(The Messenger) In an exclusive interview with The Messenger, Nickelback's Ryan Peake and Mike Kroeger get refreshingly honest about the toll the band's negative perception has taken on them and their families.
Speaking just ahead of the movie's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, guitarist Peake and bassist Kroeger told The Messenger they didn't even set out to make a documentary when they started filming what would become Hate to Love. And they certainly didn't intend on opening up about how they went from the biggest rock bands in the world to one of the most reviled.
"It wasn't the original idea to get to that point; I can tell you that for sure," Kroeger said of addressing the negativity. In fact, Hate to Love started out as a collection of interview footage the band was compiling as part of the press tour for their ninth studio album, Feed the Machine, in 2017.
"We had some on-camera interviews with the people who turned out to be our production team for the documentary," Kroeger explained. "They were only tasked with getting us on camera, spewing platitudes about how good the new album was going to be ... But it turned out that the interview footage was maybe a little more potent than we expected."
So the band decided to save the material for something, whether it be a documentary for public consumption or a private home video to enjoy with their families one day. "And then as you go along, you're like, okay, do we make this just the story of us, of how we came up: we made the albums and everything is great and our fans love us?" asked Peake. "I don't know what you would call that, kind of more of a fluffy piece, right? Infomercial, then. So, the conversation about getting real about the - it's mostly online - but the public's perception of the band. I don't know how else to describe that ... It's like, how honest do you want to be about this?
"How many warts do you want to show? Do you want to show that it's not getting to you? Do you want to show that it's getting to you? I mean, do you want to show how human people are about this? How human do you want your favorite artist [to be]? Because as much as the business shows a bulletproof facade, I wanted to be a bit more honest about it and be open about the online stuff, [the] hate and whatnot, and just go,' I don't really get it, and let's talk about it.'"
Formed in the small Alberta, Canada, town of Hanna by Kroeger and his brother Chad, the band's frontman, along with their cousins Peake and Brandon Kroeger, Nickelback started off as a cover band called Village Idiot. The name and lineup have changed in the years since, but Chad, Mike and Ryan have remained constant, growing to become one of the most commercially successful Canadian rock bands ever, selling over 50 million albums worldwide. But something changed in the 2010s; seemingly overnight, Nickelback wasn't just uncool, they became a living symbol of everything wrong with modern rock music.
Part of the problem, it seemed, was that the band had become a victim of their own success. Their music was inescapable, and, as Kroeger and Peake readily admit, some of the criticism about certain songs was "absolutely warranted." Still, the vitriol directed at Nickelback seemed disproportionate compared to other acts in similar situations. The rise of meme culture at the time undoubtedly fueled the fire, but, as the documentary explores with refreshing candor, the negativity took on toll, not just on the members but their families, too.
"We've largely become dehumanized and become more like a monolith," said Kroeger. "When you say nasty things about a monolith, there's no human associated with that, right? They're not people, it's just a great big band. What do they care? We're just some kind of giant stomping around the media landscape and there's no real concept that actually there are people in there. And so when you live that life in that kind of perceived vitriol, it does affect you as a person and it affects the people around you. Our families have been affected by this stuff, and in hindsight, it's all largely nothing ... But when you're in a monolith, it's difficult to explain that actually, we have feelings."
While the band agreed unanimously to open up in the film, the decision didn't come easily. "The title was painstaking to decide whether should we even focus on this, should it be the focus?" said Peake. "Because it's not the main focus, but we definitely talk about it. So that was the challenge I think, and I'm really happy that Mike and I have been kind of lock step in this thing for quite a while and Chad's been really generous with his being as [open] as he can be about it without giving up more than [he] wants to give."
And it seems Chad has given all he wants on this subject. Speaking to People on the red carpet at the TIFF premiere, the younger Kroeger brother said he's finished talking about the negativity. "We made a documentary, everybody can watch it," he said. "And now from this day forward, if anybody asks that question in the press, it's like that's the end of the interview. So if you want to end an interview, that's all you have to say and that will be it."
The frontman's reluctance to touch on the subject compared to his bandmates is understandable. As discussed in the documentary, Chad's status as the face of the band made him particularly susceptible to negativity in public. Now, after opening up in Hate to Love, he is clearly sick of talking about this. Plus, there are more positive things to discuss. The band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame earlier this year and has experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity thanks to younger listeners discovering their music on apps like TikTok. The same internet that delighted in tearing them apart a decade ago seems to be changing its tune.
"All I've ever wanted is just a fair shake," Peake said. While the outsized negative reaction to their music will likely always remain a part of their story, with Hate to Love, the band has at least reminded people of who they really are behind that rockstar monolith: humans. Check out the full story here.