Angus Young of AC/DC Discusses Guitar Riffs and Brown Gibson SG's in 1991 Guitar World Interview
Here's an interview with Angus Young of AC/DC from the February 1991 issue of Guitar World magazine. To see all the Guitar World covers from 1991, click here.
He wrenches solos from the neck of a battered Gibson SG with all the grace of a drunken dentist; his fingers practically trip over the frets.
Hands like his are most often found on pork butchers, pinball players and wrist wrestlers. Yet Angus Young's hands have fashioned some of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock history, driving such classic scorchers as "Whole Lotta Rosie," "Highway To Hell" and "You Shook Me All Night Long."
These signature licks not only defined AC/DC 's garage-power boogie, but laid to rest any notion that rock and roll requires anything more than three chords -- and a whole lotta volume -- to be hot, hot, hot.
At the moment, Angus is relaxed. In fact he's sitting down. It's difficult to envision him doing anything but flailing at his guitar and duck walking like some hyper stepchild of Chuck Berry.
Even his famous kneecaps-skinned and scarred from too many losing encounters with the dread Mr. Floor -- are covered by simple blue jeans; his trademark knickers are locked away. AC/DC's new album, The Razor's Edge, is rapidly climbing the charts, and Angus is all set to shred the countryside as he and the band prepare to embark on a world tour.
The guitarist tells jokes, frequently grins his goofy, rubber-lipped grin, and speaks in torrents. But everyone knows he does his best talking with a guitar. And three chords.
GUITAR WORLD: It's quite an honor to be able to speak with the great Angus Young.
Oh, I wouldn't know about it being a great honor!
Well, I still have one of those For Those About To Rock cardboard promotional cannons. And all your albums.
Then it must be a great honor. [laughs]
Now that we got that out of the way, are you still using Marshalls?
Mainly. In the studio, my brother and I have always used a lot of Marshall amps. We like to keep it pretty basic. We just use a couple of cabinets each -- sometimes just one, if we think that's enough. We mainly go for 100-watt and 50-watt heads.
That's been your set-up for quite awhile now, hasn't it?
Yeah, well, we've always found that it works.
It used to be that all a guitar player needed was an amplifier and a volume knob.
Well that's it, you know? Have fingers, will play.
What do you think of all the high-tech guitar gadgetry on the market? It seems that a guitar player doesn't necessarily even have to know that much about playing to sound better than he actually is.
If you notice, a lot of that equipment comes from Japan. And AC/DC has never been a band which likes to sound Japanese.
Have you actually tried any of the new gear that's out there?
I've seen a lot of it over the years. I might pick up a drum machine or something. In general, though, I've always found equipment -- especially technical gear that comes from America -- to be better-sounding. Put it this way: I think that a lot of stuff that comes from your side of the world is always in plain English. [laughs] A lot of Japanese stuff, they have to sell you the manual. It's like reading Wuthering Heights!
Do you do anything special in the studio, such as tilting your speaker cabinets or miking them in a certain way?
A lot of it has to do with the mike placement. I think that for any band, especially a guitar band like ourselves, it's always worth it to spend that bit of time with the mike -- rather than depending on the board. Or using any little gadgets that spring to mind. We always like to get the best, basic raw sound that we can. I think that if you spend a few days to get these sounds, in the end you'll save yourself a great deal of headaches. When you go through effects -- well , it's easy to put an effect on, but a lot harder to get it out.
What steps do you take to prepare your solos in the studio? It sounds like you just plug in …
... and let 'em rip! I only know one solo [laughs], and I made a career of it!
Many young guitar players aspire to be "Guitar Stars" these days -- they go for technique, above all.
There 's always going to be a lot of that. But I really don 't look at these new guitar players. I can be a flash when I want to. But, as I always used to say, I can practice at home; here, I'm playing before the public. I bet half the audience wouldn't even know it if a guitarist is thinking, I’ll play this lick. Oh, I messed it up. I'll play it again." [laughs]