Nickelback's Chad Kroeger Talks Avril, Politics, and Embracing 'No Fixed Address'

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  • Avril Lavigne
    Avril Lavigne
    Singer-songwriter

On Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, Yahoo Live will stream Nickelback's concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Tune in HERE to watch!

As Nickelback approaches its 20th year in the music business, the band is getting ready to release its eighth album, No Fixed Address (out Nov. 17). And preliminary indications suggest it will hit No.1 on the Billboard album chart, just like most of the unstoppable Canadian quintet's other records.

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Music, frontman Chad Kroeger discusses his recent toe-dip into politics, the need to placate one's significant other, the band's collaboration with rapper Flo Rida, and the benefits of procrastination.

YAHOO MUSIC: You co-produced, co-wrote, and sang on your wife Avril Lavigne's last album. Did she contribute in any way to this record, either directly or indirectly?

CHAD KROEGER: Some of our fans out there would like to think the love songs could be about them. And some of our fans would love to think the love songs are about Avril and I. As soon as I put my spin on that, the mystery is gone forever. So I'm not going to ruin that mystery.

Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne (photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne (photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

But does Avril ever wake up humming a melody and say, "Hey, I think that would sound great on your record?"

I would ask her opinion on different things. I would say, "Hey, what do you think about this versus this?" And she would weigh in on that. But it wasn't quite the same as when it was myself working on her record.

OK, speaking of other collaborators… how did you get Flo Rida to guest on the song "You Got Me Running Round"?

A friend of mine who was working on some of the tunes was also working on his record and played our record for him. He asked if he could rap on the song. And we were flattered. He came over and wrote the rap and rapped away. He's impressive. He's talented. And we've never done that before. It's always high on my priority list to try something we've never done before. The song is very funky and it's a different approach for us, so that left-hand turn made the rapping all the more appealing.

Another new thing on No Fixed Address is you've written what might be your most poignant political song, "Edge of a Revolution." What motivated you to go that route?

I don't know if North America is on the edge of a revolution, but I wanted it to feel that way in the song, since it feels that way in so many other parts of the world. You turn on CNN and it's like, "Wow!" We'd have it on for 15 minutes and we'd have to shut it off because it was so depressing. The state of affairs in the world these days is so dismal. And I think that's where the song definitely came from. While we were working, the [shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri] was a major story and there was rioting like crazy. So it definitely felt like the seeds of revolution were being planted.

Do you think you'll address more political content in the future?
Y'know, I'm just as surprised as anybody else when something comes out of my mouth. I get to hear it for the first time, too. I think other people actually think about the things that they say. And with songwriting, it's the same way. It's just kind of happens. It comes out that way. There's no agenda. There's no "Let's plan this. Let's plot this. Let's see where this will take us." And for that song that line just came out. Then I said, "What if we wrote a song called 'Standing on the Edge of a Revolution'?"

How did "What Are You Waiting For" come about, and what are you addressing?

Once I heard that little production gag with the tail going at the end of it, I started spitting out these lines with the melody. I literally went, "Are you waiting on a lightning strike?/And are you waiting for the perfect night?" And everyone went, "Ooooh." The pens and the pads came out. And if I kept saying, "Waiting, waiting, waiting," we knew that it should be motivational song.

Would you say it's important for people to get out of their safety zone and take risks, even if there are potential consequences?

Absolutely. Getting a job is safe. Chasing your dreams is dangerous. If this song is the motivational push for just one person to say, "OK, that's it. I have to leave this mundane nine-to-five job behind me and I'm gonna go and pursue my lifelong dream and I'm not gonna stop until I get there," then I've achieved what I set out to do.

When you were growing up, were you utterly passionate about certain bands, and did you have contempt for other artists or genres that didn't fit into the category of music you loved?

I grew up in a really small town, and it was mostly farm kids who wore Wranglers and listened to country, and a very, very small group of metalheads who listened to Megadeth, Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, Testament, you name it. A lot of those guys would be offended whenever a country song came on. And they would make that face like they were smelling something bad. But I never did. I thought, "Wow, I enjoy that country song," or "I enjoy those lyrics," or "I like that line." Even in the poppiest of pop worlds, I remember when a group like Savage Garden or Ace of Base came along. My friends would be listening to Slayer and the girls would be listening to the pop stuff. I always enjoyed all of it. I am just such a fan of music; it wasn't too difficult for me not to see the catchiness or a great melody or the cleverness of a line.

If you talk to a lot of musicians, many of them have mutual respect for one another, even if they play totally different kinds of music. They all make records and tour and entertain people.

One of the thoughts that brings a smile to my face is think of all those homophobes that are probably still in denial that Freddie Mercury is gay.

Or Rob Halford.

