Nickelback: A View From The Top
Nickelback's Chad Kroeger recalls the words of caution he received at the end of the cycle for 2001's "Silver Side Up"—a five-times-platinum juggernaut that launched three hit singles including theNickelback's Chad Kroeger recalls the words of caution he received at the end of the cycle for 2001's "Silver Side Up"—a five-times-platinum juggernaut that launched three hit singles including the monster "How You Remind Me."
"A lot of different people told us that 'Silver Side Up' was the biggest record we'll ever have," Kroeger says, "that we'll never, ever have another big record like that again and our career would probably decline and then we'd probably just trail off and that would be the end of Nickelback. I didn't want to accept that. I didn't want to accept that we couldn't make a better record than 'Silver Side Up.'"
Thanks to "All the Right Reasons," Kroeger and his bandmates don't have to.
Nickelback's fifth album, released Oct. 4, 2005, has become a phenomenon that's not only eclipsed "Silver Side Up" but is arguably the biggest rock album of the century so far. It's been in the top 30 of The Billboard 200 for 102 consecutive weeks and is currently No. 7. The last artist in that rarefied position was fellow Canadian Shania Twain, whose 1997 release "Come On Over" spent its first 123 weeks in the top 30.
During the course of its run, "All the Right Reasons" has also notched a head-spinning array of accomplishments that have contributed to its longevity. The album is six-times-platinum in the United States, with more than 8 million copies sold worldwide. After debuting at No. 1 with first-week sales of 325,000, it's never sold fewer than 25,000 copies in a given week and has enjoyed significant spikes during each of the last two holiday seasons.
Now off tour and ensconced in their homes, Nickelback's members are taking stock of what's happened during the past couple of years. Chad's older brother, bassist Mike Kroeger—the band also includes guitarist Ryan Peake and drummer Daniel Adair—notes that "the last three or four months, every Wednesday, when we get the chart positions, have just been 'pinch me so I'm not dreaming' moments. And before that, it was, like, nine months of the same.
"It's just crazy. I think we're very shocked, surprised and very pleased. I don't understand it, but I'm not complaining about it."
The record's long-term success is more than the story of just one album, however. It is in many ways the culmination of eight years of artist development, of synchronicity between band and label and carefully built relationships with radio, fans and other constituencies that created a foundation for Nickelback to achieve at a phenomenal kind of level.
The group—formed in 1995 in Hannah, Alberta—was already cementing parts of that foundation before Roadrunner Records signed it in 1999 as part of the company's plan to expand from its metal base and enter the mainstream rock market.
From the time Roadrunner released the group's second album, "The State," in 1999, the label and band constructed an old-school, brick-and-mortar kind of campaign for establishing and maintaining Nickelback's identity. New media was certainly employed, but radio and touring were priorities—as were shaking hands and getting face time with as many programmers, DJs and fans as possible.
With radio support and a pair of multiplatinum albums behind it, Nickelback was on solid footing when it started working on "All the Right Reasons" in January 2005 at Chad Kroeger's studio in a converted barn on his property near Vancouver.
Having a home studio to work in also made a big difference. "You can take your time and explore and go down every single avenue until you find out whether or not you're hitting a dead end, and we did that," Chad Kroeger says. He particularly remembers seemingly endless tinkering with "Savin' Me"—rerecording parts, rewriting the chorus a couple of times, "just an absolute gutting of the song."
"Six weeks later we wound up finishing it up," Kroeger says with a laugh. "Everyone finally sat back and said, 'OK . . .' I like it, but that song was just so much effort. It was like giving birth."
Conversely, Kroeger adds, "Animals" was conceived and completed in about 24 hours, with the lyrics written and recorded in a two-and-a-half-hour period just before the group left to film the video for "Photograph."
During the seven months of recording, Roadrunner executives would visit the band "in waves" to listen to the new material. President Jonas Nachsin says they were impressed with what was transpiring—particularly in the range of material that ran from the metallic "Side of a Bullet" and "Animals" to such gentler fare as "If Everyone Cared" and "Far Away" to more down-the-middle rock like "Savin' Me."
"It was pretty obvious to those of us who had been working with the band for a long time that this was a very special album," Nachsin says. "They had always recorded very strong albums, but this one in particular stood out just because of the clear quality of the material and the recording. It just had an energy to it that was pretty outstanding, and you could tell that from the beginning."
With that in mind, he adds, the label "realized our job was to clearly roll out the material to the public in a methodical, patient but very strong way and convince people one by one, or in this case million by million, what an incredible album this was."
During the early listens Nachsin says that he and other label execs were particularly blown away by the sentimental "Photograph," ultimately deciding to make it the first single rather than "Savin' Me," which was initially the leading contender.
"It was not, perhaps, the kind of song the marketplace would've expected from Nickelback," Nachsin says. "But we thought it was the song that could appeal to a lot of different kinds of people, be they current Nickelback fans or not."
After "Photograph" clicked, Roadrunner was, in Nachsin's words, "extremely careful and deliberate" in rolling out and timing the album's other singles. "We were just extremely careful in our thought pattern as to what single should come next and when it should come," Nachsin says. "And we realized we should be patient and let a song penetrate as much as we can and then move on to the next one."
"Animals," "Savin' Me," "Far Away," "Side of a Bullet," "If Everyone Cared" and "Rockstar" went on greatly impact both pop and rock charts.
Not many bands have succeeded in crossing over to pop from the rock world while still retaining the latter's support, but Chad Kroeger finds nothing unusual about existing comfortably on both sides of the divide.
"A lot of people use pop as a bad word, but 'pop' is short for popular," he says. "So Korn is a pop band. Tool is a pop band. Slipknot, they get played on the radio, which makes them a pop band. But if you called them a pop band, they'd be insulted.
"I'm not insulted by the word pop; it just means we're popular. Last time I checked, popular is a good thing in the music business."
If there's a dark cloud in Nickelback's silver-side-up lining, it's that the critical respect continues to elude the quartet. In a two-star (out of five) review, Rolling Stone dubbed "All the Right Reasons" "so depressing, you're almost glad Kurt [Cobain's] not around to hear it." The New York Times declared that "for hard-rock ridiculousness, Nickelback is tough to beat," while Britain's Mojo opined that "fans of relentless riffing may be sated, anyone else will be left feeling a little awkward."
Chad Kroeger says that the group has "just accepted that we're never going to be the critics' darlings, and we're OK with that."
"And I think a lot of pens have been placed back down on the desk 'cause a lot of critics are like, 'Y'know what? We've criticized this band. We've done our best to try and get the word out there that as many people as possible should hate this band because we hate this band. But we cannot convince anyone else to hate this band as much as we do because Nickelback has lots of fans and their fans buy their records and they go and watch them play whenever they come to a city.'
"And if you're a member of Nickelback, you're pretty happy about that."
Though the band is off the road and "Rockstar" is definitely the album's final single, the consensus is that "All the Right Reasons" probably still has some legs left—especially with another holiday season ahead and the special edition still relatively new on the shelves. The group also stays visible with its rendition of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" kicking off "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcasts, while National Hockey League goalies Cam Ward and Jamie McLennan feature Nickelback art on their masks.
Chad Kroeger says that in terms of the next Nickelback album, "there's no timetable, there's no game plan and no one's in a hurry to do anything," and his brother notes that "when you're popular, I think it's important to go away." But those around the band are already anticipating the opportunity to make the lightning strike yet again.
"The pressure will be huge," manager Coleman says, "but they refuse to settle. They're not complacent. They're always wanting to improve. They're competitive with themselves and always wanting to better themselves. I guarantee you they're going to want to make the next album even better."