On a recent episode of the “Talk Louder” podcast, hosted by veteran music journalist “Metal Dave” Glessner and lifelong hard rock/metal vocalist Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS),QUEENSRŸCHE‘s Todd LaTorre discussed how the fact that he is a long-time cigarette smoker has — or has not — affected his singing voice. The 48-year-old musician, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “[Legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James] Walnut smoked forever. [Luciano] Pavarotti [one of the legendary Three Tenors and widely regarded as one of the greatest singers of the 20th century] smoked forever. Granted, I think he died of lung cancer [laughs]but he sang like a fucking bird.
“Look, there’s a great singer named Fabio Lione; he’s an Italian guy,” Todd continued. “And he’s kind of that power metal, melodic singing. I mean, that guy smokes like a chimney. He’s probably my age or in the same ballpark or older.
“I remember when I joined CRIMSON GLORY, some friends were saying, ‘You should go to this singing coach. He taught Midnight [late CRIMSON GLORY singer]. Guard Midnight took lessons from him. And so did…’, blah blah blah. And I just went for an evaluation: What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?” Todd recalled. “I don’t know what I’m doing; I’m just doing whatever I do. He said, ‘You know how many people come to me like you?’ And I said, ‘Probably a lot.’ He goes, ‘Very few.’ He goes, ‘You have amazing technique. You have…’ blah blah blah blah blah. ‘But now we’re gonna go… I wanna find your weaknesses. Let’s try to build those up.’
“People go, ‘Do you warm up? Do you do this?’ Ninety percent of the time, I literally — if I’m just being honest — I’ll have a coffee and I’ll smoke and the pre-roll is rolling and I’ll go [have a final puff of the cigarette]. Then I walk out and I sing. And I’ve done that forever.
“[The voice coach] said… I said, ‘Look, I’m a smoker.’ He’s, like, ‘I’ll give you my honest opinion on this. I’ve been a professional voice coach for…’ blah blah blah. He goes, ‘Look, it’s unhealthy. I’m not gonna sit here and tell you it’s healthy. It’s not. It’s bad for your health.’ He goes, ‘As far as singing, in my opinion, [after] doing this for 40 years, I don’t think that it will ruin your singing voice at all. I think that, number one, everyone is different. But he said it’s all conditioning.
“It’s funny ’cause there are people that will smoke weed but don’t smoke cigarettes,” La Torre added. “And they’ll be, like, ‘Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.’ They don’t consider themselves smokers ’cause they’re smoking weed. I’m, like, ‘Listen, you’re inhaling smoke, which is an irritant and it will dry you out. And you’re still sucking that stuff down .’
“You hydrate from the inside out, so when you pass water down your voice, yeah, it might be a little soothing but you’re not necessarily hydrating the vocal folds in the way that your body will be hydrated through consuming water and that going to the tissues and muscles and things like that. So it’s a conception that people think, ‘Oh, if I just drink something, the liquid passing down my throat is gonna somehow make my vocal cords all good.’ So I drink water throughout the day. I don’t drink — I’ve never been drunk in my life; I’ve never smoked weed in my life; I’ve never done any drugs other than nicotine, which I’ll admit it. I quit for two years. Many years ago, there was an illness in the family, and then, out of the stress, I started again. It was a very serious illness that was happening in my family. But for those two years that I quit, and I was still singing like I do, I never sang better. It didn’t change my voice at all; I wasn’t singing higher because of it. It was the exact same.
“People will sit there and say, ‘Oh, he didn’t hit that note. The smokes are not working out for him.’ But then the next night I’ll go out and crush it,” La Torre said. “And I smoked a pack since then. And so what are they gonna say then? It’s, like, never mind I’m talking; I’m in a tour bus with recirculating air; there’s people getting sick all around you; I just performed 17 QUEENSRŸCHE songs in a row, which is — let’s be honest — it’s not easy stuff for people to sing, so it’s a very vocally demanding thing.
“I’m not trying to defend smoking, but it’s a very fair comment that, ‘Hey, it’s probably not doing you any favors.’ I agree with that — it’s not.”
Philip Anselmo (PANTHER),Corey Taylor (SLIPKNOT) and Udo Dirkschneider (ACCEPT) are among the other hard rock and heavy metal singers who have admitted to smoking cigarettes in the past.
In a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford said that he “quit smoking” a long time ago in order to take better care of his voice.
Back in 2014, former IRON MAIDEN singer Paul Di’Anno insisted his voice was in better condition than Halford‘s even though he was still drinking and smoking. “I’m hitting notes Rob Halford can’t believe anymore,” Paul he said at the time. “And the reason is I don’t fuss over it. Some people go, ‘I’ve got a slight cough; let’s cancel the whole show. If you look at my touring schedule, it’s brutal. Normally I do this five, six , seven days a week. I still smoke, I still drink — I still have it, mate.”
In a 2013 interview with Myglobalmind, PRETTY MAIDS singer Ronnie Atkinswho is now battling stage four cancer, joked that the secret to keeping his voice in shape was “20 cigarettes a day and a little drink now and then.”
Pop superstar Lady Gaga admitted in a 2020 interview that she used to smoke “40 cigarettes all day long” before finally quitting.
According to Tobacco Free Life, “the effects of smoking on your vocal folds are almost entirely negative. You might be able to get a raspy quality in your singing you wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise, but you’ll [experience an] impact on your range, the control you have over your voice and your stamina as a performer.”
In a December 2021 interview with Sally Steele of Vegas Rocks! Magazineoriginal QUEENSRŸCHE singer Geoff Tate was asked if he ever drank or smoked in the earlier years of his career. “[I did] everything,” he replied. “[But] I didn’t make it a habit. I like to drink; that’s no secret. I’m a drinker, absolutely. I don’t think those things are going to necessarily keep you from singing, as long as you keep things in moderation and exercise… You’ve gotta keep things in check. Smoking is definitely not a good thing, though. I [smoked cigarettes] when I was a kid — when I was young. [But] I had to [stop].”