Spare a thought for the fellas in Nickelback. Sure, the Canadian four-piece are arguably the biggest rock band on Earth, have sold over 50 million records and lead singer Chad Kroeger is due to wed co-Canadian singer Avril Lavigne. But despite their huge global success a quick peep on the internet reveals a band equally loathed as loved. They’re basically the online equivalent of a knock knock joke.
Returning to UAE for the first time since 2009 to play the Yasalam F1 after-race concert, Time Out sat down with Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger – recently shorn of his trademark long hair – and guitarist Ryan Peake to talk mohawks, YouTube comedians and Chad’s own demolition derby track.
Chad, we can’t help notice the new streamline haircut. Do you miss your long locks?
Chad: No! I really tried to keep it as long as I could, but it was just getting shorter and shorter and then everybody started growing their hair long again. So I cut it off, spiked it up and let the hair fall where it may.
Being the face of one of the world’s biggest rock bands, you must’ve been a bit nervous about changing your image?
C: Not really. [The hairdresser] came to the hotel room and was going, ‘Are you really sure?’ I said, ‘It’s just hair, cut it off’. I didn’t care as much as everyone else. I was like, ‘Let’s take it to a spot where I can spike it up and make it messy. If that doesn’t work, I’m gonna go right to mohawk’. And then he got really nervous!
Hair aside, Nickelback have officially sold more records in the USA than any other foreign act during the 2000s, except The Beatles. Surely, that’s got to feel pretty good hasn’t it?
C: It does, but we’re second by a very, very long way. Yeah, these things [record sales] make you really proud of your accomplishments but we try not to put too much weight into them.
Still, success equals money, which – for you anyway – equals a demolition derby track at your house? Is this true?
C: Yeah, we had that for a while. That’s what 20 acres of grass is good for and grass grows back very quickly in Vancouver. It doesn’t matter what you do, blow up, destroy or light on fire. It’s fun you can’t really do that stuff in the city. My neighbours are pretty good sports.
And that’s not all. We hear you have an ice rink in your basement, too?
C: Yeah! Joey [Moi, Nickelback’s producer], is this huge hockey fan and we were talking about doing all these things to the house. We’re looking out this window of the studio [also at Chad’s property] and a lot of daydreaming goes on. Like, ‘What if you built a racetrack? What if we built an ice rink?’ The architect heard him say it and said, ‘You know, we could put an ice rink under the new wing of the house we’re building.’ Then, before I knew it, I’d somehow ended up with one in my basement!
You guys get a bit of a rough time on the internet. Have you stopped reading things about yourselves online?
Ryan: When we started out we thought, ‘Let’s see how people liked it’, but [reviews and comments] can be all consuming. It isn’t healthy, just ask anybody in show business.
C: It’s funny – you look at any YouTube video. Six comments down Justin Bieber’s name appears somewhere in there. It could be anything, it doesn’t matter. Six comments down you’ll find: ‘Something something something Justin Bieber’.
R: I can’t help thinking it’s become kind of a forum for fledgling stand-up comedians.
C: Absolutely. Everyone wants to be funny.
What would you say is the worst thing about being in Nickelback?
C: Just kind of being in the public eye. I’m sure it’s the same answer that everybody says but everything you do becomes scrutinised, you can’t do anything right. So we stopped listening. When your fans leave a concert and they’ve all got smiles on their faces and when they go on websites and say how much they’re enjoying the new record, they’re genuinely the things you really enjoy and they mean something.
R: Life is good for us. We play fun shows and have a good time on stage every night. We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re playing rock music. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Although I hate using that phrase. I’d rather people just worked it out for themselves.
And the best thing?
R: [Sarcastically] The critical acclaim. For me, it’s a lifelong dream to be the biggest band in the world and get as much praise from critics.
C: Critics, darling, that’s all that really matters matters to me!
R: I know what I’m gonna get on my gravestone.
And what would that be?
R: Uh… that’s a lie, I have no idea. I’ll probably just get a critic to write something for me.
Nickelback headline the Yas Island after-race concert at the Du Arena on November 3. Buy tickets at www.yasmarinacircuit.ae.