MUDVAYNE singer Chad Gray has once again weighed in on bands who rely heavily on pre-recorded tracks during their live performances.
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.
Speaking to the Australia’s Metal-Roos, Chad stated about bands using pre-recorded tracks (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I would never do that. I would never get on a fucking plane and fly for fucking 12 hours to come down there (to Australia) and fucking lip sync. That shit is an epidemic and I’m really sick of not talking about it. Because it’s fucking getting out of control. There’s piles — piles — heaps of tracks just coming down. It’s lead vocals, it’s backing vocals, it’s guitars, it’s fucking drums, it’s samples and shit. It’s so crazy just how bad it’s getting. I’m fucking over it.”
Gray also addressed the fact that MUDVAYNE is using a second guitarist, Marcus Rafferty, on the road to fill out the band’s sound. Rafferty is a veteran guitar technician who has previously worked with LAMB OF GOD, HATEBREED, SAXON, FOZZY and MUDVAYNE. He also spent time as a guitar tech and stage manager for HELLYEAH, the band Gray co-founded in 2006 and MUDVAYNE guitarist Greg Tribbett alongside late PANTERA drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott.
Chad said: “Yeah, well, we had a conversation, ’cause I told (the other) guys (in MUDVAYNE), ’cause I’d seen it. I’d been touring in it for ten years with HELLYEAH. So I was seeing it everywhere around me. And I just looked at the guys and I’m, like, ‘Dude, you guys have to understand, the listening audience and the listening experience of music has changed immensely since you guys have been on a stage.’ And I’m, like, ‘There are people running so much fucking tracks that literally when they play, they sound like a record; they sound like it’s fucking perfect. And I’m, like, I don’t know how well we’re gonna do if we can’t be as close to the sound of our album as we can be. And we literally had a fucking about a 30-second conversation about running tracks or whatever, and I’m, like, ‘I personally don’t want to. But what do you guys think?’ And Matt (McDonough), my drummer’s, like, ‘I’m not fucking playing to a click.’ And I’m, like, ‘Good, because I don’t wanna play to a click.’ And I said, but what we’re gonna have to do… I was, like, ‘We’re gonna have to get somebody to come in and help us fill our sound out’ — guitars, backing vocals, shit like that. So we got our buddy Marcus. So we’ve got a dude that plays guitar, wears the face paint and shit, helps me with backing vocals, and it’s awesome. He’s such an awesome addition to the band. And the sound is full now — the guitars sound really full. But we’re not doing tracks. We brought in a utility player — literally — somebody just to help us. But he’s really singing, he’s really playing guitar. We don’t have any tracks. We don’t do that shit. Our music is fucking honest and our music has to be played that way. And I don’t give a shit if anybody says any negative shit about us having Marcus. That was our answer to trying to be like other bands that just aren’t doing it anymore.”
Circling back to other bands who rely heavily on backing tracks during their live performances, Chad said: “My favorite fucking bands don’t do it. One of my favorite bands ever in my life is METALLICA. They would never do that shit. Fucking SLIPKNOT — they don’t do it. Fucking LAMB OF GOD — they don’t do it. The real fucking players where everybody’s really playing.
“With the whole track thing, I’m just, like, at what point are you ripping off your fans?” he continued. “Because people work really hard to buy tickets to concerts. And if they go there and you’re not fucking playing your music, which is what they’re paying to see, then… ? You know what I mean? It’s become too much.”
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.”
This past March, 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.”