AC/DC’s worldwide army of fans could yet persuade the band to name their eagerly anticipated album Man Down, despite initial reservations from within the camp. In CR198 we revealed exclusively that work on the follow-up to 2008’s Black Ice was complete. Frontman Brian Johnson went on to tell CR online that he favoured the title Man Down for the new studio album, as a tribute to founder member Malcolm Young who was hospitalised with a serious illness during its recording.
AC/DC Autumn Preview
Frontman Brian Johnson on how their latest album in a 40-year career is a tribute to “fighter” Malcolm Young.
In issue 198 we revealed exclusively that work on the follow-up to 2008’s Black Ice was complete. Frontman Brian Johnson went on to tell CR online that he favoured the title Man Down for the new studio album, as a tribute to founder member Malcolm Young who was hospitalised with a serious illness during its recording.
“It came from the heart,” said the 66-year-old. “That’s just the way I am. Some of the guys thought it might be a bit negative. But I like that title.”
It seems Johnson is not alone. Websites and message boards were inundated with positive comments backing the idea, and the working title is back in contention. Mixing now complete, and a late 2014/early 2015 release on the cards.
AC/DC entered The Warehouse, the studio facility owned by Bryan Adams, in Gastown, Vancouver in early May to record their first album in six years. In the first week the band were joined by Rick St Pierre, designer of the Wizard amps favoured by Malcolm and brother Angus Young, and Ken Schaffer who introduced the band to the wireless Vega Diversity System back in the 1970s.
Producer Brendan O’Brien, who worked on Black Ice and, most recently, Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt, was the last piece of the jigsaw, and recording was well under way by mid-May. “We’ve got some really great songs,” added Johnson. “I’m very excited with what we’ve done.” The band worked on more than 20 songs, with the final cut expected to be 14.
With Angus Young’s wife Ellen providing the in-house catering and the band’s infamous work ethic kicking in, it came as no surprise that the recording was complete by the end of June. Johnson had wrapped up his vocals in time to visit fellow Geordies Sting and Jimmy Nail in Chicago on July 2, before flying to France on July 5 to compete in the Le Mans Classic endurance sports car race.
“The guys were right at home back in Studio Two at The Warehouse,” added a close source. “They love the Neve analog console in there. It’s perfect for their sound. They didn’t hang around.”
Malcolm’s illness (rumours persist that he suffered a stroke, but Johnson was unwilling to elaborate) may well be behind a desire to get things moving within the AC/DC organisation. The 61-year-old rhythm guitarist’s sudden illness has clearly shocked his fellow members and brought the band’s immediate future into sharp focus. For example, shaken by her brother-in-law’s situation, it seems Ellen is increasingly desperate for Angus to finally quit smoking.
“We missed Malcolm, obviously,” added Johnson. “And of course we did a lot of thinking while we were making the new record. But he’s a fighter. He’s been in hospital but he’s always in our thoughts.
“Stevie [Young, Malcolm’s nephew] was magnificent in his stead, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well it’s difficult. I’m sure he was rooting for us the whole time we were over in Canada. He’s such a strong man – a small guy but he’s very strong. He’s proud and he’s very private, so we can’t say too much more. But fingers crossed.”
Even at this stage it seems unlikely that Malcolm will be in a position to tour full-time in 2015 when AC/DC intend to celebrate their 40th anniversary in style. Stevie has filled in for his uncle before and looks set to undertake the same role again.
“We’d talked about the idea of forty shows to mark each of the band’s forty years,” says Johnson. “But the demand is just too great. I think we’ll be looking at a lot more. People all over the world want to see AC/DC.”
As CR went to press, the band were due to start rehearsals, and Johnson hinted that dates could commence before the end of the year. “As far as the UK is concerned we’re looking at Wembley Stadium and Hampden Park,” he added. “That’s where we played last time, and so it makes sense.”
Johnson always intended to be done and dusted with the new album by July in order to attend Le Mans, and also to pick up his honorary doctorate in music from Northumbria University in Newcastle. The home-town hero celebrated his degree big day by splashing out on three new number plates for his fleet of vintage cars, explaining: “When I got back I made a really big deal out of the Northumbria honour. In a not-so-subtle way, I added the number plates ROC DOC1, ROC DOC2 and ROC DOC3 to three of my cars. That’s how proud I am that my home town recognised my work.”