Wolfgang Van Halen on backing tracks: “If you need a laptop with 60 stems running to play your show, that’s not a show”

The Mammoth WVH leader sounds off once again about the use of backing tracks in live shows.

Wolfgang Van Halen Performing Live

Image: Scott Legato / Getty Images

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Bands who rely on backing tracks at shows might get a pass from fans, but they’re certainly not getting one from Wolfgang Van Halen, who says that artists should be able to play their own instruments live.

Speaking to Chaoszine at the recent Copenhell festival, the Mammoth WVH mastermind argues that pre-recordings should only be used to embellish an artist’s performance, and not replace actual playing.

“I can’t make it clear enough. I think if you’re replacing core tracks, that’s dumb,” Wolfgang says. “If your laptop goes down, you should be able to play. It depends.”

“There’s a line for everybody. But if you need a laptop with 60 stems running to play your show, that’s not a show; you’re miming it.”

He continues: “You should be able to play your instrument. You shouldn’t be miming anything… If you need, like, an 808 drop for a breakdown or you don’t have a keyboard player, so you need the keyboard pad going… But it should be an addition, not a replacement.”

This is not the first time Wolfgang has weighed in on the debate about bands and their reliance on backing tracks. In an interview with guitarist and YouTuber Ola Englund last month, the multi-instrumentalist lamented it’s a “f***ing bummer” how widespread the use of pre-recorded tracks has been in 2023.

“Look, I think everybody else draws their own line with what tracks are acceptable or not, but it’s, like, if you’re pumping in the main guitar riff and the lead vocals and actual fucking drums – like, pre-recorded drums – that’s a problem,” he explained. “You should be able to play your shit.”

He added: “I never do anything in the studio that I can’t do live.”

“Sure, there are tricks that you can do to do stuff that you wouldn’t normally be able to do, but why would you wanna do that? ‘Cause it’s about creating music that you’re capable of doing and that you can do live.”

Earlier this week, Wolfgang Van Halen ruled out the possibility of his participation in a Van Halen tribute tour, saying: “With the way Van Halen operates, I don’t think it’s possible”

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