A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 3

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

To this day. Angus continues to play in shorts, every show. However a lot of AC/DC fans say it s a worn-out routine,

“I guess it depends on which fans you talk to,” counters Angus. To me, it’s comfortable. If I took the stage and dressed like any other guitar player. I don’t think I would be able to be myself. The shorts are as much a part of me as my guitar.”

Lalaina is trying to get a reaction from Angus.  I lived through the Eighties, and during this period, glam and hard rock was becoming king.  All the bands had a similar look.  AC/DC didn’t fit this look and a lot of the journalists tried to put AC/DC down.  Even the sales of AC/DC albums started to tank during the Eighties.  It wasn’t until 1990 when AC/DC released The Razor’s Edge that their career was resurrected.  The response from Angus is typical of the attitude in AC/DC.  They never cared for trends.  To quote Frank Sinatra, the did it their way.

“When I first started playing in shorts, it was a challenge. People would say, Hey, this guy’s a clown—here comes Peepo or something. As a result, it made me work harder to prove to the people that I really did know how to play guitar. I just plugged it into the amp and played. I never used any of those wangy’ bars or stuff like that.”

These days, an artist would change who they are, just so they can please.  No one wants to be hated.  Instead of working harder to stay true to who they are like Angus, 99% of wannabe musicians would change.

In fact, Angus hates tremolo units.

” Those things never appealed to me,” he says. “If I want to get a similar kind of sound, I just de-tune the strings. Cliff Richard used to have this guy in his backing band, Hank Marvin, who used that thing on almost every note. He was like a Buddy Holly clone—he used to do these silly little steps. Guys like Hank set the music world back twenty years. I couldn’t believe guitarists like Beck looked at him as inspiration. Whenever I saw guys like Hank Marvin, I would always go in the complete reverse of what they were doing.”

That is what I am talking about.  By 1986, everyone was doing tapping, whammy dive bombs, sweep picking and had racks of gear to rival NASA.  Angus is totally against it, staying true to who he is, keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Angus says his biggest musical inspiration was his brother George Young, who together with Harry Vanda produced the first few AC/DC albums. Vanda and Young, you may recall, were the guitarists in the Easybeats, one of the most successful Australian pop bands of the late sixties.

That is what a lot of people seem to forget or don’t even know about.  Angus and Malcolm Young had a successful older brother. Does anyone remember the working class anthem, Friday On My Mind?

“We learned a lot from George.” says Angus. “He was the first one who said to us, To be different, you must do everything your own way. When he first heard us, he was impressed with the fact that we could take someone’s song—an old standard like ‘Lucille’ or something and make it sound like a new song altogether. George just let us do what we wanted. He didn’t make us put nice melodies in. If anything, he made us toughen our music up.”

“Although George had more experience as a guitarist and a songwriter, he was also a good producer. A lot of people call themselves producers, but in fact they may be more of an engineer, since they know more about sound than about songs or arranging. George knew about everything. A lot of producers can’t even tell you if your guitar is out of tune.”

“George was great to work with in the studio.” adds Angus. “He always said that since we’re a rock and roll band, the less gimmickry, the better. The last album he did with us was our live album back in 78, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. I remember George saying, “This is the last AC/DC album I’m gonna produce, since you guys already know enough about the type of sound and songs you want.”

I have a strong viewpoint on producers.  A good, smart producer can really get the best out of a band, and to me, they are the real unsung heroes in the history of hard rock and heavy metal music.  George Young, didn’t try to change AC/DC into another Easybeats.  He made them play to their strengths.  He assisted them in making their sound tougher, rawer, edgier and grittier.

After considering a few producers (whom Angus says he would rather not name), AC/DC settled for Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who produced the bands next three albums, Highway To Hell, Back In Black and For Those About To Rock We Salute You. Of these, Back In Black was the most successful, selling a whopping eight million copies.

“That album is our biggest selling album in America,” acknowledges Angus, “but our European fans preferred our early albums. A lot of the sounds on Back In Black are very much like the sounds you hear on the radio these days.”

