But Dave Evans didn’t dwell on the past and the prolific singer songwriter is riding high on the back of his best solo record to date, Judgement Day.
Now the Aussie frontman is hitting the UK for a full headline tour with label mates Falling Red. We caught up with the Thunderer from Down Under.
rushonrock: In the last decade you’ve emerged as an accomplished solo artist but why did you shy away from releasing your own albums earlier in your career?
Dave Evans: That’s a fair enough question but I suppose the main reason was because I was always a songwriter within my former bands. That was enough for me for a while but in the end I wanted to have more control over my own career and direction. I didn’t want to deal with the politics anymore and I got to pick my own musicians. I got together with Mark Tinson who I’d played alongside in Rabbit and we both had a few songs tucked away here and there. I decided to do a Dave Evans album with Mark as my songwriting partner and it took off from there.
rushonrock: So are some of the songs which appear on your solo records decades old?
DE: I do hive songs away or at least the ideas for songs. Some of the songs I recorded for Sinner in 2006 I’d had knocking around for 15 years and as for Mark – he calls himself a riff master and he always has a hundred and one riffs going around in his head. By the time we got around to recording Judgement Day we’d exhausted a lot of the older ideas but Mark still had a whole load of riffs waiting to go. The song Ain’t Gonna Do You To Me Anymore was his idea and it’s killer riff. We went back to our roots on the latest album and it rocks. Unfortunately Mark won’t be touring with me – he’s a big shot producer these days who’s put on a little bit of weight and he’s not keen on jumping around on stage every night!
rushonrock: A couple of years ago you hooked up with some kids from Victoria for a series of gigs – what was that experience like?
DE: It came totally out of the blue but I’d headed back to Oz from my home in Dallas to perform at the Adelaide International Guitar Festival. While I was over there I got an email asking if I could work with some young musicians and whether it was possible to extend my stay. Aussie rock is an art form which must be kept alive and we helped to develop it in the 1970s – so the chance to encourage some young boys to keep the dream alive was too good to miss. I thought it was a great idea and I want the next generation to play, and be inspired by, the music we love for as long as possible. In the US it’s all Rap and Hip Hop and it’s a nightmare. Playing rock music isn’t just about the music – being in a successful band is also about discipline and hunger. You need to get into the right mindset and get into the zone and that’s what I taught those young guys too. I think I surprised the hell out of them and it came as a bit of a shock at first. But it’s not easy being a professional musician with egos and things like that. I learnt the hard way so that they didn’t have to.
rushonrock: In direct contrast to your old band mates the Young brothers you’ve bounced around a series of bands over the years. Has that been fulfilling?
DE: It has its ups and downs. And it’s always better when there’s a record contract involved! Some of those bands have been fantastic though – what a band Rabbit was! Those boys are still my mates now. And Thunder Down Under were a huge band while they lasted – we didn’t just have the guitars, the bass and the drums but we had brass and strings and the whole package! But it’s always a learning a process when you’re a musician and there comes a time when you just want some stability and the opportunity to get back to the basics. I’ve learned a little bit from AC/DC because they’ve never really changed and it hasn’t done them any harm. And that’s the music I love doing anyway and I can play it anywhere in the world and people will come out and listen. That kind of Aussie rock is evergreen.
rushonrock: Do you often wonder what might have been had you not left AC/Dc after a year?
DE: Sometimes. When Bon Scott came in after I split with the band they were still in their infancy. I can’t take credit for any of the songs of the success they had once I’d left. Bon wrote all of those classic songs and I just wouldn’t have written them that way. We were very different. But I’m a founding member of the biggest rock and roll band in the world and we had a hit record and it was a wonderful experience while it lasted. But it’s all credit to AC/DC that they’ve carried on and some of the stuff they’ve done with Brian (Johnson) has been brilliant. I love it.
rushonrock: Why did you split?
DE: Look, I was with the band from the first rehearsal through to the day we split – every day. But that was only a year or so and we had our differences even during that time. Bon was with the band for six years and Brian’s been there for 30 years – he’s still called the new singer but he’s the main man and he’s done fantastically well. It’s obvious he’s just the right personality and the right fit. I used to be mates with the Young brothers before we started the band and then I bunked with Malcolm – we were close. But the band was always a volatile thing in the early days. We were onto our third drummer, our third bass player and our third manager by the time things came to a head with me. A lot happened in a very short space of time and we were all very, very young. At the end of the day being in a band is all about everybody fitting with everybody else and AC/DC had their problems in that respect in the early days. Even the best of families can be the worst of enemies and that’s often the case with bands. In the end it was just a personality clash and Bon was already waiting in the wings. He was a lot older than the rest of us and was a stabilizing influence in many ways.
rushonrock: What do you remember about Bon Scott?
DE: I was just 15 or 16 when I first met him. And I was very surprised when he got the AC/DC gig – when you’re a teenager someone in his mid-20s is like your dad and he didn’t seem like the most obvious fit. But he knew what to do as a frontman. He was a very accomplished entertainer and also extremely talented. But the band he was in before AC/DC was completely different – they were a hippy-type band. The Valentines were real pop stars but Bon’s secret was that he was able to change with the times.
rushonrock: So how do you feel about AC/DC in 2010?
DE: They have their own style which they’ve always stayed true to and I admire that. In my opinion you have The Beatles first and foremost and then after that I think of bands like AC/DC and the Rolling Stones in terms of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time. AC/DC are a phenomenon.
rushonrock: And do you still keep in touch with the Young brothers?
DE: I haven’t seen them since the 70s, let alone spoken to them. We did a big concert in Melbourne – we were on the same bill and I saw them after that show. I have seen a couple of the other past members since then – I bumped into Colin Burgess in Sydney once.