IT’S A LONG
WAY TO THE TOP…
Dave Evans was the first vocalist
of AC/DC (colloquially known as “Acca Dacca” in their native Australia…so I’ve
been told) and he helped lay the foundation for a band that was to shake the
world of Rock and Metal. 40 yeas later Dave is still writing quality Rock
material. The guy’s a trooper worthy of utmost respect.
In the interview that follows, Dave
retraces AC/DC’s first steps and passionately relives his own career just before
releasing a brand new solo EP, tellingly called “Nothing To Prove”. When he
answers my phone call from Australia (I’m phoning from England), I reckon it’s
probably best to start from the very beginning…..
Dave I’ve got a
lot of questions for you but let’s start in chronological order. You were
actually born in Wales and emigrated to Australia when you were very young,
Yes, that’s right. I left with my family for Australia when I was a little boy.
When did you form your first band?
When I was 17 years old in North West Queensland, I formed my first band and we
were called In Session. We played there for about 2 years until I left for
Sydney by myself.
How did the members of AC/DC’s
first line-up come together?
I briefly had a band in Sydney called Velvet Underground
[not to be confused with their
namesakes featuring Lou Reed, and who are from U.S.A.]
and I answered an ad in the paper after we had broke up. It was Malcolm Young at
the other end of the line and it turns out that Malcolm had been in the Velvet
Underground before I had joined them. So I knew of him and he knew of me but we
had never actually spoke until then. He told me he had a couple of guys that he
was jamming with and wanted to form a new band. So he was looking for a Rock
singer who was into The Rolling Stones, Free and those kind of bands.
Right away I met Malcolm and the other musicians. Colin Burgess was the drummer
– he had previously played with Masters Apprentice, who were a very famous
Australian band at the time. The bass player when we first jammed together was
Larry van Kriedt. We practiced several covers of bands such as The Rolling
Stones and at the end we felt good about that jamming session. A week later, at
another rehearsal, Malcolm said he was bringing his brother Angus into the band.
So the band became a quintet. That’s how we all got together.
What do you remember of the time
you were with AC/DC?
My memories of when I sang with AC/DC are very vivid. It seems like it was
yesterday. I remember our rehearsals very clearly. I remember one of our first
gigs in Sydney when I took my shirt off and carried Angus around the stage on my
And, in AC/DC’s first gigs, what
was a typical set-list like?
We were playing songs by Rolling Stones, Free, The Beatles…some Chuck Berry
songs…you know, 12-bar Rock N’ Roll…we played a couple of original songs too. So
that was the kind of music that we were doing.
So it was mainly covers…
It was mainly covers when we first started but we went into a recording studio
very shortly after we got together…right after our very first show in fact.
Our first gig was on the 31st December of 1973 and about 3 months
later we entered a recording studio, which was owned by George Young - another
brother of Malcolm and Angus - and Harry Vanda. Before that, George and Harry
used to play with a famous band called The Easybeats but at the time they worked
as producers for a label called Albert Records. One day George came down to a
rehearsal, he liked what he heard and offered to put out a few of our songs.
[With Dave Evans on vocals, AC/DC
recorded the single ‘Can I Sit Next To You Girl’. It was produced by George
Young and Harry Vanda and released in Australia in July of 1974.]
Around the time that you ceased to
be part of AC/DC, quite a large number of musicians joined and left the band.
Why was that? What was happening within the band’s ranks?
By the time I split from the band around twelve months after its formation, we
went through our 3rd bass player, 3rd drummer and 3rd
manager. What can I say….Colin Burgess, our drummer collapsed behind the drums
one night when we were playing Chequers Nightclub
He looked like he was on something so Malcolm decided to sack him on the spot.
Colin always said he was drinking…well, that’s what he said. Anyway, we
had already recorded our first single with him.
Larry….well Malcolm decided that Larry just wasn’t up to it. After that we got
our second bass player and drummer. Neil Smith came on on bass – he’s passed
away now, from cancer. We also recruited Noel Taylor to play drums. Our record
was soon coming out so we recruited them very quickly. We were set to play at
Chequers Nightclub for the launch and it was going to be an important gig for
us. So yeah, we recruited them in a hurry but they weren’t up to scratch I
suppose. So instead of them we recruited another 2 guys.
The record was released of course and it was a big hit for us. On the wave of
its success we ended up playing all the biggest venues, such as the Sydney Opera
House. It was fantastic – our record even entered the charts in the top 5. We
were named as the best
Australian band of the year and I’m very proud of that.
What was your reaction when you
first heard Bon Scott sing with AC/DC?
I was surprised, really. When we played in Adelaide, Bon used to drive us around
and hang out with us. He knew the older brother George Young as well as Harry
Vanda from the 1960s. He had recorded ‘My Old Man's a Groovy Old Man’ with them
when he was with The Valentines. So he knew them from back then. Bon was also a
lot older than us when he joined the band. He was 29 then which was old when you
consider that the rest of us were 21. And he used to hang around with us, he
loved the band, especially ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.
