TESTAMENT's ALEX SKOLNICK Believes Pop Music Is 'Much More In Danger Than Guitar Music' When It Comes To AI

August 19, 2023

In a new interview with Ultimate Guitar, TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick weighed in on a debate about people using an AI (artificial intelligence) music generator as a tool to create melodies, harmonies and rhymes based on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and machine learning (ML) models. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "That's a very recent technology, and it remains to be seen how that impacts music and the music industry as a whole. It's a little bit scary in a way, but as somebody that does a lot of improvisational music, even though I'm best known for my work playing heavy metal, I know the improvisational music is very hard to replicate. I cannot picture AI doing what we do as live musicians, playing off of each other and giving the human touch to music. I can understand it with other music."

He continued: "I'm not sure it would work for heavy metal. I would imagine some types of heavy metal… I'm sure AI could come up with a riff, come up with something that sounds like JUDAS PRIEST or whatever, but I don't know how convincing that would be. I know it has worked with some of the more recent pop music such as Drake and The Weeknd, but that music's pretty mechanical to begin with. So, to me, that already sounds like a machine came up with it. So I think music like that is much more in danger than guitar music, at least for now."

Earlier this month, vocalist Simone Simons of Dutch symphonic metallers EPICA told EMP about people using AI technology in music: "We talk about it amongst each other in the backstage with our colleagues and other creative people. Some have bigger worries than others. I myself try to adapt as good as I can. I mean, you can't stop it anyway, and I think we should try to use it to our benefit, however we can. But I do notice a lot of my friends are occupied with this topic, but I try to not let myself get too crazy because of it. I think in the end, humans need humans and art needs to be created by actual flesh and blood."

She continued: "One of our crew members, he used the voice from Pink to sing [EPICA's] 'Abyss Of Time', and he sent it to me, like, 'Look, Pink is singing your song.' And at first I didn't recognize that it was even EPICA. And then I was, like, ah, it's Pink's voice but still, you hear there's no soul in it; it still sounds artificial. The emotion, you can't fake that, I think. But you can write lyrics. So for the Dutch people [celebrating] Sinterklaas [holiday] where you have to write like little rhymes for all your family and friends and you work a whole week every night, you can just ask AI to do it for you.

"But, yeah, for writing lyrics, it's a different thing," Simone added. "There you can definitely, probably cheat. But for me, one of the nice things, of course, besides singing, is also writing lyrics. So far, whenever I wrote lyrics, I asked thesaurus or like RhymeZone [rhyming dictionary and thesaurus], which is already in a way a little cheating, I guess. But my lyrics will still be coming from my weird brain."

This past May, AVENGED SEVENFOLD's M. Shadows said that he "would love to" have his voice cloned using artificial intelligence in order to create new songs. The singer, whose real name is Matt Sanders, was also enthused about the possibilities, saying that "AI can be incredibly useful" for songwriters. M. Shadows went on to say that AI gives fans the opportunity to use the work of their favorite acts as a machine learning library to create their own songs.

Pop singer Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, recently said she would "split 50% royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses my voice". "Same deal as I would with any artist I collab[orate] with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty," she tweeted.

Also earlier this month, former VAN HALEN bassist and current MAMMOTH WVH frontman Wolfgang Van Halen was asked by Primordial Radio if he thinks there is any "place" for artificial intelligence (AI) in music, particularly when it comes to the creative process. He responded: "I think when aiding in creation, sort of like that 'intelligent' drummer thing [from Logic], [it] can be helpful. But overall, when it comes to creative merits and creative processes, I really just don't think AI can compete. The only way it competes is by plagiarizing a combination of everything else that we've already done. So without us, it couldn't be. So when it comes to creating original sort of things, no chance."

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