Ex-Megadeth’s David Ellefson Explains What’s Weird About Young Bands Today, Shares Honest Opinion on Using Backing Tracks Live

Recently, former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson spoke to Syncin’ Stanley, discussing the currently burning topic of using backing tracks for live performances. When asked about the issue, which got into the spotlight after ex-Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach and Falling in Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke beefed online about it, Ellefson replied (transcript via Blabbermouth):

 “I think most of my friends in the big groups who are out touring are doing the best they can to sing and play to provide a top-level show. I’m not so concerned about friends my age and older who are out playing huge legacy shows, because people wanna hear them [sounding] great. They’re paying big money. Same way [when] you go to Las Vegas and see a show, you expect top-notch entertainment, and that’s what I think they’re doing.”

“What I find really odd is young bands who are playing everything sort of in the box, if you will, with digital processors rather than amplifiers, running backing tracks, in-ears.”

Megadeth - David Ellefson Bass Solo (1995)

“I find that’s a little stranger in a small club, to hear a band that has all their backing tracks. Some bands, they need it, ’cause it’s part of their show; it’s part of their schtick. But I find it’s interesting that younger bands are doing it more than legacy bands.”

“So I think rather than focus on a couple of legacy bands who have come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re running track so we can make our vocals the best they can be,’ hey, God bless ’em. They were forthright. You know what you’re getting. They’re not hiding anything.”

"Peace Sells" Kings of Thrash: Ellefson/Young, w/Chris Poland - San Diego, CA 10/12/2022

“But young bands that are doing different theatrical things, running tape, it’s not even a bad thing; it’s just part of their show. They’ve set the tone from the beginning, that, ‘Hey, we wear costumes. We wear outfits and different things. And we run backing tracks.'”

At the end of the day, David Ellefson doesn’t seem to mind the use of backing tracks. It’s all about personal preferences and what rocks one’s boat, so to speak. He concluded by saying:

“So, that’s my opinion on backing tracks. If you need it for your show, use ’em. If you don’t, don’t use ’em. It’s entertainment. It’s show business. You’re selling a ticket to a customer, a fan who is expecting top-notch entertainment.”

The aforementioned beef between Radke and Bach kind of divided the online rock and metal community. What actually started this discussion is when Falling in Reverse ended up canceling their show after losing their laptops. The story reached various news outlets, eventually leading Eddie Trunk to share his not-so-flattering view of Falling in Reverse. Taking to his social media, Trunk said:

“This is astonishing .. First I heard about this I thought it was a joke to wind me up. How much longer are fans, promoters, media, just going to accept the epidemic of live rock shows… not really being live? Paying your hard earned money to see a band play ‘live’ that’s not truly live?! And there are countless bands in 2022 that hone their craft and play live! Tons! New and old !! Including the one that subbed for them in their slot, Jackyl. No laptop needed there! This is just unreal. But at least I give them credit for being honest. Wow. I am closer than ever to launching my own band. And I can’t sing or play a note .. simply amazing.”

After an all-out online war between Bach and Radke ensued, the backing tracks issue retained its public attention. But ultimately, it’s up to the people to decide what’s acceptable or not. As long as they’re buying tickets and supporting the bands that they like, does it really matter who says what online?

Photos: Carter Sterling (David Ellefson)

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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