WITH “HOW YOU REMIND ME,” Nickelback have become the first Canadian band since the Guess Who to have a Number One single in the United States and Canada simultaneously. Aspiring Canadians, take note: The band worked up and recorded the song in about ten minutes, starting with a piecemeal version that singer-guitarist Chad Kroeger had brought to the sessions for the band’s second album, Silver Side Up. The post-Creed power ballad went on to break the record for most spins on Modern Rock Radio in a single week (that’d be 3,016, for all you trivia buffs), handing Sugar Ray’s “Fly” a serious ass-whipping. The critical establishment might disagree, but fans respond to Nickelback’s no-nonsense, anthemic brand of rock & roll — delivered without clown masks, turntables or copious piercings. Kroeger called from a tour stop in St. Louis.
So have you done any embarrassing rock-star shit yet?
Embarrassing rock-star shit? No. All the rock-star shit I do is not worth bragging about, not to Rolling Stone.
Come on. You can’t tease us like that.
Yes, I can. You guys are all about dirt! My mother hates it when I give you guys dirt. I’m like, “Yeah, I just did another interview with Rolling Stone.” She’s like, “Great. Did you talk about when you lost your virginity or what new drugs you’re doing this week?”
What’s your favorite record now?
I can’t stop listening to Tenacious D [beeper noise]. Oh, I have Mr. Lyor Cohen [president of Island/Def Jam Records] trying to call me every fifteen minutes. Hold on. [To Cohen] Hey, buddy. I’m just doing an interview with Rolling Stone. Is it good or bad? I don’t know. I’m gonna have to wait till I read the article. OK. Buh-bye. [To RS] Whooo. I’m starting a production company, and we’re getting bids from nine different labels, so my phone’s constantly going off the hook, whether it’s Clive Davis, Lyor, Atlantic. Everyone’s pretty excited.
Are you comfortable dealing with the business aspect of your career?
I’m quite comfortable, due to the fact that we broke ourselves in Canada. When we were an indie band, I would call the music director of a radio station and say, “Oh, we just got this add at this station.” The smaller stations would look to larger ones, you’d get another add, and then it was just a snowball effect. And once you get onto not that many stations in Canada, you start charting.
Your brother Mike plays bass in Nickelback. What’s the main thing you guys fight about?
Business decisions: Are we gonna do this, take that? If Coca-Cola came to us tomorrow and offered us $2.5 million to do a commercial, Mike would take it. Whereas I’d say, “No way in hell.” Because if I saw, like, Tool doing a Coke commercial… I mean, what would you think?
That it’d probably be a pretty disturbing Coke commercial. So is the band a democracy?
No. If I’m trying to veto something, I’ll be like, “Hey, tell you what, Mike. You sing it.”
Your record came out on September 11th. That must have been weird.
When I woke up, the record was really an afterthought. It wasn’t till hours after we’d been watching CNN where someone went, “Oh, no, our fucking record came out today.” We were ten miles away from where the one plane crashed in Pennsylvania. We did a show that night. It was very, very strange. We were on the road with 3 Doors Down. We didn’t want to go onstage, but it wasn’t our show, so we had to. There were 10,000 people at this state fair. Everyone was in a weird mood. We did a couple of songs, then I said, “You know what? This has been one of the darkest days in our history. But why don’t we try and end it on a positive note? You guys can use us to take your mind off what’s on CNN, and we’ll do our best.” As soon as I said that, it alleviated the tension. Everyone rushed to the front of the stage, and we had a great rock show.
On a totally different note, tell me about your stint in juvie.
I was in for two months. I was fourteen. I had a ring on my finger that my grandfather’d given me right before he died. These two guys grabbed me in the yard and tried to literally rip my finger off to get it. Another guy tried to steal my running shoes.
What did you do to get by?
I got them to let me take an acoustic guitar into the yard one day. I started playing all these Metallica riffs. I immediately got everyone’s respect, because there was no Metallica song written to that day that I couldn’t play. It was like, “Dude, play ‘Blackened.’ ” “‘No problem.’ ” They left me alone after that.
Last question: The best Guess Who song ever would be …?
Oh, there’s too many. I was listening to the Guess Who last night. A lot of people would probably say “American Woman,” but I’ll go with “No Sugar Tonight.” That’s not really a profound way to end this. Maybe I should do some trash talking.
That’d be cool. Who do you hate?
Exactly! “Who?” He’s a Canadian artist who sells hundreds of thousands of records in Canada but couldn’t sell shit in America, and since his fellow Canadian band went down to America and worked their asses off and did sell records, he thought it’d be OK to take some cheap shots at us. It’s pathetic. Once you come to America and sell a million records in two months, suddenly you’re a bad guy, a Creed rip-off.
This isn’t going to end in violence, is it?
Well, I’m from Alberta, and he’s a city kid, right? And I don’t know how city kids deal with things, but when you talk shit about somebody from a small town, they find you in a back alley and they deal with the situation. They beat the living piss out of you and then laugh at you the next day when you’re seen around town all marked up.
All right. Word’s out. That’s a good, profound note to end on.
What did I say? “We’ll find him in a back alley, beat the piss out of him.” You can make it sound good, right?