Hit The Lights: Nickelback: 'I Guess The Bigger You Are, The More Haters You Have'

artist: Nickelback date: 01/23/2010 category: interviews
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Hit The Lights: Nickelback: 'I Guess The Bigger You Are, The More Haters You Have'
Nickelback have sold out arenas, stadiums, clubs and so on, and have prominently featured in charts across the world, notching up a clutch of platinum discs and award victories and nominations. Penning commercially oriented stadium rock tracks tailor made for radio, the group does have an extensive fanbase. Having said that though, Nickelback are still a divisive act; while some critics pen glowing reviews of the band's abilities, other critics verbally savage the band's abilities. If you scan a given rock forum, even music fans stand at either end of the spectrum. However, no-one can dispute Nickelback's achievements because despite the disapproval of some quarters, the group still perform at sold out shows and shift many albums. "Burn It To The Ground"'s Grammy nomination for "Best Hard Rock Performance" marks Nickelback's sixth Grammy nomination, previous fare being nominated including "How You Remind Me", "Someday", "The Long Road", "Feelin' Way Too Damn Good", and "If Everyone Cared". The fourth US single from November 2008's "Dark Horse", "Burn It To The Ground" has been used as the theme song of WWE Raw since November 2009. Nickelback's January 2010 trek began on the 17th at Liverpool, UK's Echo Arena, subsequently visiting Switzerland. Other dates will see the group tour across Germany and visit Austria, as well as performing in the United Arab Emirates in early February. From early April to early June, Nickelback will tour North America. January 2005 marked the addition of Vancouver drummer Daniel Adair to the ranks of Nickelback, replacing Ryan Vikedal. At that time, Adair was best known as drumming for 3 Doors Down, though he's also been a longtime member of Martone, the group featuring Canadian instrumental guitarist Dave Martone. Adair's drumming can be heard on October 2005 Nickelback album "All The Right Reasons", and the aforementioned "Dark Horse". A session drummer, he also features on albums by Theory Of A Deadman, Bo Bice, Faber Drive, The David Anthony Project, Jet Black Stare, Thornley, Burn Halo, Sherry St. Germain, and Yakup Trana. In early 2008 via his official website, Adair revealed that he had switched to using Drum Workshop drums, after having used Pearl drums for a period of five years. On January 16th at 14:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned reception at Liverpool's Hard Days Night Hotel, and asked to be put through to the room of Nickelback drummer Daniel Adair. Topics of discussion included the outfit's latest Grammy nomination, critical feedback, and the man's drumming, not to mention topics related to that. Daniel Adair: Hello? UG: Hello. Can I speak to Daniel please? This is him. This is Robert Gray. Hey Robert. How are you doing? I'm ok. How are you Daniel? Good, yeah. Asking for my name fantastic (laughs). (Laughs) Well I never know who answers, so it's always good to ask. Would it be ok if I began the interview? Yeah, yeah. That's fine. "Burn It to the Ground" was recently nominated for a Grammy Award for 'Best Hard Rock Performance'. What are your thoughts on that nomination? "Burn It to the Ground"'s Grammy nomination is definitely another notch on the belt - it's a feather in the cap to get a Grammy nomination. I have a weird thought about the Grammys; the Grammys aren't really based on the votes of people, and is more of a political kind of establishment. It's neat to get nominated, but I don't hold a lot of weight with a Grammy nomination. There's a lot of record company politics and things going on. That's probably all I should say about it (laughs). It's cool, it is good, and it is a good thing.

"I have a weird thought about the Grammys; the Grammys aren't really based on the votes of people, and is more of a political kind of establishment."