Mutt Lange, another master producer.  Of course he went on to massive things with Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain.

How many AC/DC fans knew that Lange, produced three AC/DC albums.

Of course, Back In Black has now moved over 30 million units worldwide since its release.  Highway To Hell, the last Bon Scott album has now moved over  10 million units worldwide since its release and For Those About To Rock We Salute You, has now moved over 7 million units worldwide since its release.

It was another super producer, Bruce Fairbairn that helped re-establish AC/DC in the Nineties with the excellent Razors Edge and the classic Thunderstruck.

Could this be why AC/DC decided to produce their last two albums themselves?

“Not really,” says Angus. “We went from working with Mutt to producing ourselves simply because we wanted to. All the material was ready before we went into the studio albums we did with Matt. He left the music to us because he knew what we wanted. But the difference between us and any other band he’s worked with is that he likes to spend a lot of time in the studio, we don’t. I mean, he’s a good producer and he’s good at getting a great performance out of a band, but he spends too much time recording. We can’t stay in a studio for six months to a year on an album – that’s ridiculous.”

Is Angus happy with how Fly On The Wall turned out?

“We think we’ve done a good job and we achieved what we wanted. We just wanted to make a tough and exciting rock and roll record. And that’s what we made.”

Fly On The Wall had two stand out tracks and the rest was filler.  That is why the Who Made Who soundtrack album that came next sold a lot.  Even though it had a two new songs, it was sort of like a greatest hits album, featuring the best AC/DC songs from Back In Black, For Those About To Rock We Salute You and Fly On The Wall.  It also had Ride On from the Bon Scott era.

It wasn’t until The Razors Edge album released in 1990 that AC/DC recaptured the public’s love affair with them.  Since then they have never looked back.  If any young artist is starting out, these articles form the key component to the A to Z of Making It.  Stay true to who you are.  If you do that, and you write great music, an audience will find you.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 2

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

If there’s one thing Angus really hates, it’s when people call AC/DC a heavy metal band.

“It’s a cheap tag”, he says, “and its been stamped on us mainly from a media point of view. It’s an insult to be slapped in with hundreds of other bands. We look at it this way, we’re a rock and roll band. We don’t mind being called that—at least you’ve got a bit of individuality. Calling AC/DC heavy metal is like saying The Police is a reggae band, even though they may have a bit of that style. We’re just as individual I mean, we don’t sound like Scorpions. Although we don t consider ourselves heavy metal, I’m sure a lot of kids will jump out and say ‘Yeah’, AC/DC is heavy metal. They’re so heavy they can sink through
the floor. But that comes from youth more than anything—the kids want to be a part of something. The kids who attend AC/DC concerts are, for the most part, teenage males—
fans who would rather get drunk and rowdy than just rock out and enjoy the show.”

AC/DC is still found in the heavy metal section of music shops.  Even Bon Jovi was classed as heavy metal back in the day.  Anything that had long hair and distorted guitars, the media classed it as heavy metal.  However, Angus has used the metal tag to market himself as a devil among other things.  So even though he hates the tag, he has no issue exploiting it.

“We’re not a pop band”, explains Angus, “so there’s usually more guys than girls who come to our shows. Girls are into the pretty side of things, like the Durans Durans of the world. We don’t go onstage with fancy haircuts and flashy clothes? We just go onstage and rock and roll.”

I saw AC/DC on the Ballbreaker tour at the Sydney Entertainment Center on November 13, 1996.  More than 10 years after this interview took place.  AC/DC had a third wind in their sails at that time, courtesy of the mega successful The Razors Edge album released in 1991.  The crowd had males, females and mum’s/dad’s with their children.  

The point I am trying to make, is that even though AC/DC went on stage with simple clothes, their stage show was anything but simple.  On the Ballbreaker AC/DC had the wrecking ball, the canons, the Rosie blow up doll and enough pyro to cater for a New Years Eve celebration.

