In a face-to-face chat with frontman Brian Johnson he was told that the Geordie singer favours Man Down as the new record’s title – in recognition of sidelined founder member Malcolm Young.
Here Johnson talks music, cars, honorary degrees and more…
AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson is in bullish mood despite wrapping up the band’s brand new album without band-mate Malcolm Young.
The Geordie singer returned to Newcastle earlier today to receive his honorary doctorate in music from Northumbria University.
And in an exclusive interview with RUSHONROCK Editor Simon Rushworth he revealed the follow-up to Black Ice is done and dusted.
“It was brilliant over in Vancouver making the new record,” said the 66-year-old. “We’re done. I’m very excited and we’ve got some great songs. We miss Malcolm, obviously.
“But he’s a fighter. He’s in hospital but he’s a fighter. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again. Stevie (Malcolm’s nephew) was magnificent in his stead but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well it’s difficult.
“I’m sure he was rooting for us the whole time we were over there. He’s such a strong man. He’s a small guy but he’s very strong. He’s proud and he’s very private so we can’t say too much. But fingers crossed.
“I wanted to call the album Man Down. But it’s a bit negative and it was probably just straight from the heart. I like that title though.”
Speaking to a congregation of new graduates at Northumbria University Johnson confessed he almost crashed one of his favourite sports cars worrying about how he would address a packed audience of students and their family and friends.
Admitting it was far more nerve-wracking than performing in front of thousands of screaming rock fans he added: “On Sunday I was so worried about what I was going to say to everyone.
“It was 1am, the rain was pouring down and I was driving a Porsche at 175mph around one of the most terrifying circuits in the world in the Le Mans Classic.
“But all I could think about was what I could and should say to everyone at Northumbria University. Down the main straight all I had in my head was how to start my speech!
“But of course this day is really about all of the students graduating this week and their proud family and friends. It’s about all of those wonderful people who seem so happy.
“It’s such a big day for everyone and what I want to say to all of the students is that you’ve got a long road ahead. Enjoy the ride!”
Students may well have enjoyed their time in Johnson’s company but the Newcastle United-daft football fan suggested there will be no swift return to the Toon.
Pressed on AC/DC’s 40th anniversary world tour he revealed plans to play Wembley Stadium and Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
But Johnson admitted it was ‘unlikely’ he’ll be playing Newcastle anytime soon with the proud Geordie still smarting at the fact that his band failed to sell out the city’s arena on their last trip to Tyneside in the mid 90s.
The motorsport fanatic heads down to Cheshire’s Oulton Park circuit on Thursday to quench his thirst for speed before returning home to Florida.
And he will be flying after claiming first in class at last weekend’s Le Mans Classic endurance sportscar event in France.
Johnson – who hosts hit TV show Cars That Rock – added: “It was terrifying to begin with as I’d never driven Le Mans.
“It’s 8.2 miles round the track and it’s terrifying as you’re going through the woods and then you come back into the stadium section and you have some of the best drivers in the world.
“I was thinking ‘I’m out of my depth here with some of these lads’. But my team and co-drivers were just wonderful and they settled me down.
“They showed me the tricks for the different corners and we suddenly started to pull away. We won the class and it was really down to tyres in the end.
“We had slicks on when everyone else had wets on. It didn’t rain as badly as people thought it might do and we made time up. It was incredible.”
Johnson has celebrated his honorary degree by splashing out on personalised number plates to adorn three of the rides in his classic car collection.
He added: “When I get back to America I’m going to make a really big deal out of this.
“In a not so subtle way I’ll be adding the number plates ROC DOC1, ROC DOC2 and ROC DOC3 to three of my cars.
“That’s how proud I am of this honour.”
Northumbria University have honoured a number of North East celebrities in the past including Johnson’s big mate and fellow musician Sting.
And Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University, said: “It is fitting that we honour one of the most distinctive voices in rock music, who is also a native of the North East.
“Northumbria University has a strong tradition of partnership working in the region’s cultural and creative sectors, and our Students’ Union has long been a focus for key bands who have gone on to achieve worldwide success.
“It is interesting to reflect on the importance of culture to collective life of the North East and of the cultural industries as a major UK export: Brian Johnson symbolises both of these things and, moreover, has been an inspiration to generations of young musicians over several decades.”
Exclusive Image By John Burrows @ishootgigs