By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
For over thirty years, bassist Cliff Williams has been the anchor of one of the most successful bands in rock historyAC/DC. And if Cliff has it his way, he’ll do it for many more. And although AC/DChasn’t released a CD since Feb 29, 2000, when “Stiff Upper Lip” hit the shelves, the band is now more popular than ever before. AC/DC‘s biggest release “Black in Black” ,which was released in 1980, continues to sell and has sold over 42 million units worldwide.
And while AC/DC is on hiatus, Cliff Williams and AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson are currently playing a few gigs with the Classic Rock Cares charity project, which also includes all-star rockers Joe Lynn Turner and Steve Luongo, who played in The John Entwistle Band. The proceeds from the tour will go to the John Entwistle foundation, whose “primary mission is to help provide free music education and instruments for underprivileged children through the public library system.”
Please check out the site at www.johnentwistle.org .
What follows is an interview with one of my childhood rock heroes-Cliff Williams. In this discussion we talk about his involvement in Classic Rock Cares, the past and future of AC/DC and more. Honestly, I could have talked to Cliff for hours and I had a million more questions, but I didn’t want to take up too much of his precious time. But here’s what went down when I spoke with the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ bassist.
Cliff Williams, how are you today?
Doing good Thomas, how are you?
Great, I’ve been wanting to interview you since 1979, when I saw AC/DC open for UFO at Sheas in Buffalo.
Wow, yeah that was a long time ago.
Yeah, it was a great concert, I still think about it all of the time. Now, you are currently involved in the Classic Rock Cares charity project with Brian Johnson, Joe Lynn Turner and Steve Luongo of The John Entwistle Band. And you will be playing a few shows over the next month. Whose idea was it to hit the road with this band?
It was our idea, me and Steve Luongo, who heads up the John Entwistle Foundation. I met Steve at a hurricane relief event in Florida that Brian and I were doing a few months back. I’m sure you know, Tom that Florida got hit pretty hard a couple of years ago. We started playing together, we got some songs down and then I got Brian involved. We decided we want to try to raise some funds for the foundation and take it out on the road.
What can the fans expect to hear during these shows?
The can expect to hear a lot of AC/DC stuff and some original stuff as well.
Original stuff ??!!!
Yes, we already have a track that you can hear on www.johnentwistle.org For anyone that wants it. This is all for fun right now. That’s where it is right now. I don’t know where it may go, but we enjoy playing and I’m trying to keep the rust off until AC/DC gears up.
You have always kept a pretty low profile while on break from AC/DC, you must really believe in this charity to go out and tour in support of it.
You know, why not, it’s a great thing to do. It’s all good. And we get to play and raise a little money for the charity. And that’s great, I love that. But the main thing is that AC/DC has been off the charts for a little while and quite frankly when we get back together again, I want to know what end of a bass guitar I’m suppose to pick up first. I need to play and Brian needs to sing. What a great way to do it like this.
Have you ever consider putting out a solo CD during your down time?
No, I toyed with that idea twenty years ago, but that’s nothing that I want to do, not at all. I very happy with AC/DC, I’ve been with them for thirty years, that’s very fulfilling for me and I love when we get together and play. This side project is also a lot of fun and I’m enjoying it and that’s certainly enough for me.
You’ve establish yourself as one of the most influential bass players in rock, you’ve played on releases that sold millions of CD’s and are in one of the biggest rock bands ever. Is there anything else that you would still like to accomplish in your career that you haven’t?
Wow….I’m not chasing anything. I’m just enjoying playing and I’m happy that I still can. There’s no goal that I’m aiming to achieve at all. I’ve been very fortunate in my career and I’m still really enjoying it. So I guess if there anything that I still want to do, it’s doing what I do.
Being a huge fan of the “Highway To Hell” era of AC/DC, I need to ask this. What was that final tour like with Bon Scott and could you sense at that point that the band was going to exploded in popularity?
I guess we started to get a smell of it, but prior to ‘Black In Black’ exploding all over the planet, not really. You know that stuff kind of creeps up on you. You are just doing your day by day stuff and then you find out and all of a sudden bang. We kind of got a smell and then it just went nuts.
How did you first find out about Bon’s passing?
Phil Rudd called me and told me.
When was the last time you spoke to Bon?
Jeez….A couple days before…. We were in London at the time and getting ready to start working on a new album and we took a bit of a break.
Was any of the release that became “Back in Black” written before Bon passed away?
No, we just finished a tour and we were going to start writing.
I see. What is your favorite AC/DC record?
I would have to say ‘Powerage.’ That was the first one that I played on and it has some great songs on it. It was very important record for me. And of course I like “Back in Black” a lot too.
There are a lot of rumors about AC/DC putting out a new CD and touring in 2008. Is their any truth to that?
Nothing is set in concrete at all. I hear these rumors too. But when Malcolm and Angus are ready and they got all the stuff together, they will call us and we’ll get together and get it done. We never plan a head that far, except for when the guys are happy with what they have, then that’s when it rolls. And that can happen anytime. We’ve been doing this a long time, and its o.k. to take a break. But any rumors that you heard are just that.
When do you get that call, how long does it take to record the new material?
When we get together they have almost everything mapped out. At that point it’s just playing it and if we can add anything, we do