BRIAN JOHNSON: It Was MALCOLM YOUNG's Idea To Make AC/DC Have A Sound That Nobody Else Could Copy
December 6, 2020
In a new interview with Jason Rockman of Canada's iHeart Radio, AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson spoke about the fact that the band's long-awaited comeback album, "Power Up", is a tribute to founding AC/DC rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who died in 2017 from effects of dementia at age 64. Malcolm is credited as a writer on all 12 tracks on "Power Up", along with his brother, AC/DC lead guitarist Angus Young.
"This whole album was done, right from the get-go, in the studio, it was this feeling… We'd just lost Malcolm, and we wanted this album to be a tribute to Malcolm, to our leader, the man who was right there at the inception," Brian said (see video below). "It was his idea — the idea of making AC/DC have a sound that nobody else could copy. And it was in his mind all the time to do that, and he kept it like that all the way through, which I think is amazing in itself. But when we went into the studio to do this, we knew that what we were doing was a tribute to the great man himself. And we knew he'd be lookin'."
Johnson also touched upon the LP's opening track, "Realize", which Angus recently said he had spent "a fair bit of time" with Malcolm working on years ago.
"From the very start, Angus was saying the first song we'll do will be 'Realize', because he wanted to set the bar on the sound, the riffs," Brian said. "We're not spiritual guys, but when you hear them backing vocals come in, which was always Malcolm's terrain — that was his property; that was always Malcolm's growling voice and all of that… So, in 'Realize', we put all that in, but it had to be a rock and roll song. And that's why I enjoyed singing it so much. It's just so simple. It's just rock and roll, and it's just a joy for a rock and roll singer to get that thrown at him. But also, I think you'll find that there's just a little edginess to this album. That's all it was — we just knew that it had to be special. I think every man in the band just gave a little bit more."
In December 2014, Malcolm revealed he had dementia which forced him to retire from AC/DC. His nephew Stevie Young stepped into Malcolm's position.
Angus later said that he realized during the recording of the band's 2008 album "Black Ice" that his brother's faculties were impaired.
Malcolm died in November 2017 after failing health for several years.
Hundreds of mourners gathered for his funeral in Sydney, Australia, including Angus and other members of the Young family, along with Johnson, AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams.
Malcolm was remembered as a "humble man" and "musical mastermind," with friend David Albert saying in his eulogy that Malcolm's impact on the music industry was nothing short of momentous. Young's beloved Gretsch guitar, "The Beast," rested on his coffin during the service.
"Power Up" was recorded over a six-week period in August and September 2018 at Warehouse Studios in Vancouver with producer Brendan O'Brien, who also worked 2008's "Black Ice" and 2014's "Rock Or Bust".
"Power Up" hit the No. 1 spot in 18 countries, including in the U.S., where it sold over 117,000 copies in the first week. It is the fastest-selling album of 2020 in at least three of its biggest markets — U.S., Australia and the U.K.