SHINEDOWN guitarist Zach Myers says that "90 percent" of rock artists use at least some pre-recorded tracks during their live performances.
In recent years, more and more bands have been given a pass for using backing tracks, drum triggers and other assorted technology that makes concerts more synthetic but also more consistent.
Speaking to Rock Feed about SHINEDOWN's reliance on backing tracks, Myers said (see video below): "I can't bring a 25-piece orchestra on tour with me, but there's a 25-piece orchestra on 'Second Chance', which is one of our biggest songs, so if I can have it in there… And listen, we have songs where we don't even play to a click track — we do it both ways. So there are songs that are just straight-up rock and roll, and there ain't nothing else going on.
"I think it's all personal preference," he continued. "If you wanna do that, do it. If you wanna run tracks, run tracks. I go see bands — CHEVELLE doesn't run any tracks; they've been a straight-up band forever.
"We're gonna do it because, yeah, dude, there's some keyboard stuff. And it's not like piano. Everything you see us playing on stage we're playing. But you know what? Yeah, if there's a shaker on a song that adds an element of energy to the song, we're gonna put a shaker in there. Instead of having to pay some dude to play a shaker and tambourine and keyboards and guitars, even breaking it down to a five-piece string section, we're gonna do that.
"Granted, in other genres of music, there's a lot of people who use tracks that aren't playing anything up there, which is a bit ridiculous."
Zach added: "Here's the thing: you can take that computer that's running the strings and the key tracks and the click track and take it away, and we're still an arena band — period. There's nothing you can do about it.
"And that's the thing: 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. It's personal preference, dude. Bands like ALTER BRIDGE, there's only, like, three songs where they run tracks, and the rest of it is just balls-to-the-wall… I don't even think they run a click track on some stuff. So there's definitely bands who don't do it. But 90 percent of the bands do it — 90 percent. And I can safely say that."
Former SKID ROW singer Sebastian Bach recently 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."
Last year, 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 used of taped vocals during live performances is MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx, who recently 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."
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."