AC/DC are gearing up to release their new album, Power Up. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, band members Angus Young, Brian Johnson, and Cliff Williams spoke about the impetus for their reunion, the making of the album, and how late guitarist Malcolm Young factored into it all.
Even though Malcolm Young passed away in 2017 following a battle with dementia, his presence is very much felt on the new album. “This record is pretty much a dedication to Malcolm, my brother,” said Angus. “It’s a tribute for him like Back in Black was a tribute to Bon Scott.”
As Angus explained, he pulled from a vault of unreleased music. “There was a lot of great song ideas from the [Black Ice period],” revealed Angus. “At that time [Malcolm] said to me, ‘We’ll leave these songs for now. If we keep going, we’ll be overboard. We’ll get them on the next one.’ That always stuck with me. When I went through and listened to them, I said, ‘If I do anything in my life, I have to get these tracks down and get these tracks out.’”
However, when Angus began thinking about recording a new album, Johnson, Williams, and Phil Rudd were no longer part of the band. Johnson departed due to hearing loss; Williams retired following the band’s last tour in 2016; and Rudd was embroiled in major legal issues in New Zealand, including being sentenced to home detention on charges of drug possession and threatening to kill. The genesis of the reunion happened at Malcolm’s funeral in late 2017.
“[Phil] was there and in good shape,” recalled Angus of seeing Rudd at Malcolm’s funeral. “He was keeping himself well-together. He was getting therapy and sorting himself out. It was really good.” Added Johnson, “We defend Phil to the hilt. What happened up there, that’s not the Phil we know.”
As far as Johnson’s hearing loss, the singer divulged, “It was pretty serious. I couldn’t hear the tone of the guitars at all. It was a horrible kind of deafness. I was literally getting by on muscle memory and mouth shapes. I was starting to really feel bad about the performances in front of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling.”
The vocalist credits a hearing expert who introduced him to an in-ear device that has allowed him to sing again. “The first time he came down he brought this thing that looked like a car battery,” said Johnson. “I went, ‘What in the hell is that?’ He said, ‘We’re going to miniaturize it.’ It took two and a half years. He came down once a month. We’d sit there and it was boring as shit with all these wires and computer screens and noises.”
He added, “But it was well worth it. The only thing I can tell you is that it uses the bone structure in the skull as a receiver. That’s as much as I can tell you.”
It turns out Williams had some health issues of his own that he didn’t disclose at the time of his retirement. “To be quite frank, it was not an easy tour to finish,” said the bassist. “I had some health issues that I won’t bore you with the details of. But I had stuff going on while I was on the road, terrible vertigo. For me, I just thought that it was my time.”
As they went on to explain, most of the album was recorded in summer 2018 over a six-week stretch in Vancouver, Canada with producer Brendan O’Brien. In addition to “Shot in the Dark”, other song titles include “Money Shot”, “Demon Fire”, and “Witch’s Spell”. Malcom Young is credited as a songwriter on every song alongside Angus.
Update: AC/DC have officially revealed the release date, artwork, and tracklist for Power Up, and they’ve unleashed the full song “Shot in the Dark”. Get all the details and listen to the new track here.
With regards to touring, the band had hoped to support the album with a series of dates, but never got past one rehearsal due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a couple of small shows to start?’” said Johnson. “That was as far as it got. … [The COVID-19 outbreak] was in China and Europe and then it started spreading like wildfire. It just didn’t seem possible.”
There’s been no official announcement from the band regarding a release date for Power Up. However, a radio host mentioned November 13th during a recent interview with Johnson and Williams.
Read the full interview with Rolling Stone to learn more about the making of Power Up. The first single, “Shot in the Dark”, will be released in its entirety on Wednesday (October 7th).
Below, revisit our recent virtual celebration of AC/DC’s Back in Black: