In a new interview with Guitar World magazine, DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci was asked for his thoughts on some of his contemporaries using backing tracks in the live setting. He said: "It depends on what people are doing because some people don't tour with their whole bands, so they have sound effects and things going on. If they're up there playing their asses off, and they have some sound effects backing that up while they're doing it, that doesn't really bother me. Having said that, I think that if anybody's up there faking it or pretending, that's a whole different thing. But I think things have changed a lot; you'll have a lot of bands that just go out with two guys now, maybe it's just a guitar player and a drummer, so they need a pre-recorded bass player. If that's the case, then I guess they have to do what they have to do to keep the show going. So, while I am not for people fake playing, it really depends on the situation."
This past March, DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie pushed back against allegations that he uses pre-recorded vocal tracks during live performances. The rumor that LaBrie has been relying on pre-recorded backing tracks gained strength in February after fan videos of DREAM THEATER's current North American tour were shared on YouTube. Some fans have pointed specifically to the post-chorus of the DREAM THEATER song "Bridges In The Sky" where the alleged lip syncing occurs.
LaBrie finally addressed the Internet chatter during DREAM THEATER's concert this at Bayou Music Center in Houston, Texas. He told the crowd: "I'm gonna fucking clarify something for you now, okay? People have been saying I'm fucking lip syncing? Fuck you. Fucking, what is wrong with people online?"
He then apologized to the audience for his outburst, noting that he and his DREAM THEATER bandmates launched their current tour more than six weeks ago. "I guess I'm losing my mind because I'm almost at the end of a [tour] leg," he said.
In recent years, more and more artists have been given a pass for relying on pre-recorded tracks, drum triggers and other assorted technology that makes concerts more synthetic but also more consistent. For better or worse, pre-recorded tracks are becoming increasingly common for touring artists of all levels and genres and they're not just used in pop music — many rock artists utilize playback tracks to varying degrees.
Earlier this month, Sebastian Bach and Ronnie Radke engaged in a war of words on Twitter over FALLING IN REVERSE's decision to cancel a festival appearance due to "missing" laptops.
Just hours before FALLING IN REVERSE was supposed to appear at the WIIL Rock festival on September 24 at Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois, the singer and his bandmates scrapped their performance because their laptops — which the musicians use to "run" their "show" — were lost. At the time, Radke said in a video message that he and his bandmates had "no other option" because "as a band in 2022, you need your laptops. It's like driving a car without an engine."
One person who seemingly defended Radke and FALLING IN REVERSE is MÖTLEY CRÜE's Nikki Sixx. The bassist wrote: "Keep beating that fake bullshit drum. Sounds so 'Get Off My Lawn'. God forbid if some artists use technology as a creative tool on albums and in live settings. I get it. Just open your mind and stop fighting reality. Makes you sound outta touch and I like that you fly the rock flag."
In March 2020, SHINEDOWN guitarist Zach Myers said that "90 percent" of rock artists use at least some pre-recorded tracks during their live performances. He told Rock Feed: "It bothers me that it bothers people. I'm, like, 'Why does this bother you?' It's the way it is. People have been doing this since the '80s. And we want the sound to be the best it can be. Could we go up there, just the four of us, and put on the best rock show ever? Of course. But that's not how we wanna do it."
Bach previously said that he is "one of the last people" who are still not using pre-recorded tracks at their live shows. "I don't know how much longer I can say to you that I don't use tapes onstage, because I don't, and I never have," he told Consequence Of Sound. "And I still don't. When I have opening bands, and they're using tapes, and then I come out and I don't use tapes… sometimes, it makes me feel stupid, because I'm like, 'What am I doing, when all these kids half my age can come onstage and do all of my moves, but they don't have to warm up for an hour before the show, or weeks, before the first show?' Sometimes, I'm like, 'Why do I even bother, if the public is so used to this other way?' It's becoming very rare to come see a good band that's actually a real band — that's not miming or doing silly moves while a tape is running. It just becomes more rare as the years go on."
In 2019, IRON MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith said that he doesn't "agree" with certain rock artists relying on pre-recorded tracks during their live performances. "I tell you what, I see it with a lot of younger bands, and I don't think it's a good thing at all," he told the New York Post. "I mean, the music is getting too technical now. You have computerized recording systems, which we use, but I think we use them more for convenience than because we need to. We've toured with a couple bands that use tapes — it's not real. You're supposed to play live; it should be live. I don't agree with using tapes … I think it's a real shame."
Sixx has been open about MÖTLEY CRÜE's use of taped vocals during live performances, saying, "We've used technology since '87." He added the group employed "sequencers, sub tones, background vox tracks, plus background singers and us. [MÖTLEY CRÜE also taped] stuff we can't tour with, like cello parts in ballads, etc.... We love it and don't hide it. It's a great tool to fill out the sound."
In a 2014 interview, MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars admitted that he wasn't comfortable with the fact that his band used pre-recorded backing vocals in its live shows, claiming that he preferred to watch groups whose performances are delivered entirely live. "I don't like it," he said. "I think a band like ours… I have to say '60s bands were my favorite — '60s and '70s bands — because they were real, like, three-piece bands or four-piece bands, and they just got up there and kicked it up. Made a mistake? So what? Sounded a little bit empty here or there? So what? It's the bigness and the rawness and the people that developed and wrote the songs and made them and presented them. To me, that's what I really like. I mean, I could put on a MÖTLEY CD and play with it all day long. I don't wanna do that."
KISS lead singer Paul Stanley, who has been struggling to hit the high notes in many of the band's classic songs for a number of years, has been accused of singing to a backing tape on KISS's ongoing "End Of The Road" tour.
Back in 2015, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons slammed bands who used backing tapes for not being honest enough to include that fact on their concert tickets.
"I have a problem when you charge $100 to see a live show and the artist uses backing tracks," Simmons said. "It's like the ingredients in food. If the first ingredient on the label is sugar, that's at least honest. It should be on every ticket — you're paying $100, 30 to 50 percent of the show is [on] backing tracks and they'll sing sometimes, sometimes they'll lip sync. At least be honest. It's not about backing tracks, it's about dishonesty.
"There's nobody with a synthesizer on our stage, there's no samples on the drums, there's nothing," Gene continued. "There's very few bands who do that now — AC/DC, METALLICA, us. I can't even say that about U2 or THE [ROLLING] STONES. There's very few bands who don't use [backing] tracks."