Or Rob Halford! That's an ever better one. That's fantastic. All those metal guys that are just like, "This is amazing. He's not gay. I won't buy it. I don't believe it." And part of them is in denial because they want to perceive that person a certain way. Everything has to fit in this little box for them and if it doesn't, it blows their mind. Those are the same people who go, "It can't be country, it can't be pop, it has to be metal," or whatever it is.

You talked about taking risks when you write with Nickelback, or jumping in the pool with your eyes closed, so to speak.

It's so funny, because when I work with other people I would never start at the beginning of a story going, "OK, what are we doing? We're just walking down the street. No idea what's coming next." I would never do that getting in the room with someone else. But I do that all the time with Nickelback.

What do you do when you work with other artists?

I'm much more methodical. I say, "Thematically, where do you want to go? What kind of song do we want this to be? Do we want it to be a love song? Do you want a ballad? Do you want a fun song? Will it be uplifting? And what's our tempo?" And I would know where the story was going before we contributed to it in the verses. But for some reason I have no problem with Nickelback just rolling with something with no idea where it's going to go. That happens all the time. It is so funny that I write songs completely ass-backwards from the way you should actually write a song.

How did you want No Fixed Address to be a development from Here and Now?

There was no real plan. I was just on the phone with a German interviewer and he said, "There's no party song, there's no sex song. Is this the maturing Chad? And I said, 'God, I hope not.'" [laughs] There wasn't a general direction in mind when we started writing this thing. It was just, "Let's get in the room and start writing songs and make sure we're all smiling when we find what we like," and move forward with that. That's how it always is. I can't see us doing a concept album anytime soon.

Did the songs come easily, or was it more labored when compared to past albums?

It was a little bit disconnected due to the fact that we recorded it in different geographic locations across the planet, hence the name No Fixed Address. We were renting houses. We rented a couple different places in L.A. We rented houses in Maui and in Vancouver. We had a portable rig with us through the last European run. So we were literally recording all over the planet. And that added to the element I really love about Nickelback: We can write any kind of song we want. We don't just have to write rock songs or ballads or songs about sex or partying. So, if you're in one studio in one area, there's this continuity to the record that can sometimes cause things to start sounding a bit stale. That was never a problem with this album.

Some bands start working someplace and their creativity isn't flowing, so they move somewhere else to try to be more productive. Did you plan to work in many different studios?

None of the guys wanted to be away from their families for too long, and Nickelback records can sometimes take seven months to make. So if they could all have a little bit of recording time done in each of their backyards, that would make life a lot easier on the family front. We're all very respectful of that. When someone's wife says, "No!" we all say, "OK, we understand. That's terrifying." They've all got kids and there are schedules and school, and there's a lot of stuff that has to be juggled around. So not only was it fun to be able to go to all these different places and hit "record," it was also very helpful. Killing two birds with one stone is always beneficial.

You worked in some pretty beautiful spots. Were there any distractions?

When you're recording in Maui and you get just a little bit of stuck, it's pretty easy to grab the golf clubs and say, "OK, guys, we're really stuck today, so we're gonna head out and do a quick nine and come back real fresh." When you're really stuck in Vancouver and it's pissing rain, there's really not a lot to do, so you circle back and come back at it pretty hard. So yeah, some places have more distractions than others.

When did you start writing No Fixed Address and did you write a batch of songs in your practice space before you went into the studio?

We always write and record at the same time. The days of preproduction for us are long gone. We had a lot of ideas coming in, but my favorite stuff always comes when you're sitting there in front of the board and someone says, "Well, what about this?" and everybody in the room goes, "Oh, that's good." And then we push forward with that. When I would move into one of the houses we worked at, Avril would be off touring Japan or South America or someplace, and I'd have no place to go. So I figured, "OK, well, I might as well stay here at the house and keep working." I was here for 45 days, and there for 30 days. I'd get up and grab a coffee, head into the control room — which was usually a home movie theater that we converted into a studio. I'd sit there and listen to what we'd been doing, grab the guitar, and get going.

You said it sometimes takes seven months to record a Nickelback record. Is that how long you had to work on No Fixed Address?

That's the one thing about Nickelback: As soon as there's a deadline, we start to procrastinate. If the deadline is a year and a half away, we will go right up to the 11th hour of that. If we have five years to make a record, we will go up to four years, 364 days, and then be like, "OK, we need to put one last finishing touch on the thing." That's always the case, right up to the very last second of mastering.

Did you write 11 songs for No Fixed Address, or is there additional material that didn't make the album?

I think we can all tell when an idea is worth fleshing out. … I think there may have been two, possibly three extra songs that didn't make the record. We're not the kind of band that goes in and records 25 songs and then picks the best of them. What's the point of spending that much time on a song? The song's not going to get that much better after you record it. So we like to focus our efforts on the things that are making us all very happy when we listen to them.

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