So do you base Nickelback's achievements more on record sales, and live reaction? Yeah, like Billboard Awards, People's Choice Awards, and certain categories where it's real people voting, and they don't have any other motivation other than the fact that they like it. That's a true representation of what people think, as opposed to the industry rooting for their own people on their label and that kind of thing. Even though Nickelback has a big fanbase and has sold a ton of albums, the bands tends to receive a lot of flak from critics. What are your feelings on these critics who particularly criticize Nickelback? Well, I guess they're mad because they're not doing what we're doing. That's all I can think (laughs). Me and our bass player were actually talking about critics as well yesterday, and he said "Ya' know, I've heard kids say when they grow up they wanna be a firefighter, or a doctor, or something like that. I don't ever hear them say they wanna be a music critic". I don't know. I guess it's like crabs in a bucket; if some crab wants to escape, the rest try to keep it back. That's all I can think. I don't hate other bands that are big, even if I don't like 'em. I guess the bigger you are, the more haters you have. So when you've recorded material that makes you think "This is really good material", it doesn't get to you when a critic just goes on a rant about the group? It used to bug me a lot more than it does now, but it just gives them power when you let it bug you. They can say what they want, but I'm just gonna do my thing, and I just try to keep my head in that kind of space. In 2008, you switched to using Drum Workshop drums after having used Pearl drums for five years. What prompted that switch? I did a couple of studio sessions with other artists; I recorded an album with Burn Halo (March 2009's 'Burn Halo') down in L. A. with producer Zac Maloy, did a session in Vancouver with a guy named Gordini for a band called Jet Black Stare, and did the Thornley album (2009's 'Tiny Picture') with Nick Raskulinecz. All these guys wanted me to try a DW kit in the studio, because we just weren't getting the tones that we wanted. As soon as I heard the toms on these drums... they're just so easy to tune, and the tone was so pure on it. After three straight sessions of producers telling me to play DW's, I realized what a good drum set they were. That's when I approached them, purely out of I just wanted to play the best. I really had a good relationship with Pearl, so it was a hard thing - it was like breaking up with a girlfriend (laughs). I met the DW guys though, and they were really nice. They didn't bash Pearl, but just said "Take a drum kit home, try it, and it'll talk for itself". That's all they had to say. What about Drum Workshop drums give them the edge over other drums you've used in the past? When I went down to DW, I met John Good who's one of the head guys there. He co-founded the company, and was still working there, pitch matching all the shells. He has a little floor up in the factory, and an order will come in for a drum kit for a kid in Oklahoma; he'll go to all these shells, and tap them, and listen to the note, put the note in, and tone match all these kits before they're sent out. That's the kind of personal touch you don't see in a lot of companies, where it's just a big factory in Asia. They spit them out; they get an order, grab a ten-inch tom over there on this shelf, and grab a twelve-inch tom over there, but they might not even work together - the woods might be at such a pitch where they're actually the same note, even though they're different sizes. That extra personal touch - and that's along every step of the way, during the whole process of making the drum - is I think what just gives them that edge. What was it like to hang out with John Good? Oh, it was great. He was such a humble, nice guy, and I could just tell that his mind was always buzzing with activity, was always working on ideas. We went for lunch, and he asked me what I think about this hardware, and what I think about this drum company, and what about this, what I like, and what don't I like. He's always trying to improve - he's a mad scientist, if you will. Was it nice to see that he still has that hunger after working for so many years? Yeah. When you see that, I almost tend to think "Jeez.. One day, I hope they pass it onto someone who cares just as much". Someone who's that into doing what they do, and where that extra bit of love is in the product, is hard to find. I'm sure they'll find some way to keep that up, but it sounds like a really good thing that he's there. What did using DW drums contribute to the sound on 'Dark Horse'? That wasn't prevalent on 'All the Right Reasons', perhaps? The bass drum had so much more low-end to it. We had "Mutt" Lange on that session, and as soon as he heard the kick drum, he said "Wow". Usually, we have to muck around with the bass drum for a day or two, but I didn't even do that. I just brought it in, and we put a mike inside it. Everyone was just blown away. "Ok.. Well there's our bass drum sound - that was easy". I then got the toms up. On 'All the Right Reasons', we really spent a lot of time tuning between every take of every song, and it was a bit of a pain. These drums are so easy to tune though - they were really low maintenance, and that was the biggest part. It just made the job easy for everyone; throw a mike on