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Brian Johnson: ‘Malcolm Young would be stunned at the outpouring of tributes and grief’

AC/DC in 2011 © PA Images

In his first interview in two years, former AC/DC singer Brian Johnson has spoken in-depth about his late friend and band mate Malcolm Young.

Describing Malcolm as “a catalyst” who taught everyone in AC/DC “how to be in a band”, Brian told Rolling Stone: “Malcolm never missed a trick. He paid attention to everything. Onstage he was always watching, taking in things and making sure it wouldn't happen again if he didn't like the look of some lights or something.”

He continued: “Malcolm gave rock and roll a fist. He'd give it a kick in the ass. People always used to ask Mal, ‘How do you get that sound, man?’ Malcolm either wouldn't tell them or just really couldn't explain it. He would just go, ‘We just play.’

“I used to stand next to him at the end of ‘Let There Be Rock’, where there is a big huge build at the end and it builds and builds. Malcolm would go through two guitar picks during that one song. He would wear them down. He was the most precise guitarist.”


Brian Johnson and Malcolm Young © Getty Images

Brian also revealed that Angus was often looking over his shoulder while on tour: “Angus would tell me, ‘Hey Brian, I got to rehearse in my room every day. My finger bits and all of this. I do it every day.’ And I said, ‘Why? You are just so natural at it.’ And he said, ‘No, because of him (Malcolm) behind me. If I don't do it right, he will just pick it up and play better than me. I am just in constant fear of it!"

Brian also opened up about the onset of Malcolm’s dementia and how it affected him on the Black Ice World Tour.

“On the Black Ice tour, he was just amazing, even though he had to relearn some of the songs,” Brian said. “That was the dementia kicking in; the evil silent thing. You can't see it with an X-ray machine or anything like that. It is just nasty.

“It wasn't so bad during the making of the album. He was still pretty good. He had some great riffs on that one as well. But as the tour went on, it started to dig in. But I will never forget the last night. Malcolm had a fire in his eyes you could spot a mile away.”

Brian Johnson and Brian Johnson and Malcolm Young © Getty Images

Paying tribute to Malcolm’s kind nature, Brian also regaled stories about the guitarist giving a fan who had hitchhiked to a gig £500 for a flight home and his own AC/DC audition when Malcolm handed him a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Commenting on the reaction to Malcolm’s death, Brian finished: “Malcolm would have been absolutely stunned at the outpouring of tributes and grief. He didn't think of himself in that way, that he was great and all that. I learned the team spirit from Malcolm. You are just a cog in a well-oiled machine.

“If we all pulled together at the same time, you get this amazing thing happening. And it worked, you know. Mal is not here anymore, but if I ever have a problem I stop and go, ‘What would Mal do?’ He just always seemed to do the right thing.”

You can read the full Rolling Stone interview here and tributes from across the rock world to Malcolm here

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