The Billboard Q&A: Nickelback's Chad Kroeger

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger laments -- with tongue firmly in cheek -- that "I have to spend a little more time in the studio than the other guys. A little bit." That's what comes with being the chief so

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger laments -- with tongue firmly in cheek -- that "I have to spend a little more time in the studio than the other guys. A little bit."

That's what comes with being the chief songwriter, cook and bottle-washer for the Canadian rock quartet, which has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide since 1996. And you can bet there was a bit of pressure on those studio sessions for Nickelback's new album, "Dark Horse" (due Nov. 18 on Roadrunner Records), especially following the phenomenal success of 2005's "All the Right Reasons."

That set sold 10 million copies worldwide and spent a staggering 110 consecutive weeks in the top 30 of the Billboard 200 as part of a 156-week total run on chart. The intimidating presence of Mutt Lange as co-producer -- "The dude is my hero," Kroeger tells Billboard in his first interview about the project -- only upped the stakes. But Kroeger and company came through unbowed and feel confident that "Dark Horse" will continue to ride the winning streak Nickelback has enjoyed for the past dozen years.

"Dark Horse" is an interesting title for a band that's been as successful as Nickelback. Where did it come from?

Chad Kroeger: Oh, I think we'll always be the dark horse. We never feel like we'll ever be done trying to prove ourselves, to ourselves and to the people who like our music. The minute you fall into complacency, it's going to reflect in the music. Too many times I've heard records from bands who were obviously, like, "Well, we're at least gonna do half as well as we did on our last record. At least we can count on that." You really have to keep that initial hunger that made some of your first best songs your first best songs. You have to keep that fire in the belly.

So what kind of pressure did you feel in making "Dark Horse?"

Well, with ("All the Right Reasons") there's a mountain sitting behind us. The bar has been raised so ridiculously high. We don't get to just rest on our laurels. We don't get to just sit back and say, "Okay, now we can put out whatever we want." But I think it's important to feel that pressure with every single record you put out -- otherwise you're not gonna be on your toes, and the level the songs need to be at won't be there.

Did you have a particular creative goal or mission going into this?

Well, just working with Mutt was really cool. We always said that the only way we'd let someone else come in and start steering the ship was if it was gonna be the one and only Mutt Lange, so when he expressed interest in it, it was a dream come true. To be able to get into a room with him and just watch the way he works, it was a great learning experience.

You're so used to steering Nickelback yourself; did you and Mutt butt heads at all during the sessions?

(Laughs) A lot of people are asking that. It's very funny. But, no, not a lot -- really. I think Mutt was coming into a situation where he knew Nickelback fans were happy with everything we'd been putting out so far. He didn't really want to change the band too much; he just wanted to bring in a slightly different perspective and a slightly different influence. It definitely still sounds like Nickelback, but you're definitely going to hear a couple different flavors. Anyone who's familiar with Nickelback will be able to go, "Okay, this is definitely Nickelback, and this is definitely Mutt..."

Something like "Something in Your Mouth" not withstanding, there seems to be a very upbeat and almost romantic kind of tone to this album. What accounts for that?

That's very insightful. Everybody's healthy and everybody's happy. We definitely feel like there's not a whole lot of cares in the world right now. I think we're all under the same feeling that we're gonna continue to do this until it's no longer fun, and the minute this starts to feel like work we'll just go and do something else. We just want to stay in this and keep making music as long as we possibly can, as long as it feels the same way.

How did "Gotta Be Somebody," the first single, come about?

I had the chorus, and we recorded it, actually, when Mutt went home to go spend some time with his son. Before he came back I played him this chorus over the phone, and he was like, "Oh, I want to get working on that song as soon as we get back to the studio!" The hardest thing was, honestly the harmonies in the chorus. We debated about those for what must've been three or four days straight, moving the harmonies up, down, just trying absolutely everything to make it as impactful as possible.

You're not going on the road for "Dark Horse" until February. Why the wait?

We've been bitten too many times by going out too early. I'm always adamant about making sure there's at least a true rock song from the band that's gone to radio, just to give a more diverse selection of music for people to listen to. We've been consulting with some people; I'm interested to see someone else's take on what this band could look like live, and we've had some real interesting stuff come back. I think we're gonna try some stuff that, believe it or not, no one has ever done live before -- that I'm not telling you about, so don't even ask (laughs).

Chris Martin of Coldplay recently gave you some props in a British radio interview. Were you surprised?

We were, and that was very, very flattering. We're big Coldplay fans; we think they're an amazing band, and that's somewhere we would've always viewed as an unlikely place to see nice comments from. So it was very well-received.