Nickelback är aktuell med sitt tionde album “Get rollin´” Vi kopplade upp oss till Kanada och tog ett snack med Ryan om bl a fösta hårdrocksgiget, EVH och framgång:
– Over the pandemic they kept telling us that… I don´t remember exactly the numbers and I´m gonna misquote this and I shouldn´t quote it, but it was something like 11 million listeners a month. I don´t know if that´s right and I shouldn´t be guessing, but it was something where they kept coming back with “This is pretty good. It´s not pretty good, it´s really good. And you haven´t been to work in years and they still wanna hear your stuff.” It´s the biggest compliment you can have as a musician, because that´s how I feel about music. It makes you feel good that people still have this connection to you. It´s fucking bananas! (laughs)
Going back in time. What was the first metal show you went to?
My parents took me to a country concert, so that was the first show I ever went to, says Ryan. The one I went to and the one I wanted to go to, was Iron Maiden. I couldn´t make the “Somewhere on time” tour, so the next time they came around I caught the “Seventh son of a seventh son” tour and there was a little band opening for them called Guns N´ Roses. They were supporting “Appetite for destruction” and I was just getting into both bands and it was just so great. We would then go see a bunch of different bands like Metallica and what not, but I remember seeing Testament, Megadeth and Judas Priest on the “Painkiller” tour. I loved Testament´s “Practise what you preach” and “Rust in peace” was like, c´mon! Those are the things that stick out in my head. Life changing, it really was.
I read that you took out a $30.000 loan when you started Nickelback. How long did it take to pay that back.
Oh, well thankfully not as long as I was expecting to be chained to it. We used to have a ranch and I lived out on a farm in Alberta where we had cows and stuff, so I had a bit of credit rating and my dad helped me co-signing. I could take so much, but $30.000 was a stretch for us making an album. “You´ll get your money back.” (wink). I think it only took us, surprisingly, maybe nine months? It was under a year and the reason being… that was not just album sales. Album sales for sure helped make the payment, but we got signed on that album, so we took money from the very meager record advance we got, paid that off and I think we ended up walking home with like $40.000 each. It sounds like a lot, but at that time it was like “This is gonna last for three years. Good luck!” and it´s Canadian dollars by the way. (laughs)But the debt was paid and we were very happy with that and we were very lucky to have been picked up. Everybody dreams about getting picked up by a major label.
How long did it take for you guys to kind of realize that you were onto something big and that you were going to survive doing it and that you were going to make some money doing it?
That time frame was “The State” (1998) and we had a single called “Leader of men” on that album and it started getting some traction in Canada. It was always satisfying because we would see the charts that week and it would say “Blah blah blah from BMG and Blah blah blah from Universal…” and then it said “Leader of men” Nickelback and you know where it´s supposed to be a label, it was just a dash. No label. We didn´t even know how to make our own label. We just made cd´s and put them out and it was taking off and we were able to keep our head above water for a while. Making it, I don´t know if that was the sense of it at that point, but it was definitely “This is working.” We were able to get to the next project and when we got signed it felt like “Yes, this is now a real shot at a career,” because how many bands put out an album and it just goes nowhere. You just never know. I think, having a lot of awareness that this could be over tomorrow was really at the front of our minds. What you´re speaking of is, I think our moment was “How you remind me” (2001). When we recorded everything for “Silver side up” and even before, when we were going through preproduction, we knew that we had good songs. It was like “This is a good song, this is a good song.” and it doesn´t matter if it doesn´t meet with destiny, it doesn´t have that serendipity moment where it´s like, the timing is right for this song, the content, the music, the timing is right for this feeling. I really believe that had a lot to do with it because there are so many amazing bands that haven´t had the right magical moment for them and that happened for us with that song. It just popped everywhere and that was our chance and we just grabbed hold of it and said “Let´s go everywhere!” We all had nothing to lose, so let´s go somewhere and just take all these opportunities, so that´s the thing that opened the door for us.
How do you look at that song today?
We talked about this when we were doing cover songs in a bar band, playing “Start me up” every night and I´m getting tired of it, and playing “Roadhouse blues” every night and getting really sick of it. I was just like “How the fuck do these guys do it?” I don´t have hatred of the song, even though I was tired of the song. There is a difference by the way. I was like “How do the Stones do it every night? How do they play the same shit every night and not go fucking crazy?” I look at “How you remind me” very fondly as I do with a lot of the songs. There are songs that you for sure feel better about playing and you enjoy more than others and the difference is the people. It truly is. You can have the most, in your mind, banal feeling and you play it by muscle memory or whatever. How ever you feel about something, which is not how it feels by the way, but I know how some bands feel, and then the crowd hear the song start and they turn to their friend and they´re looking at who ever they came with and that´s the moment. That´s the moment. It´s nice that they´re there and they like it, that´s great too, but it´s when they share those moments and they start singing it. And at our concerts I want people singing it. That´s what makes a difference and that´s what makes it great and that´s what makes it never get old. I go “Oh, I get it now!”
