AC/DC: Shaking the Foundation

An AC/DC Axology

“I have about 15 Gibson SGs on the road, but I’ve only been playing three of them. People may find it hard to believe, but a lot of my SGs have gotten waterlogged. I sweat so much during the course of a show that it manages to seep into the guitar. I’ve had many of them sealed off over the years, but when the varnish starts to wear, the moisture from the sweat manages to soak into the wood and the guitars become heavier and lose much of their tone. The only thing you can use them for is surfboards. Wood definitely has a lot to do with how your guitar sounds.

“My main SG is a brown one from the late Sixties. It’s the best one I got. I went into a guitar shop years ago and fell in love with it. The strings on it were like barbed wire and it had a very nice, thin neck. I’m a small guy, so the guitar sits on me perfectly. It has a great sound—not too toppy and not too bottomy—just perfect. I’ve always said that when I got more money, I would buy me a better guitar, but I still haven’t found a better one yet. I broke it so many times already—just from touring and running around onstage. The neck is the only original part on it.

“I’ve also been using a black SG on tour. One day I was fishing around in New York and I found one that I liked—it’s a custom one with three pickups, but I took the middle pickup out. All my SGs have the original Gibson pickups, the same ones that the old Les Pauls used to come with.

“Apart from the brown and black SGs, I also use a red one in concert; it’s one of the newest ones I’ve got. Gibson put it together for me; it’s a bit smaller than my brown one, but the neck is a little heavier and fatter.

“At home I have other kinds of guitars—some Les Pauls, a Fender Strat and a couple of Telecasters. Besides an SG, the only other guitar I feel comfortable playing is a Telecaster. In the old days me and Malcolm used to share one.

“Malcolm just uses Gretsch guitars. He has about nine of them on the road and they’re all basically the same. I think they’re the Jet Firebird model. Malcolm can get a great, biting sound out of them. It’s a sound a lot of guitarists would love to have but could never get.

“Neither of us uses any effects devices. We want our sound to be as pure as possible, so we don’t need to use them.

“We both use wireless units, though. I use a Schaffer-Vega and Malcolm uses a Sony wireless. I was one of the first guitarists to use a Schaffer. I started using it back when Ken Schaffer was with the company. He sold it to me and repaired it whenever something went wrong. It gets a lot of beatin’ around, so I have to have a guitar tech take care of it to make sure it’s in proper working order every night. I have a few of them onstage at the same time, all hooked up and ready to go. This way, just in case something goes wrong, no time is wasted.

“Malcolm uses a Sony wireless because he just stands onstage and bangs away on a guitar. The Schaffer has a Diversity System, so if I want to jump into the audience and play guitar, I’m able to do so without losing my signal. The Sony also has a Diversity System, but it’s very sensitive. If it takes a lot of beatin’ and knockin’ around, it can break down very easily. I tried it one night, but when I bumped it, it cracked up.

“We both use Marshall amps. At the moment we each have six 100-watt heads hooked up. I also have a specially made Marshall amp that the company put together for me years ago. I think it was the first one they ever made, so everyone was real excited about it. It can put out between three- to four-hundred watts. I can even switch it down to 50 watts, if I want to.

“Malcolm’s amps sound pretty quiet compared to mine. He doesn’t play with as much volume. Malcolm likes tough, clean sound with no distortion. I like to play very loud.”

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