Rock Chronicles. 1980s: Angus Young

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Rock Chronicles. 1980s: Angus Young

Post by slasher on Sun Feb 24, 2008 5:17 pm

When: Early 1983
Where: West Hollywood, California (Sunset Marquis Hotel)
What: This conversation with the feverish and
manic performer took place at the beginning of 1983. Flick of the
Switch had been released and the band had found themselves with another
big record. Angus talked about the record, his beloved SGs, his
Marshall amplifiers, and the unique sound AC/DC has been refining for
so many years.

What really struck me was how small he was. Iím about 5í7Ē if the
wind is blowing in the right direction and I towered over him. But he
had a hell of a lot more energy than I ever did.

In
an industry gone mad with detail, where every guitarist knows to the
nth degree not only the gauges of his strings but the alloys which made
them up, where every player has a rack of pedals, gadgets and gizmos
which would befuddle most any NASA representative, Angus Young stands
apart as a guitar player whoís unin≠terested and unamused. When
referring to his variously dated Gibson SGís, Young calls them ďThis guitarĒ or ďThis thing.Ē Rarely ďThis SG.Ē
He admits to not know≠ing the names of chords; and only upon joining
AC/DC did he develop any sense whatsoever of chord names and
descrip≠tions. But for all his lack of technical knowledge, Angus Young
is one of the rare players who has been able to propel the normally
monolithic properties of hard rock out the window and replace them with
intriguing overlays of rhythmic instruments.

Maybe
more than any other guitarist ever, youíre inextricably linked to the
Gibson SG? What was the evolution that brought you to this particular
instrument?

I started playing on banjos and re-strung
them up with six strings. [But] an acoustic guitar, an old bang up
little ten-dollar job, that was probably the first thing I started
playing on. Me brother Malcolm got a Hofner off of one of me other
brothers and he got a Gretsch and passed the Hofner on to me after much
squabbling. It was semi-acoustic and had all been packed with cotton.
But I never used to really take it as a serious thing; I just used to
fool around with it. When I was about 14 was when I really started
playing it seriously. I got an amplifier for about sixty bucks that
used to distort all the time. It was a Phi-Sonic.
After
that I got out and got a Gibson SG that I played until it good wood rot
because so much sweat and water got into it. The whole neck warped. I
bought it second-hand, it was about a í67. It had a real thin neck,
really slim, like a Custom neck. It was dark brown. After about a year,
you lose about half the power in the pickups so you either get them
re-wired or put new ones in. Just ordinary Gibsons.

How do you explain what you and your brother Malcolm create as guitar players?
Heíll get something and Iíll play along. Itís a natural thing. I
suppose itís just something we do well together. He seems to have a
great command of rhythm and he likes doing that. That to me is more
impor≠tant because if weíre playing live and something goes wrong with
my gear and my guitar drops out, you can still hear him and itís not
empty. Heís proba≠bly got the best right hand in the world. Iíve never
heard anyone do it like that. Even Keith Richards or any of those
people. As soon as the other guitar drops out, itís empty. But with
Malcolm itís so full. Beside Malcolm always said that playing lead
interfered with his drinkiní and so he said I should do it.
Soloing was pretty easy for me be≠cause it was probably the first thing
Iíve ever done. I just used to make up leads. I never even knew any
names of chords until Malcolm told me and then I picked it up from
there. I donít regard myself as a soloist. Itís a color; I put it in
for excitement. Itís not great loss if a solo has to go. Weíve made
songs without solos.

Live you use four Marshall stacks. How do you control so much volume?
All the sound comes directly from the amps. That way itís your sound
coming out. A lot of times youíll hear bands and itís a different sound
coming out than whatís on stage. Because you can clean it up [through a
PAl and make it sound completely different than what they really sound
like. Weíve always been wary of that and thatís why we always tended to
have a lot of amps on stage. And also it has a lot better feel to it
especially when youíre playing hard rock music.

Did these early instruments still have that tremolo arm attached?
They did but I took it off. I used to fool around with them but you begin sounding like Hank Marvin.

Talking about instruments from back in the day, you didnít start with Marshalls obviously?
I got a $60 amplifier and the tubes would turn blue when you used the
push/pull treble pot. I remember one of the first gigs I played with
that amp was at a local church. They wanted someone to fill in with the
guitar and my friend say, Ah, he can play.í And so I dragged the
amplifier down and started playing and everybody started yelling turn it down!Ē


And why did you remain loyal to the SG for the remainder of your career?
It was light [weight-wise]. Iíd tried the other ones, Fenders, but
youíve really got to do a number on Ďem. Theyíre great for feel but the
wiring just doesnít got the balls. And I donít like putting those
DiMarzios and everything because everyone sounds the same. Itís like
youíre listening to the guy down the street. And I liked the hard sound
of the Gibson. All the other sort of Gibsons I tried like the Les Paul
was too heavy. Hip displacement. When I first started playing with the
SG there was nothing to think about.
I donít know how
this came about but I think I had a lot thinner neck. Someone once said
to me they [Gibson] make two sized necks, one was 1 Ĺ and one was 1 ľ
and this was like 1 ľ, thin all the way up. Even now I still look all
over and I still havenít found one; Iíve been to a hundred guitar shops
and I found the same guitar [model] but with different necks. It had a
really thin neck almost like a custom neck.
And you can do a lot of tricks on it, too!
Did
you ever experiment with the SGs when they were called Les Pauls [Eric
Claptonís graphically appointed Cream-era guitar is probably the most
famous representative of this model]?

