The Canadian rock group Nickelback recently released their sixth studio album, entitled Dark Horse. The band, enormously popular in the U.S., began a North American tour on November 26th. I caught up with lead singer Chad Kroeger to ask him about the album and the band’s success.
MIKE: You guys have a string of big hits that all sound similar. What is the magic formula you keep returning to so you can produce these songs that catch on with the masses?
CHAD: Well, I don’t like to think of us as formulaic, but we like to remain consistent in how we produce our music. It’s not easy. On this new album, we’ve experimented a little bit, and I think it paid off. I think it’s got enough of that classic Nickelback sound mixed with some new flavor. I think the fans will really dig it.
MIKE: Talk a little bit about what makes a Nickelback song sound so distinctive.
CHAD: We work very hard so it all comes together naturally. It can be really difficult. Like on our number one single Someday, that was a real challenge, getting those manatees to come into the studio and then having to torture them. You have to look at it as an ongoing creative process that we’re always trying to work on.
MIKE: Right, well the other thing….wait, what?
CHAD: We worked with the world famous producer, Mutt Lange, on this last album, and I think his influence is felt immediat-
MIKE: Hold on a second….what’d you say about the manatees?
CHAD: What? Oh….we had manatees come in and get tortured, we recorded that and I sang the lyrics over it. We’ve done that on every album.
MIKE: Yeah, but I didn’t realize….
CHAD: Anyway, Mutt had a lot of great ideas that we used. Most of his contributions came in ways to keep the Humane Society at bay. Being in the studio again was a lot of fun, and there’s nothing like the camaraderie between the bandmates. When we released Photograph a couple years ago, I remember how fun it was when our drummer actually waterboarded one of the manatees. Instead of a terry cloth over the manatee’s face, he used a Donald Duck t-shirt! Talk about a comical situation.
MIKE: Chad, I think I’m kind of troubled over what you’re saying. No one knew what went into creating your signature awful sound.
CHAD: I don’t see what the problem is. Have you ever heard a Nickelback song? What do you think it sounds like? We are innovators. We have to push the envelope and if we don’t, we aren’t being true to ourselves. After we’ve got the tracks laid down, we always give the manatees lots of steak and candy. Believe me, they get treated a lot better than manatees in the wild. I can assure you that they are absolutely spoiled rotten when Nickelback is done with them. Besides, it’s not like manatee torture is the only thing we use on our tracks. Garbage trucks emptying dumpsters….walruses making love…the weeping of Holocaust survivors. It’s a potpourri.
MIKE: Okay….um…you talked about experimenting on this last album. How did you go about doing that exactly?
CHAD: You heard about Hurricane Katrina?
CHAD: Once we heard it was coming, we went down there with recording equipment and recorded all the sounds of the devastation. We were riding around in vans like Bill Paxton in Twister. Anyway, the horrific sounds we caught on tape actually went onto become the hook for our number one hit If Everyone Cared.
MIKE: I thought that sounded familiar!
CHAD: Yeah, if you listen closely, after the second verse you can actually hear a guy looting a Radio Shack.
MIKE: Right. Well, this explains a lot, Chad.
CHAD: Hey, it’s a little off-kilter, but I think it makes for better music. I’ve even used the Nickelback style for some of my side projects. For that song I did with Santana, we actually used a recording of a kindly old man getting attacked by bees. In the end, we’re in this for the same reason as anybody – to make boatloads of money by putting out utter shit that will make your ears bleed.
MIKE: It’s the American dream.
CHAD: Amen, brother. I have to run. We’re laying down a new track today, and I have to meet our bass player in the studio at 10 so we can beat a dying moose with a tack hammer.