Interview: AC/DC

Interview: AC/DC supporting image

It might have looked like the curtain had come down on one of the most legendary bands of all time, but AC/DC are back. Jules Boyle speaks to Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams.


Since we last saw them in 2016, the iconic five-piece have had a tumultuous time, taking in vocalist Brian Johnson’s withdrawal due to hearing issues, bassist Cliff Williams’ retirement and of course, the tragic loss of founding member and guiding light Malcolm Young. 



Now though, against the odds and to the delight of countless fans across the globe, the boys are back and have brought with them their 17th studio album, the incredible Power Up. It’s a collection that sees AC/DC at the very top of their game and reunites mainstay Angus Young with Johnson, Williams and drummer Phil Rudd, as well as cousin Stevie Young, alongside long-term producer Brendan O’Brien. 

AC/DC today are as close to a classic line-up as we’ll get now, but even with his absence being keenly felt, Malcolm Young is all over the album, from co-writing the songs with Angus to his presence still being felt in the studio. Power Up is that rare animal, a truly great record being made by a band decades down the line. What better way to pay tribute to Malcolm than that? 

Cliff said: “We finished off the last tour and took a break for a little while. Sony got back in touch with Angus and asked him if he wanted to do something, so he contacted Brian, Phil and myself to see if we would like to do another album, with very much Malcolm in mind. We all leapt at the chance to do it, as it’s as close to the old band as we could get, so we were all very enthusiastic about it from the off.”

Brian couldn’t agree more with his pal, saying: “We hadn’t been together for a while, so when we got into the studio in Vancouver, there was a real electricity in that room. I can’t quite describe it and we aren’t spiritual people, but Malcolm was there. He was everywhere, just all over the place. Malcolm was such a very strong character when he was alive, I don’t think him passing away would change anything. We started powering up in the studio, with the lads putting the amps up and we knew, it was still there.

"There was an energy there, all the boys felt it. It’s a tribute to Malcolm, as Back In Black was a tribute to Bon Scott."

Power Up is 12 tracks of classic AC/DC, but it’s far from predictable and contains absolutely zero filler. Asked to pick his favourite tracks that he would add to the setlist, even Brian struggles to narrow it down. 

He said: “Through The Mists Of Time is a real favourite of mine and one that I play over and over again. Every time I do, I still get goosebumps. When I recorded it, I kept having to ask Brendan to do it one more time, even though he said it was finished. All I could see was the good times and the happy times that the song was written about, back in the mists of time in the 1980s. Things were simpler than they are now and we had a ball just playing rock n’roll, with the beers all over the stage riser and, as the song describes them, the ‘painted ladies’, which is obviously talking about all the lovely lasses. They were just happy days for us. I can see Malcolm in it too, so I really love it."

With any new album, both the band and the fans always have a tour to look forward to, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to be a while yet before we can see AC/DC do what they do best. Rest assured though, they are very much up for making what is sure to be a triumphant return. 

Cliff said: “Hopefully we will get to it at some point. When we were together earlier in the year, we did the video and some rehearsals just to see how it was. It turned out great as the band was firing up a storm, so the last thing we said was whether we all wanted to go and play some shows, which everyone was up for. There was no definite plan, but everyone was definitely up for it. We just hope we can get to it, so maybe next year if everything is more on an even keel, we can get to do some live work.”

It’s all a far cry from how things looked back in 2016, when Brian’s hearing loss issues forced him to take his leave from the band, leaving Guns n’ Roses frontman Axl Rose to step in to fulfil the final dates of their Rock Or Bust world tour. That tour also saw Cliff retire from the band at it’s close, but like Brian, he couldn’t say no when the chance to get the old gang back together arose. 

He said: “I just felt at the time it was the right thing to do and I was done. A lot of things happened, it wasn’t the same band and so on. I couldn’t face doing another two-year tour, so it felt over for me. Then this new album came up and it was going to be Brian, Phil, Angus and Stevie, I leapt at the chance to do it, but again, very much with Mal in mind. It was a no-brainer, I definitely wanted to be there.”

So AC/DC are back and, as always, they’re giving it everything they’ve got. The magic is still there, they’re loving every minute of it and they’re looking to the future. The way it should be. 

Brian said: “Getting back together with the lads was great, but we were only just there to see if it was all going to work. We didn’t know if it would really, as we’re not that clever, but after a couple of days, we started to know. We just said ‘Let’s just go for it. Every ounce of energy, every rhythm you’ve got in your boots, everything you’ve got in your head and your hands, let’s just f***ing take it to the cleaners!’ And as I said, it was all for Mal. For us too, but it was all for Mal.”


Enter our competition here and you could win a copy of AC/DC's new album, Power Up.


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