DOPE leader Edsel Dope, who is widely believed to be Xer0, the masked frontman of STATIC-X, has 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.
During a new appearance on the “Battleline” podcast, Edsel was asked for his opinion on rock bands who use pre-recorded tracks. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “It’s 2024, man. I’m sorry — I know FOREIGNER was really cool back in the ’70s, and they probably brought a 16-piece band up on stage with backing singers and frickin’ keyboardists and all these things to make that shit happen. Well, it’s 2024 — you don’t need all that shit anymore. How about this one? Efficiency. How about efficiency for touring? How about we can’t feed 26 people. When Ronnie Radke [of FALLING IN REVERSE] goes on tour and wants to play one of his hit songs that’s got 52 keyboard lines and a full string section and all of this shit going on, it’s, like, yeah, dude he’s gonna hit a button, and that button is gonna do all the work, because that’s what technology does for you.
“I get it if a band is outright just like being a DJ, and there’s no lead vocalist — I get it — but I don’t feel like that’s what that argument [against using backing tracks] is based on,” he continued. “I feel like that argument is based on some stupid purist mentality that’s so dated in its way of thinking and thinks of, like,’ I see four guys on stage, so I only must hear what’s coming out of those four people’s bodies or the instruments, the pieces of wood that they’re holding.’ Like, okay, dude.”
Dope, who has helped produce the most recent STATIC-X albums, also addressed the criticism FALLING IN REVERSE frontman Ronnie Radke faced after the latter band canceled its appearance at the WIIL Rock festival in September 2022 at Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois because FALLING IN REVERSE‘s laptops — which the musicians use to “run” their “show” — were lost. At the time, Radke said in a video message that he and his bandmates had “no other option” because “as a band in 2022, you need your laptops. It’s like driving a car without an engine.”
“You’re going after arguably one of the most talented dudes of our generation,” Edsel said, arguing that the pushback against FALLING IN REVERSE was unwarranted. “If you think Sebastian Bach is the dude of the ’80s and you go, ‘Man, that guy sings his ass off,’ and you’re right — Sebastian‘s so fucking talented. That’s who Ronnie is of the younger generation. The dude’s so fucking talented. He’s like the only dangerous fucking rock star that we have out there right now that just does not give a fuck. He’s uncancelable. He’s everything you should be supporting in the rock and roll community right now instead of, ‘Oh, let’s tear him down’ because he’s evolved his sound into having a very — the most modern that it can be. I mean, dude, it’s like an Eminem song mixed with, like, a fucking LAMB OF GOD song with incredible melodic vocals on it. He’s just cutting down all the boundaries, blending everything together, and it’s done in a very technological way. And the dude’s not gonna bring 35 people on tour so that he can not have a laptop. Could he play without his laptop? Yeah, I’m sure he could, but who the fuck would wanna hear it? And that’s Ronnie‘s point, too. He’s, like, dude, no one wants to hear that. And of course, he makes fun of it, and Ronnie‘s a real sensible guy. But I just don’t understand those battles. You’re gonna go after the dude that has literally been doing this now for 15 years and he’s constantly — I love the name of the band, too, FALLING IN REVERSE, because he’s constantly ascended against all odds. That dude is now out there playing amphitheaters, co-headlining with PAPA ROACH. Do you even acknowledge how big the band is, how many fucking streams, how popular that dude has become? And you’re gonna rip him apart because he not organic enough for you? Come on, dude. You’re just a fucking hater.”
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 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.”
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.”
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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