DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen says that he understands why certain rock and pop artists rely on 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.
Asked by "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" if he feels that a reliance on backing tracks is enhancement or cheating, Collen said (hear audio below): "Well, it depends on what you're talking about. I mean, we've always used keyboard things and parts of a drum loop, like on 'Rocket' — you couldn't really play that part live. So we've used stuff like that. But our vocals are always live, and that's the big difference — we are like a live-vocal band. And that's something that a lot of the other bands don't do; they kind of fake the vocals and it's not really them. But this is really us. We are a real live band. We do acoustic stuff. It's real — the vocals are real; everything's totally, a hundred percent real."
He continued: "I do believe with some of the other artists, like Beyoncé, Rihanna, even Taylor Swift now — they have to play to tracks; they really do. And sometimes if you're on a TV show, like if you're doing… I'm not sure how the Super Bowl thing works, but if you've only got three minutes, twelve seconds before they start going to a commercial, sometimes they would prefer if you used the whole lip-syncing thing; that's a different thing. But for live concerts, we're really up for actually really playing live, and that's something we've always done. And that separates us from everyone else as well — you're really gonna hear the raw stuff. If someone's got a bad throat that night, you're gonna hear it."
Collen went on to say that use of pre-recorded tracks is perfectly acceptable under certain circumstances.
"I've seen loads of bands that have used enhancements or they've used something where you can't get the real thing 'cause the real person's not there," he explained. "Take QUEEN, for example — QUEEN are amazing. I saw them as an opening act. I saw them supporting MOTT THE HOOPLE in London years ago… But if you go and see them, you have to have enhancements, just the way these shows are."
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 just-launched "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."