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INTERVIEW – Mike Kroeger, Nickelback, January 2015

| 11 March 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Mike Kroeger, Nickelback, January 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Canadian rock band Nickelback return to Australia for their NO FIXED ADDRESS tour this May. SHANE PINNEGAR spoke to bass player Mike Kroeger and found a down-to-earth, regular sounding guy looking forward to visiting the country again.

Nickelback - Mike Kroeger 01

Nickelback – No Fixed Address Tour, 2015

The fact remains though, that despite having sold over 50 million records worldwide in their twenty year career to date, and remaining one of the few rock bands who still sell albums, Nickelback remain the brunt of every music joke and hateful sentiment from one end of the internet to the other. Kroeger is philosophical about the negativity levelled at his band.

“Well, no-one likes to see a winner,” he sighs, “That’s one thing that comes with [having] the Queen on the money, I find, is the tall poppy syndrome. I remember when we were there last, we didn’t get shot up at all because your media was so busy dismantling Britney Spears that they didn’t even have time to put hate on us. They were just crushing her, it was terrible. I felt very sorry for her when we were there but I was kinda glad it wasn’t me. I guess that’s what tall poppy syndrome is all about – it’s fun because it’s not you.”

Nickelback 01

So what is it that makes a group of normally enthusiastic rock fans join in the bitchfest against Nickelback?

“Programming people is a very real thing,” Kroeger says. “There was a guy who said once that if you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes true and people will believe it. That was Adolf Hitler by the way – holy shit, what a crazy left turn that is!

“People can be easily programmed to get kinda like ‘Pavlov’s dog’ on something. It’s like, ‘say the first word that comes to mind. Nickelback – sucks.’ Okay, Pavlov’s dog, done. It’s just like, it’s been done. It’s like a lot of things, we’ve become a meme of sorts, that’s just what people just say, that’s your association with them. Frankly, I’m sure a lot of those people are buying tickets for the shows and the albums too, so who cares? People just say things.”

Mike’s brother Chad Kroeger, frontman for the band, has said as much in interviews as well, suggesting that many of Nickelback’s haters secretly love them anyway, Perhaps there’s an element of guilty pleasure in there and a lot of Nickelback CDs stuffed under the cushions on the sofa?

“Yeah, as long as they pay for them, I don’t care!” Kroeger laughs. “The thing is it’s like… here’s an example, in American politics – I don’t know the names of these people, [but] you hear about these outspoken anti-gay politicians, right? They’re just like ‘no gay rights, no gay marriage rights. Don’t be good to the gays,’ and then, like, his son comes out gay. All of a sudden, somebody supports gay people. I really just have a hard time with that vitriol and I think it’s all just these kinds of people saying what they think everybody else wants to hear and that’s okay.

“No-one wants to get challenged,” he continues, “that was one thing I wanted to add if I could. No-one wants to get challenged really. The people that are left-wing politically, they go to the media that skew to the left. The people that are right-wing politically, they skew to the right-wing media. So they’re not going there to get challenged or to get any new information. They’re going someplace where everybody’s going to say things that they already agree with.

“No-one wants to go somewhere where someone’s going to go, ‘wait a minute. Are you ready to defend that position? Are you sure that you can defend that position on what have you, immigration or gay rights or whatever? No-one wants that. Everybody wants to go somewhere where everybody’s saying the shit they already agree with.

“This is a very similar thing, it’s like the twisty moustache crowd say all the same things because that’s what they all believe and that’s cool too. It’s just normal, it’s just people. People don’t want to get challenged.”

Nickelback 02

This will be the bands fourth or fifth visit to our shores, says Kroeger, and he thinks he’s played some of his best shows ever in Australia.

“This [may be] the fifth time,” he ponders, “I can’t remember. I don’t want to be too much of a brown noser but it’s not enough times really. We love coming to Australia.
“I feel Australia has got to be the most laid-back country,” he enthuses. “Everything just feels relaxed to me. I think that’s why I feel like we’ve had some of our best shows because we’re relaxed. I don’t know, we just like it.

“Everybody is cool. You use words that in Canada or in America we don’t use very much. There’s one word in particular that I really like that you guys use…”

What follows is a surreal exchange in which a member of one of the world’s biggest bands laughs loudly at our perceived use of about the only word even 100% ROCK MAGAZINE will bleep out. To give you a hint, it has four letters and starts with a ‘c’.

“C***, that’s my favourite!” Kroeger laughs excitedly. “I try to explain it to people that have never been to Oz or to be fair, New Zealand – when you call somebody that, that’s your best friend. That’s what you call your best friend – you call them a c***. You call all your best friends, c***s.

“When somebody calls you ‘mate’ and you don’t know them, you might be getting in a fight. It’s really hard to explain to people that have never been there how your best friends are all c***s and your mates are the guys that you might punch in the face. It’s difficult for people to understand but I find that it’s just the great part of any place with the Queen on the money.”

Nickelback - Mike Kroeger 02

It seemed the right time to break the news that many of us Aussies only call everyone ‘mate’ because we can’t remember any of their bloody names, prompting howls of laughter down the phone line.

