Ex-MOTÖRHEAD Drummer MIKKEY DEE Blasts Singers Who Lip Sync, But Says Backing Tracks Are 'Okay' When Used 'Properly'
March 9, 2023
Former MOTÖRHEAD and current SCORPIONS drummer Mikkey Dee says that he is "absolutely" against singers who lip sync during their concerts.
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.
Dee addressed some rock acts' reliance on pre-recorded tracks in a Cameo video message requested by the Syncin' StanleyYouTube channel. Asked for his opinion on singers who use backing tracks for their lead vocals, the drummer said in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Lip syncing sucks big time. I hate it. That's not fun at all. But when it comes to backing tracks, sometimes it's not too bad, if you use it in a proper way. Let's say, you could have a rhythm guitar as a backtrack in certain solos. We never had it with MOTÖRHEAD, ever. And I know a lot of bands that wanna fill up certain parts of a song with some backing tracks — maybe a guitar, a rhythm guitar usually, or maybe some kind of keyboard or something — just to fill up spaces where it's impossible to play. And if you recorded something and you dubbed something on there, some little theme or something, I think that's okay; that's not too bad. I can live with that, as long as the rest of the song is being played properly. But lip syncing — absolutely no. And backing tracks, if you use them properly; if you use them, I would say the way they were intended. But a lot of bands might use backing tracks for the whole musical part of it. And trust me, I hate that — absolutely terrible."
Asked how he thinks MOTÖRHEAD's late frontman Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister would feel about bands relying on backing tracks if he was still alive, Mikkey said: "Lemmy had the same kind of view, I guess, as me, because we never used backing tracks. But sometimes it could have been okay to do it, because it maybe got too thin in certain kind of solo or something, because we were only three [members in MOTÖRHEAD]. So he didn't like it. He would never do it. But he could see bands that used it in a proper way, in a good way. Then I think it's acceptable and then it's all right. But I don't think he would like it. He would be mostly against it. I think it's okay here and there, as I said, in the case of… depending on what kind of song they needed to work on, to fill up, as I said, a solo, a B section, maybe a theme in a solo — I mean, in a chorus — also play something like that. But the song needs to be played by the band and the band only live. That's my view on it."
KISS frontman 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."
Last month, KISS's longtime manager Doc McGhee defended Stanley's vocal performance on "End Of The Road", explaining that the "Star Child" "fully sings to every song" at every concert. He explained: It's enhanced. It's just part of the process to make sure that everybody hears the songs the way they should be sang to begin with. Nobody wants to hear people do stuff that's not real, that's not what they came to hear."
When McGhee was asked to clarify if he was "actually saying there are backing tracks that [Paul is] singing to," Doc said: "He'll sing to tracks. It's all part of a process. Because everybody wants to hear everybody sing. But he fully sings to every song."
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."
Former SKID ROW singer Sebastian Bach has 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."
One musician who has been open about his band's use of taped vocals during live performances is MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx, who said: "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."
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