“We didn’t expect to be playing gay pride festivals, but drag queens and DJs took to us… a great song is great, no matter who plays it”: How GayC/DC took AC/DC classics and “turned up the volume on the sex and aggression”

Steve McKnight of GayC/DC
(Image credit: Tin Janssens)

Save for a massive appearance at Power Trip Festival in October 2023, Aussie legends AC/DC have been mostly dormant since they came off the road in 2016. But one of the world’s leading tribute bands, GayC/DC, are picking up the slack.

Of course, the cover group’s motivation is different from the original, as guitarist Steve McKnight tells Guitar World. “About 10 years ago we were throwing ideas around and we said, ‘How can we take some of our favorite bands, flip them on their ear and make them as gay as possible?’

“I loved the idea – we took concepts from all sorts of shows and turned up the volume on the sex and aggression sides, as far as guitars go.” McKnight is the Angus Young of GayC/DC, focusing on lead duties. “People think it’s easy – but getting the right tone and nailing the feel is essential.”

He continues: “I grew up loving this music, but I also loved Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and guys like that. I understand all this stuff and grew up during a great time for learning to play guitar. I’m playing Angus now – this little guy – but I’m 240 pounds… I guess you could call me the Angus Young who likes to power lift!”

Despite the party atmosphere, the band believe it’s important to provide a space for gay musicians who have had trouble finding work elsewhere. “We started this because we thought, ‘God, this will be so much fun.’ It was almost a joke, but people ended up loving it. We had no idea how we’d be received, but soon we were voted a top tribute band in L.A.

“We didn’t expect to be playing gay pride festivals, but drag queens and DJs took to us – it was a total surprise. It’s like a fearless brotherhood. There are no barriers and even a slight element of danger when we’re on stage.

“But I’m proud that since we began, we’ve built a network of gay musicians. And though it’s not a requirement in this band, it’s preferred because of the nature of what we do.”

McKnight adds: “We’re inclusive – we’re open to anyone who wants to join us, which is important because we’re looking for our new Malcolm. We’ve got a great network of players to draw from, and right now we’re working with a guy from Denver, Colorado. It’s a challenge since we’re in L.A., so we’ll see what happens.”

We do a great job of reminding people that these songs are timeless

Like the band they're paying tribute to, the crux of GayC/DC is a lifelong devotion to rock music, guitar, and having a good time. “I will always be proud of the space that we’ve provided and done it our way,” McKnight says.

“People have been open to it because it’s fun. Beyond that, we do a great job of reminding people that these songs are timeless. A great song is great, no matter who plays it, right?”

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Andrew Daly

Andrew Daly is an iced-coffee-addicted, oddball Telecaster-playing, alfredo pasta-loving journalist from Long Island, NY, who, in addition to being a contributing writer for Guitar World, scribes for Rock Candy, Bass Player, Total Guitar, and Classic Rock History. Andrew has interviewed favorites like Ace Frehley, Johnny Marr, Vito Bratta, Bruce Kulick, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Rich Robinson, and Paul Stanley, while his all-time favorite (rhythm player), Keith Richards, continues to elude him.