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Nickelback entertains the haters in new documentary on Alberta rockers

Nickelback band members, left to right, Michael Kroeger, Chad Kroeger, Daniel Adair and Ryan Peake pose for a photograph on the red carpet for the movie "Hate to Love: Nickelback” at the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

TORONTO — Nickelback has tasted the hater-ade from the band's zealous detractors — and is raising a toast to them.

In the new documentary "Hate to Love: Nickelback," the Hanna, Alta., hitmakers take a step back from their massively successful career to wrestle with their complicated legacy.

On one hand, they've delivered numerous hit singles and top-selling albums over their three-decade career, and on the other, they're often called one of the most-hated rock acts of all time.

"It seems to be a real part of our history," acknowledged guitarist Ryan Peake on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film had its world premiere.

"We’ve got to talk about it because it's weird if you don't."

Sitting alongside bassist Mike Kroeger — brother of frontman Chad Kroeger — the bandmates seem more comfortable than ever assessing how it feels to be the butt of an online joke or the target of a music critic. They are on a brief pause from their ongoing North American tour with the prospect of international dates on the horizon.

For years, Nickelback seemed to wince at the jabs. Lately they've welcomed those so-called haters — if not with open arms, at least a pat on the back.

"It's part of the story, whether anybody likes it or not," agrees Kroeger.

"And you know, it turns out negativity sells. So, we're going to ride that sucker all the way."

"Hate to Love: Nickelback" is directed by British documentarian Leigh Brooks, who was originally hired to capture behind-the-scenes moments and promotional interviews for the band's 2017 album "Feed the Machine."

When Peake saw early footage of the Vancouver shoot, he said he started thinking about the missing pieces of Nickelback's story.

“We hadn’t done any kind of history of the band, (even) for ourselves … for our families, but I wasn't thinking larger,” he said.

And yet like many things Nickelback, what started as a small idea took on sizable ambitions.

After he convinced his bandmates that making a documentary was a good idea, the cameras began rolling on their lives, first for a couple of days and then for a few months.

“Nobody wants a camera in their face all of the time, but in the same breath, I was like, ‘Just shoot everything,’” Peake said.

“It's a weird feeling,” he added. “We're not the Kardashians.”

Six years later, they had a movie that fleshed out Nickelback's story in their own words.

Using interviews with friends and family, the documentary veers through the band's history, making brief stops at memorable pop culture moments, such as Chad's marriage to pop-punk singer Avril Lavigne and the inescapable success of "How You Remind Me" and "Rockstar."

More time is dedicated to surprising new revelations, including the day Chad and Mike learned they had different fathers. They also invite their former drummer Ryan Vikedal to discuss his ouster from the band.

Some candid footage gives a clearer sense of how hostility towards Nickelback has personally affected Chad Kroeger. While he doesn't entertain the subject much himself, Chad's mother is among the people who offer insight into how he deals with it.

By the close of its 90-minute runtime, the production feels like a soft reset on how Nickelback wants to be seen: less as opponents to their position in music history and more as dudes with a sense of humour and a small-town spirit. Peake insists the intention wasn't "about controlling any kind of narrative."

"But it's like, 'Do you want to hear our side? You want to hear how it's been for us?'" he posed.

It also suggests Nickelback is at a turning point in their careers where what lies ahead is anybody's guess.

Late in the film, it's revealed that Mike Kroeger suffered a stroke during the recording of "Feed the Machine," a detail the band never publicly disclosed. The 51-year-old's recovery slowed their lives down and could've ended the band.

Kroeger acknowledged that anything could be around the corner, even the possibility that after this current tour Nickelback may be finished.

"I personally feel like I'm into bonus time, well into bonus time," he said.

"There's no question that we've had a good run and a good ride. We will just see what we're capable of next."

"Hate to Love: Nickelback" will also screen at TIFF on Saturday and Sept. 15.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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