The song "Animals" -- the recent chart-topping single from Nickelback's latest album, All The Right Reasons (Roadrunner) -- couldn't have been done under much more hectic circumstances. The band needed one more song to finish the album, but the problem was scheduling put Nickelback on a feverish deadline to do "Animals."
"We wrote and recorded it in a day," guitarist Mike Kroeger says. "That was sort of like, 'OK guys, we've got to fly out to Alberta to shoot the 'Photograph' video tomorrow, so we probably better get the album done today."
It's not the first time the band has done a song under those circumstances, as Kroeger notes that the previous two Nickelback collections, 2001's Silver Side Up and 2003's The Long Road, each contained a song completed in such fast fashion ("Good Times Gone" and "Flat On The Floor," respectively). Those songs caused Kroeger to ponder whether Nickelback might be suited to taking a spontaneous approach to writing and recording.
"These songs very, very much can stand on their own," the guitarist says. "They're all strong songs, strong performances. I wonder if we can't do a far more spontaneous record, wrap it up in maybe two weeks or something. I don't know about that, but it would be interesting to see."
That approach, though, would completely go against the band's usual methods. Aside from "Animals," All The Right Reasons (the band's fifth disc overall) took Nickelback's meticulous ways to a new level, as the band spent more time than ever -- nearly eight months -- writing and refining the songs on the CD.
Kroeger, guitarist/singer and chief songwriter (and Mike's younger brother) Chad Kroeger, bassist Ryan Peake, and new drummer Daniel Adair (formerly of 3 Doors Down) don't go by intuition or luck when it comes to crafting songs to pack the maximum appeal. After the success of the multiformat hit song "How You Remind Me," Chad Kroeger surveyed people outside of the band to find out exactly what parts of the song grabbed their attention and why the song had such strong appeal. This helped the band understand the function of hooks in a song. Then the group took things a step further by getting outside input on in-progress songs they were working on for The Long Road, looking to determine the strengths and weaknesses of songs and how to pack more hooks into each tune. That approach once again came into play on All The Right Reasons.
"A lot of the other songs were very much a micromanaged and very carefully processed," Mike Kroeger says. "It was the whole situation where you're sitting there, OK, they have given us a deadline that we don't really take seriously because they know just as well as we do that if we come out with a shit record on time, that doesn't do anybody any favors. We have to bring the best album we can and if it takes longer than they want, then they'll wait because it's in their best interest to wait. So we, in the beginning, were just trying to do the finest work we could. And we rewrote and rerecorded several pieces."
It's hard to argue with the analytical approach Chad Kroeger and his bandmates have used on the three most recent Nickelback CDs. Silver Side Up went on to sell more than six million copies in the United States alone. It featured "How You Remind Me," the blockbuster hit that became the most played song of 2002 as it torched the rock and pop charts. That disc also spawned two other number-one rock radio hits, "Too Bad" and "Never Again." The Long Road, which to date has sold nearly three million copies in the States, kicked out three hit singles, "Someday," "Figured You Out," and "Feeling Way Too Damn Good."
All The Right Reasons, released in Oct. 2005, has topped five million copies sold, after becoming the band's first CD to debut at number one on the Billboard magazine album chart.
Those sales were initially fueled largely by the first single, "Photograph," a big-bodied ballad that finds Chad Kroeger reflecting on memories from his teenage years. The song first topped Billboard's mainstream rock chart and then crossed over to pop radio, where it topped the Pop 100 chart. The hits have since kept on coming.
To go with "Animals," a catchy driving rocker with funny lyrics about a backseat romantic misadventure, the new disc also boasts several other tracks, including "Follow You Home" and "Side Of A Bullet," which connect with hard rock fans. The latter song features a guitar solo from "Dimebag" Darrel Abbot, the Pantera guitarist who was murdered during a 2004 concert. The solo was pieced together from outtake recordings supplied by his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, who is a good friend of the guys in Nickelback.
Kroeger says the current live shows feature the band's hit singles and as much material from All The Right Reasons as they can fit into a set that figures to run about an hour and 40 minutes. The guitarist adds that fans can expect a show with plenty of visual impact.
"We were standing there in front of the whole thing and we got more elaborate staging, video screens, and cameras on the stage, and a monster light show ... and also huge pyro and weird kind of like panel lights effects things, I don't even know what you call them," Kroeger says. "We were looking at it, going 'Jeez, these people are going to go out of here needing therapy. We're going to give everybody ADD ... with so much eye candy, everybody's going to leave scrambled. Between 110-decibel music and everything else, it's going to be quite a systemic overload."