Mike Kroeger, (seen here on the left), bassist with Canadian rock band Nickelback, chats with Kevin Cooper about the time that their first single was played on the radio, seeing Ian Astbury from The Cult fighting with an audience member, their latest album Feed The Machine and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Mike Kroeger is the bass player for the Canadian rock band Nickelback which comprises of his half brother, guitarist and lead vocalist Chad Kroeger, guitarist and keyboard player Ryan Peake, and drummer Daniel Adair.

They are one of Canada’s most commercially successful groups, having sold more than fifty million albums worldwide, and ranking as the eleventh best selling music act and the second best selling foreign act in America of the 2000s behind The Beatles.

Originally formed as a cover band called Village Idiot, they later changed their name to Nickelback because Mike Kroeger used to work at Starbucks and when giving change to the customers he would frequently say, “Here’s your nickel back”. Performing covers of songs from Led Zeppelin and Metallica, they released a seven track EP of original material with the help of a loan from their step father. That was in 1996 and was titled Hesher.

More recent releases include a cover of Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry in 2016, and new single Feed The Machine taken from their ninth album of the same name which was released in June 2017.

Whilst finalising the details of their tour of the UK in May, Mike Kroeger took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Mike how are you today?

Hey Kevin I’m doing great thanks buddy, how are you doing?

I’m very well thank you and firstly let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem at all, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life is good man; I am sleeping a solid eight hours every night, I’m not drinking booze or eating late, and I am currently feeling a million bucks. All I need now is a few months out there on the road to screw it all up (laughter).

I have to say that I first saw you here in Nottingham back in 2016 and you simply blew me away. It was just a fantastic show.

That’s great to hear, thanks man. That’s good and I am glad that you liked the show.

On June 16th 2017 you released your ninth album Feed The Machine which the fans here in the UK absolutely love. Are you happy with the album?

Yes I am, I really am. I loved the album because it was our opportunity to just go into the studio and make a focused rock album. And we did that. It’s great that our fans over there in the UK love the album because that goes to prove that we are picking the right kind of songs to record for the fans on our home turf so to speak (laughter).

I particularly like Every Time That We Are Together and Song On Fire.

That’s good because those two tracks in particular are really good hard rockers.

Do you have a favourite track?

On that record I have really come around to the title track Feed The Machine. I am now really enjoying playing that particular track a lot. It sounds so good that I am enjoying playing it live too.

How many of the new tracks have made in onto the set list for the current tour?

So far I think we have included Feed The Machine and Song On Fire in the live shows. Beyond that it is still to be debated you could say (laughter).

On the UK leg of the tour you are being supported by South African rockers Seether. What can you tell me about them?

Well what can I say, Seether are, as you rightly say, a South African rock band who were formed back in the late 90s by frontman Shaun Morgan in Pretoria. They are very good friends of ours and if you haven’t already heard any of their work then you should check them out because they are absolutely wonderful.

Do the audiences here in the UK appreciate what it is that you are doing?

The people over there in the UK have been really good to us. When we released How You Remind Me in the UK back in 2001 our billboard was banned by somebody, perhaps some group of parents or somebody like that. They weren’t too happy with our billboard for How You Remind Me because it had a couple of Playboy Playmates on it. And I have to say that the ban led to us really taking off in the UK (laughter). It seems that is a kind of tried and tested method of getting the people of the United Kingdom to sit up and pay attention to what it is that you are doing (laughter). If you are doing something so salacious or you are doing something so scandalous and you get in trouble for it, then the people really do love you (laughter).

And let’s not forget that it was our dear friend Alice Cooper, who came up with that brilliant plan of driving a billboard truck right into the centre of Piccadilly Circus, showing a picture of Alice totally naked with the exception of a Boa Constrictor wrapped around his private parts. Then he took steps to disable the vehicle causing a major uproar throughout the whole of London and indeed the whole of the UK (laughter). It was people like Alice Cooper who wrote the book on just how to get people to notice and pay attention to what you are doing and let me tell you, it works for us too (laughter). It’s good to inject a little controversy because that seems to be something that the UK really likes.

Do your audiences here in the UK differ in any way from your audiences worldwide?

