AC/DC bassist Mark Evans talks about his new book, his glorious past and Dirty Deeds

AC/DC bassist Mark Evans talks about his new book, his glorious past and Dirty Deeds
November 29, 2011 | By More



Mark Evans played on the classic Bon Scott era AC/DC albums T.N.T, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, High Voltage and Let There Be Rock.  If you are a rock and roll fan, even a casual observer, you are aware that is one helluva resume.  If Mark Evans never did another thing in his entire life he would still rock more than 90% of us mere mortals.  Ironically, Mark is very human, a nice, unassuming guy who has realized along the way that it is indeed a long way to the top but it makes for one HELL of a story after you’ve been there.   Finally, that  story of the original AC/DC can be told by someone who was actually on the inside as Mark has just released his new book, “Dirty Deeds”.  The book  is available in North America this week and we had the pleasure of talking to Mark via an overseas phone call to Australia.  He gave us an AMAZING interview.  Read on…….

Legendary Rock Interviews:  You’ve done a fascinating thing here Mark.  No one has ever pulled back the curtain on the classic AC/DC  and of course Bon Scott never got a chance to write his memoirs.  The book has just come out, how are you doin?

Mark Evans:  It’s going great John.  One of the main reasons I wanted to write the book is all the people over the years who would ask me things like “What was Bon like” or “What was it like being in that band in the early days?”.  I always heard from these people through my life and they have always responded to me with such kindness and love that this seemed to be a really good way to repay them; I wanted to really put them on the INSIDE of the band.  There’s never been a book written like that before, because the guys themselves have always been a bit tight-lipped about it all.  Here in Australia the book is already out and doing amazingly well, the response has been just spectacular but in some respects really overwhelming and humbling.  It was a great thing for me to do it turns out, it was a great part of my life and I am really happy to be able to share it with everyone.

LRI:  Like you said, they’ve been a pretty secretive camp over the years.  Has there been any response from band or management?

Mark:  No, I haven’t heard any response from the guys and to shoot completely straight with you I never expected to.  The only response or indication from them that they’re okay with it came when the book was released over here in Australia and their website AC/  ran a feature on the main page about the book release dates here in Australia and worldwide.  They ran that for about 5 or 6 weeks and I thought that was very nice.  That was a great gesture.  That was also one of the reasons for my writing the book.  I have read all these things over the years about how I have beef with them or they have a beef with me.  There’s all these things that have been written in other unauthorized books about how we feel towards each other that really weren’t all that accurate and I just wanted to give a more legitimate account of my side of things.  The truth is that there are a LOT of people who are into that era of the band and into Bon Scott and they deserve a real account of what went on in that very early period of the band.  It was a really early period of the band but also a really important part as far as I’m concerned.

LRI:  Yeah, there was some speculation here in the states that there was indeed bad blood between you and the band and that was one of the reasons you weren’t included in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction.  It’s good to hear that maybe there’s a mend.

Mark:  I think so yeah.  I have to tell you that during the time I was in the band for those albums and tours we were VERY close and bonded, I mean it’s hard not to be in that situation.  That Hall of Fame thing was a very weird period for me, just very odd and I talk about that in my book from my end of things.  To me there was no ill feeling at all, I wasn’t as bothered by it as some fans were.  I have great memories of the band and my time in the band and on top of that I have a LOT of respect for those guys.  What they have achieved and done over all these years is nothing short of mind-boggling and amazing.   You’ve gotta tip your hat to achievement like that and I think that the guys who were inducted were exactly who should have been inducted, Bon was inducted along with the current lineup.  I’ve never had any issue with that whatsoever.

LRI:  I can’t wait to read the book.  There’s also material about your life in Australia before you met Angus and Malcom?

Mark:  Oh yeah, the full title is “Dirty Deeds, My Life Inside and Outside AC/DC” .  It’s a complete autobiography, you get to know me from the very beginning.  My home life growing up here, my family and how I met the guys in AC/DC and how my life just changed overnight.  I had some challenges growing up, lost my dad early on in high school.  I did okay in school the only subject I failed continually was music (laughs).  Before I joined AC/DC and got into music there were actually dreams I had of playing football (laughs).  That all changed after I started playing rock and roll with AC/DC,  thankfully.

LRI:  You always wanted to travel and see beyond Australia and you certainly got to do that in the band.  What was that like?

Mark:  Amazing.  As a kid I always drew pictures of far away places I always dreamed of visiting you know, places all over the world.  i grew up in Melbourne in southern Australia and to me Sydney was really strange and mysterious even though it was only about 500 miles away (laughs).  I love traveling and love the United States, I spent a lot of time in the states touring with AC/DC and other acts and I love it there.  I always wanna get back there it’s just a great place to be.

