QUEEN's BRIAN MAY about AI in music: “the whole thing is massively scary”
In a new interview with Guitar Player magazine, QUEEN‘s Brian May spoke about the dangers of artificial intelligence as it relates to creating music. He said: “My major concern with it now is in the artistic area. I think by this time next year the landscape will be completely different. We won’t know which way is up. We won’t know what’s been created by AI and what’s been created by humans. Everything is going to get very blurred and very confusing, and I think we might look back on 2023 as the last year when humans really dominated the music scene. I really think it could be that serious, and that doesn’t fill me with joy. It makes me feel apprehensive, and I’m preparing to feel sad about this.
“I think a lot of great stuff will come from AI, because it is going to increase the powers of humans to solve problems,” he continued. “But the potential for AI to cause evil is, obviously, incredibly huge — not just in music, ’cause nobody dies in music, but people can die if AI gets involved in politics and world domination for various nations. I think the whole thing is massively scary. It’s much more far-reaching than anybody realized — well, certainly than I realized.”
May is not the only rock musician who has expressed his concern and/or excitement about the potential risks, challenges and benefits associated with the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. During a recent appearance on “Piers Morgan Uncensored”, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons was asked if he is “excited or worried about artificial intelligence, particularly (as it relates to) the music business.” He responded: “Music business aside, I am concerned about the lack of legislation. When you enter a new, let’s say a new planet, you’re about to land on a new (planet), well, clearly there’s opportunity there, there are minerals and things — all kinds of opportunities. Without rules of the game… It’s like playing sports without rules. Who’s gonna do what? You need some rules that are kind and beneficial to mankind, womankind, transkind, all kinds of kinds. Okay, does that cover everybody?”
He continued: “The problem with AI is not… AI is here, whether you like it or not. So let’s look at it smartly and let’s pass legislation. AI creates a song using my voice, or what sounds like my voice, with a new song, and it sounds just like me and it definitely sounds like that kind of a thing. So when you buy it, who owns the copyright and the publishing, if AI did that? So, is it me, because it sounds like me? You could swear it was me. So these are uncharted (territories).”
Asked if he cares if AI uses his voice to create a new song, Gene said: “We can make a deal.”
In a recent interview with Canada’s The Metal Voice, VOIVOD drummer Michel “Away” Langevin said: “Technology, I will always try to use it as much as I can, (including) for my visuals and all that. AI videos, I’m jealous because it would take me three thousand years to do it frame by frame. But what I’m most afraid of, really, is AI controlling high-tech weaponry; that’s my main fear. And it’s funny because in the ’70s, as a kid, I saw a movie called ‘Colossus(: The Forbin Project)’ about that — about a giant super computer in the USA teaming up with a giant super computer in Russia. They take control of the nuclear weapons and enslave humanity.”
This past April, Universal Music had a song called “Heart On My Sleeve”, which used deep-faked vocals from their artists Drake and The Weeknd, removed from the streaming services, claiming in a statement that “the training of generative AI using our artists’ music” was “a violation of copyright law”.
Pop singer Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, recently said she would “split 50% royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses my voice”. “Same deal as I would with any artist I collab(orate) with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty,” she tweeted.
This past July, AVENGED SEVENFOLD‘s M. Shadows spoke about artificial intelligence during an appearance on an episode of Doc Coyle‘s (GOD FORBID, BAD WOLVES) “The Ex Man” podcast. He said in part: “I think when you look back at all the things of the past. If I had to be a 41-year-old singer right now thinking about the things of the past, of music, so many of my favorite artists slapped me in the face and challenged me with records. I had expectations, and then something came out that I was heartbroken; I couldn’t believe it. And when I look back, I needed that, and I needed to be taught that. And I have so much respect for these artists that did that to me. There was a lot that gave me the same thing — the names escape me right now — but there was so many things that challenged me that broke my heart at the time. Like going from the first MR. BUNGLE record, and then going to ‘Disco Volante’, Mike Patton‘s not even singing; he’s murmuring the whole time. And then they do ‘California’… I remember Brian (Haner, Jr., a.k.a. AVENGED SEVENFOLD guitarist Synyster Gates) was literally in a depression when that record came out because of how grand that first record was. And then it becomes your favorite thing ’cause you’re, like, ‘These motherfuckers are crazy. They don’t care.'”
