The rock group Nickelback started as an indie metal band in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, before breaking into the mainstream music scene in the United States and Canada in 2000. The band’s first hit single, “Leader of Men,” spent 13 weeks on the American rock chart’s top ten, winning over grunge-rock listeners and establishing Nickelback as a newcomer to watch. With grinding guitar riffs and emotionally charged lyrics, the band’s music reminded many of the popular rock groups Creed and Bush. Its 2001 release, Silver Side Up, debuted at number two on the American charts and at number one on the Canadian charts, fueled by the success of the hit single “How You Remind Me.”
Nickelback traces its roots to the small Canadian town of Hanna, population 3,000, in the province of Alberta. It was here that the band’s leader and vocalist, Chad Kroeger, grew up with his older brother and bandmate, bassist Mike Kroeger. As boys, the Kroeger brothers met guitar player Ryan Peake, who moved to Hanna from a town called Brooks when he was in the sixth grade. Ryan Vikedal, who became the band’s drummer, was a friend of Peake’s from Brooks.
In rural Hanna, about two-and-a-half hours east of Calgary, most young men looked toward a future in farming or coal mining. But the Kroeger brothers dreamed of a life in rock ‘n’ roll. Mike took his bass guitar to Vancouver, British Columbia, a ten-hour drive from Hanna; there he started playing with heavy-metal bands. Not long afterward, Chad and Peake borrowed $4,000 and set off to join him. With the Kroeger brothers’ cousin Brandon Kroeger on the drums, Nickelback was born.
The band independently recorded its first album, the seven-song EP Hesher, in early 1995. In December of the same year, they followed up with the full-length independent CD Curb. Without a lot of help from publicists, the band members promoted the CD themselves, calling or stopping in at music stores to make sure they carried Curb, and to make sure they restocked the CD when it sold out. And sell out it did. Their single “Fly” became a hit on Vancouver radio, with the rock station CFOX naming it their most-played song. At the Pacific Music Industry Awards, Curb received a nomination for Album of the Year—Independent Distribution.
Charged with the success of their first album, Nickelback took a loan of $30,000 and set out to record a second full-length album at Greenhouse Studios in Burnaby, British Columbia. But before they could get started, drummer Brandon Kroeger left the group. To replace him, Peake called on his childhood friend Ryan Vikedal, and the band was back in business.
More changes came while the group recorded its second album. The band broke relations with its management and decided to handle the business end
Members include Chad Kroeger, vocals, guitar; Mike Kroeger, bass; Ryan Peake, guitar; Ryan Vikedal, drums.
Group formed in Vancouver, Canada, early 1990s; released debut EP Hesher on independent label, 1995; followed with full-length independent CD Curb, 1995; released second full-length independent CD, The State, 1999; signed with EMI Music Canada and with the U.S. label Roadrunner Records, 1999; rereleased The Stat under Roadrunner label, 2000; released Silver Side Up, 2001.
Awards: West Coast Music Award (Canada), Best Independent Album, 1999.
of the music themselves. “[The managers] weren’t really helping us at the time,” Chad told Canadian Musician. “They were going through problems themselves, and that’s why we actually let them go, right when we were recording the record, because we all kind of thought that we could do a pretty good job on our own, and, well, we did just fine.” Nickelback released the album—an indie recording of The State— in January of 1999. With no record label and no management, they handled every aspect of the business—from promotion and marketing to distribution and booking—themselves. Chad, who had once held jobs in advertising, talked up the album to radio station program directors. Mike handled distribution, dealing directly with local music stores, and Peake oversaw the band’s website.
Through these grassroots efforts, Nickelback managed to sell 10,000 copies of the album in Canada. When their single “Leader of Men” became a favorite on Vancouver radio, the album sailed to the top of local indie charts. Clinching The State’s success was a West Coast Music Award for Best Independent Album. Word about the album—and radio airtime for its hit single—began to spread throughout the country as Canadian metal fans discovered the band.