LRI:  How did you come to join AC/DC to begin with?

Mark:  My initial contact with the guys came through a friend Steve McGraw who I played football with who left school and got into roadie work and he was actually a stage crew guy for AC/DC  early on.  The band was working as a four piece, Malcom was playing bass and Steve had heard that they were looking for a bass player so he got ahold of me.  Steve showed up when I was playing pool at a local bar that I used to drink at and gave me the contact information and I showed up THAT afternoon after one of their gigs and met the guys.  They gave me a copy of their first album to learn and a couple of days later I was in the band.  It happened that quickly and within a week we were on national TV on a show called “Countdown” that was the famous appearance where Bon was dressed up like a schoolgirl!

LRI:  What was it like seeing the band as a four piece with Malcom on bass?

Mark:  Amazing.  I’ve gotta tell you, as good as Mal is on guitar he was an absolute beast on bass guitar, he is a fantastic bass player.  They were very, very tight.   I finally met Bon a day or so later at that same bar, I had heard that he was in the band…..  Bon was something of a pop star already in the area from his time in a band called the Valentines and i suspected that it was the same Bon and sure enough it was.  They were great.

LRI:  Over the years the legend of Bon Scott has continued to grow including his hard living lifestyle….You were there, how much do the stories or  legend differ from the reality of your friend Bon?

Mark:  Well, first of all, that’s a BIG part of my wanting to write the book to begin with, to just paint a clearer picture of Bon and who he really was.  There’s a general picture of him out there as just this hell raiser or this wild animal and certainly there was that element to him but there was a lot more to him than JUST that.  Over the years the image of Bon has stayed static as this wild man and he was really a pretty interesting individual and a great person.

LRI:  As you said, he was in other bands before AC/DC and he had a pretty wide variety of music tastes that strayed away from just hard rock.  Is that accurate?

Mark:  Oh sure, he was very well-rounded.  You know John….Bon had this tremendous duty and responsibility to live up to  AC/DC and that “image” that “persona” of Bon Scott onstage.  Now, certainly, without question, he enjoyed the hard rock lifestyle and everything that came along with it as we all did but on the other hand he was a very private person.  He was a world-class partier when he set out to do it, let me tell you yet he was always ready to split or separate from the band and attend to his own domestic situation.  It’s a bit like many great frontmen with strong onstage persona, very seldom is the real person actually like the onstage person.  The guy had impeccable  manners and was just a really WARM, kind human being.  He could live up to that onstage character but the entire time I can assure you he had another side to him and a wonderful, warm heart.  Let’s put it this way, he did a lot of things that would be quite out of character for a crazy rock and roller, he was very considerate and generous, well rounded and just a great all-around guy.  A real friend.  He is truly missed, truly missed.  He was a little older than the rest of us but he was the perfect foil and frontman, in the book I describe him as your mad uncle, everyone’s got this crazy uncle who gets a little too pissed at weddings and dances up a storm trying to get up all the girls skirts (laughs).

LRI:  So many of us have ONLY seen the video footage and that wild-eyed crazy side of him, you know?

Mark:  If you met him you would understand, he was just so much fun and just a really great guy to have around.  He definitely had his quieter moments though.  I know a lot of times he felt loneliness when we were out slugging away on the road.  You know the song, “Ride On”?  If I could point to one song, only one song to sum him up that song is it.  Those lyrics just lay it out, Bon was a great lyricist  but if I had to choose just one to describe the Bon I knew it would be “Ride On”, he felt that way many, many times.    It is such a great song by the way but those lyrics, those are just Bon speaking straight from the heart.

LRI:  The band has such a reputation as hard rockers but there is also this ever-present layer of cheeky humor that runs throughout the undercurrent of the band identity.  How much of that was Bon and how much of it was the rest of the guys, yourself included?

Mark:  I refer to that early era and those albums I am involved with and yeah, there is this real cheeky humor and this real ARROGANCE about what we were.  If you look at some of the photos from my period, that High Voltage, Let There Be Rock era, you can see that we weren’t really trying too much to be some serious rock band.  We were obviously a hard rock band but we were all having fun with it and not taking a whole lot too seriously.  There was a lighthearted bent to everything we did.  How seriously can you take yourself when your guitarist is dressed up as a schoolboy ??? (laughs).   There’s obviously a built in sense of humor there and obviously in Bon’s lyrics which were just hysterical many times.  I think that element of the band has changed over the years but early on it was pretty evident.

LRI:  You and Phil Rudd formed a tight fist as a rhythm section.  How well did you get to know Phil over the years and what was it like to play with him?

Mark:  Very well, we got on great.  In fact, the whole time we were in the band Phil and I shared hotel rooms so we were very close.  Musically, let me tell you if you are working rhythm in a band and you have Phil Rudd behind you and Malcom Young beside you it is a first class flight.  Within the first TEN seconds of the first jam with those guys I KNEW that this was what I needed to do with my life.  It was like the biggest lightbulb in the world went off in my head, it was just a revelation to hear how those guys played together. Then to hear how Angus and Malcom’s guitars just meshed perfectly it was just unbelievable really.  I had never heard anything so obviously perfect before.  The first song we ever worked on together was “Soul Stripper” and from that point forward I knew I had made the right move.  Phil Rudd is just the perfect drummer for AC/DC.  Simon Wright is an amazing drummer who I have worked with  and gigged with and  I know there’s been a couple of guys in that spot but to me when I hear that band in my head it’s always with Phil playing drums.  I’ve seen a few gigs where Phil wasn’t playing with them and it always sounded good but it didn’t sound completely right.  It only sounds right to me when Phil is playing.  The drummer is such an important part of a band’s sound whether people consciously realize it or not.  I’m probably the absolute worst person on earth to ask that question to John because I am so totally and completely linked to Phil and linked to him being the drummer in that band!  Phil is a really important part of that band.

LRI:  His snare drum sound is deadly and direct.

Mark:  Oh mate…..I couldn’t agree more.  One of Phil’s greatest influences was a drummer named Simon Kirke of the band Free and later Bad Company and to my ears Phil has a lot of that in him when he plays.  He can play slow and still really swing.  Taking Phil out of AC/DC is like taking Charlie Watts out of the Rolling Stones, you just can’t do it.

LRI:  You were probably thrilled when he rejoined the band.

Mark:  Oh absolutely.  I mean Chris Slade and Simon Wright are great players in their own right but if you ask Simon who the drummer for AC/DC should be he will tell you PHIL RUDD.  I am that sure that he recognizes that and thank god old Phil is right where he needs to be.   As you can hear, I could go on for days talking about Phil.  I think he’s the world’s greatest rock drummer without question.

LRI:  I love hearing you talk about your old band.  You are unlike many people we talk to who are former members because you still truly sound like a huge FAN of the band.  You genuinely love AC/DC, still see them and support them.  It’s very refreshing.  Do you find it surprising when other guys in your situation can’t put the baggage behind them and enjoy their legacy in some of these classic bands?

Mark:  Yeah, I do.  Sometimes I will read these things with people who have parted ways with their band and it’s disappointing that they dwell on the negative and don’t seem to appreciate all the positive aspects of what their career meant to so many people.  I mean, there’s no DOUBT that I did not wanna leave AC/DC, I was sacked from the band, I didn’t leave them.  I certainly wasn’t happy to go, I saw my future in that band but on the same token I don’t see the point to carrying a burden about things you can’t change.  I just look back on my legacy and those albums and that whole time with the band with great pride.  I have great memories and I love talking to people about them.  It’s just not in my makeup to be bitter about it all these years later, it just doesn’t make any sense to look at them and say anything other than “Hey guys, that is amazing, what you have done all these years is simply a job well done mate.”   I love the band, always will and they are very cool guys even though I have very little to do with them anymore since we run in very, very different circles.

LRI:  The brothers are obviously a very important part of the band and when I say the brothers I am of course also referring to George Young (Producer) in addition to Malcom and Angus.   Those guys have such a tight bond that I was was just wondering if that bond ever made life difficult for the rest of you guys?

Mark:  I think at times it could make things difficult.  Very early on, when I was in the band it was definitely as you said, the three of them but if you ask me very plainly whose band it was it was Malcom’s band.  That was made very clear to me at the start and it was implicit that it was Malcom’s band during my era.  It was George running the record company and producing and yeah it could make it difficult at times for the rest of us but to be honest the positive output of those brothers all working together far outweighed anything negative.  The success of the band lies in that foundation that was set up in those early days by the brothers Young.

LRI:  Do you think it’s surprising that the general public views it very much as Angus’ band ?

Mark:  Well, I think as far as the public goes that makes sense.  Angus is very much the public face of the band nowadays, for all intensive purposes Angus is the frontman of the band in terms of public perception.   But, it’s still Malcom’s band.  Looking back, I think that speaks volumes about the power  Bon Scott had as a frontman, because in those days Angus was kind of like a little, devilish sidekick.  The perception early on was that Angus was hanging around Bon and Bon was the frontman.   That has definitely changed over the years and morphed to the point where now Angus is sort of the figurehead or public face of the band.  I think that says a lot about Bon and how he approached his craft as frontman for the group, he very much was the lead guy in those days and Angus was riding shotgun.

