They’re the butt of many jokes and fodder for many memes, but Nickelback and their bassist Mike Kroeger doesn’t take themselves – or the memes – too seriously.
Preferring a quiet life with his wife and kids in their new Los Angeles home when the band isn’t touring, Mike says it’s easy to differentiate between high brow and low brow humour and, although he doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the press surrounding the band, even he can appreciate a good joke – especially if he’s the butt of it.
Music Feeds’ Jade Kennedy caught up with Mike recently to find out whether the band really do live like Rock Stars (as their song suggests), how hard it is to make a living in the digital age and what the group’s plans are for their upcoming Australian tour.
Music Feeds: Hi Mike, how are you?
Mike Kroeger: I’m doing very well, how are you today?
MF: I’m not too bad thanks. What’s going on?
MK: Just getting the word out about Nickelback coming back to Aus. I’m really excited to be able to talk about it.
MF: Well I read somewhere that you were actually considering a move here at one point in time.
MK: Oh yeah. I have considered moving to Australia. That’s funny you should mention it, I haven’t thought about that in ages! That was, oh, that was a long time ago — maybe close to 15 years ago. What happened was, we were living in Canada and probably I said that thing that you’re talking about, right, when we were getting tired of winter [laughs] and Australia was on the list, but we ended up in Hawaii instead because it wasn’t quite as far away from our families.
So yeah, we chose Hawaii instead of Aus because Aus was deemed to be too far away. But yeah it was on the list.
MF: You recently moved to Los Angeles from Hawaii, right?
MK: That’s right, yeah; we’ve been here for about a year.
MF: Oh cool. Yeah, I don’t know how you feel about it but I find it pretty creepy that a quick Google search brings up so much detail about your new home on the internet.
MK: Oh yeah! [Laughs]
MF: Have you had any creepy fan moments or Hollywood Star Tours drop by since you moved in?
MK: Well, okay, so here’s the thing – Hollywood Star Tours already stop in front of my house because the home that we bought was originally… the first owner of it was a guy by the name of Bela Lugosi, the actor who was the original Dracula and also he was the Frankenstein monster as well – a very popular guy from the old horror movie scene in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
So they stop here every day, you know, right in front of the house all day. They haven’t figured it out that I’m here yet, thank goodness, I don’t really talk about it, though I don’t know if anyone would really care anyway.
But yeah, so we already kind of get some of that. I was amazed at how much press, you know, my house being on the market for sale in Hawaii was publicised, and there was pictures, and then we bought this house in Hollywood and that got that press – I was amazed by it. I don’t even know what to tell you, it’s um… it’s crazy!
MF: Well I mean you guys wrote the song ‘Rock Star’ – is that indicative of the life that you’re living?
MK: Oh far from it [laughs] far, far, far from it. Yeah, I’m just trying to be a good dad and husband, really. You know, that’s what my life’s like. Chad I think, if you talked to Chad I think he lives a lot more of that lifestyle than any of us.
MF: Oh yeah I’m sure. Well, when you come out here you’re doing three dates with, I noticed, a sneaky day off between Brisbane and Sydney – what would you like to do with your day off?
MK: Well I don’t know, I guess we’ll just see what life gives us on that day off. But you know, it is a tight schedule. We’ve never played… I don’t think we’ve played Australia like this where we didn’t have a day off between shows, because Australia is very much like Canada where there’s geographically distant cities, you know? Each city is a fair way apart, so if something were to go wrong you’d want to have that extra day, but this time we cut that comfort day out of the space between Sydney and Melbourne, so hopefully that works, [laughs] hopefully there’s no surprises there!
MF: Hopefully! Obviously you guys have had plenty of ups and downs – Rolling Stone readers voted you the world’s second-worst band of the ‘90s, then Billboard named you the Band of the Decade in 2009 – like, how do you guys balance that out?
MK: [Laughs] Ah… I can only speak for my personal self – I can’t speak for the whole band – but I can say that I don’t take any of it seriously. Whether it’s positive or negative, I’ve never really cared that much or listened to that stuff. You know, whether it’s a negative opinion or a positive opinion, to me it’s just an opinion and I don’t take it at all seriously.
MF: Uh-huh. I guess it’s like that saying, ‘Opinions are like assholes – everyone’s got one…’
MK: [Laughs] Yeah! And no one wants to hear them! [Laughs]
MF: Exactly! Well the internet is obviously a lot more entrenched in our lives now than when you guys started out – do you read a lot of stuff about yourselves online now?
