INTERVIEW: Mike Kroeger – Nickelback
Updated: Mar 17
What can you say about one of the largest selling bands of all time? Having sold more than 50 Million albums worldwide, selling out Stadium and Arena tours globally and having seven of their albums go multi-Platinum, Nickelback have become a powerhouse band within the music industry and a firm favourite with their fans. Their 2005 album ‘All the Right Reasons’ has been certified Diamond; this is a feat for any album it has only been achieved approximately by 100 other albums across the last seventy years.
‘All The Right Reasons’ achieved seven singles, five of which went into the US Charts making history by being one of only a handful of albums ever to achieve five singles with top twenty hits. ‘Rockstar’ sold 1.2 Million and ‘Photograph’ sold 2 Million copies both being certified Double Platinum. The record has guest appearances from ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and has a tribute to the late Dimebag Darryl with samples from Pantera’s sessions of ‘Vulgar Display of Power’ and ‘Far Beyond Driven’.
I was able to chat with Mike Kroeger the legendary bassist of Nickelback to chat about the album, his memories of the naked, cowboy boot wearing security guard at The Buffalo Chip, Sturgis Show and of course, bass equipment and why he loves Spector Basses so much. Oh man I wish I had another hour to chat with Mike about bass gear but that’s for another interview, have fun reading it, Mike was certainly one of the funniest guys to chat with.
Elle Jay: Hey Mike, how are you doing?
Mike: I’m doing ok you know, I’m in Los Angeles so things haven’t been normal here for a long time, if LA has ever been normal! But yeah, it’s less normal than usual, where are you located?
Elle Jay: We’re in Perth, Australia
Mike: Oh wow, you’re safe then, yeah, we know Perth very well, you’re an island out there, it’s beautiful.
Elle Jay: Yeah, we’re pretty normal out here apart from not being allowed to leave the state, but looking at elsewhere in the world I’m happy to take that.
Mike: Yeah you have to be.
Elle Jay: I have say a mammoth congratulations on 15 years of ‘All The Right Reasons’. It’s gone four times Platinum, has a Diamond Certification and has sold over 12 MILLION copies which is still counting up too. Did you ever expect the album to surpass these figures and have this legacy when you guys wrote it during those sessions?
Mike: It is pretty crazy, no body saw this one coming. I think the idea of Diamond albums in the United States was pretty much a thing of the past when we put this album out, it didn’t appear that anyone was ever probably going to do that one again. So, it’s pretty special to be able to hang that one up for sure but aside from that we just did the best we could in the studio. We wrote the best songs we could and made the best album we could possibly do, and poured everything into it and lucky for us the people dug it and we went on the road for two years. So, it was an excellent cycle of life for sure.
Elle Jay: And Daniel had literally just joined you guys?
Mike: That’s right yes, he joined us in the beginning of the sessions for ‘All The Right Reasons’ so this is quite an anniversary for him.
Elle Jay: Wow! And on top of a new member, this only took four months to record from start to finish?
Mike: Oh, four months, is that what’s on your page?
Elle Jay: Yeah, I have four months, from January to May
Mike: I think it might have been more, it felt like more (laughs) but we were in there for so many hours every day and a lot of albums we had done, we would take breaks and in this one I remember we didn’t, we just went and went and went. It was sort of this somewhat suicidal idea that you know were gonna go in and we’re not gonna come out until its done and its perfect, it’s such crazy thing.
Elle Jay: Hey, it definitely worked
Mike: Yeah it did and you wouldn’t find anyone more thankful than us that it did work. We’re the most thankful and the most surprised of anybody
Elle Jay: I know this is a little redundant asking this as the album is so successful but back when you were in those sessions, was there anything that you as a band were thinking wasn’t right and possibly needed changing or just went along with even though you weren’t too happy with?
Mike: Well, if you go back to that time and back up a couple of albums, we released ‘Silver Side Up’ album, that has ‘How You Remind Me’ and ‘Too Bad’ and some other tracks, but ‘How You Remind Me’ really opened the door to the world for us. Then following that album which was a smash, you know it was a huge thing, there was an understanding and everyone was telling us ‘don’t worry guys, you’re gonna have a great career but your best days are probably behind you, just make the best work you can but don’t expect to do what ‘Silver Side Up’ did’.
Then we released ‘The Long Road’ and we did our best work we could do, we put together the best album we could and it was largely by the industry, whatever you call it, it was considered a failure at selling five million copies, so we though ‘oh, that’s what a failure is like, ok well I can handle that’. So, we were kinda ready to decline in to the sunset of our career at that point having done three albums and what happened was, when ‘All The Right Reasons’ came out, it was a whole new world, and it seemed like the world was ready for a lot more Nickelback and we were happy to give it to them, and it was just a wonderful ride. That album performed far beyond what ‘Silver Side Up’ did, so it’s really, really special.
Elle Jay: Haha, for your best days behind you, it spawned seven singles with five top twenty hits all in the charts at the same time, you’ve broken so many records with the album, like ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Photograph’ both achieved Double Platinum as singles in their own rights which is phenomenal. So, for them to say your best days maybe behind you, they certainly didn’t see what you had up your sleeves!
Mike: I don’t think those people were malicious intent or anything like that, I think what they were saying was born out by facts and history. They were only telling what had happened previously to pretty much every other artist, you only get to crest one mountain top and then you go back down the other side and that’s the end of it usually. We got to crest two mountain tops, which I don’t feel like a whole bunch of ‘I told you so’ or anything like that cos we were as surprised as anyone. We were like ‘really? We get to do this all again? This is awesome!’ So, it was a surprise for everyone including us.
Elle Jay: Ah, that’s cool, do you have a favourite track from the album?
