Angus Young of AC/DC Opens Up in His First Guitar World Interview from 1984
Here's our interview with Angus Young from the March 1984 issue of Guitar World. The original story by Steven Rosen ran with the headline "Angus Young: The Man in Short Pants is Long on Guitar Chops. But Don't Ask Him What Equipment He Uses," and the story started on page 28.
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 who's uninterested and unamused. When referring to his variously dated Gibson SG's, Young calls them "This guitar" or "This thing."
Rarely "This SG." He admits to not knowing the names of chords; and only upon joining AC/DC did he develop any sense whatsoever of chord names and descriptions.
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
Young, feverish and manic performer, embodies a raucous guitar style which has made him and his AC/DC band the
dirty darlings of Australia and catapulted the quintet into international status. Angus combines rapid lead phrases with chunk rhythms (the main tempo is created by brother Malcolm on rhythm guitar) and an outlandish yet forceful stage persona has elevated Angus' name to the upper echelons of rock players.
Off stage, however, he is somewhat more subdued, sipping hot tea, forever joking and continually moving various
parts of his anatomy including head, hands and feet (not to mention the constant rolling of eyes).
What is not constant, though, is the approach and direction of AC/DC's music. Granted, the Australian quintet could
hardly be labelled middle-of-the-road or pop rock (they would be more than likely to extract the labeller's teeth with a pair of needlenose pliers if such an even occurred) but to brand them strictly as mutant heavy metal is a false appraisal.
Young, who began playing at age five on a banjo restrung with six strings, has an actual disdain for most power rock ensembles. The interplay between Angus and elder brother Malcolm (whom the younger Young cites as a far more accomplished player than himself) is the prime reason for taking AC/DC more seriously than the deluge of other monster rock bands. The thinking man's heavy metal group? Hardly.
But certainly they inject more in their music than might be heard in one listening.
"We try to do everything with a fresh approach," offers Young. "We try and get an idea of what we basically want from the album. We don't like to leave people dry or have them say, 'These guys have left us and gone off to something else.' That self-indulgent thing. So we try and keep it basic. A lot of people say we work a formula, but we don't. We try a fresh approach all the time.
"I saw Deep Purple live once and I paid money for it and I thought, 'Geez, this is ridiculous.' You just see through all that sort of stuff. I never liked those Deep Purples or those sort of things. I always hated it. I always thought it was a poor man's Led Zeppelin."
Tracks like "Back in Black" and "You Shook Me All Night Long" (Both from Back In Black) and virtually all of Flick of the Switch (their newest) are strong examples of this weaving of guitar parts and textures. Angus, who received his first real electric guitar (a Hofner) when sibling Malcolm acquired a Gretsch, is at odds in explaining how these guitar parts are created.
"He'll get something and I'll play along," claims the guitarist whose only lessons were in the form of watching his brother play. "It's a natural thing. I suppose it's 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 important because if we're playing live and something goes wrong with my gear and my guitar drops out, you can still hear him and it's not empty.