"If we've got an hour, we sleep. I'm not even chasing chicks anymore," lead vocalist/guitarist Chad Kroeger said laughing.
The Canadian rock band's third album, Silver Side Up, the first made officially for Roadrunner (The State was recorded independently), debuted at No. 2 on the SoundScan album sales chart for the week of September 11th. It has since been certified platinum and remains in the Top 10.
Kroeger conceded with a chuckle that while Nickelback's schedule is as demanding as ever, so are the members these days.
"Once we shipped a million records and got our plaques right away, we instantly were like, 'Make sure the label's there to pick us up,' and they're like, 'No problem.' 'And as soon as we're done meeting with the label, we want to do sushi,' and they're like, 'No problem.' 'We don't want to do more than two fly shows a week.' They're like, 'No problem.' Perfect, this is going great."
Kroeger laughed talking about it. The band members are anything but bratty rock stars. Their work ethic is impressive and the singer's knowledge of the industry
talking numbers and strategies befitting a label rep, has been a key factor in Nickelback's success (besides, of course, writing radio-friendly rock songs such as "Leader of Men" on 1999's gold certified The State and the No. 1 hit "You Remind Me" on the new album).
Nickelback's original incarnation played covers in its native Alberta and featured a different singer and drummer. When it dissolved, Kroeger, who had never fronted a band before, started composing original songs in 1995. To record them, he went to Vancouver with his best friend, guitarist Ryan Peake, and his cousin, drummer Brandon Kroeger (replaced by Ryan Vikedal prior to making The State). His older brother, bassist Mike Kroeger, was playing in a metal outfit there.
The four recorded the EP Hesher, which got some airplay on Vancouver rock station CFOX.
"We got to bypass a lot of the crappy clubs because we were getting radio support. Our first gig was at the Town Pump. We opened for a band called Rust," Kroeger recalled.
By the end of 1996, Nickelback recorded its full-length debut, Curb, and toured for the next two years, all the while becoming increasingly disillusioned with management, Kroeger said.
"These managers were getting us gigs, but they were charging for ridiculous things, posters that never got made, G.S.T. (goods & service tax in Canada), which they wouldn't submit to the government. [It was] 20 percent off the top before expenses. We were completely getting screwed around," Kroeger claimed.
In the middle of recording the next album, The State, Nickelback fired its management and took on all the business duties.
When Ralph James from Toronto-based The Agency Group started booking Nickelback, everything finally started falling into place, Kroeger said.
"It was Nickelback and Ralph James together that really built Nickelback because he had the best way to break bands."
James put the band on bills with his biggest clients like Big Sugar, Headstones, 54.40, and Wide Mouth Mason, until Nickelback became a headliner.
"The main thing is the band was willing to do whatever it took. They never complained," recalled James, who was tipped to the band by CFOX's Rob Robson.
Within a couple of months, Kroeger reported Nickelback sold 10,000 copies and the band had difficulty keeping up with the demand. That's when the major labels stepped in. After laying the groundwork in Canada, Nickelback structured a domestic deal with EMI Music Canada and signed with Roadrunner abroad, both companies licensing The State and putting their muscle behind it.
Continuing to tour the rest of 1999 in Canada, where the record was immediately re- released with new artwork, the band released the album in the U.S. at the beginning of 2000 and found itself starting from scratch. By then, Nickelback had signed on with Union Entertainment's Bryan Coleman ("one of the most trustworthy people on the planet") for management and Steve Kaul at The Agency Group (U.S.).
While the heavier Sevendust wasn't the ideal first tour ("We didn't even play the single, 'Leader Of Men,'", Kroeger said - he credited 3 Doors Down with "a huge part" of Nickelback's success.
"3 Doors Down took us on the road and helped us get into all these larger places that we could never get into. We probably did six tours with them."
"Essentially, what we did with [Nickelback] here in the U.S. was as soon as the first single came out, we had them on the road supporting as many different bands as possible," Kaul explained. "In between each of these tours with Sevendust and 3 Doors Down, we had them do headline shows in markets where they were getting some radio airplay, trying to keep them working.
"They came here in March of last year and toured the entire year in the States. They didn't go home for more than a week."
The band toured again with 3 Doors Down in Germany and in amphitheatres in America, then headlined its own tour. Since its Australian jaunt in October, the band has been on the road with Default and Saliva. That tour will end just before Christmas.
In the new year, the guys will hook up with Default for a Canadian tour until the beginning of February. Nickelback will then head to Europe for a month before returning to the U.S. and Australia. Pull Quote: "The main thing is the band was willing to do whatever it took. They never complained."
Cover photo: Michael Weintrob / groovetography.com