It wasn’t long before the big record labels took notice of Nickelback. Courted by the top names in the industry, the band signed with EMI Music Canada. Yet looking south to the bigger market in America, they resisted big-name prestige and chose to sign with a small company—Roadrunner Records. Known for its success with “Nu-metal” bands like Sepultura, Coal Chamber, and Slipknot, Roadrunner promised to make a name for Nickelback in the States. “We felt a lot of enthusiasm coming from Roadrunner,” Mike Kroeger said in an interview with the Rocknworld website. “They were really into it. You know to be honest with you, the big labels, they were interested, they had their pocketbooks out, but we didn’t feel the sincerity we got from Roadrunner. They were genuinely interested in making us break America.”
The first step for the band was to rerelease The State on the Roadrunner label in March of 2000. By summertime, “Leader of Men” had hit the top ten on the mainstream American rock charts. Another single, “Breathe,” followed suit, while “Old Enough” climbed to the top 20. To keep up the momentum, Nickelback kicked off a 200-show tour, playing alongside such bands as Creed, 3 Doors Down, and Fuel. “It was fantastic,” Peake recalled in comments included on the band’s official website. “The snowball effect of the album was phenomenal. We started doing well in Canada, and then the buzz in the States took over. It totally went off the hook and was a great kickstart for us!”
Holding on to their moment in the spotlight, Nickelback recorded their album Silver Side Up in 2001. Propelled by the success of the album’s first single, “How You Remind Me,”Silver Side Up debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 albums chart and at number one on the Canadian charts. Written on the heels of a breakup between Chad and a girlfriend, “How You Remind Me” struck a chord for listeners with their own broken romances. In fact, the single had such widespread appeal that it crossed over from rock to pop, surprising the musicians who created it. “This crossover stuff is scary,” Peake told MTV.com. “We’re a rock band; we’ve always been a rock band. Pop radio never touched anything we did until this song. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘We’re going to write a crossover hit.’ We just wrote a Nickelback song.”
Yet the exposure of a crossover hit only helped the band. By November of 2001, Silver Side Up was selling 130,000 copies per week and earned triple-platinum record sales in January of 2002. Other singles from the album—such as “Too Bad” and “Never Again”—gained airplay. Nickelback promoted the album with another tour, and the band wrapped up 2001 as a solid presence in mainstream rock.
Hesher (independent release), 1995.
Curb (independent release), 1995.
The State, Roadrunner, 2000.
Silver Side Up, Roadrunner, 2001.
Boston Globe, November 23, 2001.
Canadian Musician, October 1, 2000.
“Bands A-Z: Nickelback,” MTV, http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/nickelback/artist.jhtml (January 3, 2002).
Nickelback Official Website, http://www.nickelback.com (January 7, 2002).
“Sophomore: The 2nd Time is the Charm—Nickelback,” Rocknworld, http://www.rocknworld.com/soph/2001/nb (January 3, 2002).
Group formed mid-1990s in Hanna, Alberta; members include Daniel Adair (born February 19, 1975, in Toronto, Ontario), drums; Brandon Kroeger, drums (member c. 1995–99): Chad Kroeger (born 1974), vocals, guitar; Mike Kroeger, bass; Ryan Peake, guitar, vocals; Ryan Vikedal, drums (member 1999–2005).
Addresses: Management—Union Entertainment Group, 1323 Newbury Rd., Ste. 104, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Record company—Roadrunner Records, 902 Broadway, New York, NY 10010. Website—http://www.nickelback.com.
Released EP Husher, 1996; released Curb, 1996; released The State, 1999 in Canada and 2000 in the United States; released Silver Side Up, 2001; released The Long Road, 2003; released All the Right Reasons, 2005.
Awards: Juno Award for best new group, CARAS, 2001; Juno Award for best group, CARAS, 2002; Juno Award for best single, CARAS, for "How You Remind Me," 2002; Juno Award for best rock album, CARAS, for Silver Side Up, 2002; Juno Award for songwriter of the year, CARAS, 2003; Juno Award for group of the year, CARAS, 2004; Juno Award for fan choice, CARAS, 2004; Juno Award for group of the year, CARAS, 2006; Juno Award for rock album of the year, CARAS, for All the Right Reasons, 2006; American Music Award for best pop/rock album for All the Right Reasons, 2006.
