In the Here and Now: Nickelback bassist dishes the dirt
If you thought Eminem and Elton John performing ‘Stan’ at the 2001 Grammy Awards was an unusual musical collaboration, how about Nickelback, the hard rock post-grunge band, touring with teen heartthrob baby faced Justin Bieber?
Speaking to tabloid! while walking the streets of Paris, Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger was quick to say it’s unlikely. “I don’t think we’ll travel with Justin Bieber — our audiences are quite drastically different. He has a really young girl fan base, we have some of that too but we have other fans who I don’t think will dig Justin Bieber and similarly the Bieber fans will not enjoy listening to Nickelback. We’d like to hang out with the guy for sure but we’ve never met.”
However, Kroeger is quite proud of his fellow countryman, “You could say Justin is a big deal right now. He is really doing well and we are happy for him. I think we can all remember when we heard about this little guy coming out and all of a sudden it explodes and now he’s a megastar, probably one of the biggest stars in the world right now. It’s good to see him doing what he does and he’s making all the right moves.”
He also opened up about two other Canadians making headlines: his brother Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger and punk-pop starlet Avril Lavigne, who announced their engagement in August this year. “Oh Avril and Chad! You know what? If it makes Chad happy I support it. And he seems very, very, very happy right now, as happy as I’ve ever seen him.”
While he did not reveal when the wedding would be, he’s sure to play a huge role in it. “Growing up, we did everything together. It was always Mike and Chad. So Nickelback is just a continuation of our childhood only on a different scale. We are still very close to each other, share everything and are also supportive of one another.”
The close relationship he shares with his brother could be a factor in why Kroeger is not bothered that he is the face of the band and hogs the limelight. “I’m not famous. Just like the yesteryears, the lead singer is still the one that everyone recognizes and I have no trouble with that, actually. I am very happy to just blend in and just be a normal person when I am not on stage.”
“Also it is usually Chad who brings the bulk of the ideas in and then we collaborate together just to finish things off. He brings the songs at various stages of completion and we go from there and try to piece them together and make them as good as they can be. Being creative is one thing but you need to have a sort of sounding board or a way to air these things and get other peoples opinion. Writing in a vacuum is very difficult to do because once you get out there you never know if you’ll be perceived as a genius or if you’ll ever write a song again.”
“And like in any creative environment, we have our differences and disagreements. Every once in a while, somebody has to let go of an idea. It something I have been learning and Chad learnt a long time ago is that you cant get too married to any of your ideas . You have to be ready to have them criticized and maybe discarded. It’s a hard thing to do but you have to learn to do it.”
Another thing every artist has to learn to deal with is criticism. And Nickelback have had their fair share: the Black Keys have blamed them for the “death of Rock and Roll”, deemed them too commercial and have accused them of being a pop machine parading as a rock band.
On hearing this, he pauses and then lets out a long hearty laugh. After composing himself, he continues, “I find that really, really funny. It’s all a little too tongue in cheek because it is totally ridiculous. I think the Black Keys are the Nickelback for the hipster community so I don’t really think it’s a fair thing to say necessarily.”
“You can’t possibly take these things seriously. It’s like many things printed in the media, you have to really consider the source and possibly the motive of saying something and usually it just comes off as plain silly.”
Nickelback have had their share of bouquets too: Billboard ranks them as the top group of the decade and their song “How You Remind Me” was billed as the top rock song of the decade. And more recently, the band was nominated for ‘Best Concert Tour of 2012’ at the 5th annual Eventful Fans’ Choice Awards. The winner will be announced at the Billboard Touring Awards.
“Oh wow, I did not know that. Our recently concluded Here and Now tour has been better than ever really, so it’s interesting that it was chosen to be nominated. The trip took us to Europe and it was just spectacular, easily our best trip and possibly our best tour to date. We just had so much fun and right now I am in Paris just recovering from it. “
“We toured with Bush, Seether and Daughtry for Here and Now. We didn’t know Bush before this tour but now that we have toured with them we are like brothers and you know the same can be said about Daughtry and Seether. We’ve gone on tour with them many times before and we are all very close friends. The amount of time we’ve spent together working and just travelling to all these different parts of the world has just made us closer.”
“Chad, Ryan Peake [guitarist and back up vocalist], Danielle Adair [drummer] and I, we all listened to Metallica a lot And for Chad especially they set the standard of what a rock band should be like and we still use that as a benchmark as to what sounds good. Yet, I think the best band to tour with, which is not possible now, is Led Zeppelin in their heyday. I would have loved to been around at that time, to tour with them and just see them invent heavy rock. It would have been a historical occasion.”
“With our latest album, “Here and Now”, we have taken a more stripped down and a simpler approach. It is kind of how we are touring now. We’ve done the thing with the drum set flying around and all that stuff so now we are focusing on a more raw show and so the album is an expression of simplicity. It’s like a back to basics thing.“
And it looks like Isaac Slade of The Fray is not the only rockstar who earned a few pennies at a coffee shop before he was gainfully employed in music.
“I really liked working at the coffee shop, especially the social aspect of a coffee shop community. People would come in talk and share ideas and I found that a cool environment to be placed in for work. I generally wouldn’t go to that kind of thing, to just go and socialize while sipping coffee. But work placed me in those situations and forced me to be a more social creature that I am.”
“We were struggling to find a name for the band and a lot of people would come into the coffee shop to purchase a coffee that was for $1.45 and would give me a $1.50 and very frequently I would find myself saying, “Here’s your nickel back.” After saying it probably hundreds of times it occurred to me that it sounded interesting as one word.”
“I stopped work in the middle of the morning rush and called the guys to ask them if they thought it was a good band name. Thankfully it wasn’t one we didn’t completely hate so we decided to give it a shot and it all just took off.”
“The only problem I have with fame is that I am never really home. I don’t really have a problem with the fans following me around and the paparazzi too. But I don’t get to see my friends because I am never home. I do miss it and I do look back fondly on the old days. But the thing is you do realize that those old days are over and you cannot just go back. You have to go back in time effectively to really get back that. “
“The last time I was in the UAE I made lifetime memories. While the guys went out to the desert I actually hired a car and went down to Abu Dhabi for the day. A friend of mine was working there so I went to visit him, he is an architect and was building the zero carbon community [Masdar]. I also went to the Abu Dhabi Combat Club and trained jiu jitsu with all those crazy people there. That was so fun, that is one of the highlights of my life actually.”
“And I think its going to be a lot of fun to play over in the UAE again. I am really excited because I like it there a lot. And our fans can expect a big loud rock show!”