Chad Kroeger dishes straight talk on strip clubs, dying young, the latest round of haters and creepy gifts from fans
By Melinda Newman
Special to MSN Music
Say what you will about Nickelback, but this is one band that wouldn't follow a musical trend even with a trail of tequila shots to mark the way. "We've never done that," says lead singer Chad Kroeger, calling the multiplatinum Canadian group "the least appreciative of any trend anywhere."
Leave chasing fads to the hipsters. Nickelback were, are, and always will be an unapologetically meat-and-potatoes, rock 'n' roll band. Over the course of seven studio albums, including new set "Here and Now," they've served their fans songs about social issues, drinking, love, sex and a whole cavalcade of tunes to which strippers ply their trade.
Some journalists have elevated hating the populist Nickelback to the level of a national pastime, so it's no surprise that Kroeger doesn't cherish being interviewed. He fully admits that, while being as congenial and playful as can be. Attribute the good mood to the countdown to his 37th birthday, which was the day after our Nov. 14 interview, or excitement about "Here and Now," whose simultaneously released first two singles, "Bottoms Up" and "When We Stand Together," are soaring up the charts. Either way, he talked expansively about the new album, strip clubs, dying young, the latest round of haters, and the creepiest, strangest gift he ever got from a fan.
MSN Music: "Here and Now" opens with "This Means War," a very heavy slab of rock that announces your return like a cannon shot. Was that intentional after three years away?
Chad Kroeger: It's a wake-up call and a slap in the face. I'm screaming harder than I ever have in the chorus. It is to let all our fans know, "Hey, we haven't lost our teeth whatsoever. All we do is simply choose our battles a little more wisely." It was supposed to be a song of inspiration for anybody who's trying to overcome something ... whether that's cancer or whether you're in the 11th grade and you're being bullied by people on Facebook.
Opening single "Bottoms Up" is about drinking, but it's clearly a song that's going to be heard in strip clubs. Is the goal to have a song of yours that you'll hear every time you go into a strip club on each album?
I didn't peg "Bottoms Up" as a strip club one. I pegged "Gotta Get Me Some" as our strip club [contender from "Here and Now"]. Then again, I've heard "Rockstar" a million times in a strip club, so you can't really tell what they are or aren't going to play in a strip club. But it's funny [laughs] that we get tagged as the strip club band, but Motley Crue gets played every 15 minutes in a strip club and it doesn't seem to hurt them at all.
After recording "Dark Horse" with producer Mutt Lange, you went back to producing yourself on "Here and Now." Drummer Daniel Adair hinted that the time with Lange was very intense and tough. Do you look back at that as a bad decision?
Not at all! We were afraid of being ... of starting to record ideas that may have gone in the direction of stale. And that was a fear that we had spoken about and how we were going to combat this. It doesn't hurt that Mutt Lange happens to be one of my heroes and one of my favorite producers of all time and I love the records he does. So it was an absolute honor and a pleasure when we got on the phone and he was interested in making not just one or two cuts on the record, but the entire Nickelback album. The timing for him could have been better, in the fact that he was going through an awful, awful split [from Shania Twain] that was incredibly public. That probably didn't behoove the recording process, but I don't think it detracted too much from it either. I love Mutt dearly; we stay in touch all the time.
You'll start a new tour next year. What's the last thing you do before you walk onstage?
I think do an internal prayer. Say, "Please, God, let my voice handle the next two hours of screaming."
There seems to be a rash of artists who are having vocal trouble right now. How do you take care of your throat?
Well, I stay up late, I don't get enough sleep, I eat spicy food, I drink tequila, and I smoke the kinds of cigarettes you're not supposed to smoke. I [don't] pamper the s--- out of this thing [laughs]. I don't baby it at all. I kick it. So far so good. Now, that being said, I've got another birthday coming up in 24 hours, and maybe I should start being a little bit more delicate with it, but I don't want my vocal cords to start being high-maintenance.
You predicted in Playboy a few years ago that you would die on your 40th birthday onstage. As that date looms closer, do you want to revise that prediction?
I was in the eighth grade -- this is bizarre -- and one of my best friends at the time told me that he had a dream that I was playing my guitar in front of thousands of people and [on my] 40th birthday, he said, "then you keeled over and had a heart attack right onstage." Now, I don't remember him saying that I died [laughs]. But, you know, the other part came true so ... I'm a little leery about booking a date on Nov. 15 , just so you know [laughs].
Maybe you should be doing something a little more private for your 40th.
Oh, see I take the other approach. I absolutely want to book a gig for my 40th birthday. Why not? How crazy would that be if I predicted my own death years before? Yeah, we're going to book a big venue for that one. Even the haters will be buying tickets for that one.
Speaking of haters, more than 50,000 people signed a petition protesting Nickelback playing the halftime show during the Detroit Lions-Green Bay Packers' Thanksgiving Day game. Don't you think there's a better way for them to spend their energy?
Yeah .... If you made all those people pay a buck and [the petition organizer] could take it and give it back to the community, to Detroit, I would have signed that petition more than anyone else.
It's been 10 years since "Silver Side Up" came out and catapulted your career into the stratosphere. What do you wish you'd known when the ride started that you know now?
That at all times, not just some of the time, you need to stop and smell the roses. [In] those moments where you're meeting somebody that you've always dreamed of meeting, you're experiencing something that you've always dreamt you might be able to do, really, really appreciate those moments, because there's an excellent chance they will never happen again, and don't just let it blow by you like "Oh, yeah, it's cool. It's cool. There's going to something bigger and greater and cooler tomorrow," because there might not be. ... There are things along the way that I really wish I had been a little more cognizant of because when "How You Remind Me" went through the roof and suddenly we were playing arenas all around the world, I can't remember most of that tour [laughs] and there was a lot of great things that happened.
What's the weirdest thing a fan has ever given you?
A fan once sent me a copy of my own dental records, and it was super creepy. In fact, we filed [a report] with the FBI [laughs]. I don't know how they were able to obtain it. They were, like, from South America and they got a copy of my dental records and sent it to me, just to prove they were able to find out things about my life that no one else could find out. That's the stuff that our security team, they [usually] don't tell us about, but I remember them telling me this one and being like "Okaaaayyyy."
Melinda Newman is the former West Coast bureau chief for Billboard magazine. She has covered music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, MSN, AOL Music, Hitfix.com, Variety, People Country and other outlets. Recent interviews include Taylor Swift, Susan Sarandon, Pink, Jeff Bridges, Brad Paisley, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz.