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September 2014
more... ArtistsBassistsRockFebruary 2012Mark Evans

Mark Evans: Power Load

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Mark Evans: Power Load
In this recent photo, Evans cradles the Gibson Ripper bass that he’s shown playing on the cover of Let There Be Rock and in the videos for “It’s a Long Way to the Top” and “Jailbreak.” He bought it at a repair shop across from the Melbourne pub where he first saw AC/DC. Photo by Ginnie Evans

Mark Evans may not be a household name like his former AC/DC bandmates Angus and Malcolm Young, but nothing can take away his integral contributions to one of the biggest bands of all time. He took over bass chores from Malcolm in 1975, just after the band’s debut album, High Voltage, came out in their native Australia. Evans was 19 at the time, and with him in place Malcolm was freed to switch over to rhythm guitar, thus cementing one of rock’s most iconic and powerful guitar duos. From March of ’75 until the middle of ’77, he, Bon Scott, the Young brothers, and drummer Phil Rudd immortalized some of rock’s most timeless tunes—including “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock ’n’ Roll),” “T.N.T.,” and “Let There Be Rock”—on the classic albums T.N.T., Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the 1976 international version of High Voltage, and Let There Be Rock.

Evans’ new book Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/ Outside AC/DC is the first insider account of the legendary Aussie band, and it chronicles the early years chock-full of wild times, triumphs, and tragedies. Recently released in North America, the book offers a glimpse at AC/DC’s studio approach and what it was like to ride the big black locomotive to superstardom in the 1970s. Premier Guitar recently spoke to Evans about the book, his gear, life on the road, and his relationships with the other members of AC/DC.

What did you know about AC/DC before your initial meeting with members of the band?
Very little. I often went to a club called the Hard Rock Café that eventually became the power base of the band, and it was owned by AC/DC’s [then] manager, Michael Browning. I just happened across a poster on the wall that said they were coming to town. I’d heard bits and pieces about the band, but not much more than there was a member that dressed up in a school suit. My first real introduction to the band wasn’t until I received a copy of High Voltage from them at their house, and was asked to learn it for a jam session the following day.

What struck you most about that whole experience?
Probably that what they sounded like on that record was nothing like what they sounded like live!

At what point did you know AC/DC was destined for big things?
That’s an easy question to answer: After learning High Voltage overnight, I went back the next morning, we got the gear set up in the hallway of the house, and the first song we tried together was called “Soul Stripper.” The first thing Malcolm said was, “The first guy couldn’t get this one together—that’s why you’re here.” He’s a very direct guy [laughs]. We got started, and in the first 12 bars, when all the guitars and drums started going off, this huge light bulb went off in my head and I knew that this band was going to work. It was like in The Wizard of Oz, when everything went from black-and-white to color.

Did you have any idea how huge you guys would get?
From very early on, I just knew AC/DC was going to be a contender. We were prepared, we were good, and the opportunities were coming our way. But with any situation like this, you need a bit of luck.

What were your first impressions of Malcolm and Angus Young?
[That they were] cautious and very guarded … and somewhat reserved. But the first thing that struck me about them was their size. I’m not a big guy, at five and a half feet, but you look at the old photos, and I look like I could be a linebacker next to them, man! [Laughs.] I don’t think it would be overcalling the situation to call them standoffish. It’s just the way they are, instinctively. It takes a little while to break through the Youngs’ shell, but once you do, they’re great guys. I think you just really have to make your bones before they’re going to walk you into the crowd, you know?

You had known about Bon Scott and his other bands for some time before meeting him, right?
Yes, and I was sort of impressed by Bon. When I was about 14 years old, I went to a New Year’s Day gig at a club down the road from where I was living. It was put on by a local radio station, and Bon’s band, the Valentines, was one of many playing that day. It was really something else, seeing Bon and six other guys dressed up in these god-awful orange, see-through-chiffon tops and flares. Bon was a backup singer, but I remember how taken aback I was with how cheeky he was. I was sitting close to the side of the stage, where Bon was neckin’ a bottle of Johnnie Walker in between songs and waving and winking over at me. I was just a 14-year-old kid, but there was something drawing me to him—he was such a character.

After that, I followed his career a bit, and he eventually ended up in a band called Fraternity. They were kind of the Australian version of Robbie Robertson and the Band. He was just a great guy—amazing onstage and very charismatic.

Left to right: Angus Young, Evans, and Malcolm Young tracking Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap at Albert Studio in Sydney, Australia, in January 1976. Photo by Philip Morris

And yet, according to your book, you didn’t know Bon was in AC/DC when you first tried out—and you didn’t meet him until your first gig.
Yeah, that’s exactly right. Bon was always prepared to split from the band and do his own thing, so he was often not around. When I first met the other guys at the house, it was only Malcolm, Angus, and Phil. They were talking about plans for the band and they brought up the name Bon. I figured it could be the same guy, but I didn’t want to push anything at that point.

Have you discussed the book with any current members of AC/DC?
No. We don’t have any real contact, and it’s a real shame, y’know? We shared a period of history and did some really great stuff together. It’s interesting you ask that question, though, because a lot of people assume I would’ve had to clear the idea of the book with the band. But no, there is no contact with the band. We all move in very different circles these days. I would hope that somewhere along the line the book gets through to Phil, Mal, and Angus, and that they would read parts of it. I think it would refresh quite a few good memories for them, because we had a great time on the road, man.

Judging from what you wrote, it sounds like you were closest with Phil Rudd. Do you think that was mostly because you guys were the rhythm section?
Phil and I were very close, but it went beyond our just being drummer and bassist for the band. We’re both from Melbourne and are both super keen on Australian football, even though we supported different teams. But yeah, we were pretty close. You can’t spend the best part of three years together, playing music and staying in the same room, without knowing if you like someone or don’t like someone. I’ve got to tell you what an amazing and great rock ’n’ roll drummer he is—he’s just out of this world.

The book seems to imply that AC/DC was always Malcolm and Angus’ band. Did you and Phil feel like you were full members and equal partners?
I can only comment for myself on this but, from very early on, it was very obviously Malcolm’s band. Malcolm got Angus involved with the band, as well as their elder brother George, who was our record producer. I always very much felt that Phil and I were members of the band—there’s no question about that—but you also came to realize, without it being stated, that Phil and myself didn’t have any real input on the direction of the band or whatever the band was going to be doing, business-wise. Bon may have had a little more input than us, but he pretty much just went along with the flow. Once we started going overseas, we were pretty much told, “This is the deal, sign the contract,” y’know? But we were in the band. We were all in AC/DC, not for our individual sakes, but for the common good of the band. You did what was best for the band, and you did it without question.

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