Blending grunge, pop, metal and other musical influences, Nickelback is one of the most commercially successful rock bands ever to come out of Canada, and among the most popular rock bands in history. The band produced nine studio albums since forming in Alberta, Canada in 1995, and has sold more than 50 million albums.
Nickelback includes lead vocalist/guitarist Chad Kroeger, bassist Mike Kroeger, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Ryan Peake, and drummer Daniel Adair. The Kroeger brothers and Peake are original members, and Adair has been with the band for 14 years.
Nickelback appears 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, as part of its Feed The Machine tour – named after the band’s ninth studio album released in 2017. Mike Kroeger spoke with Press of Atlantic City Director of Entertainment Publications Scott Cronick on a recent edition of “Off The Press with Scott Cronick” the WOND 1400 radio show, in advance of the band’s return to Atlantic City.
Scott Cronick – Nickelback is kind of special in my heart. Back when the band was just starting to hit, a local radio station here in A.C. brought you guys in to play small ballroom of about 1,000 people screaming their heads off. I don’t know if you any memories of that, Mike, but you guys were just breaking and it was pretty awesome.
Mike Kroeger – I have vague memories of all things that far back. Life has changed drastically for all of us since then. Most of us have kids now and life is just completely different. A long time has passed, for sure.
SC – We had fun that weekend, and when we saw you guys that first time we just kind of sensed that this band was really about to go. And now, 50 million record sales later, I guess we were right. Was there ever a moment on stage, though, that just clicked where you and the band knew that this thing was going to hit? Was there ever that “a ha” moment?
MK – One of the many things leading up to the a ha moment was the realization that you don’t have to go back to working your regular job; that you can play music for a living. That was quite an a ha moment and it actually takes a lot longer than you might think to get to that point. There’s this crazy kind of this lag time between when you hit and you’re a big deal and people are loving it and going crazy and buying your records, but you’re still at the point where you don’t quite know where your next meal is coming from. It’s kind of an odd place to be.
SC – But how about the bands now – I mean, you were among the last group of bands that were able to cash in on record sales. All these bands today are making singles and making records, but nobody sells 50 million records anymore. So at least you guys were part of that last hurrah, that ability to sell a ton of records and live off that. Now bands basically have to live off touring, right?
MK – Yeah, I think we did just get in under the wire of when it was still relevant to actually sell music for a couple of years in our careers. If you look back to the 1970s, it would be an entirely different situation because everybody had to buy the music then to listen the bands they loved. We were right at the advent of the Internet’s influence over the music business. That was very much at the beginning of our career. We were just starting, so I think we realized a lot of benefits from that, from that Napster period. I think more people heard about us than would have prior, so I’m grateful for that.
SC – So the Feed The Machine tour – you guys just got back from Australia I believe? Weren’t you just overseas? How did that go?
MK – Yeah, we just did Japan, Singapore and Australia, and those really went good, and now we’re back and hitting a few select shows around the U.S. and Canada this summer. It’s not really a full-blown tour, we’re just sort of, in a rather disorganized of way, dropping in on a few cities and playing rock shows.
SC – Is there a different feeling when you go overseas and play in places like Australia than in Atlantic City or New York or Chicago or anywhere in the U.S.? Is there a different respect level or any kind of different feelings about you guys when you’re playing overseas?
MK – No, thankfully wherever we play, the room’s full of Nickelback fans, so everybody’s all the same and it’s all just good vibes and love whether we’re in the United States or Canada or around the world. We’re always among friends. You never feel like you’re playing to a room full of strangers.
SC – One of the cool things about Nickelback is that the band’s had its share of being poked at, but you guys have always taken that in stride and with good humor, and I think that’s pretty awesome. But inside, did that ever dig at you?
MK – I think in the beginning it can kind of hurt your feelings until you get to realize that that’s just sort of the way it goes. I’ve said it before that, the truth is, you hope that everyone gets to know who you are, and you get to be recognized, but the thing that you’re not always prepared for is ‘What if everybody knows you but not everybody likes you?’ You’re not always going to be ready for that one, and it’s going to be that not everybody is going to dig what you do. But it’s important to get used to that idea.
SC – But in the end you guys get to have the last laugh anyway. You guys have enough hits that, even if you never have another hit, you can still tour until the day you decide not to anymore. So in a way it’s kind of like ‘Go ahead and make fun of us; I don’t have to punch a clock 40 hours a week.’
MK – It’s also part of the culture we’re in right now; the way that everybody gets to voice their opinion. It’s unique now because you have such a free flow of communication that it’s hard to verify your sources and often you don’t even know who you’re talking to, or who’s talking about you or at you. It can be anyone in the world, anywhere in the world, any age, any background, so you can’t always take people’s comments at face value.
SC – Let’s talk about Feed The Machine a little bit. That album came out about two years ago. How much of that album will we hear when you come to Hard Rock on Aug. 24?
MK – Well as you’ve outlined, we’ve had a pretty good run of songs over our career, so for every song that we try to load into the set we have to take something out, and that’s hard. So there may be a couple of songs from Feed The Machine and we’ll be shoe-horning them in with all the other songs that we must play.
SC – You’ll be playing the title track, obviously, and then what else do you think, maybe?
MK – Well, we have been playing ‘Song On Fire’ live quite a bit. It kind of comes in and goes out depending on how we’re feeling. If we want add another kind of love song, or whatever, then we’ll bring that one in. Sometimes we feel like we want to be a bit grittier and load the set up with as much rock as we can.
SC – You change the set list up on a tour like this?
MK – Yeah. We try to mix it up.
SC – For your own sanity?
MK – It’s some of that, but also it’s about all these different places, all these different markets, that have certain songs that did well. Especially in some place like Europe where you can be in a different country every day, so some places seem to have different tastes as far as our songs go and we have to target it that way. So that keeps us changing things up a little bit, and sometimes we just want to make a few changes.
SC – How was Feed The Machine received when that album first came out? Did it live up the band’s expectations, and how did it differ from some of the things you’ve done in the past?
MK – I think that the goal that we set for the album was to make a solid hard-rock record. There’s a couple of those light songs on there but really the focus of Feed The Machine was let’s make this a hard-rock album. That was what we were doing, and it resonated with people. They understood and they sensed where we were trying to go, and I think it worked.
SC – I think I read somewhere that you’re really a metal head at heart, right? I’m more of a mainstream, old-school sort of metal head. What do you like to listen to?
MK – I like all kinds of metal, going back to the origins of it. I think Led Zeppelin kind of started heavy metal, all the way through (Black) Sabbath, Pantera, Slayer and a band I like called Meshuggah. They’re one of my favorites.
SC – You and I are exactly the same age and I never grew out of my ‘80s hair-metal days, and my wife hates me for it.
MK – My wife is sort of in that category as well. We have our laughs about it and every once in a while a name will come up that kicks us back. Those were the days.
SC – One of our dates was a Judas Priest concert and she actually liked it, so I slowly won her over.
MK – Priest is always a good barometer of a couple’s compatibility.
SC – Is life on the road way different from when I first met you back in the day? It sounds like you’re more of a family guy than the guy I knew 20 years ago.
MK – Yes, drastically, drastically different. Not just because of the wife and kids but because you just kind of grow up. Things change and hopefully we continue to evolve as humans throughout our lives, and I’m trying to do that.