The new album “Roll with it” is your 10th. How do you look at that and also the fact that in just a few years Nickelback will turn 30?
It is nuts. It´s funny. Someone else brought up that it´s our 10th album. The only time we´ve actually counted albums was “No fixed address” because we could not come up with a title. “This is our eighth album. Why don´t we call it Pieces of eight?” because a guy on our crew loves pirates or “How about El ocho?” We were kind of bereft of ideas. When you say 10 it´s kind of jarring, but it´s crazy. I think it´s crazy that we´ve lasted this long. Speaking of Iron Maiden, I don´t know how many albums they have out and they keep doing it and they´re together and they still want to keep doing this and people still want to hear them madly. I love seeing stuff like that. I feel on our perspective, you just kind of wake up and see that stuff. I don´t see it as we´re doing it. If you look back it´s pretty cool, but it´s never something I consider much.
You´ve been extremely successful. The record sales and all that, it´s insane.
I don´t even know what to say, but you´re absolutely right. It´s not lost on us and we don´t take it for granted because it is insane. I guess, people can like the songs or don´t like the songs or like the band or don´t like the band and stuff, but what makes me happy about that is that there´s people that take enjoyment in music. It seems evident… people buy our music and stream our music and come to our shows. Over the pandemic they kept telling us that… I don´t remember exactly the numbers and I´m gonna misquote this and I shouldn´t quote it, but it was something like 11 million listeners a month. I don´t know if that´s right and I shouldn´t be guessing, but it was something where they kept coming back with “This is pretty good. It´s not pretty good, it´s really good. And you haven´t been to work in years and they still wanna hear your stuff.” It´s the biggest compliment you can have as a musician, because that´s how I feel about music. It makes you feel good that people still have this connection to you. It´s fucking bananas! (laughs)
Mike Kroeger said about three years ago that he wanted to make a Slayer covers album. Is that something you all could agree on doing and would it be a possibility for Nickelback to do that?
(laughs) I don´t know if it would be something we all could agree on because we all have our different likes and dislikes when it comes to music. Mike´s is really heavy and I like Slayer so I get that. I think we could probably agree on doing a heavy covers album or something like that. I got kicked out of Ryan Vikedal´s (original drummer) garage for playing “South of heaven” I went down to see him before he was actually in the band and I was just kind of jamming with him. We grew up with that. I don´t know. This is what I like about this band. I don´t think anything´s going to be so crazy to hear from us. I think if a metal band went and made a full on country album, it might be like “What are you doing? You´ve got nine metal albums and now this!” We´ve kind of dipped our toes in a lot of different music I feel and especially with “No fixed address” where we kind of tried to stretch our legs a bit, that it´s maybe believable. I love metal stuff, I love pop stuff, I love some country for sure. Chris Stapleton is unreal. He is single handedly saving country music. I grew up with country music, but I haven´t been listening to it in years until I heard him do something with an acoustic and another guy with an up right bass and his wife singing harmony. That was it! I had goosebumps like crazy and I love when music does that and it doesn´t matter where it comes from. Maybe do a Testament, Slayer, Meshuggah album? I don´t know. (laughs)
A final thing. Eddie Van Halen, who passed away two years ago now, did he have any kind of impact on you as a guitar player?
I have a lot of respect for him as a guitar player and a pioneer. I think Chad and Mike were a bit more into Van Halen than I was growing up. You´re a product of what you are exposed to and I remember getting into “5150” when Sammy (Hagar) got into the band. I was familiar with the old stuff too and it was good, but I was´t a virtuoso guitar player and I knew I wasn´t going to be that. It´s just not my thing, so that´s why I wasn´t deep into Joe Satriani and Van Halen, but I don´t think his impact can be kind of undersold even if you didn´t listen to a lot of his music. He influenced so many artists because of his playing. I bought “Thriller” (1982) and I thought “Beat it” was amazing and I didn´t know he played on it, but I was soaking it in. I like his place in history and it´s sad that he passed away and I feel for his family, but my god, what a legacy! And look at his son Wolfgang! Holy shit! Just being around that, he´s steeped in the music. It´s outstanding. He´s definitely missed, but he´s so well respected in the business.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk (Slayer)