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Exclusive: Angus Young, Brian Johnson, and also Cliff Williams on the Resurrection that AC/DC

“This record is pretty lot a dedication come Malcolm, my brother,” Young claims of the band’s new ‘Power Up’ LP. “It’s a tribute because that him like ‘Back in Black’ to be a tribute come Bon Scott”


AC/DC have released their first single, "Shot in the Dark," native upcoming album, 'POWER UP.'

Josh Cheuse*

When AC/DC sheathe up their Rock or Bust people tour in September 2016, the tape truly seemed to be excellent forever. Rate guitarist Malcolm Young was in the final throes that a fight with dementia that required his retirement two years earlier, drummer Phil Rudd sat out the entire tour after gift arrested by new Zealand authorities because that “attempting come procure a murder,” singer Brian Johnson missed the critical 23 gigs because of hearing ns — through Axl climbed stepping in together a short-lived replacement— and also bassist Cliff Williams announced he’d simply had enough and also decided to retire.

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But throughout the past four years, guitarist Angus Young — the last member that the standard lineup tho standing by the finish of the tour — slowly put the shattered pieces of AC/DC earlier together, aided by a mysterious new hearing modern technology that restored Johnson’s to sing voice and brought him back into the group.

The an outcome is POWER UP, the band’s upcoming album the reunites the four surviving members of the Back in Black incarnation. (Malcolm Young passed away in 2017, and also his nephew Stevie Young has actually been play in his place because 2014) “It’s to be a long, lengthy road,” claims Angus on the phone from his residence in Australia. “But it’s an excellent that everyone came on board and we get to pump out a little of brand-new rock & roll for the world. In ~ this time, v the pandemic, hope it gives world a few hours that toe-tapping enjoyment.”

The LP was videotaped in late 2018 and also early 2019, however Angus raided the AC/DC vault the unreleased songs before they began and also every monitor is credited to Angus and Malcolm Young. “This record is pretty lot a dedication come Malcolm, my brother,” says Angus. “It’s a tribute because that him favor Back in Black was a tribute to Bon Scott.”

The roadway to POWER up was the many arduous one that AC/DC has actually walked since Back in Black, which was reduced in the immediate aftermath of singer Bon Scott’s death 40 year ago. Brian Johnson was recruited shortly before Back in Black was cut and he remained at the front of the team for the next 36 years, but during the 2015–16 Rock or Bust tour, he began to encounter significant hearing issues.

“It to be pretty serious,” he claims by telephone native England. “I couldn’t hear the ton of the guitars at all. It was a horrible sort of deafness. I was literally getting by top top muscle memory and also mouth shapes. Ns was beginning to really feeling bad about the performances in former of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling. There’s naught worse 보다 standing there and also not being sure.”

Most fans had no proviso what was happening, but it was painful for his band to watch up close. “He’d pull his in-ears out and also just shake his head,” states Williams via phone from his house in phibìc Carolina. “He couldn’t pitch. He was having a real hard time.”

The band attempted come limp through the remaining days on the tour, yet Johnson’s doctors ultimately interceded. “The docs said, ‘Deaf is deaf, son,"” he says. “Cliff and also Angus didn’t want to it is in responsible for me damaging mine ears any type of further. … Shit happens. At least it wasn’t terminal.”

With Brian unable to continue, the remaining members that the band confronted a daunting choice. “Brian was running the hazard of walk deaf permanently,” claims Angus. “We had a couple of days to let everyone understand the situation and get the article out. Girlfriend don’t want civilization showing up and being disgruntled and finding out at the critical minute.”

A brief press release went out on in march 7th, 2016, saying the the remaining U.S. Dates on the Rock or Bust tourism were postponed as result of Johnson’s hear issues. “Tomorrow’s display in Atlanta with Madison Square Garden in brand-new York, NY in early April will be consisted of later in the year,” that read, “likely v a guest vocalist.”

Those last 5 words sent shockwaves with the AC/DC pan community. The tape hadn’t done a single gig there is no Johnson since the moment he join in 1980, and also the prospect of happen in a brand-new singer was virtually unthinkable. And also then a month later, lock dropped an also bigger bomb.

“AC/DC tape members would prefer to give thanks to Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication come the tape throughout the years,” read a push release. “We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures … Axl Rose has actually kindly offered his assistance to assist us fulfill this commitment.”

Johnson wasn’t quoted in one of two people of these push releases and also rumors started to swirl the was dissatisfied with exactly how the situation was handled. Three days later, he exit his own statement. “I don’t believe the earlier press publication sufficiently collection out what I wanted to say come our fans or the way in which I assumed it must be presented,” he wrote, prior to breaking under his health case in great detail. “I am hoping that gradually my hear will boost and permit me to return to live concert performances. While the outcome is uncertain, my perspective is optimistic. Just time will certainly tell.”

The decision to lug on there is no Johnson seemed a small callous to some fans, but Young insists that he had actually nothing however terrible options. “When you run through the various scenarios, none of them were the ideal options,” the says. “You think, ‘Should us cancel?’ climate we’d have actually the other pieces, the legit stuff and also whatnot. We obtained suggestions native management. ‘Maybe if you shot put something with each other that you might get …’ There was a list of civilization that could fill in. Out of the blue, Axl climbed contacted and also said he could help out, which was really good.

