There’s no doubt that Nickelback is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—bands to come out of Canada. Yet ask most people about the Hanna, Alberta rockers, and they’ll probably agree that this is also one of the most—if not the most—hated bands in the world.
But why do people loathe Chad Kroeger, his brother Mike, Daniel Adair, and Ryan Peake so much? As Peake puts it in the new TIFF documentary, Hate to Love: Nickelback, no one becomes a musician to be a part of the most hated band in the world. So why the hate, and how has it affected these guys over the years?
That’s the topic of the documentary, which both celebrates the guys’ success and investigates hate culture (although to be fair, it does more of the former). Read on for seven things we learned from watching the film.
No one really knows the origins of Nickelback’s hate, but there was a now-famous clip of comedian Brian Posehn talking about a study that tied violent lyrics to violent behaviour back in 2003. “No one talks about the studies that show that bad music makes people violent, but listening to Nickelback makes me want to kill Nickelback,” he said in a promo for Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn.
That clip played as a part of a TV promo for months, and is now believed by many to be one of the pivotal points in the band’s decreased popularity. The quote is featured in the film along with other theories: they’re too mainstream, their music all sounds the same, or they’re just not that great. Whatever the reason, these guys seemed to be "cancelled" before "cancel culture" was even a thing.
Director Leigh Brooks and producers followed this band around for six years in order to come up with the final, 90-minute product. During that time they captured intimate moments with the band, sourced a ton of old footage, conducted interviews with the guys and others close to them, and even sat down with original drummer Ryan Vikedal, who was let go from the band in late 2004. (And yes, the film definitely tackles that.)
One reason the movie took so long to make, though? Chad Kroeger apparently really didn’t love opening up for the cameras. During a Q&A with the audience following one of the TIFF screenings, Mike Kroeger revealed that the reason he shot a pivotal pool scene with his brother was to get him to open up on camera. In the end, those are some of the best scenes in the whole movie.
One of the reasons the hate stings so much is that these guys really did put blood, sweat, and tears into the making of their band. In the film, they reveal that they all wore multiple hats early on. Chad would call into radio stations and pretend to be an agent who had dropped off CDs, they were self-managed for a time, and they went into serious debt following loans from family members to get this thing off the ground.
When they were starting out, Nickelback sent out demos to plenty of places. The only one that responded was Roadrunner Records. At the time the label was known for heavy metal bands, which Nickelback clearly is not. But the timing was right, and the label was looking for a rock band type that could potentially fill stadiums.
It was weird to know that bands like Nickelback were repped by the same people who owned Slipknot, and some heavy metal fans fought back. But as those with inside knowledge comment in the film, Nickelback’s early commercial success is what saved the struggling label and actually allowed bands like Slipknot to continue.
tHate isn’t the only issue this band has had to struggle with over the years. Back in 2015, Chad was warming up for a show when he realized something wasn’t right. Hours before they were set to take the stage, Nickelback cancelled. It turned out that Chat had a cyst on his vocal cords and needed surgery.
For a month, the frontman wasn’t allowed to talk, let alone sing. It was a dark time during which he re-evaluated everything. As he says in the doc, all of the other band members have families and lives outside of Nickelback. But to him, this band always has been everything and he doesn’t know who he is without it.
Throughout the documentary, it becomes pretty clear that it isn’t just Chad and Mike who share a brotherhood. Ryan Peake opens up about how hard it was on him when the band let go of Ryan Vikedal, and how he reconnected with his old friend after the fact. In another part of the film, drummer Daniel opened up about the physical ailments that had him resigning from the band in an email.
He recalled how, hours later, Chad called him up and talked him out of it, promising that they would pause the band or get a temporary replacement until Daniel was better. It was a life-altering moment for the drummer, who until that point always believed he was “the new guy.” Now, he knows that he too is like a brother to these guys.
One thing that was clear throughout the entire movie was that even though these guys have thick skin, the hate has been hard. Yes, there are diehard fans out there. And yes, there are people who pretend to hate the band but secretly jam out to Nickelback all the time. But at the end of the day these are humans, and having insults hurled at you while walking down the street never feels good.
So, one of the biggest takeaways from the movie is the power of kindness and why even this band deserves respect. Love them, hate them, or hate to love them, Nickelback are bona fide Canadian legends and there’s no denying just how widespread their music and pop culture influence actually is.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs until Sunday, Sept. 17.