“I love it, that’s great!”

While we’re on the subject of international points of difference, we touch on the similarities between Aussies and Canadians, while observing that Americans are often a world apart.

“Yeah, I live in America now and I can you tell that Americans are a world apart from everybody,” Kroeger states. “There’s no doubt about that – especially being a Canadian living in America, you see that. And yeah, your people operate our ski lifts better than anyone. I don’t know if you’ve been over to ski in Canada but there’s something about it that just brings the Australians – the lifties are all Australians. I don’t how that happened. There must be some kind of national pedigree for doing that job because they’re the best. We as Canadians, especially if you ski, you’ve had exposure to Australians long before you go to Oz and that’s usually in the lift line-up at the ski fields!”

Let’s not forget the very similar crossover in our senses of humour as well. Both Australians and Canadians take after the English sense of humour, whereas it’s not unfair to say that generally the Americans lack our sense of irony and sarcasm.

“Yeah, we do it a little blacker, too, and [have] a handle on sarcasm,” agrees Kroeger. “It’s something that’s really lost on the Americans, I find. I actually have a really good friend of mine from Brisbane over now where I live and we just go out and play with the Americans. We use our sense of humour on them and they don’t understand it, it’s really fun.

“What I would say is and I don’t know if you feel this, but I feel Australia has got to be the most laid-back country. Everything just feels relaxed to me. I think that’s why I feel like we’ve had some of our best shows because we’re relaxed. I don’t know, we just like it.”

There have been conflicting reports as to the origins of the band’s name Nickelback. On the one hand, it’s a position in American football, on the other, it’s rumoured that Mike came up with it after long hours working at Starbucks handing change over to customers. We let the bass player set the record straight once and for all.

“Oh, it’s the latter unfortunately – it is definitely the latter. That was one of the ways that I supplemented my meager financial beginnings while we were making this thing go. I’d never heard the term because I didn’t play football, so I really didn’t know it. I never heard that word before. I was just giving people change a lot. I was giving people five cents, ‘and here’s your nickel back.’ It was the way the genesis occurred here. I know it doesn’t have a whole bunch of sizzle like Hoobastank or something, but that is the true story.”

Coming from such meager financial beginnings, the Kroegers, along with guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair have certainly turned things around with those 50 million records sold, or something crazy like that.

“Something crazy like that, yeah…” Kroeger repeats quietly. “It’s been a hell of a ride. We’re on bonus time, man. We’re on blessed time and just having a blast doing it.”

Nickelback - Mike Kroeger 03

With a complete lack of pretence or self-importance, and no diva-like chip on the shoulder which sometimes comes with selling so many records, chatting with Mike Kroeger has been fun.

“Oh, I’m just a normal guy,” he insists when I ask if he lives a rockstar life. “I go dig holes in the yard, and I scoop up the dog shit in the yard – Yeah, I’m a normal guy. [Rockstar behaviour] is only good on TV, man. Those people get out of bed and take a shit every morning just like everybody else. That’s just for the cameras, man.”

What does he think of the tabloid attention his more famous brother attracts since he’s been dating and now married Avril Lavigne?

“Yeah, I’m all right with it,” Kroeger shrugs, “I mean if he’s all right with it, I’m okay with it. He seems to be okay. He married a really famous woman and his wife is in that sphere of the media a lot so obviously he’s going to become a part of that conversation too. You know what? If he’s good with it, I’m good with it. It’s okay. [But] there’s a fair amount of meanness in there too. Everybody chooses their own way. Nobody gets famous with someone holding a gun to their head. It’s a decision, it’s a choice.

“You don’t have to get caught by the paparazzi. In these days, those guys don’t surprise anybody. People are going up to where they know those people are going to be.”

After almost 20 years of playing bass with Nickelback, I ask Kroeger if there is anything else he wants to achieve as a musician?

“I don’t know,” he says thoughtfully, “I consider doing this in this band to be sort of what my identity has been for the last 18 years or something. As far as that goes, I think we’ve done more than we ever dreamed we could do and seen more than we ever dreamed we could see. Maybe… who knows? Maybe there’s some other musical adventure out there for me, I don’t know. We’ll see but this one is far from over. Like I always say, and like we always do – keep our eye on the ball. Just keep focused on the matter at hand and the other details will work themselves out. We’re just going to keep doing what we do. Keep trying to have fun doing it and carry on.”

Finally a hypothetical question to finish up. If he could magically go back in time and be a part of the making of any one record in recording history, which would Kroeger choose?

“Okay, this is a funny answer,” he says after a short pause. “[but] it’s not a joke. I would love to go back and literally play the cowbell on the Blue Oyster Cult song, Don’t Fear The Reaper.

More cowbell!!!!!

“More fucking cowbell!” Kroeger laughs.

I might just go and give those Nickelback albums another chance.

An edited version of this interview was originally published in X-Press Magazine’s 18 February, 2015 issue

Nickelback No Fixed Address tour 2015

Category: Interviews

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