Interview: Angus Young, AC/DC

AC/DC still delivers no-gimmick rock

"If it ain't broke don't fix it," goes the old adage. And if it's a money-making, world-shaking rock juggernaut like AC/DC, don't even bother to tighten the nuts. After a nine-year gap, the biggest rock behemoth on the planet is back in Japan next month with stadium-filling gigs touring their 2008 album Black Ice.

At a time when the music business is in a panic about falling sales, and the challenge presented by downloading and the Internet, there is something warmly reassuring about the Australian rockers' old-fashioned approach. The band continues to rely on strong CD album sales backed up by major touring with very little in the way of gimmicks.

"For us it's probably a different market," said Scottish-born lead guitarist Angus Young in a recent interview on the Australian leg of their tour. "On the digital side they kind of concentrate more on the pop music, but, from our background, we were always a band that tried to make a good album. We concentrated on that. Where other bands made pop music or changed their direction, we always stuck to what we do best, which is rock music."

Black Ice exemplifies this single-minded dedication to the Platonic ideal of bluesy, laddish hard rock, showing very little in the way of innovation from the 1975 album TNT. AC/DC are still very much the go-to-guys for traditional musical muscle--thudding drums, slashing chords, belted-out vocals and searing guitar breaks. You won't find any of the fripperies indulged in by other, less confident bands like, say, the Rolling Stones!

The only real change the band has seen in its almost four-decade-long career was when original singer Bon Scott died in 1980 after a night of heavy drinking. He was replaced by Brian Johnson, a brawny Geordie in an Andy-Capp-style flat cap.

A natural baritone, Johnson manages to squeeze out the high notes that came naturally to Scott by sheer force of will, giving his singing an added nicotine-tinged raspiness that works to its advantage.

The comeback album that followed Scott's death, Back in Black, which introduced Johnson, went on to become the second-biggest-selling album of all time behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.

The band is often accused of living in the past lyrically as well as musically. Cartoonish sexual innuendo and double entendres are a constant source of inspiration; while a great many songs simply celebrate "rock 'n' roll." The main point about the lyrics, however, is that they don't get in the way of the musical dynamics which are all about creating visceral excitement.

"It probably goes back to our roots," Young explained. "At the time, music was very soft and we wanted something that was more popular. When you're in the bar, the music people liked most and would get up and dance and have a good time to was loud rock music. I always thought there's something going on here, because, when they put on a love song, people sat it out. But when you put on a rock track people get off their feet. I'm not a psychologist, but I think there's something of a primal beat that sits inside us all, and the public seems to like music when it has more energy."

The band also knows a thing or two about putting on a good show. On a normal night Young, dressed in his famous schoolboy uniform, will do Chuck-Berry-style duck walks while riffing, play extended guitar solos sitting on Johnson's shoulders, and occasionally go into spasmodic fits, spinning in circles on the ground while still playing his guitar.

International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun
26th February, 2010

Now check out what they did when they got to Japan by clicking here.
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