Mark Evans Discusses Life In and Out of AC/DC
Mark Evans was only 19 when he joined AC/DC and just 21 when he was fired. But his impact lives on in the band’s music over three decades later, and he’s enjoying life more than ever now.
He plays bass on five of the group’s classic albums (‘T.N.T,’ ‘High Voltage,’ ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,’ ‘Let There Be Rock’ and ”74 Jailbreak’), and he’s finally sharing the story of his brief but eventful tenure with the group, and his life since, with the book ‘Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside & Outside of AC/DC.’ We spoke to him — well, mostly listened, he’s quite a talker — about his life, and how he’d fare as a counselor to young rock bands:
One of the most surprising things about the book was how short the meeting was when you got fired – it seems like about 50 words were exchanged…
Yeah.. to this day I still scratch my head about it a little bit. What brought it to a head very quickly was just the time frame. The band always had an incredibly tight schedule. The work ethic of the band — at least while I was in it, and I can’t imagine it’s changed all that much — was always very very brisk, we were very busy guys. There was a lot of tension around the band at the time. We had just gone out in Europe to tour with Black Sabbath. Over the Christmas period, we learned that our record company didn’t think (AC/DC’s third 1976 album, not released in America until 1981) ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ was up to snuff, for various reasons.
It would be fun to hear the label justify that decision…
Well, it’s amazing now, due to circumstances (being released in America after Bon Scott‘s death) it’s the band’s highest-selling album that features Bon. Which is great for me, but it’s certainly odd. The information that got back to me — and not all that much filtered down to me and Phil at the bottom, that’s for sure — was that the label wasn’t particularly taken with the production, and certainly wasn’t that taken with the vocals. And to the point, of me being sacked from the band, when Angus and Malcolm called Michael Browning (AC/DC’s manager) to a meeting the night before I got sacked, Michael told me the next day he assumed it was going to be Bon who was fired. These days you look back, you think that’s preposterous.
You mention a couple of incidents where you and Angus butted heads, but was the firing still a surprise?
It was a shock, not necessarily so much a surprise. Personally it was tough. I think what hit me was not so much that I was out of the band, it was the personal things, you know, that affected me. The way it was abrupt, that’s the way the guys are — Angus and Malcolm. I don’t think it’s any real revelation that they can make some very strong and sudden decisions. At the end of the day, you’d have to stand back and say they made the right choice, to be honest. If I was the right guy, I’d still be in the band. There was also a definite amount of relief — ‘Phew, f—- thank Christ that’s over’ — it was a pressure-filled situation, and ultimately I would question whether I was cut out for it or not.
So have you enjoyed all the positive reaction (ours included) to the book so far?
It’s been out since the states in December, and here since August. It’s still selling very strongly here, and its going very well in the states. It’s been a real experience, actually. In the past, I’ve always been a little bit private, so it’s a bit of an unusual situation to be in, but the reaction is so amazing. People are so positive about the book, and how it’s landing with them is just great.
One thing that’s clear is that you don’t waste a lot of time wallowing in sorrow when life hands you a setback or a challenge.
Without getting too deep, there’s kind of a message in the book; you travel through life and you deal with what you face, you make the best of it you know. I read a lot of books, and I tend to read a lot of autobiographies because I’m interested to learn about people. I’ve learned from reading about other people and things that they’ve been through. You can probably learn more from an adverse situation than you do having an easy success. Not that you should seek out things that don’t go right, but you can go ‘at least I learned something.’
Did the book wind up the way you envisioned it?
When I first started the book, I knew the trail it would take. But it was interesting writing it, because your memories are always there, but you don’t go into them in detail. Just in going through a few things, particularly from my childhood, in particular losing my father when I was 12 — I sort of relived the last few hours of his life. I expected it would be difficult, but I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was writing about it. Still, the whole process has been very beneficial. I think it’s a good thing to get all your ducks in a row, so to speak.
When you see bands fighting now, do you chuckle? Ever think of being a counselor?
That’s interesting that you mention that to me. I’m surprised in the way with some bands, how they have sort of the intra-bands feuds or whatever, how ready that are to let that sort of thing out in public. I’ve got a couple of good mates in Metallica — Lars and Kirk — and that documentary they made (2004’s bizarrely revealing ‘Some Kind of Monster‘), that made my skin crawl. I don’t know if I’d like to parachute into the middle of that one!
So we know you’ve made a successful career in collecting and dealing vintage guitars, and in recent years you’ve resumed playing live concerts…
Well me and Dave Tice, we’ve got a acoustic blues-roots CD out, ‘Brothers in Arms.’ We’re just writing a new CD now, we’re pretty full on, we’re constantly gigging. I’m getting back on playing bass again, too, which is good, with a band called the Dinosaurs — it’s a couple of guys, who have been through the Alberts building. Interestingly enough, it looks like we’re going to be recording for Alberts – so we’re going back to square one (Angus and Malcolm Young’s brother, George, produced many of AC/DCs early records). You can check out my website, MarkEvansBlues.com, there’s a whole bunch of archival AC/DC stuff on there, you can get signed copies of the book. The name is actually for my football team, not the music – they’re my favorite team.