So being older
than the band and coming from those 1960s bands, I was surprised that Bon Scott
had actually got the job after I had split with them. Before AC/DC, Bon had also
been with Fraternity, which was a hippy band. I had heard The Valentines but I
didn’t really know much about them. He was just hanging around with us
driving us around to get some…er…some hamburgers.
After departing from AC/DC it
wasn’t long before you joined Rabbit. How did that come about?
I was at Chequers Nightclub about 4 or 5 months after I split from AC/DC with my
good friend Ted Mulry, who also
passed away now. Ted used to play with me in Velvet Underground. Anyway, he
asked me if I was looking for a band. I said I was but there sort of wasn’t much
around that I was interested in. And he mentioned a band called Rabbit, from
Newcastle, just north of Sydney. They were also friends of his band, the Ted
Mulry Gang. And I had seen them
at Chequers and they were really good. They were a very exciting band.
I got in touch with the guys from Rabbit through a contact of Ted Mulry, we had
a chat about it and I decided to join the band. About only 9 months later we
signed a record deal with CBS Records and then the band moved from Newcastle to
Were you happing singing with
Oh yes. It was a fantastic band. We were all wild on and off the stage. It was a
fantastic time. They were great guys and we’re still good mates to this day. In
fact Rabbit’s guitarist Mark Tinson produced 2 of my solo albums: “Judgement
Day” (2008) and “Sinner” (2006) and also played guitar on them.
Why did Rabbit come to a premature
It was 1977 I think and Disco hit really it big around the world…you know, the
Bee Gees, John Travolta…Saturday Night Fever…all that kind of stuff. Disco
became huge and what happened with half the venues was that they just put a DJ
who put on Disco stuff. And they saved a lot of money and trouble
[that was involved…]
with bands I suppose. Consequentially the top bands in Australia all split
because we all had the same venues, the same roadies, the same trucks, the same
accommodation. Sherbert, Hush, Ted Mulry Gang…..we all went under as a result.
just couldn’t sustain the cost of the show. So we split up. AC/DC were overseas
at that time – they had already gone to England. The other bands that were
around at the time were the support acts and they didn’t have costs that we had
and remained on a bit longer and some of them even got signed later on and
eventually became bigger bands in Australia.
if you were around in 1977 you’ll remember John Travolta….
Unfortunately I was around
back then and I do remember John Travolta! I’m suddenly feeling older…
Disco wiped the top bands out. I remember the record label rep telling us “Hey
guys, we’re in trouble and I don’t see any way out of it.”
It’s funny you’re saying all this
because at that very same time in England, Punk was exploding and heralding a
new age of Rock and the birth of Metal. From what you’re telling me, it seems
Punk wasn’t really felt in Australia, right?
That’s right. There were 1 or 2 Punk bands but the Punk scene wasn’t very big
here in Australia at the time. There’s not a lot of costs involved in Punk,
really. The stage act is really basic, for example. Just plug in and play. But
had pyrotechnics and all sorts of things that cost us money just to put on a
show. And we couldn’t just go and play in the local pub instead – everyone knew
us, we were regularly on TV. So we just broke up.
Earlier on you mentioned “Sinner” –
your first solo album. How did that materialise?
I had done an album called “Dave Evans And Thunder Down Under” in the 1980s.
Then in the 1990s Grunge music happened. For me the 90s were a non-event really,
as far as Rock music is concerned. So during that period I was working in the
advertising industry and doing some acting in a few films.
Around 2000 I went
to Germany and lived in Munich for a while. While there I worked with an AC/DC
tribute band called Overdose. Many people might not know this but
[while with AC/DC]
I sang on some early AC/DC songs such as ‘Can I Sit Next To You, Girl?’ and
‘Rock ‘n’ The Parlour’. For me Overdose was a great opportunity to get to go to
Europe. So they would do mostly the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson stuff and then I
would enter and sing the early songs including some AC/DC rarities. Anyway the
reviews were fantastic, the crowds loved it and everyone kept asking me “When
are you going to do your own material?”. And I would say I’ll think about it
when I go back to Australia.
Finally, when I
did go back to Australia, I gave Mark Tinson a call. He had already read the
reports of my European exploits. So the first thing he told me when I called him
was “When are we going to do the album, Dave?” I told him
“Funny you should ask because that’s the reason I called you.”
he suggested I go up to Newcastle, which I did. I already had some half-written
songs by then and when we got together we completed 18 songs. From those we
chose the best ones, then we entered a studio and put down an album which became
The album received a lot of critical praise. ‘Sold My Soul To Rock ‘n’ Roll’,
taken from that album, was nominated as the best Rock song by the Los Angeles
Music Awards in 2007.
Last year (2013) you did a
mini-tour of England. What made you want to travel half way round the globe to
do a handful of dates?
Well, I lived in Texas for about 6 years and recorded an album called “Revenge”,
which was released last year, with Texas legend and former Alice Cooper
guitarist John Nitzinger. John also did some famous Blues Rock records in the
early 1970s and played with well-known bands such as Bloodrock. He’s been around
for a long time, for sure.
