There has been an on-going discussion about the value or the effectiveness of bands using backing tracks during live performances. The debate has brought in the likes of KISS’ Gene Simmons and Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, among others, with many debating whether or not it is fair that the audience are the ones being tricked. Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen has now weighed in, saying there are certain circumstances in which it was allowable.
Collen’s comments came after Sixx revealed his band had been using pre-recorded audio at concerts since 1987. Speaking with Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon in a new interview, Collen said, “It depends what you’re talking about. 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.” Explaining further, he said, “our vocals are always live, and that’s the big difference. That’s something that a lot of the other bands don’t do. They kind of fake the vocals. But with us, it’s all real – everything’s totally, a hundred percent real.”
Collen did say that for certain occasions, such as a live sports events when times are devoted to commercial breaks, where lip-syncing was preferred in order to assure the quality of the performance. To this, he said, “That’s a different situation, but for our live concerts, we’re really playing and that’s something we’ve always done.” He added: “If someone’s got a bad throat that night, you’re gonna hear it.”
Other artists have also commented on the use of pre-recorded tapes. Last year, Judas Priest singer Rob Halford said that guitarist Glenn Tipton, whose health condition has limited his ability to tour full-time, refused an offer from the band of playing to backing tapes. In 2012, Paul McCartney said, “the concert experience is at the heart of what music is about.” The previous year, Sammy Hagar claimed Van Halen were using recordings of fired bassist Michael Anthony’s voice to bolster their live sound.