Angus Young of ACDC discusses his classic Gibson SG Guitars and other gear with Steven Rosen - rock journalist.
Steven Rosen: Maybe more than any other guitarist ever, you’re inextricably linked to the Gibson SG? What was the evolution that brought you to this particular instrument?
Angus young: I started playing on banjos and re-strung them up with six strings. [But] an acoustic guitar, an old bang up little ten-dollar job, that was probably the first thing I started playing on. Me brother Malcolm got a Hofner off of one of me other brothers and he got a Gretsch and passed the Hofner on to me after much squabbling.
It was semi-acoustic and had all been packed with cotton. But I never used to really take it as a serious thing; I just used to fool around with it. When I was about 14 was when I really started playing it seriously. I got an amplifier for about sixty bucks that used to distort all the time. It was a Phi-Sonic. After that I got out and got a Gibson SG that I played until it got wood rot because so much sweat and water got into it. The whole neck warped. I bought it second-hand, it was about a ’67. It had a real thin neck, really slim, like a Custom neck. It was dark brown. After about a year, you lose about half the power in the pickups so you either get them re-wired or put new ones in. Just ordinary Gibsons.
Did these early instruments still have that tremolo arm attached?
They did but I took it off. I used to fool around with them but you begin sounding like Hank Marvin.
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And why did you remain loyal to the Gibson SG standard guitar for the remainder of your career?
It was light [weight-wise]. I’d tried the other ones, Fenders, but you’ve really got to do a number on ‘em. They’re great for feel but the wiring just doesn’t got the balls. And I don’t like putting those DiMarzios and everything because everyone sounds the same. All the other sort of Gibsons I tried like the Les Paul was too heavy. Hip displacement.
When I first started playing with the Gibson SG there was nothing to think about. I don’t know how this came about but I think I had a lot thinner neck. Someone once said to me they [Gibson] make two sized necks, one was 1 ½ and one was 1 ¼ and this was like 1 ¼, thin all the way up. Even now I still look all over and I still haven’t found one; I’ve been to a hundred guitar shops and I found the same guitar [model] but with different necks.
Steven Rosen: Did you ever experiment with the Gibson SG when they were called Les Pauls [Eric Clapton’s graphically appointed Cream-era guitar is probably the most famous representative of this model]?
Angus young: Yeah, I had a really old one I bought, a 1962. But it had a very fat neck; it was good to play but it felt heavier than all the other ones. That’s why I stopped using it. And when you’re running around a lot, it weighs you down.
Steven Rosen: So from High Voltage on it’s always been the SG. Have you ever tried using more modern types of instruments?
Yeah, I tried a Hamer but I wouldn’t buy an expensive guitar – especially in my case. It’s always getting beaten around. With the SG, you can do plenty of tricks with them.
Steven Rosen: And you’ve been faithful to Marshall amplifiers as well?
Ever since I’ve been in this band I’ve been using Marshalls. I’ve tried Ampeg and they weren’t too good for the sound I wanted.
On stage I have four stacks going, all hooked up with splitter boxes. 100-watt stacks … it’s good for your eardrums. I use a real lot of volume, I turn that up; I turn the treble and bass on about half and middle, the same. I don’t use any presence. If I don’t think it’s putting out enough top, I will kick up the presence.
With Marshalls, if you’re using a fair bit of volume, if you whack the treble and bass at half, that’s where they’re working. We get them from the factory, that’s what we do. We go down there and try them out and fool around with amps and tell them what we want and they doctor them up. At the moment, they’re all back to the old style of Marshalls, they’re very clean. They don’t have these master or preamp settings.
Steven Rosen: You have entered the modern age of electronics in your use of a wireless system.
Yeah, I use the Schaffer-Vega. I’ve been using that since ’77. On the receiver you’ve got like a monitor switch you can boost the signal and in the transmitter you’ve got the same sort of thing. You can really give a guitar hell with ‘em. I have used the remote in the studio and it worked really good.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a wah-wah or a fuzz box. It’s just the guitar and the amp and if I need anything, if someone says they want a different approach to the sound, then I’ll get it with the guitar.