Nickelback became the most popular rock band to come out of Canada in the 2000s and one of the most commercially successful bands of the decade by relying on a hit-making formula of hard rock combined with melody and extremely catchy hooks. Sometimes described as post-grunge, a throwback to the grunge subgenre of 1990s alternative rock, Nickelback is better understood as a band inspired by 1980s metal and 1970s hard rock as well as grunge, with an ear for pop songcraft. Lead singer Chad Kroeger, with an unrelenting vocal delivery and dramatic hairstyle and goatee, has become one of the decade's omnipresent rock stars.
Nickelback formed in the small northern Canadian town of Hanna, Alberta, more than 200 miles northeast of Calgary in the mid-1990s. They began as a cover band, but once an early singer and guitarist left, Chad Kroeger began writing his own songs. His brother and bandmate, Mike, moved to Vancouver to play in a metal band, and the rest of Nickelback—Chad, his drumming cousin, Brandon, and guitarist Ryan Peake—traveled to Vancouver to record their songs, then moved to the city in 1996 to pursue a career in music. They quickly released an EP, Husher, followed by a full-length CD, Curb, and began touring Canada. Ryan Vikedal replaced Brandon Kroeger on drums in 1999, and the band released its second full-length album, The State, recorded at the Green House studio in Vancouver in 1999.
A single on The State, "Leader of Men," caught the attention of Canadian radio programmers. Nickelback got a boost from the fact that Canada had recently increased the amount of Canadian content its radio stations were required to play. Rock stations were desperate for new Canadian bands to add to their playlists, and Nickelback's post-grunge sound fit the bill. The band embarked on a 200-show tour to promote The State and opened for popular rock bands such as Creed and Silverchair. Soon they were signed to EMI in Canada and Roadrunner Records in the United States, which released The State there in early 2000. The album went on to sell 500,000 copies.
Nickelback returned to the Green House to record their next album, Silver Side Up, which included several songs the band had perfected on its long tour. Spurred by the hit single "How You Remind Me," which became the most played radio song of 2002, the album hit Number One on the Canadian and U.S. rock charts at the same time, the first time a band had done so since the Guess Who in 1970. The album eventually sold 8.5 million copies. Critics seemed to peg them as imitators of grunge, but the band seemed to differ. Chad Kroeger cited heavy-metal bands such as Metallica and Megadeth as his first influences. As for Nickelback's music, "Some people call it alternative rock, some call it this, that, or the other, but to us it's just straight-up rock and roll," he told Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly.
Reviewer Erik Pedersen of the Hollywood Reporter seemed to grasp the essence of the band. Reporting on a Nickelback show in West Hollywood in October of 2001, Pedersen noted that the band had mixed the hard rock sound that had taken the airwaves back around the turn of the millennium with enough melody to appeal to a wide audience. They seemed equally familiar with late-1990s post-grunge, 1980s metal, and Led Zeppelin-style 1970s rock. Proud to be hard rockers, the band "shrugged at subtlety and hissed at trendiness," Pedersen wrote. He also noticed that Chad Kroeger, with his striking long hair and goatee, had become a charismatic rock frontman, noting that the lead singer easily got the crowd to scream when he wanted them to and that his performance of a more sensitive song, "Too Bad," addressed to Kroeger's father, "drew shrieks from the numerous females in the crowd."
The band's next album, The Long Road, arrived in 2003 and sold five million copies, while the single "Someday" hit the top ten. As fans embraced the album, some critics recoiled. Stephen Thomas Erlewine dismissed the band as "heavy-rock hucksters" who were aping grunge bands such as Nirvana or Alice in Chains but not bringing any fresh creativity to their expressions of angst. "It's all a generic litany of the torture of relationships and the evil that dad did," Erlewine complained. The final track, the party anthem "See You at the Show," only led Erlewine to doubt the sincerity of the somberness on the rest of the album. Chuck Arnold of People dismissed the album as "light on ingenuity" and songs such as "Someday" as built on shallow hooks that are initially catchy but ultimately forgettable. But Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly, proud not to be a rock snob, gave the album a B+, praising Chad Kroeger's "instantly identifiable voice imbued with passion and edge." To Sinclair, Nickelback's "single-minded fervor" and sing-along melodies made the band good.
