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HARD ROCK MAG - HS2 - December '96

Interview with Cliff Williams

CLIFF WILLIAMS : THE COOL POWER

HRM : How did you feel Phil's come back ?

Cliff Williams : Really fine. I love to play with Phil. The two drummers that took his place when he leaved us in 1983 were good musicians but, with them, we just tried to remake Phil's game. Simon Wright replaced Phil after Flick of the switch's recording session and was himself replaced by Chris Slade - who's an amazing musician - but none of them has really been able to make us forget "the really one". There's just one Phil Rudd.

HRM : What was the difference between them about the groove ?

Cliff Williams : Phil is really THE groove. His play is simple, like mine, still being strong and fiable. Chris Slade was more a technician, kid of "studio shark". Simon, he... knew every song ! (laught) His play was simple too, but he wasn't Phil Rudd. Phil's play is exactly what we need. Moreover, he's got this sixth sens, a natural feeling.

HRM : Ballbreaker has got a song that can make remember, by some ways, some of AC/DC 70's albums.

Cliff Williams : We wanted to do a good album... and that's what we did. Now we've found our rythmical section from our begining back, AC/DC re-is a real group. Indeed, the making of the album was really hard. We started to record to the Record Plant Studios, in New York, but we didn't enjoy the song we had. Many musicians told us : "It's an excellent studio to record drums parts." But we tried the drums in each of the rooms of those studios and haven't been able to have a descent sound. So, we fixed carpets on the walls, we put a tent onto the kit too, to obtain a more live song. Result, we loose two month by turning around. The only positive thing, is that we knew perfectly every new song. Then, we choose the Ocean Way studios in Los Angeles.

HRM : Is AC/DC live song so hard to put on the tapes ?

Cliff Williams : Not exactly. We've always recorded live, playing all four of us, together. As time gone by, we tried to record with a click but, with Phil, it's totaly useless. We record basic tracks, tracks bones, then Angus adds his guitar parts. For Ballbreaker, we put every speakers in different rooms. Malcolm, Angus and me played in a small room with glasses, to enable ourselves to see Phil, that was still in the main room.

HRM : Is it that important to keep an eye on Phil ?

Cliff Williams : Yeah, I've got to be able to see him constantly because I've got to know when Phil will hit his cymbals, or we'll loose control.

HRM : Did you keep the firsts takes ?

Cliff Williams : Maybe. Rick Rubin made us record every track about fifty times each to obtain the good dynamics and we kept those who got the best feelings. Sometimes, when we head the whole tracks, our opinion changed totaly. It was a bit dissapointing and I thought we'd loose the sacred fire by playing all of those tracks again and again.

HRM : Do Angus and Malcolm write the main of the tracks ?

Cliff Williams : Yeah, they come on the studios with lots of cassettes with many riffs we listen to one by one. Most part of the time, they know exactly what they want to have finaly and we do everything to go that way. About my bass parts, they usualy have got an idea of what they want me to do. Or they already have written a bass line that I try to play my best. Or I write myself this line basing upon what is done, drums, guitars... I give'em what they want (...). I don't have any problem doing this, because I enjoy playing simply. I never feel angry or prisoner.

HRM : From years, you wear, on stage, something on your right arm and your fingers are full of sparadraps. Is it that dangerous ?

Cliff Williams : No, it's only because I'm a poser ! (laught) I protect my right hand because my guitar hurt my fingers. My index ongle jumps everytime ! About my bandage on my arm, it's due to a cicatrice I've had when I was young. Just there, my skin is fragile and usualy go away. Wearing a bandage avoid me to hurt it.

HRM : By the way, how did you join AC/DC ?

Cliff Williams : I've had a call from a friend that told me that AC/DC was looking for a bassist and my name was on the list. They weren't satisfied about their curent one (NB: Mark Evans) and the boys in the group thought they'd have more luck to find the man they wanted in England that in Australia because it was an huger vivier. I've had an audition in Victoria, in a tiny repetition room. The first tracks I played with'em were "Live wire", "Problem Child" and if I remember, some old family blues. The band's manager told me after time I had the job. The idea was that I left London to go to Australia, because we were sensed to prepare the recording of Powerage, but the australian immigration service wasn't really good with me. In fact, the guy who had my folder told me : "I don't know why an English has the job. An Australian one would have done it really fine." I answered : "You fool, you could make me loose my job !" So, I had many problems, but finaly I've been able to go to Australia where we've recorded the album.

HRM : By the way, what's the song you rather like to play live in this Ballbreaker tour ?

Cliff Williams : "Down payment blues", because it's incredibly simple. In fact, I only play four notes on the whole song, but I've got a crazy fun.

HRM : Some people says that this Ballbreaker tour would be the last one.

Cliff Williams : No ! A long as public will want us and we'll be able to be good, there's no reason to stop. AC/DC is the best thing that ever happened to me, so I hope of all my heart we'll continue. And, concerts are goods, the kids have fun. We don't pretend to give something deep and intellectual. Just a good rock'n'roll !