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Nickelback: Hate to Love

Photo Credit: Timothy Hiehle

“If you don’t tell your story and you don’t create and command your own narrative, you’re leaving it up to everybody else to do it for you,” says Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger. And to be sure, few bands in recent memory have been more victim of having “everybody else” – in this case, primarily a vocal contingent of online critics and trolls – shape their narrative for them than the Canadian rock juggernaut. 

After Nickelback – which also includes singer and guitarist Chad Kroeger, guitarist Ryan Peake and current drummer Daniel Adair – burst onto the mainstream scene with their 2001 smash hit, “How You Remind Me,” the band went on to become one of the biggest-selling rock acts of that decade, only to seemingly transform into the most hated during the following one. Which is one of several stories tackled in Hate to Love: Nickelback, a new documentary directed by Leigh Brooks, exclusively available in cinemas worldwide on March 27 & 30, that pulls back the curtain on the four piece. When making the film, guitarist Ryan Peake says, “It was a question of ‘How many scars do we want to show?’ Like, ‘This is our chance to give our side of it. Why not do that?’” 

Photo Credit: Nickelback & Gimme Sugar Productions

The band’s side of things begins with their humble roots in Hanna, a small, rural town in Alberta, Canada, where we get a glimpse of the members’ upbringings, as well as incredible early footage of their pre-Nickelback local cover band, Village Idiot, playing shows to 10 or 15 bystanders. “That was a good night, by the way,” Kroeger says with a laugh. “Fifteen people was a win.”

By the time Nickelback does break through with “How You Remind Me,” they’re already on their third album – several of them self-financed and -released – and have put in more than their 10,000 hours on stages large and, mostly, small. Which makes it all the more astonishing when they become not only so big – according to the doc, they’re currently the 11th best-selling musical act of all time – but also so, well, hated. 

Which is something that is explored in-depth in Hate to Love. “We said, ‘Okay, we have a chance to talk about it, and to peel the onion a little bit and look at the online hate, the kind of meme culture that was going on around us and that we couldn’t quite escape, and ask, ‘Why is this the case?,’ ” Peake says. At the same time, he acknowledges that going down that path was complicated. “I personally struggled with digging into it, because you’re also aware of people going, ‘Oh this poor band that has been so successful and now they’re getting online hate… How can you feel sorry for them?’ But I do find it strangely interesting to see how things progressed and how they got out of hand.”

As for what made Nickelback such a lightning rod for people’s ire? Kroeger and Peake have their theories. “It’s easier to say nasty, horrible things to a monolith than to say them to a person,” Kroeger supposes. “And Nickelback at some point transformed into a monolith.” At the same time, he adds, “Doesn’t becoming the world’s most hated band on some level mean you’re maybe winning a little bit?”

Photo Credit: Timothy Hiehle

Indeed it does. To that end, true to its title, the documentary is as much about genuine love as it is perceived hate. The bond between the members is clearly deep and unbreakable, and there is a similar connection with the band’s fans. “We don’t open up about our band too often, and we thought this might be the time to do it, to make that connection with the fans so that they understand our story a bit better,” Peake says. “And after seeing all the footage, we also said, ‘This could be interesting for somebody outside of the fan base that might be curious about what we went through. I think we could have made a nice little film with us just playing the songs and talking about the albums and that could’ve been it. But I’m hoping what we have is more of a human-interest kind of story, that could be interesting to people in a different way.”

“We’ve been guilty in the past of letting other people tell our story for us,” Kroeger says. “Now we get to hijack the narrative and take it back, and tell what we know is the truth.”

Hate to Love: Nickelback is available exclusively in cinemas worldwide for two nights only, March 27th & 30th. Click here to find tickets and showtimes near you.