The singer, whose real name is Matt Sanders, continued: “But what I think is interesting about AI. ‘Cause if you think of what AI is at this point, AI is an accumulation of everything it’s known before. So if you were to say, ‘Make an AVENGED SEVENFOLD song,’ AI doesn’t know how to go outside of the box and actually create what (we) would do. But it knows how to take what we’ve already done and mix and match it in a different way. So what I think is awesome is imagine you’re, like, ‘This new AVENGED record is trash. I fucking don’t get it. I’m so over this crap they’re trying to do. Give me a record like…’ And then let AI make it. Then there you go — you’ve got your new AVENGED record. You have a mix and match of everything that we’ve done, but different choruses, different cool stuff. I think it could be really fucking interesting. And then the real guys like us, we kind of push forward on what we’re doing. I think it’s a fucking really weird future that we’re in for, where people can just be, like, ‘Eh, give me more of that.’ So, who knows?”
In a May 2023 discussion on Decrypt‘s “gm” podcast about the music industry’s reaction to a spate of AI songs trained on artists’ voices, M. Shadows said that he was enthused about the possibilities, saying that “AI can be incredibly useful” for songwriters.
“If you’re looking at purely this data brick of taking information and regurgitating it to us in some way, whether it’s through music or art or novels, literature — whatever it is — you’re basically taking everything humans have ever done or discovered and you’re giving it to this thing that can distribute it to you quicker and in a different way, can mix it up and do it in a different way,” he explained.
“I think if you actually look at music, most fans aren’t mad that all the drums are already being resampled and replaced,” he continued. “Pro Tools already will quantize your albums and make it perfect. You can Auto-Tune your voice to do all these other things. But for some reason, they have a problem… And by the way, if you think about it, how you write music, it’s like you’re going into your own database of ‘I’ve listened to Bach, I’ve listened to The Weeknd, I’ve listened to Kanye, I’ve listened to all these things, and now I’m gonna regurgitate it in this way and spew out my own version of that.’ AI can be incredibly useful if you have AI doing some of that work for you. ‘Give me 20 versions of this chord change,’ or, ‘I wanna hear a different top line there,’ and you take a little thing that interests you and you go somewhere with it. So now you’re using AI to not only spark ideas but you’re using it in a much quicker way to kind of get to some of these cool little nuggets of gold that you kind of are, like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Let me see where I can take that.’ So that’s not really AI writing a song for you; it’s kind of giving you this kind of jumping-off point of, ‘Now where can I be creative with it?’ And I think that will be the next step.”
- Shadowswent on to say that AI also opens up the possibility of fans using the work of their favorite acts as a machine learning library to create their own songs.
“What I think is cool is that… Listen, there’s a lot of fans that don’t wanna hear new AVENGED SEVENFOLD,” he said. “We’re 40 years old now and we’re going places that are much more eccentric than they want — some of ’em. They might want another version of ‘Waking The Fallen’ or ‘City Of Evil’, which are our old records. Now, what’s wrong with someone throwing in a prompt and saying, ‘Listen to these two records and send me a new record with 11 songs.’ And if I was to give up my voice and say, ‘Take my voice,’ and AI create an album that kind of sounds like that. I think that’s incredibly cool. I think it would be really cool if people can prompt their own versions of what AVENGED SEVENFOLD sounds like. You get the sounds you want, you get all these things, but now you’re getting different versions of albums that you like. So I think there’s something really cool there and nothing that crazy or wrong about it. I back it. I think it’d be cool. As a human, I’m gonna be going my own way and making my own stuff that I feel is kind of breaking the mold or pushing things forward. I’m giving the AI more data for the future, wherever I’m gonna take it. But I think it’s kind of cool. And I would love to give up my voice to where people can create their own versions of our songs or whatever they feel would be cool.”