Nickelback made its latest album, “Dark Horse,” with what frontman Chad Kroeger calls “a mountain sitting behind us.”
That would be 2005’s “All the Right Reasons,” the Canadian quartet’s fifth studio album, which became a worldwide smash selling more than 10 million copies and spending a staggering 110 consecutive weeks in the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 chart. It launched seven multi-format hits, from “Photograph” to “Rockstar,” and five No. 1 videos, seven million-plus single digital downloads and more than five million ringtones.
So, not surprisingly, Kroeger and company feel that “the bar has been raised ... ridiculously high.”
“We don’t get to just rest on our laurels,” explains Kroeger, 34, who formed Nickelback in 1995 in Hanna, Alberta, borrowing $4,000 from his stepfather to record demo tapes. “We don’t get to just sit back and say, ‘OK, now we can put out whatever we want.’
“But I think it’s important to feel that pressure with every single record you put out — otherwise, you’re not gonna be on your toes, and the level the songs need to be at won’t be there.”
“Dark Horse” has certainly galloped to a fast start. It debuted at No. 2 in November — and has remained in the Top 20 since — and was certified platinum just three weeks after its release. The melodic first single, “Gotta Be Somebody,” was Top 20 on six different Billboard charts and topped the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks poll, while “Something in Your Mouth,” which Kroeger laughingly calls “a filthy little number,” reaffirmed Nickelback’s credentials in the rock world, its primary home thanks to previous hits such as “How You Remind Me,” “Leader of Men” and “Too Bad.”
A third single, “I’d Come For You,” is due out in March.
Still, Kroeger contends, “We never take anything for granted, and we never give up. I honestly think that with every song you release you have to keep winning your own fans over again. We feel like we’ll never be done trying to prove ourselves to ourselves and to the people who like our music. The minute you fall into complacency, it’s going to reflect in the music. You have to keep that fire in the belly.”
But guitarist Ryan Peake, noting that he’s “been asked quite a bit about the pressure of a new album,” says he doesn’t “buy into” any sense of expectations.
“It’s just a waste of energy,” he explains, “because people are going to accept it if they enjoy it. We can’t lose sleep over that. We just have to go in and do the best we can and leave it up to the people, as we always do. We’ve always been a people’s band, so we’ll leave it up to them and hopefully they’ll come back.”
“Dark Horse” also gave Nickelback — which includes Kroeger’s brother Mike on bass and Daniel Adair on drums — a chance to fulfill one of its longtime goals. It was co-produced with Robert John “Mutt” Lange, a legendary force whose credits include seminal releases by AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Bryan Adams, The Cars and his exwife, Shania Twain. “That dude’s my hero,” gushes Kroeger, whose initial
contact with Lange was via a friend who
was working with one of the Zambianborn, Swiss-based producer’s engineers.
Nevertheless, Kroeger laughs when asked if he and the notoriously meticulous Lange butted heads much during the process of writing and then recording “Dark Horse,” both in Switzerland and at Kroeger’s studio in Vancouver.
“It’s funny; a lot of people are asking that,” he notes. “I think Mutt was coming into a situation where he knew Nickelback fans were very happy with everything we’d been putting out so far. He didn’t really want to change the band too much; he just wanted to bring a slightly different perspective and a slightly different influence.
“It definitely sounds like Nickelback, but you definitely hear a couple different flavors. Anyone who’s familiar with Nickelback will be able to pinpoint and point out the different things that are new influences on the record — ‘This is definitely Nickelback, this is definitely Mutt ...’ ”
Kroeger and his bandmates — who have signed an all-compassing contract with concert promoter LiveNation that will include album releases once the band delivers two more studio albums and a greatest hits set to Roadrunner Records — anticipate a long run on the road to support “Dark Horse.” But the frontman notes that the group deliberately waited a few months before going on tour.
“I’m always adamant about making sure there’s a least one good, true rock song that’s gone to radio before we (tour),” Kroeger explains. “We’ve been bitten too many times going out too early.
“That’s something else you never take for granted. You never go, ‘Well, look where we ended off last time.’ You always have to prove yourself — at least that’s how we feel. And it certainly seems to be working, doesn’t it?”
Nickelback, Seether and Saving Abel perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 28) at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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