it, tune it up, and then "Ok, well let's worry about the music", as opposed to being stuck in a technical hell for a couple of days. In terms of the drum parts you recorded for 'Dark Horse', what did you play that was different compared to the drum parts you recorded for 'All the Right Reasons'? Seeing that "Mutt" Lange was at the helm, who has a certain sound and does things in a certain way, the drum parts were definitely a little more simplified - that's the direction he wanted to go on this. The drum parts were a little more sparse, and when there was a fill it was for a reason, very punctual, and it would work hand in hand with the rest of the song, with what's happening with the guitar, and what's happening with the lyric. With 'All the Right Reasons', on the other hand, I had a little more leeway to do some fancy kinda fills here and there. I was the new guy and they let me do a bunch of things, which I thought was pretty cool, but there was a need to take that less is more direction on 'Dark Horse'. Personally though, I wanna get back to 'All the Right Reasons'' direction where I can throw in some more interesting things for a drummer to play. Is it sometimes difficult to keep your drumming basic, considering that you know for a fact that you can play fancier parts? It depends on what mindset I'm in. Usually it isn't, because I learnt a big lesson when I was younger - actually, I learnt two great lessons. I remember playing in a covers band, and we busted into "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, which has a drum intro. Before the verse then comes in, I did this ridiculous Dennis Chambers fill, and the rest of the guys in the band kinda gave me that look, that look that makes you feel like you're a terrible person (laughs). I was really new at this whole thing. They then talked to me after, and said "Dude, you're an awesome drummer. If you want more work though, don't do stuff like that (laughs)". I definitely learnt to do fills inside my head. When I started to write myself, I'd write something on guitar and record some vocals, and then I'd notice when I would lay down the drum part that it would be super basic. I was saying something with my lyrics and my melody, and I didn't want the drums stepping all over it. The light bulb then went on. "Ding". "Ohh... I guess that's how songwriters feel when a drummer comes in, and tries to do all the stuff all over the place (laughs)". I guess thirdly - if I want to add to it - being in the studio for the first time when I was younger, I realized how hard it was to play simple and consistent. The simpler you play, the less notes there are to hide behind. Playing simpler exposes whether every hit is the same velocity, the same dynamics, the same volume, and whether every hit is in the same place. It's really challenging to play simple; the chances are you'll get bored, so you have to get over that. It's really hard actually to hold a really good note.

"All these guys wanted me to try a DW kit in the studio, because we just weren't getting the tones that we wanted."

Do you get to improvise a lot when you're performing live? Do you get to add little bits in, and express yourself more? Oh yeah. I overplay like crazy, probably too much (laughs). It's live though, so I'm just in the moment. Actually, I add a lot of double kick stuff live; instead of going for like a sixteenth fill where I roll down the toms or something, I tend to add a lot more kick because our sound guy said "Man, with fifteen thousand watts, when you do stuff on double kick it just makes people's eyes almost explode out of their heads". I need to do more of that (laughs). (Laughs) What's it like when you play your drum solo during Nickelback's live shows? It's really over the top; the riser drives out, raises up in the air, and spins around. That was really hard to get used to actually, because I'm not a fan of height. I remember when it would be spinning around, and I'd be up there... I'd do this one fill where I'm kind of looking over my left shoulder as I'm turning backwards left, and I got vertigo a couple of times. I almost thought I was gonna hurl when I was up there, but I'd just close my eyes and pull my way through. It is a written solo, because I like to have something planned out. If you're playing in an arena in front of fifteen thousand people, you don't really wanna go up there and wing it, and maybe have it fall flat on its face. We also have it synchronized with the timing of the riser driving and the lights, and there's a pyro shot up there too, so I gotta say it's the most intense part of my day. Once I hit the last note on that solo, then I'm like "Yes!! Ok. Now I can relax (laughs)". Is it difficult to keep an audience entertained through a drum solo? Yeah. I have a rule myself about how to compose a solo, which is never to write one that lasts over five minutes - because you just get desensitized. Even my favourite drummers I'll watch, but if they're doing a ten to fifteen minute solo, you just get a little bored. The name of the game, especially today because people's attention spans are so short, is to just keep changing things. I keep a structure to the solo, and try to build it up. I've learnt over the years what fills, and what visual gags, really work with the crowd. I just try to keep it non-stop, and then finish it, and leave them wanting more. I hope my solos are not boring. I hear them cheering the whole