Nickelback is one of the most successful rock bands in the world – and one of the most polarising. You either like them or loathe them. There’s no middle ground.
Bassist Mike Kroeger isn’t sure and doesn’t really care – but he has a few theories.
“When you start out as a band you want everybody to know who you are, and to recognise what you’re doing. The part of that you don’t prepare for is that just because people know who you are, they’re not necessarily going to like you. But it’s something you get used to.”
Timing is also a factor, he says, getting warmed up. He is candid and open when sharing his thoughts. Refreshingly so.
“When we first got started it was right in the middle of the ‘file sharing’ revolution with Napster and I really feel that without that we wouldn’t be here right now,” Kroeger says.
“It was a very new thing and not everyone liked it but I think a lot of people found out about Nickelback because of it.
“The other technological nexus that I think is relevant to us is that online phenomena where people feel that they have to share their vote on everything to the world at large. It’s interesting – a lot of these people come from democracies where their vote counts and I suppose they think that everyone wants to hear what they have to say.
“People in general, we just don’t talk about what we like. We are much louder when we talk about what we hate or something we think other people hate. It’s that Roman mentality of wanting to see people hurt, to go down, to fail. And that’s OK, that’s what people are like.
“You can’t take it too seriously. We don’t. Commentary can be funny, and we as a band all have a great sense of humour if somebody says something about us that is legitimately funny and original and meaningful, and not just lazy humour, like that confirmation bias I mentioned.
“But a lot of it is people kind of losing the plot because they think that by being mean, they’re being funny. And mean is not funny. It’s mean. Also, these comments never happen in person. It would be really interesting if someone did step up. We could definitely talk it out and it would be great. But it doesn’t happen.”
People can bag them out, but Nickelback are one of the most commercially successful bands of the past two decades. In Australia alone five consecutive albums of theirs debuted in the top five. Nickelback have sold-out 12 international tours and their song How You Remind Me was named Billboard’s Top Rock Song of the Decade and was fourth in the top 10 songs of the 2000s list.
The Canadian foursome don’t take this success for granted. Their Facebook page is very pleasant, for want of a better word. Posts are articulate and positive, with frequent references to the word “humbled”. Kroeger says it’s deliberate and calculated.
For Nickelback, making music is all about the fans. For the fans. It’s something the band has been criticised for in the past, that they don’t deviate from a proven formula. They don’t feel that staying the course, musically, is stifling their creativity.
Kroeger has gone even further and called artists out for being “self indulgent” by changing their music purely for “creative reasons”. He stands by his comments.
“Look, I can only speak for myself but I know what I like. Most of the artists I listen to are not really that well known because they do their thing and they don’t change their sound every album – and I wouldn’t like it if they did.
“There’s been a handful of artists who done that with varying degrees of success and that’s their thing, that’s how they operate, and that’s cool. But it’s not for us.
“There is a band from your part of the world, AC/DC, who actually went on the record and said they’d been writing the same album since the ’70s. Their fans – and I’m one of them – we love that. I don’t want AC/DC to be reinvented, I want them to keep doing what they have always done. When you figure out how to be great, why would you change?
“I did read a story Angus [Young] did years ago and the interviewer said to him ‘What do you say to all the people that say this album sounds just like your last album?’ And he said ‘I say they’re full of shit. This album sounds like all of our albums. They all sound like AC/DC’.”
“And I agree with that. When you figure out what people want, and what people like, and what they like about it, changing it for the sake of yourself seems kinda, I don’t know, kinda crazy. Stay home and play in your room by yourself, experiment, and think ‘Wow I am so smart, this is so good’, and then get out there and give the people what they actually want.”
Their music resonates with Australian fans much the same as it does in their home country. Kroeger says their latest album, Feed The Machine, actually sold better in Australia than it did in Canada. “I don’t know how that happened but I’ll take it,” he says, laughing.