MK: Sometimes. Sometimes you see things. I don’t really go looking for it, I mean you know, some people in our organisation, whether it’s guys in the band or whatever, have some Google alert triggers that if something comes up about us they get a notification – I don’t, ‘cause again I don’t really care, unless, I mean, if we’re trying to promote a tour or an album or a song or something like that, then I’m all about it. Then I definitely wanna be out there. But um, for the most part – for the garden-variety shit slinging, I don’t wanna really… I don’t really notice that. [Laughs]
MF: Well I mean the memes have lasted a lot longer than I thought they would. How do you feel about some of the memes and the people creating them?
MK: Uh, well for me there’s funny and then there’s mean, you know? And funny is cool, and I laugh at funny – at my own expense, I have no problem laughing at myself, because sometimes I can be funny and ridiculous – but other times it’s just straight up people being mean.
I also have kind of high expectations for humour, so when people are making jokes about us you can kind of differentiate between the ones that have a strong humour game and the ones that have a weak humour game. For the most part these people aren’t very good at being funny, which is why not everybody is a comedian, but every once in a while somebody gets it right and I have a good laugh about that, especially when it’s about me.
MF: Why not, right? With the internet also comes music streaming – so how much harder is it now to make a living from rock ‘n’ roll?
MK: Well… at the risk of sounding fatalistic, pretty much impossible. You can make money playing music, but you can’t really make money with music, you know what I mean?
Like, you record the songs, you put the songs out there, but you’ve gotta go on tour if you wanna try to make a living. There’s just no way… you know, the music industry at large in the last 15 years has taken about an 85 per cent haircut on how much people buy music, so how can you expect that to work? It’s just not going to happen.
So I don’t know… It would be a very difficult time to be a brand new band. My children are coming up as musicians right now and it’s a different world, for sure. You have to be realistic about what you’re gonna get to experience and, you know, they’ve lived this with me, but it’s a different world.
Just like when I hang around with friends of mine from back, you know, that started up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they’re even more different than us, you know? They experienced a time when everybody actually had to buy music, and they bought a lot of it. But that just isn’t the case any more; people don’t pay for music.
MF: Well unless they’re vinyl records, because those have come right back into trend again.
MK: They are. It’s still very much a boutique or a niche thing, I mean it’s not of any significant mass when you compare it to the digital; it’s still not even close. But, you know, it’s a good sign.
I mean, my kids are big into playing records, and authenticity is something I think is very important to them – you know, real music and real people playing real music – it’s really important to them. And I think there’s more of that coming around, which gives me a little bit of hope.
MF: Exactly. Now obviously, speaking of growing up, you grew up with Chad. What was your relationship like growing up compared to now being in a band with him?
MK: Well, you know, through the process that we’ve gone through… you know, we all started kind of the same – we were all single, young, whole life ahead of us, no encumbrances really of any kind – and as time went on, some members of the band got married, some members of the bands had kids, and some didn’t. So you kind of have a divergence in your lifestyle a little bit when your life changes outside of the music.
So we always have playing together in common, but outside of that it’s a lot different – I’ve got two kids, Ryan’s got two kids, Daniel has two kids, Chad has no kids – so when we’re not working we have very different lives.
MF: Yep, so he’s sort of living that ‘rock star’ life, like you said, a little bit more.
MK: Oh yeah, 100 per cent yes! [Laughs]
MF: Speaking of ‘rock star living’ there was a little bit of press last year about Chad [Kroeger] and [Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman] Corey Taylor – is that done with now?
MK: Oh yeah, yeah. That’s very, very over with. I think it was something that was somewhat useful for Stone Sour because they had a new album coming out at that time, so I think that was part of, you know, that allowed them a little bit more promotion… you know, their name bouncing around as being in a whatever you call it, ‘feud’ or ‘beef’ or whatever the term is for it.
But it was preposterous, it was really a case of two lead singers talking shit [laughs] about each other and that is the end of it, like I was kind of amazed that it lasted, you know, even more than an hour to be honest with you.
MF: Well, that’s the internet for you!
MK: Ah yeah [laughs], if you can’t find news you’ve gotta make it up and that was one thing that one of them said something – I don’t even know who was first – but somebody said something and what happens is the media takes that and goes, “Hey, did you hear what this guy said about ya?” And then you get a gotcha moment when that person gets pissed off and it’s ongoing, so it’s difficult to really rationalise that, because it’s an irrational state.
MF: It’s been a year or so since your latest album ‘Feed The Machine’ – obviously that’s the tour that you’re bringing out here now – which was a little bit different than the tracks we normally associate with Nickelback. Is that a hint at a newer direction for you guys?
MK: Well, you know, as you say the things that are different is that what people are used to hearing from us is typically what people know from hearing on the radio, and a lot of this album ‘Feed The Machine’ is very much rock – just straight up rock.
You know, we really, really intended to go in a very rock direction with this album, not so much those ‘radio-friendly’ tracks, and that was the intent the whole time. So I’m glad it translated.
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