From the Archive: AC/DC's Angus Young and Brian Johnson Discuss the 'Stiff Upper Lip' Album
Who does the best imitation of you, Brian?
YOUNG: What you do is, you get a truck and you drop it on your foot...
JOHNSON: Well, there are some good copy bands out there, you know. But the best imitation I've ever seen was by a chick, believe it or not, while we were in Vancouver recording The Razor's Edge. And she was pretty good.
YOUNG: You sure she wasn't doing something else to you?
What's the secret of that unmistakable vocal sound?
JOHNSON: Oh, there isn't any secret. When you're singing with AC/DC, it kind of comes natural. You get caught up in the enthusiasm of it all. Everybody's whackin' away 100 percent; if you don't join in, you may as well not be there. As Ang and Mal have always said, the voice can be like another instrument and contribute to the sound of the band. Rather than just being the guy in the front standing there like a big tart wiggling his hips.
Is there a favorite pre-show gargle?
JOHNSON: I'd love to tell you it's half a pint of Jack Daniels or something like that. But I'm afraid it's Perrier water. No, wait a minute; it's not even that. It's just regular water so I don't fart or burp when I'm up there.
The singing and playing on the new album gets into some very bluesy territory. The opening of "Stiff Upper Lip" could almost be ZZ Top.
YOUNG: From the first album, we've had songs like "The Jack" that are blues based. We also did it in "Ride On," where we went into the blues. Blues is a big part of rock and roll. The best rock and roll got its birth in the blues. You hear it in Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
"The Jack" has become a popular part of your concert repertoire, even in the States, where we don't have that particular term for venereal disease.
YOUNG: Oh, you don't have that?
Well, we have it. But we call it something else.
JOHNSON: What do you call it now? Sexually challenged?
YOUNG: "The Jack" is a song that came out of playing the pubs and clubs in the beginning. Bon would make references to a lot of people who had been his -- how do you call them? -- love companions for a while. Bon in his day had a bit of a reputation. I think it was his background. Because at an early age he was a crayfisherman.
JOHNSON: He caught crabs for a living!
Um, getting back to the blues tradition in AC/DC, it's nice to hear you guys do just a straight, bluesy three-chord rocker like "Can't Stand Still."
JOHNSON: Aye, that's one of my favorites. I don't think I've heard anything like that played that well before. It just gets me all goose bumpy every time I hear the flippin' thing.
I love the ending on that one. You really schmaltz it up.
YOUNG: That's what happens sometimes. Every time we'd go in and cut a track, Brian was singing along with us for the vibe. And on that one he was really hammering it out. We were getting off on watching him do it. Everyone was having a little fun with it. So when it came to the ending, everybody sort of downed tools and gave him a little ripple.
Somebody yells out "take it home," I think.
YOUNG: Oh, yeah, there was lots of yellin' and whistlin' and a'hollerin.' That's what makes the atmosphere, you know.
So AC/DC still cuts basic tracks in the time-honored way -- live in the studio with the whole band?
YOUNG: Yeah, everything. We all get in there. That's what makes rock and roll. You lose that when you start separating everything up. You can separate things technically by isolating your amps, but when we're in there recording, we all like to be together so we can all communicate easily.
And then once you get the basic tracks, you and Malcolm might add a few guitar overdubs?
YOUNG: Yeah, if Mal has a little added rhythm part, or if I have a lick here or there that'll make it different. Or we might just use the basic track. Whatever gives it the best atmosphere.