Nickelback's Crossover Hit Changes Everything

The Canadian rockers' radio-dominating 'How You Remind Me' took 10 minutes to record.

As did Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, P.O.D. and Mariah Carey, Nickelback released an album on September 11 — a day when current events trumped pop culture in a devastating manner.

Having recorded their previous album nearly three years earlier, the Vancouver, British Columbia, quartet was anxious to get a new record on shelves.

"We waited a long time for that day, but I didn't wake up to hearing about album sales, I woke up to watching this thing on CNN," recalled Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake, phoning from a tour bus parked outside an Atlanta radio festival. "There's so much other more important stuff, you forget all about album sales. It's an awful thing to associate our release date with, but we just have to deal with it."

Nickelback's music is fitting for the times. More emotive than most of the

mosh pit anthems on rock radio, their songs are heartwarming and thought-provoking without losing their post-grunge edge.

Peake, singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger, bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Ryan Vikedal have long been a rock and roll band in a mostly nü-metal world.

"We've always been that odd band out," Peake said. "Early in our career, a lot of labels told us, 'Sorry guys, you're not what people want to hear right now.' We thought, well, people keep coming to our shows, so we'll just keep doing what we do."

Nickelback were eventually signed to Roadrunner Records — the anger-management specialists who discovered Slipknot and Fear Factory — which became another place the band had to struggle to fit in.

Only a handful of rock bands could be heard on the radio when Nickelback's debut album, The State, was released here in early 2000. Nickelback hit the road with most of them — including Creed, Fuel and 3 Doors Down — and worked their way onto radio with the hit "Leader of Men."

A year and a half, another hit Creed album and the rise of Staind later, Nickelback have graduated to modern music's top shelf. Silver Side Up debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, second only to Jay-Z, and they topped the chart in Canada.

"How You Remind Me," the album's first single, owns rock and pop radio waves and could do for Nickelback what "Outside" did for Staind.

Chad Kroeger brought the hook to the band a week before they entered the studio, and they finished the song in 10 minutes.

"It's one of those melodies that just rings in your head," Peake said. "My dad, a country music fan, told me, 'I didn't get it the first time, but I got it the second.' That's what's really cool. It's not only hitting our target market, it's striking a chord with people. If you knew the formula, you'd write every song like that. Sometimes you just magically hit it. It's very odd for us, we're not used to seeing different age groups coming to shows."

"How You Remind Me" is a classic breakup song with war-torn verses such as, "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."

"It's very sarcastic," Peake explained. "The last time we played it, Chad said, 'This is for all of you sh--ty ex-girlfriends,' and you can pretty much say sh--ty ex-boyfriends in the same breath. Damn near 99 or 100 percent of the people on the planet can relate to that. People like to hear a story told. If you can do it well, you can appeal to anybody."

Not that appealing to anybody and everybody was Nickelback's intent.

"This crossover stuff is scary," Peake said. "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."

Silver Side Up was written partially on the road during the more than two years Nickelback spent promoting The State. Many of the songs were tested on audiences before they were recorded, although a batch that includes "Never Again" and "Too Bad," both likely singles, were not.

Chad Kroeger started to really open as he finished writing the album, Peake said. "Never Again" examines broken homes, and "Too Bad" concerns Kroeger's father never being around during his childhood.

"He's getting better and better at opening doors," Peake said. "I'm not the kind of guy who listens to his own songs, but I never get sick of listening to or playing 'Too Bad.'"

Silver Side Up was recorded in the same Vancouver studio in which Nickelback recorded The State. Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains) produced the album.

"We got Rick at the last minute," Peake said. "We were willing to do it ourselves because we just wanted to get it done, but his schedule was clear. He lives in Seattle, which is two hours from Vancouver. He was a good referee and was very good with vocals."

Nickelback have been promoting the album on tour with 3 Doors Down since August. They played Germany over the summer and plan to return for a full European tour later this year.

The band is bringing fellow Vancouver rockers Default on the road with them. Chad Kroeger, who discovered the band, produced their debut album, The Fallout, which is due October 2.

Nickelback tour dates, according to their publicist:

  • 9/27 - Chattanooga, TN @ The Bay
  • 9/29 - Greenville, NC @ Briley's Farm
  • 9/30 - Peoria, AZ @ Peoria Sports Complex
  • 10/1 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
  • 10/3 - Austin, TX @ The Metro
  • 10/4 - Houston, TX @ Engine Room
  • 10/5 - Dallas, TX @ Canyon Club
  • 10/6 - Lubbock, TX @ Cattleguard Pavilion
  • 10/7 - Amarillo, TX @ Southbeach
  • 10/9 - Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
  • 10/10 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
  • 10/11 - West Hollywood, CA @ Key Club
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