Ex-MÖTLEY CRÜE Singer JOHN CORABI On Use Of Backing Tapes During Concerts: 'To Each His Own'February 20, 2023
Former MÖTLEY CRÜE singer John Corabi says that he doesn't personally believe in the use of backing tracks during live concerts but doesn't fault any artists who may rely on them.
In recent years, more and more artists have been given a pass for using 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.
Corabi addressed some rock acts' reliance on pre-recorded tracks in a Cameo video message requested by the Syncin' Stanley YouTube channel. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Dude, I kind of feel like to each his own. Whatever everybody needs or anybody needs to enhance their show or make their show great — whatever. Personally, I don't use them. Me personally, I don't believe in 'em, but again, that's me. Somebody else may. I know when I was in MÖTLEY, we used to use some enhancements on the backing vocals and orchestra parts and things like that. But for the most part nowadays, it's just two guitars, bass, drums and a vocal, and just go. So, again, to each his own."
John previously discussed the use of backing tracks during live concerts in a 2016 interview with Rock Music Star. At the time, he said: "You know, there's a few artists out there that have done it, the fans know they've done it, the fans complain about the fact that they're doing it, but at the end of the day, the fans still show up to see them play.
"Honestly, when I was in MÖTLEY, as far as the playing was, Tommy [Lee, drums] was playing, Nikki [Sixx, bass] was playing, Mick [Mars, guitar] was playing, I was playing, and, to be honest with you, we did have some backing tracks for things like 'Misunderstood', for example. We had a 53-piece orchestra on the original track, and when we sat down and started rehearsing, everyone wanted the tracks while we were playing it live. And that's fine, that's cool. It kind of enhanced whatever we were doing on stage.
"Personally, it's the beauty of what I did on the '94 Live' [Editor's note: Corabi was referring to a live album and DVD of his performance of MÖTLEY CRÜE's entire 1994 album, recorded in 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee] — is I sat down with the guys in my band, and we talked about doing the show, and we discussed possibly having some backing tracks. At the end of the day, I was, like, 'I don't want to do that. I just want to play the songs as a five-piece band, as it would have been without any of the backing tracks.' So, there's not a shit-ton of backing vocals, there's no orchestra parts, there's no backward guitar thing. It's just a five-piece band playing the songs in the most stripped-down, direct format possible.
"Personally, for me, I'd rather figure out a way to do the song, à la how [LED] ZEPPELIN used to do it, and how AEROSMITH… If you listen to AEROSMITH 'Live! Bootleg', when they do 'Dream On', there's not even a piano part in it. They figured it out, and they transposed it to guitars, and they do it that way. It's a bit odd for the listener, but, honestly, the beauty in it is the rawness in it. It's just a five-piece, stripped down band playing their great songs.
"To me, it doesn't bother me. To each his own.
"I've had MÖTLEY fans come up to me and talk to me about MÖTLEY. I've had other fans talk to me about all the backing vocals and the tapes. I just ask them, 'At the end of the day, did you have a good time?' That's it. 'If you had a good time, was it worth the money you paid? Did you get your money's worth?' If they say, 'Yes,' then whatever. If they say, 'No,' I've got nothing for them. Whatever."
The singer continued: "Listen, there's some nights, where I go on stage, and I'm like, 'Shit, I don't know if I'm going to be able to hit that note.' I change the melody a little bit. Bands have good nights, and they have bad nights. I'm not going to cover up anything or pretend. For me, personally, that's just my thought process.
"The fans that I meet over the last ten, twelve, fifteen years, or however long it's been since I've been out of MÖTLEY, I appreciate the fan support that I got from the MÖTLEY fans. It's just funny to me, they come to me and they're, like, 'Dude, I saw MÖTLEY, and Vince [Neil] sang every other word,' or, 'They were running all these tapes and backing vocals when there was nobody by the microphone.' They give me all of these things, and I have the same response every time. I sit there and I say, 'Are you going to go see their final tour?' And they're, like, 'Yup!' After they just got done complaining how the last five shows were…. Whatever their complaint was. I'm, like, 'First of all, if you're going to sit here and complain, then why are you going again? Why are you spending another $150 for a ticket if you didn't like the last five shows? What makes you think they're going to do anything different on the last tour than they did on the last four, five, or six? Why are you complaining? If you want to make a statement, don't go. Why are we even talking about this?'
"It's just crazy to me. I'm not talking about with you, right now. I'm just saying, a lot of these fans come up to me, and I just sit there sometimes and I go, 'Is this person baiting me right now? Trying to get me to say something?' I really have nothing to say.
"If you don't like what you've seen so far, don't complain to me about what they've done in the last five or ten years, or however long, and then go again. That's like enabling a drug dealer. That's like enabling anybody. If you take your girlfriend to a five-star restaurant, and she hikes up her dress and shits in the middle of the restaurant, and she continues to do it, and you continue to take her to fucking restaurants like that, then you're an idiot. [Laughs] Why are you talking to me about this?"
MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars said in a 2014 interview that he didn't like 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.
During an appearance on Eddie Trunk's show "Trunk Nation" on SiriusXM's Hair Nation, Mars was asked about the fact that he has a microphone in front of him on stage during MÖTLEY CRÜE's live shows even though, by his own admission, his "voice sucks so bad."
"That's a whole another story right there, son…." Mars laughed nervously, seemingly unsure how he should comment on the issue. "That could get me in a lot of trouble. I could say there's, like, a… Let me put it this way… I'll just say two words and you'll know: Britney Spears."
Pressed on whether this was somewhat of a controversial issue within the band, Mars said: "No, but I think that it is between a lot of fans, a lot of music people."
Asked how he personally feels about "supplementation on the live stage," Mick said: "I don't like it. 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."
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."
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