Born in Scotland, in 1959. Angus and his family emigrated to Australia in 64.

“There was a lot of unemployment in Scotland at the time.” remembers Angus, the youngest of seven brothers, “so my father took everyone to Sydney [the capital of Australia] in search of work. He managed to find a job as a laborer.”

Yes, Sydney, the capital of Australia.  It looks Joe Lalaina failed geography. 

Although Angus had been messing around on a banjo in Scotland since he was five years old, it wasn’t until his early teens that he began playing guitar. ‘A kid down the road had an electric guitar,’ he explains, and I just picked up the thing and was able to play it. I don’t know why and I don’t know how.

Angus is talking himself up here.  As a guitarist, you don’t just pick up the guitar and play it.  You fiddle around, you make mistakes, you play around with the tuning and so on.  At the time I was reading this, I thought Angus was a god.  All the guitarists in the magazines started to be portrayed as such in the Eighties.

Does Angus think he would be a better player nowadays had he taken lessons when he was younger?

“Nah”, he says, “A lot of guitarists tend to throw their technique on you, which is a lot of crap, really. I’ve always thought that if you can clap your hands and stamp your feet in time anyone can play guitar. I don’t think one needs to take lessons to learn how to play the thing. You should give someone a chance to develop their own technique. If someone tells you how to play something it could easily mess up your talent and corrupt you for life. Everything you play should be done how you feel like doing it—very naturally. Playing guitar is like doing anything else—you’ve got to be able to think for yourself.”

Angus left school when he was fifteen.

That doesn’t happen today.  No one drops out of school at fifteen to be in a band with people who aren’t good-looking.  People get into music these days for all the wrong reasons.    Then they scream piracy when it all goes to hell.  The ones that get into music for the love of it, end up making it.  

MTV also made it that you needed to be beautiful to be famous.  Everything else started to come first and music was a distant second.

“Malcolm was putting together a band at the time.” recalls Angus and I joined. After a few rehearsals, I was really impressed. Malcolm said to me, “We are just gonna have a good time and play what we want to play—very tough rock and roll, no pretty stuff.”

“At first it was hard to find guys that thought like us. One guy we auditioned was a singer, but we told him. We don’t want a singer, we want a screamer. You are not the guy for us. But after a while we found some people and put together a good band.

Two things happened; AC/DC was formed, and Angus’ short-pants routine came into existence. It was my sister who suggested I play in the band with my school shorts on, he explains.

“After school I would go straight to rehearsals, I didn’t have time to go home and change. I wanted to get some solid playing in. One day my sister told me, “Hey it would be a great idea if you played in the band with your school outfit on—no one has ever done it before. It was such a great idea, I decided to do it. I was always one for something a bit original and different.

AC/DC didn’t want perfection, they wanted a certain style.  It was that style that formed a connection with listeners.  Call it pub rock, rock n roll, hard rock or heavy metal.  They didn’t form to be famous.  They formed to write rough music.  That is why they made it.  They looked genuine.  That is why they made it.  They just wanted to play rough music.  That is why they made it.  

Part 3 to come

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Rudolf Schenker – Guitar World – March 1986

RUDOLF SCHENKER ON THE AESTHETICS OF HEAVY METAL GUITAR
By Bruce Nixon

The below article in italics appeared in the Guitar World March 1986 issue.  I have re-typed here and added my bits and pieces to it.

The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar?  Well, think about it.  Rudolf Schenker was intrigued.  He was sitting in a backstage dressing room, a litter of soda cans, ashtrays and half filled beer bottles on the low table in front of him, quietly noodling on his trusty black-and-gold Flying V.  He balanced the guitar on his knees and spread his arms out wide, smiling broadly, his eyes sparkling.  Already, conversation had drifted over Vs and V players, and the Scorpions’ well-known axeman had displayed a deep and interested passion for the guitar life.