LRI:  How new were you to the whole concept of recording when you stepped into a studio for the first time to record T.N.T. ?

Mark:  I was completely new to the whole thing.  The first time I ever stepped in a studio in my life was when I stepped into Albert Studios to make the T.N.T. album.  I cannot overstate this…..George Young REALLY mentored me through that whole process, he took me under his wing and to me that was a godsend.  If you’re going to have someone take you and show you the ins and outs of recording and working in the studio than he is the guy to do it.  George was very, very helpful, very supportive and was truly my mentor.  I was very green and there was a very sharp learning curve working with those guys let me tell you but on top of all that George knew what it was I needed to do because he himself was a knockout bass player.   That period of making the album was a great process as far as learning how to lay down tracks with a rock and roll band.

LRI:  During those early years, was success measured in terms of crowds, girls, money?  What was it that made you guys feel like you were kicking ass?

Mark:  Well, we were very good at the girl thing….we got that figured out RIGHT away (laughs).  I think we were just such an excited group of  guys, when I joined the band I was only nineteen and Bon was 29 but we were all together in the sense that we were all working HARD.  Success didn’t come right away.  When I first joined the band we were playing in Melbourne and to tell you the truth we were sometimes playing to 25 or 30 people a night.  That was really, really early on and if it wasn’t for some of the girls coming around to clean the house or bring in food we all would have starved.  There was truly no money in those early days before the gold records and all that but the enjoyment was in the band itself.  We were very, very tight as a group individually as a gang.  We didn’t really care about any other bands we only cared about OUR band.  There was a very strong, I would almost call it “SIEGE” mentality towards our own ends and our domination over all things rock.  We all thought we were in the greatest rock band in the world there was not even a question about that.  We enjoyed ourselves out on the road even before the fame hit.  There was a lot of drinking and carousing with the girls and I was very good at that!  I sometimes think that if I hadn’t enjoyed myself quite so much and maybe focused a little bit more on my job that I might have had a little bit longer tenure.   These are not MY words per say but I have been told two things about my place and image in AC/DC.  Number one, I was too tall, I was by far the tallest guy in the band and number two, I was too good looking (laughs) and let me tell you that if I was too good looking to be in the band than those other guys have got problems!!  (laughs).  I guess they meant I looked good compared to the other guys, if you look at it I look like a linebacker for the Steelers.  I look huge but honestly I am a little guy, even now I only weigh bout 140 pounds!!  The other guys are really tiny you know??

LRI:  How much had the band changed by the time you went in to record “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”?

Mark:  A lot but then we  had changed a lot by the time we had gotten into record T.N.T. and that was just my first time in the studio with the guys but all the live gigs and everything we went through really started to sharpen us.  If you hear the original Australian version of “High Voltage” you will hear some tracks that disappeared by the time we released the international version.   There’s a schmaltzy thing called “Love Song” which sounds like a sappy cross between a guitar band and Air Supply.  When you hear it you will understand but with that song came a very important crossroads in the band’s career.   That sappy song came out as a single but on the b-side was “Baby Please Don’t Go”, all the radio outlets just decided to ditch “Love Song” and play the B-side.  So “Baby Please Don’t Go” became the hit.   If we had managed a hit with “Love Song” the band’s whole career path would have changed but things, or mommies  By the time we recorded “Dirty Deeds” the band had continued  to grow and change.

LRI:  How well did you get to know all the bands you got to tour with, bands like KISS, Sabbath and those guys?

Mark:  Not very much at all.  The band tends to be very insular and was that way even back then so we tended to keep to ourselves on tour.  There was very minimal contact with any of those other bands.  I enjoyed seeing those bands and being on the road and I cover a lot of that in the Dirty Deeds book.  We did a support tour through Europe with Black Sabbath and that was an interesting tour of course having Ozzy and Bon Scott out on the road together.

LRI:  The band was really starting to get into peak form on the LET THERE BE ROCK album.  By then it was a finely tuned machine musically, was it also starting to take off in all directions as far as promotion and visibility?