Yeah, I had a
really old one I bought, a 1962. But it had a very fat neck; it was
good to play but it felt heavier than all the other ones. Thatís why I
stopped using it. And when youíre running around a lot, it weighs you
down.
So from High Voltage on itís always been the SG. Have you ever tried using more modern types of instruments?
Yeah, I tried a Hamer but I wouldnít buy an expensive guitar -
especially in my case. Itís always getting beaten around. With the SG,
you can do plenty of tricks with them.
Youíve always
used the same guitar and all the AC/DC albums are always built around
those pretty simple rock formula - how do you keep coming up with new
songs that find an audience?

We try to do everything
with a fresh approach. We try and get an idea of what we basically want
from the album. We donít like to leave people dry or have them say, ĎThese guys have left us and gone off to something else.í
That self-indulgent thing. So we try and keep it basic. A lot of people
say we work a formula but we donít. We try a fresh approach all the
time.
I saw Deep Purple live once and I paid money for it
and I thought, ĎGeez, this is ridiculous.í You just see through all
that sort of stuff. I never liked those Deep Pur≠ples or those sort of
things. I always hated it. I always thought it was a poor manís Led
Zeppelin.
And youíve been faithful to Marshall amplifiers as well?
Ever since Iíve been in this band Iíve been using Marshalls. Iíve tried
Ampeg and they werenít too good for the sound I wanted. On stage I have
four stacks going, all hooked up with splitter boxes. 100-watt stacks Ö
itís good for your eardrums. I use a real lot of volume, I turn that
up; I turn the treble and bass on about half and middle, the same. I
donít use any presence. If I donít think itís putting out enough top, I
will kick up the presence. Just over the years and fooling around with
them you find something that sounds right. With Marshalls, if youíre
using a fair bit of volume, if you whack the treble and bass at half,
thatís where theyíre working. We get them from the factory, thatís what
we do. We go down there and try them out and fool around with amps and
tell them what we want and they doctor them up. At the moment, theyíre
all back to the old style of Marshalls, theyíre very clean. They donít
have these master or preamp settings.


You have entered the modern age of electronics in your use of a wireless system.
Yeah, I use the Schaffer-Vega. Iíve been using that since í77. On the
receiver youíve got like a monitor switch you can boost the signal and
in the transmitter youíve got the same sort of thing. You can really
give a guitar hell with Ďem. I have used the remote in the studio and
it worked really good.
I donít believe Iíve ever had a
wah-wah or a fuzz box. Itís just the guitar and the amp and if I need
anything, if someone says they want a different approach to the sound,
then Iíll get it with the guitar.
I did fumble around
with a fuzzwah a long time ago but my foot kept going right through it.
I found that pedals were too much to fool around with. Youíd be halfway
through a solo and the batteries would go dead and conk out. And if you
tread on the lead going to the pedal, something would always go wrong.
Or some crazy kid would pull the lead out just at the moment when
youíre about to do your big number on it.
Your sound on Flick of the Switch is a combination of a clean tone but very big sounding. How do you describe your sound?
We wanted this one as raw as possible. We wanted a natural, but big,
sound for the guitars. We didnít want echoes and reverb going
everywhere and noise elimi≠nators and noise extractors. Getting the
sound has always been the easiest part of the guitar. Also, if youíre
playing it right, itís going to sound right somehow. I mean you gladly
turn down if itís going to sound good. I mean itís not like, ĎI have to
have a wall of amps and a candelabra on top.í If you hit a chord and
itís distorted, you clean it up. Itís all what you hear. You fiddle
around until you get a good sound. For me, I prefer the sound to be
clean if I can get it clean. If you can get that natural distortion,
fine, because I donít believe in boxes that sustain. And I donít
believe in pushing the hell out of the amps because they become muddy
and whooshy.
The way you talk about the guitar, itís almost as if what you do is an afterthought.
I tend to look at the music as a song; it sounds a bit funny talking
about it as some≠place to play a solo. My brother would beat me up.
People tend to see me as a soloist. Poor people. Youíd think theyíd
have something better to do. I mean thereís a lot of comedy on TV worth
watching. Yeah, people see that but I donít. I look at it as a band. I
think Pete Townshend is rotten without Roger Daltrey and The Who. Heís
quite boring actually. Or the same with Zeppelin without John Bonham.
To me itís not the same. I mean there are solo people who just do that
sort of thing. I like it as a band, as a unit. You should hear me on my
own. Itís horrendous.

2008 © Steven Rosen
Thanks for the info UG
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slasher
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