Mike: I don’t know if I have a favourite track, I think that ‘Rockstar’ was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio, it was just so fun. To see it go on the album as an afterthought, and we made this ridiculous video for it and we didn’t really expect anything of it and it just caught fire starting in England and it went global after that. It really took a life of its own, it was kinda weird, it was awesome
Elle Jay: I was thinking about this earlier, I would have been back in Manchester, England at the time and regardless of what Club we were in like a Rock Club, RNB or in The Village, when the DJ would put ‘Rockstar’ on the crowd would come together, it crossed so many genres and was so much fun. Is it still fun to play live on stage after all these years?
Mike: It sure it and one thing we’ve started doing, haha started doing? No, we’ve been doing this for years now, we usually invite people to come on stage and sing ‘Rockstar’ with the band. It’s pretty fun, especially in towns like Manchester where people don’t mind a drink (we both start laughing, it’s true us Mancs like a beer or ten) so they’re well lubricated when they get on stage, you get some pretty remarkable performances out of them, it’s awesome.
Elle Jay: So, you have the anniversary album coming out, it’s a two-disc special with added acoustic versions and we also have a whole live disc of the Sturgis show. Do you have any special memories of when you played at the Buffalo Chip in 2006?
Mike: I remember….haha, hmmm yes! I do, I have one memory for you and it isn’t in relation to the show actually, its when we were arriving to the grounds of the show. I remember we pulled up in our tour busses, I was sitting up front with my driver as we arrived and I remember typically you get to the back gate of these facilities and there’s a back security gate with the security guy there who opens the gate up and the busses drive in. Which is a really normal thing whether is arenas or stadiums or whatever, it was the same thing here except there was one detail that was really different. We got there and we pulled up to the gate and the security guy was probably sixty years old with long silver hair and he was sitting on a white motorcycle and he did not have a stitch of clothing on!
[Both crack up laughing]
Elle Jay: What? Really?
Mike: And he walked over, wait no he had Cowboy boots on. He walked over, opened the gates for us and let us in and I though ‘wow, we are in for something here, this is going to be very interesting. (Copious amounts of laughter) And it was, there was more people naked in the audience at that show than I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what it is about that place but its clothing optional, I guess.
Elle Jay: Haha, I’m guessing that isn’t normal for Nickelback tours?
Mike: Not really, you know people have gotten in different states of undress but no its not something we see all of the time.
Elle Jay: Oh man, that’s a memory and a half!
Mike: Yeah absolutely, I’ll never forget it you know the show was fantastic and the crowd was awesome and great but that moment right there was the pinnacle of my experience at the Buffalo Chip.
Elle Jay: I wanted to ask and I’m mindful this is a Nickelback interview but I’m a bassist as well and I really like your bass lines on ‘Follow Me Home’, ‘Animals’ and ‘Side of a Bullet’, your tone is sublime. Did you record with your Spector for this album?
Mike: Cool, yes, I did, this was an all Spector album
Elle Jay: Awesome, how did you get into them?
Mike: You know it was, when things first kind of popped after ‘Silver Side Up’ my tech, my bass tech, the guy who looks after all my gear, he started reaching out to companies. He was like ‘hey you know you’re in one of the biggest bands in the world right now, you can play what ever you want. I’m gonna find all these companies and I’m going to have them all send you some things to try out.’ And I tried everything and I loved everything there’s so many great bass guitar companies that I worked with at that time. The thing with Spector was, I loved the sound of the basses and I love the way they play and they look gorgeous, they’re just works of art, but the people were just so engaged with me that’s what made it special. All these companies make beautiful bass guitars, there’s no one that has a corner on it, they’re all great, especially in the higher end stuff, there’s so many wonderful ones but Spector made me feel like part of the family from the very beginning and that goes on to this day. Its been a long time, I can’t even hazard a guess as to how long its been but they’re dear friends and family to me now and I love them
Elle Jay: Wow, that’s just perfect to hear. Sometimes we bassists get forgotten
Mike: Yeah, its not easy, I had some experience with other bass companies and it wasn’t all positive, but the reason was because these poor guys that were working the A & R were so overwhelmed., you know they would have one person to do all the artists on the roster and it was like ‘oh my god are you serious’. The guys wouldn’t get back to me or call me, it happened to me with a couple of companies that I really, really liked, I was like guys I really like your stuff but I can’t do this if you don’t call me back. And they were just overwhelmed, they just couldn’t do it, so I had to move on and the Spector people prioritized me in a way that all those other companies didn’t.
Elle Jay: That is nice to hear about Spector. I have one last question for you as I know you’re busy.
Mike: Of Course, sure
Elle Jay: Covid changed many plans for this year, but would there be a possibility of an ‘All The Right Reasons’ Tour for the anniversary?
Mike: So that was the plan, we would still be out there now in The United States touring, and we were going to be doing ‘All The Right Reasons’ from beginning to end and then do a second set of the other songs that we have to play or we get run out of town, haha. So yeah, we had that planned for The United States, we were just in the process of setting it up globally when all this started to happen and then we had to take it all down. So now were in an interesting position where we can write another album and record it and get a record ready but then we won’t do the ‘All The Right Reasons’ anniversary tour so were kind of struggling with what to do about that. Clearly the anniversary is now off the table, that’s gonna be passed before we go on the road again but I don’t know, we will see what happens, I was really looking forward to going out there and playing ‘All The Right Reasons’ from beginning to end.
Elle Jay: We’re looking forward to getting you back out here, its been a few years since we’ve seen you here in Perth.
Mike: Yeah, its been a long time and we miss you
Elle Jay: We miss you guys too, its been great chatting with you today and we can’t wait for the anniversary album to be out next week.
Mike: Thank you very much for your time, we appreciate it. Have yourself a great day
Interview was conducted for Rockpit Australia 29 September 2020