Nickelback's bass player, Mike Kroeger, talks about the band's appearance at the Gulf Bike Festival.
The name-coiner: Nickleback's Mike Kroeger
The best-known fact about Nickelback's bass player, Mike Kroeger - other than being the half-brother of the lead singer Chad - is that he dreamt up the band's name while working at Starbucks. In almost every interview during the past 15 years, he has recited the story about how he would charge customers $1.95 for coffee and then utter the line, "here's your nickel back" while handing over their change.
"I've been asked it hundreds of times, several hundred," he says. "Since 1995 I've been answering that. It happens less now than before." But far from being cagey about the topic, Kroeger is remarkably good-humoured about it and even offers to tell the story one more time. He almost seems disappointed when I decline. During our brief discussion - ahead of the band's performance at the Gulf Bike Festival in Dubai this weekend - one topic is discussed more than any other: the band's strange relationship with the media.
Despite having sold more than 30 million albums worldwide - built on, among other things, widespread press coverage - the Canadian rockers face constant derision from critics and were recently labelled Worst Band in the World by Word magazine. The jibes are not directed just at the band's music. In 2007, several major publications picked on Chad Kroeger after he was ranked the sixth unsexiest man in the world on the little-known website thephoenix.com.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mike Kroeger thinks of his brother - who has penned such songs as How You Remind Me and Rockstar - rather differently. "Over the last 10 years, Chad has grown as a songwriter tremendously and become a phenomenon," he says. "This guy throws away ideas that other people would call hits. It's really, really incredible to see. I honestly don't know how he does that." But when asked why his band receives such a constant drubbing from the press, Kroeger says he believes the answer lies not in Nickelback's music, but in the machinations of the worldwide media.
"Those people and those publications are just trying to make a living, man," he says. "A lot of their living is made by parroting the words of others and the last thing they want to do is swim upstream with any ideas. There are numerous examples worldwide of the media all agreeing and nobody stepping outside that box." But despite having such a dim view of the press, Kroeger says he is never upset by what he reads and takes criticism happily on the chin.
"It may be my Canadian upbringing or maybe I've just been blessed with a very thick skin," he says. "There are a lot of people who get furious when they are criticised. When you're a very creative person, giving your heart and soul to something, only to have it chopped up, I can see how people get upset. If you don't like to be criticised, putting your music out is a terrible idea." But despite being attacked as persistently as ever in recent years, Kroeger believes the band - now on their eighth album - have reached a career high point.
"If there's one word I'd use to describe the last 10 years it would be 'growth'," he says. "I think Nickelback has grown as an entity and a collection of artists." He also believes that one of the secrets to the four-piece's longevity and success is the working relationship between its members. With the lead singer also acting as the band's principal songwriter, Nickelback is spared the ego battles that plague so many other arena-hopping bands.
"You've probably spoken to those bands where there's more than one guy who wants to be a superstar. Well, we don't have that kind of trouble," he says. "Chad is a superstar by nomination because he's the singer; that's who gets it. The other three of us are more than happy to stay out of the sun and it makes for a pretty happy relationship. "Fame, recognition and adulation are the furtherest thing from my mind and the last thing I'm looking for."
Nickelback will play the Gulf Bike Festival at Dubai Festival City on Friday.