time, so that's usually a good sign (laughs). Some people just hate drum solos, but they can get a beer when I'm doing it. Overall though, I think I'm keeping them tied up pretty good. Would you say your live drum solo is a work in progress? Do you take out certain parts, or add certain parts, as you perform at more and more live shows? Yeah, for sure. There's some things that don't go over as well... I just like to change the solo too. With this run we're doing right now, there's about ten shows in Europe. After we've done this run, I'm gonna put my solo to bed, and hopefully have enough time to write another one before our US run starting I think in March or April. I'm gonna try to work on a whole new thing. I don't know what direction to go, though it can't be anything too quiet and jazzy because it is a rock crowd. It's funny. I find the more simpler things make the show easier, so I gotta keep that in mind too. I know when I'm playing, some drummers might say "Hmm... Yeah, that's not really too hard... You wanna do something like Virgil Donati would do". I found that if you do something really complex and really hard though, and other drummers go "Wow, that's so hard", people in the crowd are pretty bored - unless, let's say, I'm playing with Martone. Martone are playing to musicians, and then they get that stuff, so I'll then change gears and do that. You got to keep in mind my demographic with Nickelback isn't a bunch of musicians though; they're there to be entertained, to have a good time listening to loud music, and to drink some beer. For Nickelback's arena shows, you use two drum kits. Could you talk me through what each of these kits consist of? With my main kit, I've got a mix. They're the VLT series, but the floor tom and kick drum are the X series. It's a ten by eight, a twelve by nine VLT, a sixteen by fourteen X, and an eighteen by twenty-two inch X kick drum. I've got two snares; my main snare is an Edge - fourteen by six - and my auxiliary is twelve by five. Then I have a bunch of Sabian cymbals, Remo drum heads. The little kit down the stage at the end of the thrust is then actually suspended upside down underneath, so the whole floor flips. The circumference to be able to flip couldn't be over forty-eight inches. It's like a little go-kart; there's only a kick snare and a floor tom, and my cymbals are super low. It's actually really weird to play on, coming from a big rock kit and coming down to the front. It's kind of hard because it's so compact, and I got to fit in my mike because I sing all the back ups - I sing all the high harmonies. My mike stand is kind of stuffed in my face, and everything's really low. It's actually more difficult than you think (laughs). Your memory is built around a different kit. It works; the crowd really likes it when we're down in the front. What is your warm up routine prior to a live show? I've got a drum kit in the back, which is a duplicate set up of my main kit. DW gave me a PDP kit, which was very nice of them. Maybe during the day, I might work on some new stuff, and maybe spend about an hour trying to work on some new co-ordinations and so on, or some technique. Forty minutes before the show, I'll then go in the drum room and just play. Maybe the night before, if I was sloppy on a part, I'll go over that. Generally, I just put a click on and just start wailing away, and get my muscles all warm and pretty sweaty. I might even go through a shirt actually just warming up, so I guess I end up drumming about four hours a day. Do you have to be in a certain mindset in preparation for a live show? Yeah. I need to go off and be by myself, and get in the zone. Some guys can hang out with all their friends backstage, right until the second they go onstage. I need to relax though, and do some breathing, do a little stretching, and warm up on the kit. I find if I'm busy up until the last minute trying to get my friends in the back door, and trying to get them to their seats, it just makes me really flustered and scattered. I definitely need my own kind of zen time for about an hour before the show, and to do a little vocal warm up also. When you're off tour, how do you stop your skills from becoming rusty? I play a lot. Actually, I switch gears back to the more Martone kinda approach to things, whereas with Nickelback - I just went through this yesterday. We rehearsed yesterday, and for six weeks I've been at home practising a bunch of rudiments and doubles, and all these new linear concepts on the drum kit. I then get here, and I always forget how I'm hitting so hard up there, and that I'm not playing from a position of six to eight inches. I got my hands above my head, and that whole different type of technique, using all your large muscle groups as opposed to all your little twitch muscles... Yeah, I always shock myself every time we rehearse - I go "Holy shit.. I gotta hang on for dear life here". With the amount of adrenaline you have playing in front of fifteen thousand, I just can't really practice like that at home. There's no getting ready for that, but generally, the main things I do for the show at home is keep my double kick chops up. I try to give as much time to it, because I find that goes the fastest, the double kick, and I have a lot of that in my solo. Do you have to go to the gym, or anything like that? I do go to the gym. I lift weights, and go about three or four times, only because I'm naturally