The subject of rock and metal bands using backing tracks in various capacities has proven to be one of the most controversial topics in recent years. It’s an equal opportunity affair as well with the finger being pointed at bands of both newcomer and veteran status, meaning it’s impacting heavy music on quite the broad scale.
At the core of this controversy is how fans feel about the overall experience and whether or not backing tracks constitute as cheating, whether used to enhance certain aspects of the music, cover up any inadequacies with an individual’s performance or for other reasons, such as not being able to tour with a backing vocal choir and/or orchestra.
“I’ve been reading a lot on the W.A.S.P. Nation Facebook and Twitter account, people have been saying there’s been a lot of use of backing tracks and lip syncing on this tour,” a fan said, confronting Lawless at a Florida show on Nov. 26, “And I want to know what your response to that is and are we getting an authentic rock ‘n’ roll experience on this tour?”
Lawless jokes and asks if the fan is a journalist, and then makes note of the fan’s KISS shirt with Paul Stanley’s face on it. Perhaps that was a slight allusion to the multiple times the band has been accused of using backing vocal tracks as recently as this year where a mistake exposed an apparent track with Stanley’s voice.
“To answer your question, yes, we are using backing tracks. You want to know why?” the W.A.S.P. leader rhetorically asks the fan (transcription via Blabbermouth), “When we go into a studio — and let me clarify that statement; that’s me singing — but when we go in a studio, we do choruses, we double, triple, quadruple the vocals,” he continued. “So my feelings were when I listened to live YouTube [recordings of W.A.S.P. shows] and we weren’t doing that, it sounded thin. When we started supplementing it, it sounded better.”
Concentrating on what he believes a W.A.S.P. fan would value most in a live show, he continues, “If I’m a fan and I’m coming to a show, I want that thing to sound as good as it can. There are other bands — the Queens of the world — they cannot duplicate 24 vocals at one time. That’s what they do on those records. If you want it to sound like those records, you’ve got to have some help.”
Even so, Lawless did manage to draw a firm line in the sand regarding when the practice is not acceptable.
“Now, in defense, I guess maybe what you’re asking, is it fair for a band to go out and use only those? No, that is not fair,” he confessed.
The frontman then recalled when W.A.S.P. played material from 1992’s The Crimson Idol without orchestration and compared it to The Who’s live album Live at Leeds, for which they adopted hard rock arrangements of tracks from their smash hit rock opera.
Revisiting The Crimson Idol on a 20th anniversary tour, however, is what first made Lawless realize how powerful the fully realized versions of those songs are live.
“We took the orchestration with us and we went into production rehearsals,” he says of that tour, “And I had never heard it like that before, because the only time I ever heard it with orchestration was the albums. And I went in there and I stood in the middle of that room and I heard that orchestration with the live band, and it made the hair stand on the back of my neck. And I [went], ‘Good God, listen to this. I’ve never heard this like this before.’ To me, that was a treat. And I don’t give a shit what anybody says; if I’m a fan, that’s what I want to hear.”
He reiterated that “if somebody’s trying to bullshit an audience, no, I don’t go along with that at all. You’re out there to do a job; do your job. But to supplement it? Absolutely not. I’d want to hear it.”
Watch the fan-filmed video clip below.
Fan Asks Blackie Lawless If W.A.S.P. Are Using Backing Tracks Live
W.A.S.P., “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)” — Live on Oct. 30, 2022
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