SHINEDOWN Guitarist Says Lip Syncing Is 'Bulls***', But Backing Tracks Can Be 'Great' If They're Used To 'Fill' Out The Sound

March 6, 2024

SHINEDOWN guitarist Zach Myers says that he has no issue with bands who use a limited amount of backing tracks to fill out their sound 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.

Myers addressed some rock acts' reliance on pre-recorded tracks in a new interview with The Jeremy White Show. Asked for his opinion on bands using backing tracks during live concerts, the guitarist said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We've never been this band that uses… I think because we talk about tracks, people think that we are this band that uses all these tracks and that's not true.

"Here's the thing: all these people who bitch about it, and even [SiriusXM radio personality] Eddie Trunk [who has been vocal about his dismay for the use of backing tracks during live shows], I agree with certain things they said. If there's a guitar solo going on and the guy's not soloing, dude, that's bullshit. I agree with that. If there's somebody pretending to play the piano, I agree with that. If there's a guy up there just [pretends to be singing without making a sound] and he's not singing, I agree with that. We just use it to fill in… We don't wanna hire another bandmember or two more bandmembers. I don't wanna play a xylophone in the two seconds that I'm not playing guitar. I don't wanna be holding the keyboard and hold the guitar at the same time. I can — I do it on 'State Of My Head'.

"I always get quoted, dude, in every Blabbermouth article [about backing tracks] of being like, 'Well, that's just the way it is now,' and blah, blah, blah, which I probably should have done a better job of voicing my opinion [when I spoke about it in a March 2020 interview with Rock Feed]. I agree with the people who bitch about those things. If you've got a guy up there that's not singing at all and he's just miming, that's bullshit. I one thousand percent agree with that. We don't really run any guitars. We run 40-piece orchestras for 'Second Chance' and 'The Crow & The Butterfly' and 'A Symptom Of Being Human'.

"I think that there's ways to do it that are great that you don't want to bring three other people on stage with you and mess up the dynamic of what your band is," he explained. "And so I definitely think there's a way to do that.

"I don't get mad at these old 'get off my lawn' dudes who are, like, 'Oh, well, I don't think it's that way.' The funny thing about Trunk, to me, is two of his favorite bands are DEF LEPPARD and KISS, and I'm, like, 'You don't say shit about them doing it, man.' Dude, DEF LEPPARD invented tracks. Them and QUEEN. I can't think of two other bands who did it first. QUEEN did it. You think QUEEN did the bridge to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' live? No! They walked off stage! They weren't even on stage when it was happening. Yeah, they walked off stage! You think when you hear [the opening lines of DEF LEPPARD's 'Pour Some Sugar On Me'], 'step inside, walk this way,' you don't think there's a vocal track going? Shut the fuck up. Come on, man.

"Here's the thing, again: if you're paying money to go see a show and it's all on track — dude, I'm with you, man. That's bullshit," he clarified. "Go see a play. But here's the thing, and I would invite Eddie Trunk to do this: come to our show, grab a set of in-ears, put 'em in and we'll mute the tracks that are rolling and you won't be able to tell a fucking difference.

"I agree that if bands can go on stage and not do it without it, that's a problem. I can't tell you the amount of shows that our tracks have gone down and no one knows. We know, but no one knows. We've finished so many shows where the system shut down. 'All right, we'll just finish the show.'"

KISS frontman Paul Stanley, who had been struggling to hit the high notes in many of the band's classic songs for a number of years, was accused of singing to a backing tape on KISS's recently completed "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."

In March 2023, 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."

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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