AC/DC Interview - Hard Attack
Guitar.com: Why did four years elapse between the release of Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip?
Young: We came off the road for Ballbreaker in '96. And we had been promising our record company for a few years that we would get a box set done. And they were expecting it within that time frame. But we didn't want to come out with just a bunch of songs that everyone's already got. And hardcore fans had always been coming up to us and asking us if there's anything that's unreleased or is a rare item. So we did Bonfire, [a mostly-live tribute to original vocalist Bon Scott]. But it took a bit of research. And some of the tracks that we found were very rare. In some cases, I didn't even know somebody had recorded them. And in other cases, we were depending on something that we knew was recorded, then we would find out a chunk had been destroyed. There was a fair bit of time spent on assembling those songs. Then it took a year and a half to get the material together for Stiff Upper Lip, and another three months to record it. Then it was mixed. So that's what took so long. I think if we hadn't had the box thing taking extra time, we would probably have done it a lot quicker.
Guitar.com: Even though you've aged considerably since the early days, you're still writing songs about fast cars, young girls and wild sex?
Young: Basically, from the period where you start, I think your head remains there. So, those are your subjects. When I would hear Berry singing, "Riding along in my automobile/ my baby beside me at the wheel," it was the same thing. Every band that I know that's done the rock and roll thing, there's been the cars, the women. The stones had "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Starfucker." They probably got away with a lot more than we did. Even the Beatles, they had songs like "Why Don't We do It in the Road" and "Lady Madonna."
Guitar.com: How come other bands get away with being sexually explicit and AC/DC gets accused of being sexist?
Young: It could be because we always admitted to being just a rock 'n' roll band. There are no extra tags, and the fact that we don't preach or appear at the latest rally for some celebrity cause maybe makes people think [we're sexist] because we're not at all political. But I've always found people like that very elitist and stupid.
Guitar.com: Who were your greatest guitar heroes?
Young: Keith Richards was a big one. The Stones made some great rock 'n' roll. But probably Chuck Berry was the biggest. I've seen all the emulators, and especially when I was growing up, all the bar bands you ever saw had a lot of guys trying to emulate what he did. But hell, only Chuck sounds like Chuck.
Guitar.com: You'd had a lot of emulators as well. Do you get mad when you hear people copping your riffs?
Young: Well, I don't really get into it that much. To me a guitar is a guitar. Probably someone would say that about me if they heard that about me. Well, I can assure them they're wrong (laughs.) I love Chuck. I love the way he created a signature sound. When he started a song, you knew straight away it was Berry. Richards with the Stones is the same. He's got some great opening parts. And I've always loved people like that. With blues, I love Elmore James' slide work.
Guitar.com: You're playing is very clever. It's simple and repetitive, but it never gets dull and you always keep the music spacious enough that you can solo without the songs sounding cluttered.
Young: I don't like a blur of notes. On Stiff Upper Lip, [Producer] George [Young] was great with me. I'd be playing a guitar, and he'd just point at me and say, "Right, you're on. Give me something with some flash." And then it's like, "C'mon, give us something right away that drives and pushes the song." If it's one note or 20 notes, it's gotta suit the song.
Guitar.com: On several songs on the new album you swell the volume, tweaking the knob as you play to give you a smooth, wavering sound. Is that something you tried to cultivate for this album?
Young: No, I just did what worked naturally. Sometimes you might want something that sounds freaky and a bit different, so you just try something. So, that's what I did.
Guitar.com: How old were you when you started playing?
Young: I was little, teeny. I would sort of dabble around five or six years old. That's when I started hearing Little Richard.
Guitar.com: You cultivated your style without every having a guitar lesson, right?
Young: Yeah, that's probably why I ended up getting my own thing happening. I knew I couldn't emulate other players. I've never been a note picker. I didn't have the patience to sit and listen to some of these guys that do-hickeyed about with it too much and were too fiddly. I always found they were into what they were doing and it was nice and stuff, but I always figured, hell, given a little bit of fingerwork, you could get something that was yourself and your own. And you could say, "Hey, at least it's me. It's not somebody copying something else note for note."
Guitar.com: So you never learned to play by playing along with the songs of your heroes.
Young: Nah, as I said, I love Chuck Berry, but I can't play like Chuck, so I just play how I think. And if it's a blues lick or something, I can only play it how I think of it. I just go for a good groove and try to come up with something that's my own thing.
Guitar.com: When did you discover the Gibson SG, which has become your trademark guitar?
Young: When I was about 15. I used to go in the guitar shop and hold the Les Pauls. They're big guitars, and then I saw the SG and I liked it because it was little. And I used to always pester the guy in the store to give it to me cheaper. And then he did one day. I think I paid $350 Australian for it.
Guitar.com: Was that your first guitar?
Young: No. Malcolm had given me a Hofner, which her got off my other brother George. I played about with that for a while, and then I decided to go out and get the SG. Because I had a Gibson catalog, and I would look at it and go, "Hey, that's got me all over it." Because it was red and it had to two horns in the cutaway, so to me it was like a red devil. So, if there's anything devilish about me, it's all the guitar's fault.