Nickelback‘s bassist, co-founder and deep metalhead Mike Kroeger has found his groove in life, ahead of the band’s east coast tour this month.
While keeping himself healthy on multiple fronts, the musician’s also acutely aware of social issues from the increasing lack of privacy in a digital world, to the decline of protest music – That awareness nourishes ninth album Feed The Machine (our review here), while being only one of four different perspectives in the group.
Running late yet with “stimulating conversations” as the cause, Kroeger sat down to talk about both ends of the physical health spectrum, his surprise (created during our chat) at how close to home tour supports Bad Wolves are, and a love for metal that runs Slayer cover album deep.
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So when you last played Australia in 2015, you played double the number of shows. Do you actually feel a stronger connection to the east coast, or did it just pan out that you’re only doing three shows?
“It was really down to what was available in what cities. We weren’t able to get any place to play in South or Western Australia to suit this time window we needed. In the past, I believe we did two Melbourne and two Sydney shows, and it wasn’t that special. So we wanted to introduce a bit of scarcity into this and say, ‘Listen, this is it. We’re coming in for one show only. No matter how fast it sells out, we’re not putting another one on.’
“The real die-hards better get busy and make some arrangements to get there.”
I wanted to reflect on your health on tour. Back in February last year, you were sleeping a good eight hours every night, and you weren’t boozing or eating really late. Are you still in a position to say that now?
“Even more so. I’ve really tightened up my exercise program, and I’m deep into fight sports. I toyed with veganism for the last two months. I just came out the other side of trying gluten-free. I wouldn’t call it a failed experiment, I would say it’s not really the path for me. But I’m vegetarian, I’ve fully quit drinking and get as much sleep as possible to keep the body going.”
That feeds into why you guys have been around for so long. You can’t do that without taking care of your body, or it’s all going to hit you and at once.
“Yes, and you see it time and time again where people go on abusing themselves, and they get away with it for so long. Then one day, it all comes home and it’s time to pay. That usually means that you can’t do the things you really want to do, you get really sick or you die. But there’s the other side of the coin, which is the person who eats kale every day and doesn’t drink, smoke or party and dies young (chuckles). So there’s no number of sit-ups you can do to live forever.”
Now you guys are touring the east coast with Bad Wolves. I found out that guitarist Chris Cain has described it as “a dream come true”. He’s from Iowa and Nickelback was always a big part of his redneck upbringing.
“Oh shit! I didn’t know that, that’s cool! It’s interesting that I didn’t know anything about Bad Wolves until they were pitched as possible support for our tour. I’d never even heard of them. Then as I started going down the rabbit hole of ‘Who are these guys?’, I thought they were an Australian group really, because they were making so much noise.
“The funniest part is, I live in Los Angeles, and they’re from there (laughs). There are probably a hundred thousand bands in LA, but still. I should’ve known about them.”
Let’s move onto Feed The Machine. What I love about the album is that concepts of ‘the machine’ are timeless, because it means such different things to different people. For you personally, what does ‘feed the machine’ mean?
“‘Feed the machine’ actually means different things for everybody in this band, as a matter of fact, which is really interesting. I’ve done interviews by myself usually but also with other people, and we would be asked as a group ‘What does ‘feed the machine’ mean?’. I would always want to hear what the others had to say. The reports are all over the board.
“For me personally, ‘the machine’ is the establishment that we give our freedom up for. I believe in the philosophy that you can’t take someone’s freedom, they have to give it to you. We give our freedoms up to… what? Why are we doing the things we’re doing, because we don’t even know where our freedoms are going? I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said that people who give up their freedom for safety deserve neither. I agree with that, but you don’t really know what you’re giving it up to.
“You’re giving your will up to the mass group, and that’s what ‘feed the machine’ means to me. I see it around the world.”
From that perspective, it would take a lot of dismantling of the cogs from different parties, whether it’s from higher up, middle level or grassroots. I think music is a big part of disentangling that.
“The idea of protest music is something that’s not really a thing anymore. In the ’60s, everything was protest music and it was wonderful. We just don’t do that anymore, and I think that comes from a feeling of powerlessness. This thing that’s taking control of all facets of our lives is at such a glacial, gradual pace.
“When you look at the very idea of privacy… There is none. Privacy in the technical world is a thing of the past. If you walk through a place and say ‘Hey Siri’, and your phone wakes up saying ‘What can I do for you?’, it’s listening the rest of the time too. It’s not just selectively hearing, but responding.”
It’s great to discuss the fact that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to ‘the machine’. I’d love to get the other guys’ thoughts on what it means to them.
“I’ve just asked friends of mine, ‘What does that mean to you?’, and everyone absolutely has a different perspective.
Now here’s a question from our editor Browny. He felt that Feed The Machine has some heavier, proggy elements to it. Would you consider doing a much heavier record with metal tones, or do you not want to alienate your mainstream fanbase?
“I would love to. Metal is what makes me go, it’s what I listen to without fail. If we could actually sink in and do a metal album, all four of us would love it. I know that we’re all – on differing scales – metalheads at our core. We all know everything about the Big Four – Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. I would do a Slayer cover album if I could. That’s where my heart lies. There are just never enough hours in the day to do everything, but let’s just say I wouldn’t count it out.”
I know that Ryan (Peake, rhythm guitar) is a particularly massive fan of Megadeth and Metallica, but he’s also said in previous interviews that the music you create isn’t necessarily a reflection of what you listen to. That’s so accurate based on your albums.
“Yeah it’s definitely not. I listen to bands like Meshuggah, Gojira, Lamb of God… and we became friends with those guys. Daniel (Adair, drums) and I nerd out on stuff they do, and as musicians we love to listen to it. Have you ever listened to Animals As Leaders?”
I’ve seen them live and they’re fantastic!
“I’ve never seen them play live, I’ve only seen what I can dig up on YouTube, and their newest record The Madness of Many (2016) is so heavy. I just cannot believe how sick it is, I love it.”
It’s ridiculous how good they are at their instruments.
“The freedom of expression is extraordinary, and really inspirational. There are no boundaries, and that’s the kind of music I like.”
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Nickelback will be killing arena stages on the east coast with Bad Wolves in tow in two months, with only one show per city – tickets and dates below.
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Nickelback – Feed The Machine East Coast Tour 2019
Wednesday 13th February – Brisbane – Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Friday 15th February – Sydney – Qudos Bank Arena
Saturday 16th February – Melbourne – Rod Laver Arena