“I expect we can have canceled,” the continues. “But either method … when you watch at all the alternatives … it’s a tough decision all around.”

Johnson avoided pointing out the issue publicly in the prompt aftermath, yet in 2019 he did briefly talk about it v Dan Rather. “It’s choose being shoot on the battlefield; it’s simply your turn,” that said. “I’ll be quite moral with you, i went in my office and buried mine head in a party of whiskey, good whiskey.”

Johnson phrases that slightly in different ways today. “I didn’t feel too great myself about the totality thing,” the says. “But the was then. V all bands and also things, there are small bumps in the road.”

With Axl Rose’s help, AC/DC finished the 2016 Rock or Bust tour. Yet Williams made it clear that that was his final stand. “To be quite frank, it was not an easy tour come finish,” the bassist says. “I had actually some health issues that ns won’t boring you through the details of. Yet I had actually stuff going on while i was ~ above the road, devastating vertigo. Because that me, I just thought the it was my time.”

They covering up through one last “For Those about to rock (We Salute You)” at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo facility on September 20th, 2016. Together the final shots of the cannon died down, the band walked off right into a really uncertain future. Stevie Young had actually done a stellar job throughout the totality run, and also Razor’s Edge–era drummer kris Slade slid ago into his old duty with an excellent ease when it became clear the Rudd couldn’t tour. Yet Axl climbed wasn’t a long-term solution come the lead-singer problem, and also now they had actually no bass player.

Angus returned to Australia, take it a long break and then began poring through an extensive backlog of unreleased song he’d composed over the years v Malcolm. The majority of lock come indigenous the period around Black Ice in 2008. “There to be a lot of good song principles from that time,” he says. “At the time he said to me, ‘We’ll leave these songs for now. If we store going, we’ll it is in overboard. We’ll get them on the next one.’ That constantly stuck v me. As soon as I go through and listened to them, ns said, ‘If I carry out anything in my life, I have actually to get these tracks down and also get this tracks out."”

The occupational paused in October 2017 as soon as Angus and Malcolm’s older brother George Young, guitarist in legend Australian rock tape the Easybeats and producer of seven AC/DC records, died. Malcolm complied with just 3 weeks later. “My brothers George to be a very huge part the AC/DC, particularly in our early on years,” claims Angus. “George and Malcolm were always the two males I relied on. The didn’t issue if us were in a studio or wherever, I always asked for your advice on whatever I to be doing.”

The back-to-back losses were a devastating blow come Angus, yet they likewise paved the means for his broken band to start coming back together as soon as Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd every traveled come Australia because that Malcolm’s funeral. It was the first time that Angus had actually seen Rudd face-to-face due to the fact that the Rock or Bust sessions three years earlier.

“He just looked so good,” claims Angus. “He was there and in an excellent shape. He was keeping himself well-together. He was gaining therapy and sorting self out. The was really good.”

The early stage charges versus the drummer seemed quite serious, yet many of lock were at some point dropped and his sentence was a quite lenient eight-month duration of house confinement. “I speak for every the boys through Phil,” claims Johnson. “We defend Phil to the hilt. What occurred up there, that’s not the Phil we know. The was just something else. He’s really looking brilliant now and also doing whatever great.”

Johnson’s own situation was an ext complicated. Smoothing things over v Angus wasn’t walking to median much if his hearing troubles remained one issue. However he found a specialist ready to shot an experimental treatment ~ above him. The singer is skeptical to share numerous of the details, however an unnamed listening expert concerned his residence once a month throughout a three-year period to shot and figure out a solution.

“The first time the came down he carried this point that looked prefer a automobile battery,” claims Johnson. “I went, ‘What in the hell is that?’ that said, ‘We’re going to miniaturize it.’ It take it two and also a half years. He came down as soon as a month. We’d sit there and it was boring together shit with all this wires and computer screens and also noises. Yet it was well worth it. The only thing I have the right to tell you is that it uses the bone framework in the skull as a receiver. That’s as lot as I have the right to tell you.”

Miraculously, the secretive in-ear maker allowed Johnson to song again. “We’d gain updated on how he to be going through it and everything,” claims Angus. “It was really good. I know how much a component of his life this is because that Brian. It’s the very same as the remainder of us.”

Once Rudd and also Johnson were ago in the AC/DC fold, the didn’t take much to to convince Williams come return as well. “It was choose the old band ago together,” claims the bassist. “It was not like starting over again, however as close come the tape that’s been together for 40-plus years as we deserve to possibly do it. I didn’t want to miss that.”

They convened in august 2018 at Warehouse Studios in Vancouver v producer Brendan O’Brien, who also worked 2008’s Black Ice and 2014’s Rock or Bust. “What ns like about Brendan is that he keeps girlfriend working once you’re law a job with him,” says Angus. “He’s talented himself. He to know his bass and his guitar and also a little bit of drums. And also piano. That covers the spectrum because that what we can do musically. It’s very great because you’re working v a musician, since he can use that musical knowledge.”

