Nickelback's Ryan Peake on Dodging Wikipedia, Building 'Circles of Doom' and Battling U2 for Most Loathed
Nickelback is one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st Century, yet guitarist Ryan Peake—who's been with the band for the entirety of its run—doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Music Times spoke to Peake as his band tours in support of its new album, No Fixed Address, so that future generations of reporters won't have to work as hard as we did to research this guy. Peake discussed amped-up stage modifications, the potential for bluegrass on the band's next album, and whether Nickelback can rival U2's iTunes release in terms of generating hate for the group.
Music Times: I find this crazy...you do not have a Wikipedia page.
Ryan Peake: Seriously? I'm kidding...I know.
In this day and age, every guitarist that has recorded with Megadeth, which is a lot (eight), has a Wikipedia page but the guitarist for one of the bestselling rock bands of the 21st Century...no luck.
I love that comparison. I'm a Megadeth fan so that's awesome...but it's not insulting? The less I'm on the internet, the better! I truly do appreciate any kind of privacy I can get living in the spotlight. It doesn't bother me. It's kind of nice that nobody's paying attention. I don't feel slighted whatsoever. Now I'm going to go and look up Megadeth's guitarists.
You guys are on tour right now in support of your recent album [No Fixed Address] and I understand the stage setup is a lot bigger this time around.
RT: I don't know if it's necessarily bigger but it sure gives that illusion...we have a couple of different stage designers that helped us out this time, and they did a fantastic job of using the lights and the screen and whatnot. We've got the pacing figured out how we want the show. They've brought a lot to the table and we're quite happy. It's just amazing when you stand back and I don't want to...well...you can probably see it on the internet: When we start the show, the first song with the lights...it's so cool. Almost overwhelming. It's just insane the way these guys have done the show. Very impressive. It's a good kick in the face to kind of get thing going. I'm unite happy with how we've structured this thing. The night turns into a big singalong and that's what I like. I just went to a concert the other day for one of my favorite bands and just wanting to sing along to every song. They redid one of their old albums...I love those kind of concerts. When we come out there we want to put on a show for people obviously. We want to give them their money's worth...but we also want to draw them in, stop that separation. I wanna sing some songs, hopefully you came to this, let's have a good time.
What was the concert?
I went to see—I'm not sure how popular they are in the states or if anybody knows them—The Tragically Hip? It's a band I, all of us in the band, grew up with personally. I was a huge fan. They were doing an album called Fully Completely, and that was released in the early '90s  and I remember lining up at record store to buy that. It's not like you wake up and click on it. You made that commitment, you had to go stand in line! I'm that old!
Getting back to your live show, something I saw referenced in particular...Chad [Kroeger] referred to the screen as the "circle of doom."
Sounds pretty ominous.
What is that referencing?
What we've done is actually made our own black hole, and at the end of the song we all get sucked into the black hole... It's a great stage gag. I dunno, it's a big screen...this one, it's a circle-shaped screen and we tried to use that with some of the images we're working with in the show. There's a circle of doom but we cap the show off with it...I won't say how it ends but we cap the show off nicely with the circle of doom behind us.
Looking at 'No Fixed Address,' you guys put that out on Republic after a long time with Roadrunner. Why the change of horse?
First off I gotta say, we love Roadrunner. Roadrunner was great label to be on...The label was really good to us, they left us to our own devices. They left us alone but promoted the heck out of the stuff and did a great job for us. They were really passionate and we loved it. I don't want to get too inter-dealer but Warner Brothers bought Roadrunner...and our deal was through this last album so we made it to the end of our contract, which we're quite proud that we stayed together, we made it to the end of our long, six-album contract. And then we just had to make a choice. A lot of the people we were really happy with at Roadrunner, almost all of them were gone. So we decide maybe it's time...it would be good for everybody to make a change and so we decided to go with Universal and give it a shot, see how that goes.
You guys are definitely experimenting with some new stuff...Flo Rida as a guest star...what were your initial thoughts on bringing hip-hop into the game?
