AC/DC Angus Young

“We’ll do what we do as long as we want to”

Interview: Marcel Anders
Photography (Above): Dick Barnatt

AC/DC IS THE WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL AND LONG-LASTING HARD-ROCK BAND, HAVING RIDDEN THE HIGHWAY TO HELL FOR OVER 40 YEARS. LEAD GUITARIST ANGUS YOUNG TALKS HISTORY, SCHOOL UNIFORMS AND FLASHING HIS BACKSIDE. 

So, Angus, how would you sum up the enduring appeal of AC/DC?

I think it’s very straightforward: AC/DC are AC/DC. You can rely on us. People know what to expect. And yet we still surprise them. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes bad.

You’re 60, but you sound as fresh as you did at 20. How do you do it?

Do you know something? You always sound the way you feel. And I don’t feel anything like 60. When I play the guitar, I’m 18 again, like the first time we performed. I’m a child imprisoned in the body of a mature man.

And how are things in that prison?

[Laughs.] It doesn’t matter what your body looks like. We weren’t ever very good-looking anyway.

Rock or Bust

AC/DC’s newest album is their 15th global album and was released in December 2014.

Your most recent album was titled Rock or Bust. After selling over 200 million albums, are rocking and busting still plans A and plan B?

Sod the plans. You have to just do what you enjoy doing and not let anyone else tell you what to do. That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 18, 60 or 102.

ACDC

AC/DC at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire in 1980 shortly before Bon Scott’s death. Left to right: Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar), Mark Evans (bass), Bon Scott (vocals), Angus Young (lead guitar) and Phil Rudd (drums)

© Corbis

But surely you’re oversimplifying things. For example, the track “Dogs of War” is a critical examination of the state of the world, or have I read too much into it? 

We’re singing about Hannibal and his elephants in that song. Even for men of our age, that isn’t really breaking news. Hannibal was great, by the way. He was a master of warfare!

You’re actually very interested in history, aren’t you? What is it that you find so fascinating?

There’s nothing more exciting than history. It really is incredibly fascinating how some countries and cultures became great and dominated the world, and then suddenly disappeared into thin air. All the mistakes they made and who was behind them. I don’t understand why more people don’t concern themselves with history. You can learn so much from it.

So Hannibal is breaking news after all? 

Touché! You know, people have this tendency to keep doing the same stupid things over and over again. They just don’t want to get cleverer, not for all the money in the world. Which is why this crappy world looks the way it does. Which is why there’s so much war. Because time after bloody time, nobody bothers to try to understand the past!

“I’m a child imprisoned in the body of a mature man.”
Angus Young

Apart from you. And Ozzy Osbourne, who shares your passion for history… 

That’s easy to explain: It’s because we’re both from the postwar generation. That left its mark. When you grow up in a time like that, it’s completely normal to want to know why the world is the way it is. After that, history won’t leave you alone for the rest of your life. It disgusts you and fascinates you at the same time.

It’s said that you’re a talented painter, too. Is that true?

Painting? Oh, I can paint your house for you if you want. I’d manage that.

We were thinking more along the lines of painting landscapes …

Yes, that’s true, but I’d never claim to be good at it. I started painting back when I was at school and I still keep it up as a hobby, but no more than that. I don’t have any great plans for it, if that’s what you mean.

ACDC

Angus poses with a bottle of milk in 1976 Nowadays, the 60-year-old really is a teetotaler.

© Dick Barnatt

Since last summer, the band has had to carry on without the presence of your brother Malcolm, who’s suffering from dementia. Has there been any improvement in his health?

As things stand right now, it doesn’t look like it. Malcolm is really not well. If anything, his condition is getting worse. It’s a tragedy. Bloody illness.

ACDC

On the edge: Young on stage in Sydney in 1974.

© Morris Philip/Dalle APRF/picturedesk.com

Do you ever ask yourself how long you can keep doing this, or even how long you want to?

The two things aren’t connected. Malcolm is very positive in the way he handles the illness, and that helps us handle it, too. It’s all very clear as far as we see it: We’ll do what we do as long as we want to, as long as we have the passion and energy and are still halfway fit. Why should we give up voluntarily? Hey, I love what I do!

But didn’t you once say in an interview, “I hate my music and I’m only still playing for the money”?

[Laughs]. Just take my word for it. I can’t imagine anything better than going on stage or grabbing my guitar and writing a song. That was the case in 1973 and it’s still the case in 2015. 

You’re constantly roaming the stage during shows. Have you ever worked out how many miles you cover?

No, I have no idea. I just know that I’ve worn out a good few pairs of shoes.

What should we expect from your upcoming world tour?

The best that AC/DC have to offer.

Including sticking out your bare backside at the audience?

I’m probably not going to get away with giving that up, am I? My arse is a vital part of the show, like the duck walk or the fake fits. It’s part and parcel of the act, and people would be pretty disappointed if I suddenly stopped. Even if my backside isn’t as pert as it used to be, as long as the sight of it doesn’t cause outright revulsion, I’ll carry on doing it.

ACDC

School’s out: AC/DC bring the noise to England in May 1976.   

© Dick Barnatt

How on earth did you come up with the idea of flashing it?

I can’t remember where and when I did it the first time, but it was to bring an overly lethargic crowd out of their shell. And it worked. At the first couple of concerts, people were pretty annoyed and threw whatever they could get their hands on. But then my arse got popular pretty quickly. Allegedly, there are even people who have come to our shows just for my arse. To admire it, that is. 

The school uniform has become your trademark onstage outfit. How many do you own?

I must have collected a couple of hundred over the years.

“My arse is a vital part of the show, like the duck walk or the fake fits.” 
Angus Young

So somewhere in the world, there’s a dressing room the size of a gym, full of school uniforms …

No, no, there isn’t. They don’t last at all. After one or two shows, they’re so damaged that they’re no use to anyone. 

Are they bought from a store or made-to-measure?

Most are made-to-measure, especially the more recent ones. But the very first one I wore on stage was my official school uniform, which my high school wasn’t particularly happy about. Especially as I kept saying everywhere, “Look at me. I’m the result of a state education. Now if that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with our system …”

ACDC

Ice caps: Brian Johnson and Young on the Black Ice tour in 2009.

© Intertopics

People hardly remember now, but there was a time before the school uniform when you experimented with a number of different outfits: Spider-Man, Zorro, a gorilla …

Yeah, you name it! Don’t remind me. Man, that monkey costume was bad. I could hardly breathe.

How did that come about?

We had a manager back then who was always trying to give us some image or other. But then Malcolm put his foot down and said, “We don’t need this nonsense. We’ll stick to the school uniform.” And that was that.

Finally, what is it about the Gibson SG guitar that has kept you loyal for the past 40 years?

It’s because there are two little horns on the body. When I was young and I first went into a guitar shop, there were all these wonderful Les Pauls and whatever else they’re called. But then I spotted the SG with the two devil’s horns and it was like I’d been struck by lightning. I knew it was the one. I didn’t choose the SG, it chose me. And it’s never let me go since.

Go BEYOND THE ORDINARY, be inspired every day, and dive deep into the world of The Red Bulletin

The Red Bulletin AppRead brand new stories anytime and anywhere on your mobile devices

The Red Bulletin Magazine: Get the magazine delivered to your door every month by subscribing here 

 

Read more
06 2015 The Red Bulletin

Next story