But Europe is where Rock is, really, so after I recorded “Revenge” I got in
touch with Rocksector Records and they put out the album and I came over to play
in the UK. I’ve been working with a German label as well. It’s been great, they
love Rock over there and I’ll be going back to Europe again later this year.
That’s great news.
We tried to get a record deal in America but most labels just seem interested in
Rap and that kind of stuff nowadays. To sign with a major label you have to be a
band that has been around for 34 years and have a huge fanbase. And it’s the
same thing in Australia – the Rock scene and the labels just seem interested in
AC/DC, Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones. So since they can’t make a living with
original music, I’m seeing a lot of Rock musicians just playing in INXS tribute
bands or The Kinks tribute bands.
Luckily enough, they’re still interested in me because of my connections and
because I’ve been rocking for 40 years. I’ve just recorded a new EP, called
“Nothing To Prove”, which Rocksector Records wanted me to do. They gave me the
title and I wrote a few songs with the help of guitarist Chris Appleton.
Once you’re mentioning this EP, can
you describe the tracks in “Nothing To Prove”?
Well, it was recorded very quickly – I had less than a week to go before my tour
of England and Wales
finished, which was straight after some dates in Norway and Sweden. So in the
space of a few days Chris and I came up with 3 new songs. Then Rocksector also
wanted me to do ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.
I guess that song has a special
meaning for you as you were already singing that song when you were with AC/DC,
That’s right. It was one of the show-stoppers when I’d get Angus
up on my shoulders while he played the solo and I sang the chorus. And I’ve been
singing that song ever since at my own gigs. I was about to record that song
with the band….I had already put down quite a few tracks with AC/DC…such as
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer’, ‘Soulstripper’, ‘Little Lover’….then Bon Scott had
re-recorded them for AC/DC’s first album. I was about to do ‘Baby Please Don’t
Go’ when I split with the band and I never had another chance to record it. Of
course there are live recordings all over the place with me doing it. It was a
particular show-stopper during my UK tour as well.
I was very happy to put down ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ for posterity. At last,
after 40 years, I managed to record it.
You’ve been doing music for so many
years that the term ‘Heavy Metal’ didn’t even exist when you started out. Are
there any Metal bands you particularly enjoy listening to?
I’m not really into Heavy Metal to tell you the truth - I’m a Rocker, a Hard
Rocker. And that’s one of the reasons why it was interesting to work with Chris
Appleton. He’s also the lead singer and lead guitarist in British Metal band
Absolva. I had liked working with Texas guitarist John Nitzinger, putting my
Aussie Rock sound together with Johnny’s particular Blues Rock. So it was great
to work with a British musician after that. It was an interesting experience
that I enjoyed but Metal itself I’m really not into.
By the way, what is your opinion of
I’ve never met him really. He seems like a nice fella. He’s always smiling –
every photograph I’ve seen of him he seems to be having the time of his life.
He’s done very well for himself of course, he’s been with the band
for…around 33 years I think. 33 years is a long time and that’s a fantastic
achievement. Bon was with the band for 6 years and I was with the band for a
year. So he
can’t be doing anything wrong.
Are you still in touch with Angus,
Malcolm or George Young?
Not really but I’m very good friends with Malcolm’s son, Ross. He’s a big fan of
mine and calls himself Ross ‘Badass’ Young. We spent some time together over
Christmas and I took him around all the historical sights where myself and his
dad and the band had performed, where Angus has first worn his schoolboy
uniform, Chequers nightclub…..and he loved that. I even got him up on stage with
us. It was great to sing a song or 2 with him. So I performed with his dad and I
performed with Ross. He’s just gone back to England now but he speaks to his dad
about me. Malcolm’s not very well as you probably know so it’s nice to liaise
through Ross and Ross also speaks to me about his dad. He says his dad has got
nothing but respect for me, which is wonderful to hear. And Malcolm is very
happy for Ross to hang out with his ‘Uncle Dave’.
Dave Evans, what is your proudest
Well, a couple really. One is that I’m still going on after 40 years. My first
record with AC/DC was done in 1974 and my first gig with AC/DC was in 1973. The
fact that we were named as Best Australian Rock act of the year even though we
were a very young band – I’m very proud of that. Another is that ‘I Sold My Soul
For Rock ‘n’ Roll’, from my “Sinner” album, was nominated as Best Rock Song at
the Los Angeles Music Awards in 2007. Those are a few very proud moment s of my
life. I enjoyed performing at the famous Sydney Opera House with AC/DC. That was
But really the great reviews still keep coming in and you only have to check my
FaceBook page for comments I’ve been getting for “Revenge” and even for my new
EP “Nothing To Prove”. Even my performances have been getting great reviews. So
to have been doing it for so long and still getting that type of feedback is
something I’m really proud of.
Dave, it’s been a real pleasure
speaking to you. I hope to see you performing in Europe sometime later this
year. And I hope to hear a lot of new music from you in the near future.
Thank you very much for the interview. Good night from Australia!
And good morning from London!