No, I don’t know that they really do. I think that our audiences worldwide are pretty much all the same. Whenever you go to a really heavy Metal show or a Death Metal show you will get one colour of the spectrum. Whereas at our shows you see everything from every walk of life, every age group, in fact the demographic is so wide that it is a cross-section of humanity in every country that we play. We don’t just get one kind of people, we get everybody.

You finish the UK leg of the tour here in Nottingham on Sunday 13th May. Just what can we expect?

(Laughter) well we are just bringing a big, loud and sweaty rock show. It is just going to be a blast. We hope to be welcoming the sun back to the United Kingdom while we are there. By the time that we finish the tour the days should have started to be a little brighter.

Fingers crossed (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) well I lived over there in the UK for some eighteen years and so I can remember what it is like to forget just what the sun looks like (laughter).

Well just so that you don’t feel a little homesick for the UK, let me tell you that we have had snow today (laughter).

Oh my goodness (laughter). Well as far as I can remember, the UK is not supposed to be an Alpine location (laughter).

I understand that you have now stopped drinking but before you took that decision, did you ever get used to our warm beer?

That is totally correct. That is one part of my life now that I have changed in the last few months. I no longer enjoy any beer anymore. I have recently become tea total which I suppose means that when I arrive in London and they stamp my passport, they will now have to stamp it tea total. Let me tell you that before I did finally figure things out, there was no kind of booze that I would discriminate against. I would pretty much drink anything. You hear about people’s drink of choice, they were all my drink of choice which is the main reason I took the decision to stop.

Nickelback have now been together for twenty-three years. Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

You could apply that question to anybody and I am sure that you would get, unless somebody has a really charmed existence or somebody has a really hellish existence, if you asked someone ‘hey how have the last twenty-three years been’ you are most probably going to get mixed results. I’m sure that most people would tell you “yes there have been some pretty good times in the past twenty-three years together with some really bad times in the last twenty-three years” (laughter). Let me just say that I am still on the right side of the grass so I can’t complain about that but like anybody, twenty-three years is a long time out of your life to try to encapsulate within a paragraph but for me it has been a hell of a good ride overall. There have been some hard times and some really great times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlight would most probably be something that not everyone can share in or understand but for me it would have to be the day that we got our first single ever played on the radio anywhere within Vancouver. I can remember that very moment. I was at a staff party at the coffee shop where I was working at that time. We had actually bribed an on air personality at the local rock radio station with a bottle of scotch and we asked him if he wouldn’t mind playing our single (laughter). No one else in the world was playing our music at that time, so all of us would hang out at the radio station and make nuisances of ourselves all of the time.

We were there that often that he finally gave up and agreed to play it. At that time I was actually at a Christmas party for the coffee shop when I got word that they were finally going to play our song. I got the coffee shop to tune into the local station because I wanted to finally hear our song being played on the radio. What was particularly nice for me was that all of my co-workers wanted to hear it too. That was cool because it was a really poignant moment for me because not only did I get to hear our music finally being made available to thousands of people, but I also realised that maybe, just maybe, that was my last Christmas party whilst working in a coffee shop. And let me tell you, I was really happy to be thinking about moving on from that (laughter).

On the other side of the coin, what would you say has been the lowest point for you during the past twenty-three years?

I think that easily the lowest point was when we were on stage playing our sound check in Richfield, Washington when Chad (Kroeger) was completely unable to sing. This was just prior to him having throat surgery. I was listening to his voice whilst we were trying to do our sound check and his vocal chords were completely destroyed and he desperately needed surgical intervention. I remember feeling so sad because I knew that something was dreadfully wrong. I was looking at him, I was hearing his voice and there were no notes coming out of his mouth. It was almost like a whispering sound, that’s all that was left, that is all that was there. For me to see the sadness in his face it as the saddest moment of my whole career.

They say that you should never believe your own publicity but when Billboard Magazine claimed that How You Remind Me was their best-selling rock song of the decade, then that surely has to make you feel warm inside?

(Laughter) that was kind of funny because on the cover of that magazine it said ‘best-selling song of the decade?’ and with them using the question mark we always understood it to mean ‘no, not really’; it was more like ‘are these guys serious’ (laughter). Whether it is good or bad I have always got to take it with a grain of salt because these moments are fleeting. You have moments of both positive reaction and negative reaction to what you are doing. However, the thing that will be there forever is hopefully how it impacted upon those people who actually care about it.

