“The integral band should never be tracked. But additional stuff? I understand that”: Black Stone Cherry’s Chris Robertson on backing tracks in live shows

“Who can expect a band to hire out an orchestra every night?”

The topic of artists using backing tracks in live shows has sparked fierce debate in the last year.

While some see the technology as a necessary tool to put on a good performance, others hold the view that musicians should be able to recreate their material live, without the help of pre-recorded audio to bolster their sound.

Placing himself firmly in the camp of the former, Wolfgang Van Halen has, in the last couple of months, said that “you should be able to play your shit”, and “if you need a laptop with 60 stems running to play your show, that’s not a show”.

Anthrax’s Scott Ian, however, understands the case for the use of backing tracks. “Whatever it takes to get a show on,” he said last month. “This is just new technology that people aren’t accepting yet. That’s just my opinion.”

Now, Black Stone Cherry guitarist Chris Robertson has struck a more measured tone, saying that the right stance is not to be either blindly pro- or anti-backing tracks, but to understand their use in certain cases.

In an interview with MisplacedStraws.com, Robertson elaborates on his position [per Blabbermouth]. “I am not gonna just turn a blind eye and say ‘Fuck all bands that use tracks’ ’cause that’s unfair.

“Because in today’s production, there are a lot of bands that 50 percent of their song – even Falling In Reverse, for example; Ronnie Radke will be the first to tell you that 50 to 70 percent of some of their songs are a track that the band plays with.

“Now, do I think that makes it okay to cancel the show because your track machine is down? Absolutely not. I think that at the core of it, the band should be able to perform their songs as the band. And if you can’t, then you should have some kind of clause or something to dispel that.

Falling in Reverse famously cancelled a show last year after some laptops they used for their live show went missing.

Robertson continues: “I have no problem with bands using stuff, because who can expect a band to hire out an orchestra every night?”

“The way I look at it is it’s a fine line, but it’s actually pretty simple. The integral band should never be tracked. The guy playing drums, the guy playing guitar, the guy playing bass, the people playing the fucking instruments and the vocals should be doing their job. Additional stuff? If you’re doing that, then I understand, man. Do your thing.

“Or if you’re a band where you’ve got one guy that sings and he puts on harmonies on a chorus in the studio and nobody else in the band can physically sing, and he sings the lead vocal but they’ve got the harmonies brought up, then so be it, man. Whatever. I personally wouldn’t, but I get it.

“I understand why, because at the end of the day, 95 percent of the bands that run tracks aren’t doing it because they can’t play the stuff or because they don’t wanna play the stuff; they’re doing it because they’re so afraid to play a version of that song that the people haven’t heard on the radio.”


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