Chances are you hate Nickelback -- or at least profess to. Have you ever met anyone who told you they liked Nickelback? I haven't. But somebody, somewhere is buying their records. If they weren't, the band would've quit already (unless its members are still going just to spite the world -- which is a possibility to be considered.)
To be honest, we felt not a hint of sympathy for the band when news broke recently that over 55,000 people had signed an online petition to prevent Nickelback from playing a halftime show at the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving. Rather, we could identify far more with the creators of the petition, who earnestly stated: "This is completely unfair to those of us who purchased tickets to the
game. At least the people watching at home can mute their TVs." It's a fair point, and one that serves to emphasize what we all already know: man, people fucking hate Nickelback. But as much as that's true, the band's response to the controversy shows that its frontman, Chad Kroeger, is at least slightly less of an asshole than he used to be. We'll explain after the jump.
It can't feel good, being hated by the world like this. They're like the modern day, musical equivalent of Frankenstein -- hated by all in their path, but rumbling along noisily regardless. So it was relatively exciting yesterday when the members of Nickelback appeared in a skit on Funny Or Die. If anything was going to give them some humanity, some humor, some personality -- heck, some reason for being -- it was this. If you haven't watched it already, you can check it out here and below.
It's not the funniest thing in the world, granted. But it does okay: the hair joke, the goat-sex joke, the acknowledgment that the world (or at least Detroit) hates them -- it's all moderately amusing. While it's not entirely convincing, it is a sign that Nickelback has come a long way in the having-a-sense-of-humor stakes. I mention this because nine years ago, I worked for a magazine that got into a bit of trouble with Nickelback -- and the whole thing got blown out of all sensible proportion. Kerrang!
is one of the UK's most popular music magazines, and it was a joy to work for because writers at that publication were encouraged to report things as they saw things. If we didn't like something, we damn well said so. This was not a publication controlled by advertising dollars, and sugarcoating was not our thing. We praised when we saw fit, we criticized when we saw fit -- simple.
One of the finest -- and certainly most entertaining -- writers at the magazine at that time was Ian Winwood. Kerrang!
's trouble with Nickelback started when Ian was sent out from London to Philadelphia to interview the band. According to Ian -- and Ian is not one to fabricate such things -- Chad Kroeger was both uncooperative during the interview, vastly unpleasant to the audience that night and prone to tantrums, snapping unnecessarily at even his bandmates.
So Ian came home and wrote exactly what he thought of his time with Nickelback. If memory serves correctly, the most controversial phrase he used in the feature was: "Chad Kroeger: what a cunt." Not too eloquent certainly, but definitely hilarious. (Please note that the 'C' word is far more widely used and accepted in the British Isles than it is over here). Truth be told, the story was a hit, everyone was vastly amused, and it seemed like an honest and unwavering piece of good music journalism to me.
Shortly afterward, however, when Nickelback did a U.K. arena tour, Kroeger made several requests, while on stage, to fight Ian Winwood. He suggested they have a boxing match for charity. It should be noted at this stage that Ian is not a tall man and he's not a particularly athletic man. He certainly doesn't seem like a fighter. Fortunately, what Ian is lacking in boxing ability, he more than makes up for with balls, so Kerrang!
happily printed his response to Kroeger's challenge -- he was up for the fight!
All went quiet for a while, until one day the office received a beautiful bunch of flowers. They were from Nickelback. I forget what the exact wording on the card was, but it was something along the lines of "See you soon. xoxox" They'd gone all mafia on us! There was more talk, after the flowers, of Ian and Kroeger perhaps duking it out at the Reading Festival -- one of Britain's biggest annual rock events.
Sadly, nothing ever came of Nickelback's threats and flower-based intimidation, though Ian did get to keep his teeth and nose intact, which he's probably very grateful for. What the whole prolonged incident did teach everyone at the time though, was that Chad Kroeger -- cunt or no cunt -- had zero sense of humor and knew how how to cling to a grudge. And the only thing worse than a grudge-holder is a grudge-holder with a penchant for violence -- clearly something else Chad had going for him.
Nickelback -- boring, formulaic, bland old Nickelback -- is hard enough to stomach on the strength of the music and lack of personality alone (seriously -- you could stare at photos of this lot for days and still have difficulty picking any of the non-Kroegers out of a line-up), but it was even harder to have any respect or sympathy for them when they couldn't take what one magazine said about them on the chin and then move on. If you choose to be a musician, you are going to have to deal with music critics, and not all of them are going to like you -- especially if you're behaving like a spoiled child.
It's worth noting that the magazine feud did blow over and Nickelback went on to grace Kerrang!
's cover years later. But the knowledge of Chad's behavior all those years ago has never left my brain. I'm just glad that this time, when faced with vocal opposition, Nickelback chose to respond with humor rather than threats of violence. Of course, then again, it's a little difficult to threaten 55,000 people with flowers. ----