and another one called In The Penal Colony (1919). Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is more frightening than any movie I have seen in my entire life. It is the story of a guy, who is a normal guy, and he goes through his life, he has got a wife, a normal job, but one day he wakes up and he is a giant insect. It is written in the most horrifying terms. This is also a one-hundred year old. It is terrifying, and I find books a lot more terrifying than what is on screen. What is on screen is the direct translation to your brain whereas what you read your brain has limitless ways of perceiving things and it can become very very out there. It can become very real and gripping even.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, he is an legendary literary figure. There have been a few films that have been adapted from his books, but not many.
Mike Kroeger – Right. I think it is one of those that are almost like sacrilege to do it if you do not get it right. People who are enthusiasts in that world would be very hesitant to step into that arena unless they needed to kill it because coming up short would be a sin.