The Peninsula Hotel in New York City is one swank joint, so the business people rushing past the club-y furniture and Richard Avedon prints in the reception foyer probably had no idea that hard-rock royalty was hovering just a few floors above them. AC/DC's Angus Young and Cliff Williams had scheduled a press day for Thursday, November 13, in one of the hotels comfy suites. USA Today and other high-end media had preceded me in the suite, so I was happy when the band's publicist said during the elevator ride to the room, "Oh, they're so looking forward to talking about guitar and bass, and not drummers."
Of course, the first thing I said as Angus and Cliff settled into their chairs was, "I have no questions about drummers."
It was good to get a bit of a bit laugh, there.
By that time, the band response to the subjects of Phil Rudd's legal troubles and Malcolm Young's unfortunate exit from the group due to health issues was something like, "Phil had the opportunity to control what happened in his life, while Malcolm did not." A poignant and true statement if there ever was one.
During the 45-minute discussion with Angus and Cliff, we discussed the gear they used for the album, how the "Schaffer Replica" (built by long-time AC/DC fanatic Filippo Olivieri to precisely emulate Angus' early Schaffer-Vega wireless-driven guitar tone) figured into the sessions, the role of producer Brendan O'Brien during the Rock or Bust sessions, how the album's songs came together, and much more. I also carried in some questions from GP readers that they had emailed to me in response to an online call for queries.
For example, Staz Stasiewski asked, "What is the longest surviving Gibson SG used in AC/DC that Angus has?"
It turns out that Angus actually still possesses the very first SG he played in the band.
Other tidbits that will be fleshed out more fully in the upcoming Guitar Player story on the gang:
• A few of Malcolm's riffs and song fragments definitely factored into the new album.
• When Stevie Young stepped into the studio sessions to play for his uncle Malcolm, none of the other band members had to amend their parts. He fit in that seamlessly.
• Stevie also took over Malcolm's role of organizing and archiving songwriting ideas.
• While there's obviously a well-defined AC/DC sound and style, the promise of new material is what always juices up the band to keep sounding rowdy, raw, and youthfully rude.
• Producer O'Brien told the band that nothing was set in stone — right up to the last moment of mastering the album. He wanted them to be completely happy with the new material.
• "Back in Black" is Angus' favorite song to perform live ("Because you know it from the first chord"), while Cliff digs "Thunderstruck" because it builds.
Although a lot of good and not-so-good has been in the media of late regarding AC/DC, both Angus and Cliff were in good spirits, unguarded, talkative, and extremely friendly. It's obvious that 40 years down the road, these guys still love to play.
Stay tuned for the whole story in a (near) future issue of GP.
And to those who took the time and trouble to email questions to me for today's interview, I thank you one and all.