Chad Kroeger emeged not only as a frontman on stage and on record, but also as a sort of musical entrepreneur, a calculating businessman, and songwriter. Reporters noted that the members of Nickelback started managing themselves between their first and second albums, with Chad Kroeger tracking radio airplay of their songs. Interviewers often found him talking at length about how he had studied what makes a popular song a hit. "I study everything," he told Karen Bliss of Canadian Musician. "I started studying every piece, everything sonically, everything lyrically, everything musically, chord structure. I would dissect every single song that I would hear on the radio or every song that had ever done well on a chart and I would say, 'Why did this do well?'" Nickelback's single "How You Remind Me," Kroeger told Bliss, sold so well because it was about romantic relationships, a universal subject, and contained three memorable hooks, including the "yeah-ehs" after the chorus.
Between albums, in 2005, drummer Ryan Vikedal left the band. He claimed the rest of the band had pushed him out because he was not the type of drummer they wanted. Daniel Adair, formerly of 3 Doors Down, replaced Vikedal as drummer. The group's next album, All the Right Reasons, was released in October of 2005. It included guest appearances by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top—who played a guitar solo on the song "Follow You Home" and sang backing vocals on "Rock Star"—and a posthumously sampled appearance by Chad Kroeger's friend Dimebag Darrell from Pantera, culled from guitar outtakes. The band also explored a more acoustic sound on some songs. "Savin' Me," for instance, included strings and piano as well as guitars. "We were a little scared of using piano," Chad Kroeger said in a biography on the band's website. "We just didn't think it was very rock and roll." But once they heard the result, he added, they liked it.
The critical debate over Nickelback grew even more intense with the new album's release. Erlewine of All Music Guide noted that Kroeger evoked sadder emotions and the band responded with more acoustic instrumentation, but complained that the band still repeated the same chords, melodies, and harmonies too often; still played "clumsy, plodding riffs"; and included little humor in their lyrics. Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly stuck up for Nickelback again. Reviewer Whitney Pastorek gave the album a B, praising the band's "richer, more diverse sound" and describing the single "Photograph" as "dreamy."
Nickelback spent much of 2006 touring. Meanwhile, Chad Kroeger was arrested in the British Columbia town of Surrey in June of 2006 and charged with drunken driving. His attorney entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf at a court hearing in August. In November of 2006, Nickelback won an American Music Award for best pop/rock album, surprising the band itself. "We just kinda showed up because we were supposed to give one of these away tonight," Chad Kroeger said after receiving the award, according to the Calgary Herald. Kroeger added that he had thought the Red Hot Chili Peppers would win the award.
As 2006 ended, All the Right Reasons had sold four million copies and spawned five singles. Yet Nickelback was not done promoting it. The band was set to headline an arena tour of North America in February and March of 2007.
Husher (EP), self-released, 1996.
Curb, self-released, 1996.
The State, self-released, 1999; released in the U.S. by Roadrunner, 2000.
Silver Side Up, Roadrunner, 2001.
The Long Road, Roadrunner, 2003.
All the Right Reasons, Roadrunner, 2005.
Billboard, February 26, 2000, p. 24.
Calgary Herald, November 22, 2006.
Canadian Musician, September-October 2003, p. 35.
Entertainment Weekly, October 26, 2001, p. 122; September 26, 2003, p. 93; October 28, 2005, p. 84.
Hollywood Reporter, October 15, 2001, p. 34.
People, October 13, 2003, p. 44.
Rock Airplay Monitor, July 26, 2002, p. 5.
Vancouver Sun, August 26, 2006.
