In a new interview with Andrew Daly of Metal Castle, legendary hard rock vocalist Joe Lynn Turner (RAINBOW, DEEP PURPLE, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) was asked for his thoughts on his contemporaries using backing tracks in the live setting. He said: "I think it's become too much. I understand some groups need to rely on these computers, but I'm old school, and I think live music should be live. That's what people pay for. If you are well-known and you're going out there and using backing tracks, you're not being honest; it's pantomime. It's not even karaoke. I feel it's cheating people, and it's cheating yourself. Because if you can't cut it live, well, that's what separates the men from the boys. That's what separates who's great and who's average. Anyone can cover it up in the studio, but it all comes out live, and if you can't hack it, then get off the stage.
"I understand there's a technology that certain bands use today, but if you're KISS, for example, maybe you ought to quit while you're ahead, guys. Don't you think you've got enough money to where you don't need to take all the static for doing what you're doing? All it's doing is destroying your legacy, and you'd probably be better off if you just stopped. I'm not trying to point them out individually, but they've been known to use it.
"And look, I understand how difficult it is, especially for singers, because you can only go so many nights in a row. So, if you want to be out there still, maybe cut back the nights, and maybe you can't make as much money. I think we have to look at the driving force here and then try and understand the motivation for why they do it. If you're only doing it for money, so you can have five nights instead of three, that's not a good enough reason for me. Go play for three nights and be yourself. Or stop doing it altogether."
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.
Last 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."