It was definitely something I didn't expect. How that went down was I left the studio flat—we rented a bunch of houses and recorded this album—and Chad had this song in L.A. by himself and he had another songwriter buddy down there and he [Kroeger's friend] and he works a lot with the hip-hop artists and rap artists and he said 'hey that's a cool tune, can I listen to it? Give my two cents?' Yeah, no problem. He gave him a copy of it and he just left and went to his sessions he was doing at another studio and Flo Rida was just in the room and he happened to be playing the song and he said 'What's that? I'd love to be on that song!'...so they asked Chad and Chad was like 'Sure, I dunno, we never really thought of it.' It's not like we sit and plan these things the whole time. If you leave yourself open to these kinds of creative moments and opportunities you never know what can happen. We tried it out. Recorded for about two hours. Wrote it, recorded everything. Boom. Done. It's just really interesting. It's something we have never done before. My son thinks it's the sh*t so...he doesn't care about us. He was like 'wait—How did you get Flo Rida on this?' Really? Thanks buddy! Ouch.
Your kids have to be your go-to test audience.
Well he's getting there for sure. He's still kind of young but he's definitely getting there. My wife and my brother are really great soundboards for what we do on the album. They always have been. I remember Chad would come over to the house in like 2000 and he's got an acoustic and started playing this thing...and my wife wife is just instantly like 'what is that? That's a good song.'
So even in arena-headlining rock bands, the wives are in charge ultimately?
In most households, are they not?
In the craziest corners of your mind do you have any weird genres that you'd like to experiment with in the band?
I have been for years, seriously man, for years, trying to get banjo and mandolin. I like bluegrass. I'm like the worst musician in the world compared to some of these guys. Some of these guys will just blow your mind. Jerry Douglas playing on the dobro is just sick. I love that kind of stuff. I like a lot of the organic stuff, I don't know if it'll ever leak into the music necessarily. I grew up with solid metal. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, that kind of stuff. The I really got into a band from Canada called Blue Rodeo, and it was kind of sit-down campfire chords and singing. It really got me thinking about what fits together. Chord-wise, melody-wise, where harmonies feel good and feel right. It really helped sculpt a lot of my music sensibility. That's always been important for me in how we write...it's funny. I don't think you'd ever listen to Nickelback and heard anything from this band Blue Rodeo and go 'oh yeah I get it.' You're never gonna hear that. It's interesting where you draw things from. One day maybe I'll put up something that's extremely left-field, or the band will finally let me bring my mandolin in and pretend like I know how to play it.
I gotta be honest: Every time a new Nickelback album drops, I'm expecting it to be a King Crimson-esque prog trip just as an 'eff you' to the critics.
Oh man, we've had some un-danceable songs we've written. Weird time signatures and all. You never know, we might sometime. We've got a few in the back pocket like...'I don't think anybody's gonna get this.' I mean you could always indulge and do that. And the good thing is we've got a drummer that can play the sh•t out of that stuff. Daniel Ladair is like...man he played in a band, if you ever get bored and want to check out some of that, look for a band called Martone. It's kind of a side-project he plays with Dave [Martone] and Dave is just this absolute guitar genius. It's just sick. He's hanging out with the Satriani tour...he's up there with those guys. And Daniel keeps up drum-wise and time signature-wise, it's just sick. If you like prog rock or prog metal, math rock, you'll love this.
Getting into serious matters...it's a huge cliché in music circles to refer to Nickelback as one of the most hated bands in existence. But it seems U2 may have sealed the title with last year's iTunes release. What can you guys do to retake the crown?
We were a little upset when they took all that press from us. I thought we had this cornered! I thought we had this locked up! Then they go and they force their music onto people's iPhones and they go and piss on everybody en masse. How dare they?!? They just have a larger reach than us, that's why. They can turn that switch from love-to-hate quicker than we can.
Seriously, I look to that and I just kind of laugh. I understand why people are grouchy about the music or they're pissed off that they forced this music on them. My God, there are so much larger things to be pissed off about! When they started taking a beating on the internet, you know, those guys have such a smooth armor on them. It doesn't matter what they do. They'll bounce back. They'll be loved again. I love U2, they're a great band.
Don't worry...we'll take that title back. It's a war of attrition for us. We'll get it.
I do understand as well, I do understand there were a lot of times when our songs…you couldn't get away from them on the radio. You just couldn't. That was the radio's choice. They're playing it, they said they were getting requests…when you play anything to death, people are going to hate it. I understand it. I've felt similar to other bands as well. In the same breath, I take it in stride. We all do. I guess what I'm trying to say is: U2's gonna put out a great album next time.