"All the Right Reasons: Overview," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:17f8zfs4eh2k (November 14, 2006).
"Biography" Nickelback.com: The Official Nickelback Web Site, http://www.nickelback.com (November 14, 2006).
"The Long Road: Overview," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:ief1zff3eh3k (November 14, 2006).
"Nickelback: Biography," All Music Guide, http:// www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:kmmyxdyb2olg∼T1 (November 14, 2006).
Formed: 1996, Hanna, Alberta
Members: Chad Kroeger, vocals, guitar (born Hanna, Alberta, 15 November 1974); Mike Kroeger, bass (born Brooks, Alberta, 25 June 1972); Ryan Peake, guitar (born Calgary, Alberta, 1 March 1973); Ryan Vikedal, drums (born Brooks, Alberta, 9 May 1975). Former member: Brandon Kroeger, drums (born Hanna, Alberta).
Best-selling album since 1990: Silver Side Up (2001)
Hit songs since 1990: "How You Remind Me," "Too Bad," "Never Again"
Though one of many successful commercial hard rock bands of the late 1990s, Nickelback outdid its competitors by scoring a number one single with the bitter "How You Remind Me."
Nickelback began its career as a cover band in native Hanna, Alberta, located northeast of Calgary. Tiring of playing other acts' songs, singer/guitar player Chad Kroeger wrote a batch of his own songs, borrowed four thousand dollars, and moved to Vancouver to record them in a studio. Kroeger's band mates—brother Mike (bass), Ryan Peake (guitar), and cousin Brandon Kroeger (drums)—joined him in Vancouver in 1996. The band independently released the full-length album Curb and embarked on a tour across Canada.
In 2000, after replacing the departing Brandon Kroeger with new drummer Ryan Vikedal, Nickelback released The State. The band benefited from new Canadian radio content requirements that emphasized home-grown talent, and the single "Leader of Men" became a hit. "Leader of Men" hints at Nickelback's ultimately successful commercial formula, with chorus-laden guitars and the Kroeger brothers' dark, vocal harmonies. Nickelback subsequently scored high-profile opening slots for acts such as 3 Doors Down, Fuel, and Creed. Roadrunner Records, a subsidiary of Island Records, snapped up the band and re-released The State ; the album ultimately sold 500,000 copies.
The band's much-anticipated third album and first true major label album, Silver Side Up, appeared in 2001. It was an immediate hit, selling nearly 200,000 copies in its first week alone. The lead single "How You Remind Me" was a sensation. Set to ferocious guitars, "How You Remind Me" finds Kroeger growling kiss-off lines to a former lover ("It's not like you to say sorry / I was waiting on a different story / This time I'm mistaken / For handing you a heart worth breaking") around the song's central lyrical hook: "This is how you remind me." With "How You Remind Me," Nickelback topped both the U.S. and Canadian singles charts simultaneously—the first act to do so since the Guess Who, with its classic anthem "American Woman" in 1970.
The follow-up single "Too Bad," inspired by Kroeger's own childhood, became an MTV staple and penetrated mainstream radio, despite its angry, hard-rocking tone, which features the rapid-fire chorus: "It's too bad / It's too late / There's no time to rewind / Let's walk / Let's talk." On the strength of its hit singles, Silver Side Up ultimately sold 6 million copies worldwide. Nickelback was celebrated in its native Canada, earning Best Group, Best Rock LP, and Best Single ("How You Remind Me") honors at Canada's Juno Awards in 2002. The band also received Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group.
The success of Silver Side Up led to various high-profile collaborations for Nickelback. Chad Kroeger—along with Saliva front man Josey Scott, Theory of a Dead Man guitarist Tyler Connolly, and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron—recorded "Hero" for the Spider-Man soundtrack in 2002; Chad Kroeger also appeared as a guest vocalist on Santana's album Shaman (2002).
Curb (Roadrunner, 1996); The State (Roadrunner, 2000); Silver Side Up (Roadrunner, 2001). Soundtrack: Spider-Man (Sony, 2002).