Mark:  That’s very interesting to me that you say that.  To me,  LET THERE BE ROCK is the album where AC/DC really came into our own.  We really, really started to sound like AC/DC, there were obviously other great tracks that we had done before that but to me that’s when it all started to congeal and the band started to really become alive.  We spent the last year basically on the road and we just came back here to Australia and did some dates and then headed right into the studio.  To me, Let There Be Rock is just a top to bottom great album.  It was the start of that definitive AC/DC style.   The touring helped and also the fact that we started to get a harder edge but  what really helped was the fact that we started getting our noses rubbed in the shit.  The DIRTY DEEDS album wasn’t released in the States because the record company ATCO refused to release it, they didn’t like it so they gave it back and said “This is not up to par, it’s just not good enough guys, try again” so as I said, they were saying this to a band that already knew it was the greatest rock band in the world.  We were pissed off and knocked out of our comfort zone, we were like “This is WARRR man” so the only way we could think of going to war was just to make a record that would shut them the fuck up and sit them on their ass.  There was a whole lotta tension in those LET THERE BE ROCK sessions but that band worked well under tense circumstances.  We’ve all heard the reports of tension among the Stones and I believe it because there was definitely tension involved in AC/DC but it was nearly always used as fuel, as ammunition.  It wasn’t a negative force.  When we went in to record LET THERE BE ROCK we knew we had to come up with a great record just to set things straight between us and the American record label.  We were genuinely pissed off that we were put off or set back in the States and it put us on our heels and into fighting mode.  We had a point to prove and I think the point’s been proven.  I think it’s a classic album but I have to tell you John…..a lot of people think this is pretty funny (laughs).   To me, personally, my favorite, ALL TIME favorite albums are POWERAGE and HIGHWAY TO HELL and those are two of Bon’s albums which I don’t even play on.  To me those are the most AMAZZZZZZZZZZZZING albums the band has ever recorded and that’s probably because I was close enough to begin with to understand where we were headed but divorced enough from the actual albums to really see what was going on.  I just think those are the greatest classic albums ever.   Highway to Hell is the best AC/DC album ever.

LRI:  There were always silly rumors over the years that the band had demonic elements or tendencies or that they were in some way subversive or dangerous or sacrilegious.  Some people took issue with the LET THERE BE ROCK video or certain lyrics.  As far as you could discern, was there ever anything the band did INTENTIONALLY for shock value or any merits to those accusations?

Mark:  No, no all that satanic stuff or any of the shock value accusations are all just a bunch of bullshit.  That satanic shit really pissed me off for a good while.  When I first started to hear about that I just got so fuckin pissed because nothing could be further from the truth.  All that stuff came from people outside of the band who had no idea about the band, it’s sense of humor or anything else.  For fuck’s sake they are a rock and roll band, all they do is play music and have a good time taking the piss out of everything.  Any other accusation from those wahoos is just bullshit.  Those lyrics for Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be are just fuckin rock and roll lyrics, nothing more, trust me.  Bon Scott nor anyone else was into any dumb black magic bullshit, that was just a bunch of people running amok with their own interpretations of the lyric lines.   It’s rock and roll music but some people felt the need to overthink it.  The LET THERE BE ROCK VIDEO was great fun and quite funny.

LRI:  What do you remember about those old, pre-MTV video shoots?

Mark:  They were great, there was a national TV show here called Countdown and they put a lot of those things together, they did the “LONG WAY TO THE TOP ” video for us and “JAILBREAK” and some others.  Australia, pre-MTV was really cutting edge as far as the videomaking business, they have a long history and were way ahead of the curve.  If you made an album here, even back in the 60s it was expected that you would make some videos to promote it.

LRI:    Gonna go watch that “LET THERE BE ROCK” video again.  Do you think that wild eyed Bon Scott gentleman would have been tailor made for the crazy, in your face MTV era?

Mark:  Yeah, particularly in that clip you’re talking about.  The whole thing is just 5 or 6 minutes of Bon captivating you at the pulpit of rock and roll with his story.  He’s just amazing in that clip.  He actually screwed himself up good in that video, not sure if a lot of people know that.  He broke his ankle during that part where he jumps off the pulpit.  When he came down he broke his ankle something good!

LRI:  Did that set back your tour?

Mark:  Nah, we kept on goin mate, it’s only a broken bone for fuck’s sake (laughs).

LRI:  Thanks for talking to us Mark.  It was truly a pleasure.  Last question, when you have ridden a roller coaster that has that many loops in it, how hard is it to get off the ride and try to live a normal life?  Does doing this book tour open up that whole memory bank again?

Mark:  Yeah sure it does but the ride was quite fantastic and it makes me feel humbled and appreciative not only of my time with the band but of everything that’s currently going on.  It’s a very cathartic and remedial thing to do and it’s been great and it’s been great talking to people about it.  I cherish these memories and at this point I’m very at peace and philosophical about the whole thing I guess.  It’s really cool to be in this situation now with the book and I’m really happy with the way things are going and the fans and people like you that remind me of how much fun it all was.

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Category: Interviews