That is the iconic look, Rudolf Schenker with a trusted flying V.  This issue is from March 1986.  Rudolf had been in the game for over 26 years by now.  Rock You Like A Hurricane from 1984’s Love At First Sting album was a monster hit for the Scorpions.  Winners never quit.  They persist.  They persevere.  Sure, the Scorpions had an audience in Europe and Asia, but it wasn’t until 1984 that they broke through in the US.

“The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar…” His accent was middling thick with a slightly skewered command of idiom, but it didn’t set in the way of his enthusiasm. The idea had captured his attention, in any case.  

“I know of several different kinds of players,” he said. “There is Van Halen, very technical and very creative.  Him I like very much, because he has put new things into guitar playing.  He is very good rhythm-wise. And the other I like very much is my brother Michael.”  

This, of course, referring to Michael Schenker, the Scorpions’ original lead guitarist, now fronting his own band.

“He can play melodically—but he puts the three parts of the guitar together, the melodic, the technique and the feel. Some have more technical skill, but in my brother, all three parts are equal.  He has feel, but he keeps the melody inside and the exact rhythm inside.”

The impact of Edward Van Halen to rock music is immense.  Back in 1986, it was still at a level of what he brought to the guitar playing circles and how an expectation was made that any band with desires to make it, had to have a guitar hero.  Of course afterwards, EVH would branch out into guitars, amps and gear.

I am the youngest of three boys, so to hear Rudolf talk about his younger brother in such high regard, is cool.  His words ring true.  Michael Schenker was a monster player.  UFO couldn’t contain him.  Their best works happened when Michael Schenker was in the band.  (We will forget about the crappy 90’s reunion album and the bad Vinnie Moore reincarnation, even though i am a fan of Vinnie Moore as well).  His solo work in the eighties as part of MSG and McAuley Schenker Group was a stand out as well.

Going back to March 1986, Rudolf’s summation of his brothers ability made me curious to find out more about Michael Schenker.  This is artists promoting other artists.  I don’t believe that form of promotion happens these days anymore?  Growing up in Australia, the nineties brought a certain elitism ideal to certain local scenes, where each band only looked out for themselves as they where worried that another band might take their fans.  What artists failed to realise is that fans of music always like more than one band.  That is how fan bases are made, a common love of music across different bands.

“You see, metal is a new style.  Heavy rock is based on guitar and drums together.  If you want aesthetics, when you go looking for a good guitar player, you will find them in heavy rock.  This is a place where the guitar player has the most openings.  Look at Rick Springfield—his guitar player is good, but the music is based on the singer.  In heavy rock, the guitar player has more parts than the singer has.  In heavy metal, the players are young and fresh, too, open to new styles and new sounds, new everything!  Whole roads are open to them.  We all used to copy Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but bands don’t do that anymore.”

Bands started to copy their peers.

Motley Crue hit the LA scene in 1980 with a mix of Seventies Punk, Americana Rock / Pop and British Classic Rock.  Bands like Poison, Warrant, Bullet Boys and Tuff came out influenced by bands like Motley Crue and Ratt.

Bon Jovi came out influenced by Seventies Classic Rock, Bruce Springsteen and the New Jersey keyboard driven pop scene.  Then you had every band writing songs in a pop metal vein.

Van Halen came out influenced by the English Blues Rock and Americana Rock/Pop.  Name me one band in the eighties that didn’t try to sound like them.

Def Leppard wanted to record an album that mixed Queen style pop harmonies with the NWOBM sound they were involved in.  They achieved that with Pyromania and perfected it on Hysteria, spawning thousands of imitators.  

Guitar players became the ones that got the attention as well.  The band dynamic had evolved.  It started in the Seventies and continued with the Hard Rock / Glam Rock movement in the Eighties.

“I like to listen to heavy rock very much,” he added. “Jimmy Page, in his good days, was so good.  Now, Jeff Beck has always been good, and I like his solo album very much.  I hear Malmsteen—he s very fast, very technical, much into classical.  Take Ritchie Blackmore—of course, he is from the older generation of players, but he doesn’t get older  in his sound.  Beck is more for older people these days.  Ritchie is one of those guys who has old and young kids in his audience.  He has that fresh energy.”

Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Rainbow is one guitarist that appealed to both old and young guitarist.  The older crowd that is into the blues rock style loved what Blackmore did with it, the middle-aged got the best of both worlds and the younger crowds maybe didn’t appreciate the blues rock vibe of Blackmore however they related to his classical technicality that fit perfectly with the rise of the Eighties shred.  That is where Michael Schenker also comes into the picture.  He also accommodated both audiences.

He suggested that the greatest heavy rock players were European-except for Jimi Hendrix and Leslie West.  America has not been highly nourishing soil for metal guitarists.  In metal, at least.  Europeans maintain more of a purists approach to the genre.  

“I think European guitarists have been more original.” he remarked matter-of-factly.  Page—Beck—Clapton- Ritchie—my brother. In heavy rock. English players, especially, have had a more original feel. In coming from Germany, when I watch television over here, I see everything is made for posing—the advertisements and stuff.  In Europe, people are more natural, they are relaxed.  They don’t pay as  much attention to those things. Maybe the guitar players are like that, too.”

There is that name again Jimi Hendrix and who the hell is Leslie West.  It was years later that i heard Mississippi Queen, if you know what I mean.

By 1986, America had a decent amount of heavy rock players.  Going back to the Seventies, you had players like Ted Nugent, Ace Frehley, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen.  By the Eighties you had players like Randy Rhoads, Warren DeMartini and George Lynch join the ranks.

It was hard to come up with any more American guitarists who fit the bill.  At the mention of Randy Rhoads, Schenker nodded enthusiastically, and then shook his head sadly.

If it wasn’t for Randy Rhoads, I wouldn’t have been able to play the way I play.  His dedication and precision on the two Ozzy albums will be forever remembered.

“Blues is the basis of all good guitar playing in this style of music,” Schenker concluded.  The Americans are not as bluesy as the English are.  Clapton, Beck, Page—they’re all influenced by the blues.  English players found the right combination for bringing blues and modern rock together.”

Artists speaking their minds.  If you agree with Rudolf’s point of view or not, one thing is clear, he is not afraid to get it out there.  Maybe it is that famed German arrogance, or maybe it is truth.

I honestly believe that music captured in its purest form is magical.  The  purest form is when music is written without the thoughts of profits in minds.  In the late sixties and early seventies, this is what music was.  It was pure.  It wasn’t tainted by Wall Street, by profit margins and balance sheets.

According to his guitar technician, Vince Flaxington, Rudolf Schenker keeps it simple. The Scorpions’ veteran rhythm player carries six Flying Vs on the road, his favorite of the bunch being a black and white 1964 model that his brother gave him about a year or so ago; he also likes the black and gold model, an ’82 reissue, while the remaining four are strictly backups.  

Schenker is a Flying V fanatic, having forty-odd variations of the instrument at home, about a third of which are original issue models.  Indeed, he doesn’t own anything else. He saw his first V in the hands of Johnny Winter and became an instant convert to its sleek good looks.  The best one he ever had, he said, went with his brother when Michael Schenker left the Scorps.  His guitar tech says every one is stock, Rudolf uses only Gibson pickups and refuses to let anyone alter his beloved Vs.  Not even with Strap-Loks.

Onstage, the guitarist uses three 50-watt Marshall heads that drive six 4 x 12 cabinets.  The Marshalls are “quite old”—a ’67, a 1970, and a 1980, all stock.  The volume is set at 9; the EQ knobs are all full-tilt.  His sole effect is a Vox wah-wah, one of the first made, although Schenker only uses it for about five numbers in the current set.  The cabinets also are stock.  He uses a Nady wireless system. 

“His tone is like broken glass,” Flaxington grinned. “That’s the way he wants it—sharp, clear and raunchy.”

Simply and effective set up.  He is a purest.  He didn’t go searching for that sound the way others did.  He just plugged in and let it rip.

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