In a 2003 article in High Times. I opened with this lead:
"It's not cool to like Nickelback, but I don't care."
Nickelback came along in the post-grunge wave – hard rock bands with a soft pop underbelly. "How You Remind Me," their massive 2001 hit from Silver Side Up, is a primary example of that style. People loved it, but the critics sneered. By the time they released their fourth album, The Long Road, in 2003, Nickelback were already being treated as the most reviled band in rock. I never quite understood why. There were plenty of other similar bands to hate at the time - Staind, Incubus, Puddle of Mudd, Hoobastank, Creed – but Nickelback bulleted to No. 1 on the most-hated chart. Creed was probably No. 2.
I went to see Nickelback at the newly opened Borgata in Atlantic City with Kyle Kushman and some other High Times friends. We hung out with the band before and after the show. Lead singer Chad Kroeger fielded my questions about the hater campaign against the band:
How do you deal with Nickelback haters?
"That's because we're such a mainstream band. We write songs for the masses. Nine and half million people went out and bought the last record. Then there are those people who don't like the band, don't like my voice, don't like our kind of music. But you would never see Michael Jordan come off the court and apologize for scoring 50 points. You don't see anyone who is successsful apologizing for their success."
Why is it so hard for a band to be successful, popular and cool at the same time?
"The only thing that makes that go away is longhevity."
You don't mind being ripped by critics?
"If you're a good critic, you're supposed to have your finger on the pulse of every eclectic and underground band all over the planet and as soon as they start selling records, they're not cool anymore. That's just the way it works. But those people don't put food in my mouth and don't put gas in my cars. I don't pay my mortgage with amazing reviews from Rolling Stone."
Nickelback had a distinct appeal for High Times. Based in Vanvcouver during an era when BC Bud was flowing into the States, they represented.
What's your view of marijuana use vs. alcohol use?
"No one smokes a joint and goes and causes a 15-car pileup on the highway. No one smokes a joint and goes home and beats his wife and kids. Yet it happens every single day after someone drinks a six-pack. That's legal. You can go to any gas station and buy a six-pack of beer right now. It changes your personality more than anything else, yet marijuana's still illegal.
Ed note: Canaada legalized cannabis federally in 2018.
When we asked Roadrunner Records to provide photos for the article, they sent us the two images published here: one of Kroeger and producer Joey Moi with a shitload of dried weed displayed in the studio and one of Kroeger holding an impressive cola.
The Borgata venue was less than stellar. From the article:
We eat some X and head up to the show at the Music Box, a ballroom disguised as a rock venue. It's more like a barn with chandeliers.
Nickelback shows are blatant exercises in the shock-and-awe school of arena rock. Smoke pours out of pots and every so often explosions light up the otherwise bare stage. That aside, the band makes the most of a muddly sound system and a lazy crowd high on booze.
Nickelback end the show predictably with crowd favorite "How You Remind Me." Afterwards, Kroeger is in a slightly foul mood. He didn't like the sound, the room or the crowd. We're ushered back into Kroeger's dressing room where he's mildly irritated. I reach into my pocket, pull out a joint, light it and pass it to to him. "Willie Nelson says it's the best cure for stress," I mumble. Kroeger smokes and slowly begins to relax.
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