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“Music to Get Herpes By”: An interview with Nickelback


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“When the songs do so well, it’s hard to choose which ones we’re putting on. Otherwise you’re up there doing a four-hour show, and I don’t think people really want a four-hour show…”


Love them or loathe them, it is impossible to deny that Nickelback are truly one of the most popular rock bands of the 21st century. Their two-decade-plus career has seen the Canadian quartet consistently herald some of the most played and replayed hits of this generation, with a canon that includes more chart-smashing successes than anyone would ever have time to list.

Ergo, as the heavy-hitting juggernauts are preparing to embark on a high-profile arena tour of the UK next month, it felt apropos to begin by asking bassist Mike Kroeger about the throes of arranging a set-list for a band that has that many beloved anthems.

“A lot of the time we’ll do research about what songs have performed well in these particular areas and that will give us the foreknowledge that we need,” he continues. “If we have songs that we need to take out, we can know which ones did better or worse than others and take out the ones that didn’t break through, and leave the ones that made their mark.”

Of all the potential tracks in Mike and co.’s enormous arsenal, one in particular that fans will surely be clamouring for is 2001’s ‘How You Remind Me’: a pop-culture-penetrating powerhouse that the bassist (who also co-wrote the song) says was “a global phenomenon”. The track will enjoy a bittersweet return when it is once again played on British shores, as Mike recalls how it was actually even once banned by the country’s powers that be.

“I think it was either the video or a billboard that got banned,” he says. “It was too risqué, because of half-naked girls or whatever, and that caused all of that school-mum outrage. But that got it more traction, and it actually made it to number one once all of those people got pissed off.”

There’s a tragic irony in the nation that gave the world such controversial and envelope-pushing names like Alice Cooper and the Sex Pistols censoring a rock ‘n’ roll band, but, according to Mike, that kind of controversy is the bread-and-butter of the genre.

“I think it’s important, especially when you’re a young artist, that you’re endearing yourself to your fans and you’re pissing off their parents,” he laughs. “It goes all the way back to Elvis and the Beatles. That’s how you do it: you make the kid love you and you make the parent hate you.

“You can choose to inflame the populous and get everybody up onto their self-righteous high-horse, which actually pays good dividends because it makes everybody look. People go ‘Oh, that’s bad? Then I want to go and have a look at that!’”

Sound advice, it seems: fifteen years after ‘How You Remind Me’ peaked at number four in the UK Singles Chart, their brand new album, Feed the Machine (2017), secured top ten spots all over the world, showing that time has had no effect on Nickelback’s continuing success. And, for Mike and the rest of the band, that success could lie in the unique tastes that each member brings to the table.

“The four of us come from very different places as far as musical interests go,” he explains, “so there can be parts that are like country and western because [guitarist] Ryan Peake grew up listening to that at home with his dad. For me, it’s metal and hard rock. A lot of the music I like has been called death metal. My drummer [Daniel Adair] is into stuff that is really progressive and my brother [frontman Chad Kroeger] is into straight-ahead classic rock, like AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac and stuff like that. So that’s where all that smart song-writing comes from.”

But, of course, as is the way with modern success on such a large and continued scale, with notoriety comes dickheads on the internet.

“A person wrote a review of our music and said that it was ‘music to get herpes by,’” laughs Mike, adding that “I don’t have any knowledge or evidence of that yet, but feel free to put the word out.”

Herpes catalyst or not (the jury is still out on that one), Nickelback’s impending UK tour – set to peak with a monumental show at London’s O2 Arena – will definitely bring the bombast, energy and sing-alongs that fans would expect from a band as equipped with crowd-popping hits as this one.

Just… wear protection, OK?

Nickelback embark on their Feed the Machine UK Tour with Seether in May 2018.

Nickelback’s new album, Feed the Machine, is available now via BMG.

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