a skinny guy. Actually, I'm a skinny, fat guy; if I let my body go, my arms get really thin, and then I get a little belly. Nobody wants to watch that guy (laughs). I used to run a lot, but as I'm getting older, my lower back is kinda just getting to me; I think my hip flexors are really tight from drumming, and that pulls on the lower back, so I find if I'm drumming a lot or I'm drumming a Nickelback set, that's ten hours of cardio a week. That's huge cardio, so I find that and then the weight routine is a pretty good workout. And I eat very well, very, very well. As you mentioned, you're also a part of the Martone band. In what ways has David challenged you as a drummer over the years? Oh man... When I met Dave Martone, I thought I knew how to practice. Then I lived with him, and I would hear him upstairs in his bedroom practising for - no word of a lie - five to eight hours, probably for four to five times a week, and he would not stop. At the time, I'd practice an hour, and then kind of fool around and play, and maybe work on something for seven minutes. He would just get his head into something he was working on though, and he was absolutely relentless. That's what taught me. I thought "God, that's how that guy's so good". He's efficient, practises, and he's got discipline and work ethic. Just being around him, and seeing what level you can get to if you put the time in, is what really helped me become a better drummer. When you're recording music with Dave Martone though, in what ways does he challenge you? If we're working on an album, he'll send over these mp3 guitar tracks, and then I'll write my parts to them. What I try to do is match a lot of the stuff he's doing. We don't do traditionally what I would do anywhere else, which is I lay it down with the bass player. With Satriani say, you have the rhythm section playing the thing, and then Satriani's on top. Martone and I, we're more guitar and drums together, and then the bass player's trying to keep up with us (laughs). He'll send me these guitar tracks, and I'll try to match some of his phrasings. Sometimes, it'll put me in an interesting situation where I've never phrased something that way before, where I've never challenged to get my limbs to do this or that, or he'll do some patterning live which I try to incorporate around the kit. I always find I become a better drummer from inventing these new parts to his guitar parts, and then I'll take it a bit further, and do a little more. In turn, he'll then amend his guitar parts a bit, so we gel together.

"I wanna get back to 'All the Right Reasons'' direction where I can throw in some more interesting things for a drummer to play."

As a guitarist, how underrated do you feel Dave Martone is? Oh yeah. I wish people knew about him, but unfortunately, a lot of the mass public aren't into that type of music. I think he's very underrated, and I would like to see him get out there. He's done good for himself, but I would love to see Dave get a high profile status, and show him off. People hear a lot of his shred stuff, but he's quite the classical player also. He's quite the flamenco player - he was five years at Berklee. He's got a great knowledge of theory, and classical, and all sides of it. He can play a lot of funk stuff too. Yeah, he's very, very underrated. If people know about him, they usually only see one or two sides, but he's definitely a pioneer in advanced picking technique. Currently, does the Martone band have any plans to record a new album? Hopefully in 2010, we'll be working on a new album. I might be home from Nickelback in June, and I'm actually just setting up a studio at my house, so hopefully, we'll start cracking on a new album. And as well, does Nickelback have any plans to record its seventh studio album? We're definitely gonna have to do a new album, but it might not be until late 2010, and that'd be the earliest we'd start on it I think. Nothing's written yet, nothing's really going on. We're just trying to get through the rest of this tour - we got like another fifty or sixty shows to go. Is there anywhere you would like to go with Nickelback's seventh studio album? A certain musical direction? We can't stray too far from what we do, because of what we do and it works, and that's just the type of music we like playing. But like I said, I would like to get a little more back to how we did 'All the Right Reasons'. It was a little more of an all of the band approach, and I really got to work on my drum parts, and put my influence in there. We took our time. We were a little rushed on 'Dark Horse'. It turned out a good album, but I would like to get back to that more organic approach that we had on 'All the Right Reasons'. Would 2011 be a likely release date for Nickelback's seventh studio album? Absolutely, yeah. Then there'll be a new album. Do you have a message for the fans of Nickelback? I just wanna thank them for their undying support, and for buying our albums and coming to our shows. We'll try to keep putting out music that they like, and we'd just love to see them show up. Ok. Thank you for the interview Daniel. Ok. No problem, man. All the best. Ok. Thank you very much, and I'll look forward to seeing you online. Good luck with the shows. Thanks a lot. Bye. Bye. Photo credits: David Phillips Interview by Robert Gray Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010
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