Nikki Sixx, the bassist of MÖTLEY CRÜE, once called out another band for using taped vocals during live performances, despite previously defending his own band’s use of backing tracks. During the Stadium Tour , allegations have surfaced that MÖTLEY CRÜE themselves have been using pre-recorded backing tracks during their live shows.
Nikki Sixx’s Criticism of KISS
In 2019, MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx took to Twitter to criticize a certain unnamed band for using taped vocals during live performances, while simultaneously claiming to be a “real rock band” with no background singers. Sixx tweeted: “Certain band out on the road right now putting other bands DOWN and saying that they are a REAL rock band, no background singers, and other old people cranky comments except his lead vocals are on tape. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. #GetOffMyLawn #WizardOfOz”
Many fans speculated that Sixx was referring to KISS, whose lead singer Paul Stanley has been struggling to hit high notes in the band’s classic songs for years. As a result, Stanley has been accused of singing to a backing tape on KISS‘s “End Of The Road” tour.
Gene Simmons’ Stance on Backing Tracks
KISS bassist and vocalist Gene Simmons has previously slammed bands who use backing tracks for not being honest enough to include that fact on their concert tickets. In a 2015 interview, Simmons stated: “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 synch. At least be honest. It’s not about backing tracks, it’s about dishonesty.
Simmons went on to praise bands like AC/DC, METALLICA, and even KISS for not using backing tracks during their live performances.
MÖTLEY CRÜE’s Use of Backing Tracks
Nikki Sixx has defended MÖTLEY CRÜE‘s use of backing tracks during live concerts. In response to Simmons’ comments, Sixx stated: “We’ve used technology since ’87. We love it and don’t hide it. It’s a great tool to fill out the sound.”
MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars has admitted in a 2014 interview that he was not comfortable with his band’s use of pre-recorded backing vocals during live shows, stating that he preferred watching bands perform entirely live.
“I don’t like it,” Mars 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.”
Mick Mars’ Lawsuit and Accusations
Earlier this year, MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates, alleging that Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Tommy Lee had fake-played and pre-recorded some of their vocals and instruments for the tour. This allegation not only put MÖTLEY CRÜE in an uncomfortable spotlight but also raised questions about the band’s integrity with their fans.
The bad blood that led to the lawsuit seemed to have started when Mars, who suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, informed the band and management that he wouldn’t be going on the road with them anymore. Despite this, Mars performed at every show of the expanded tour, enduring constant pain.
MÖTLEY CRÜE’s Statement on Backing Tracks
Although MÖTLEY CRÜE did not specifically address the use of backing tracks in their initial responses to the allegations, they did issue a statement in April 2023 in which they claimed: ” MÖTLEY CRÜE always performs its songs live but during the last tour, Mick struggled to remember chords, played the wrong songs and made constant mistakes which led to his departure from the band.”
While the debate around the use of backing tracks in live performances is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, it’s clear that the issue has the potential to cause significant rifts between band members and their fans. As the MÖTLEY CRÜE case demonstrates, accusations of dishonesty and inauthenticity can have serious consequences for a band’s reputation and internal harmony. Whether or not bands choose to use backing tracks during their live shows, transparency and honesty with their fans will always be crucial.