By the moment of the session, Young had flagged 12 melody he want to cut. None of them stray far from the AC/DC formula established earlier in 1973: Anthemic, stadium-ready choruses, according to guitars, and also devilish titles prefer “Demon Fire” and also “Witch’s Spell.” as always, there wasn’t a ballad or a love song everywhere in the mix.

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Lead-off solitary “Shot in the Dark” is a perfect example. “It’s gained that good AC/DC vibe around it, great swagger, and also a great AC/DC absent & roll chant,” claims Angus. “The location is a tiny bit cheeky because we all prefer a little nip in the night or a few shots in the dark. Ns was really glad as soon as the record company heard that lock felt it was a very strong song and should be the very first one that human being hear.”

“Money Shot” sounds choose an unambiguous ode come the orgasm of numerous pornographic films (“Doctor, what’s the antidote?/Lady, shot the money shot/Doctor, what’s the antidote?/Lady, just try the money shot/Best taken as soon as hot”), however Angus swears the wasn’t his intent.

“Photographers supplied to say to us, ‘Do this,’ and they’d walk ‘You’re top top the money — that’s the money shot,"” the says. “When us were putting the track down with Brendan, ns was telling him around it. The says, ‘Everyone knows what the money shot is.’ I’m going, ‘Huh?’ It to be by accident.”

“Through the mists of Time,” meanwhile, find the band in an uncharacteristically reflective mindset. “See dark shadows/On the walls,” Johnson sings. “See the pictures/Some hang/Some fall.”

“We’ve been with each other all these years — it’s nearly like you’re going v time,” says Angus. “You’re sort of tho in that time whereby you’re play rock music. It’s not like we’re playing other music. We’ve grounding to what we do best. It had actually a little bit of a museum flavor to it, i suppose. Paints like the ‘Mona Lisa’ are timeless. That’s how I look at the song.”

The band assembled in Vancouver as a five-piece, however Johnson worked generally on his very own with O’Brien to get his vocals just right. (He hasn’t play a part in the songwriting procedure since 1988’s Blow Up her Video.) “I’m singing what someone else has actually done and I want it to be what the writer has in his mind,” the says. “We’d have a shot with a verse and I’d listen back and say, ‘Brendan, i think I deserve to do much better than that. I’m no happy v that.’ then I’d take one more crack at it. Brendan was constantly the judge. He’d say, ‘I think we’re top top the ideal track."”

This is the first AC/DC album tape-recorded after the death of Malcolm Young, though his existence was felt strongly by anyone throughout the entire procedure of producing it. “Even once I sit at home and also pick up mine guitar and start playing, the very first thing that enters my head is, ‘I think Mal will like this riff I’m playing,"” claims Angus. “That’s how I judge most stuff.”

“Malcolm was always there,” states Johnson. “As Angus would certainly say, the tape was his idea. Everything in that ran through him. He was always there in your minds or simply your thoughts. Ns still see him in my very own way. I still think around him. And then in the studio as soon as we’re doing it, you have to be mindful when friend look around because he seems to be there.”

“AC/DC there is no Mal isn’t AC/DC,” add to Williams. “He’s just there somehow. He’s constantly here.”

Stevie subbed in for Malcolm during portions of your 1988 tour and also his reintroduction into the band in 2014 was effortless. “Stevie has actually done a an excellent job because he thrived up play that format of the music, the exact same as Mal,” states Angus. “It constantly sounded prefer there was two guitars anytime Malcolm played. It simply seemed so full and so big.”

Most that the album to be recorded throughout six main in the summer of 2018, though the band continued to tweak it right into 2019. They initially planned on release POWER UP previously this year, but the pandemic required them to reconsider. “We to be hoping to gain the album out prior to all this happened,” states Angus. “They to be getting principles together because that packaging and video clip promo things. And also then the virus thing came along. It type of placed everyone top top hold.”

A tourism was likewise in the works, but they want to continue cautiously due to Johnson’s hear condition. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to execute a pair of tiny shows come start?"” claims Johnson. “That was as much as it got. We flew house and also two days later the shit fight the fan. It to be China and also Europe and then it started spreading choose wildfire. It simply didn’t it seems to be ~ possible.”

They did control one live rehearsal before the pandemic. “It was v the guys in full battlefield conditions and it to be smashing, brilliant,” claims Johnson. “I felt like I was a boy again.”

They hope to take it POWER UPon the road whenever the pandemic clears. Because that now, however, they’re simply happy that AC/DC is when again a to work band and that they have the possibility to share several of Malcolm’s final songs v the world. “I mental visiting with him after ~ he had an operation,” claims Angus. “This is when he still had the capacity to talk. He claimed to me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be over there fighting for you.’ He always backed us.”

“He’s the founder that this entirety thing, AC/DC” that continues. “At the very beginning I said to him, ‘What space we going to do?’ that said, ‘I know what we’re going come do. We’re walking to carry out some rough, raw absent & roll."”