The kids here in the UK are absolutely going mad for their music to be released on cassette. Is it the same over in Canada and the USA?

Oh my god I hadn’t heard that. So are you telling me that cassettes are having a resurgence over there now?

If you put the album out on CD, vinyl and cassette here in the UK, let me tell you that the cassette version will sell out the fastest.

You are kidding me right? I suppose that is a continuation of the vinyl revolution. I suppose that eight tracks are going to be next (laughter). I honestly hadn’t heard about this, probably because I am on the wrong side of the world. I live in Los Angeles now and the people here are still pretty excited about vinyl so I guess that this proves once again that England is leading the way and we over here in the USA will see a resurgence within the cassette community sometime soon.

Sometimes things move so fast that you feel like an extra in Back To The Future (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) more than you know my friend. I don’t know if you saw all of those comparisons with the guy who recently got himself elected President of the USA and the time travelling villain, Biff Tannen; Donald Trump even has the same hair. It really is extraordinary (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

That was The Wall by Pink Floyd. I don’t know why I bought it because I don’t think that I had ever heard it. It was just one of those things. I don’t know if it was because I liked the cover or what it was but I did buy that album first and it is still remains something that I listen to on heavy rotation.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

The first show that I ever saw was Metallica who were at that time being supported by The Cult. It was during their And Justice For All Tour back in 1988 and I saw them in Calgary, Alberta. That was, for me, being the very first concert that I had ever been to, a completely amazing experience. To go into that room and watch those guys just play music; I had never been to a concert before and I had never seen anything like that. It was a pretty transformational moment for both me and Chad. Watching that it was kind of like the lightbulb finally went on for both of us; it was like ‘holy shit those are like just three guys from California and one from Denmark. These are just regular guys who decided that they wanted to play music, and they are playing music for us’. I thought maybe we can do this, maybe I could be a musician for a living (laughter).

And what did you think to The Cult?

At that time I really didn’t know much about The Cult. However, I subsequently became a massive fan. I didn’t really know who they were at that time although I really should have because they were totally awesome and in their heyday at that time. Back then, for them to be opening for Metallica was totally amazing because The Cult were such an enormous band. I can clearly remember the Metallica fans being really brutal towards The Cult; they were terrible. When The Cult came out onto the stage and they started playing, the entire floor turned their backs to the stage. How fucking embarrassing. I have always felt so bad for those Cult guys, and then apparently one guy turned around long enough to spit at Ian Astbury during the set.

Well Ian was having none of that, he jumped off the stage into the crowd and started fighting with the guy who had spat at him. The fans were treating them like absolute shit simply because they weren’t Metallica. It certainly left its mark on me; seeing Astbury jump over the barricades and start beating up a guy. That was pretty cool (hysterical laughter). This was all happening at my very first concert and I hadn’t even seen Metallica yet. The Cult were the first band that I had seen performing in that form. I thought ‘shit, is this how the crowd treat all opening bands’ (laughter). Man that was an interesting experience but since then I have become a massive fan of The Cult of course and I can totally appreciate their greatness.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Well just between us girls of course (laughter) I have to tell you that I get emotional about music all of the time. It happens to me on almost a daily basis. Sometimes it will be really hard music that kind of gets me sometimes, other times it will be emotional music that gets to me, something like The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album completely makes me buckle. In fact it’s starting to get to me now just thinking about it. It happens all of the time to me. I am always tearing up so much so that sometimes I have to wear sunglasses around my kids if I find myself listening to certain music. If music hits me in a certain way then I prefer to have my sunglasses on.

That is the joy of music, how it moves people in different ways.

Absolutely one hundred percent. Every once in a while fans will tell us stories of how one of their loved ones has passed away and at their funeral they played one of our songs. Also we will quite often see our fans crying in the audience. They will quite often tell us that a certain song of ours reminds them of someone who they have lost. That’s the cool thing about music; music is the soundtrack of people’s lives and for us to be able to be a part of people’s lives really is a special thing.

Mike on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham. Bye for now.

Thank you Kevin, it was fun. Please make sure that you come and see me when we get to Nottingham. Bye for now.