Interviews

Sylvie Simmons, rock writer, journalist for H2ACDC.COM

02_sylvie.jpg

How did you become involved in the music business ?

I've been obsesssed with music forever. Same with writing. I had no idea that I would spend my life writing about music, but that's what I decided I would do.

Formal training ? Mentors ?

No training. It's funny, at MOJO - which I've been writing for since the first issue and is still my favourite magazine - we often got letters from media studies and journalism students asking to be interns (a short word for slavery) as part of their college course requirements. Those letters went to the bottom of the pile. Rock writing isn't about learning things from a professor, it's about emotion and experience. And there's no greater experience than living a life in music. Mentors? No. There were very few women rock writers when I started - VERY few in Britain, where I'm from - and they were too busy trying not to 'make waves' that I don't think they would have been much help.

When did you meet the band for the first time ?

The first thing I heard was Bon Scott's voice, on the telephone. It was 1976 I think, and I had a job writing about pop music for a teen magazine (this is where they put female writers back then!). There was a double-page feature in the magazine which was designed like its own mini newspaper, in which I could write about any artists I liked, so long as most of them were pop stars (like David Cassidy or the Bay City Rollers!) . One time I put in a large picture of Bon Scott, shirtless, on-stage, and wrote a few words about this brilliant new band called AC/DC.

Bon was so surprised when he saw it, he called the magazine and asked to speak to me. I remember he was laughing, telling me I was crazy and that he was going to send me flowers. I can't remember if he sent them or not.

What did you instantaneously think about ACDC when you saw them live for the first time ?01.jpg

A year after that last episode, I moved to L.A. I knew there was no way I could be taken seriously as a rock writer in Britain, and I thought it might work better there. Within weeks I was made correspondent of Sounds, one of the four weekly music papers that came out in Britain at the time.

They let me write about pretty much anything I wanted. So when I saw AC/DC were playing at the Whisky A GoGo on the Sunset Strip (1) - the tiny legendary rock club where in the '60s bands like the Doors, Byrds and Buffalo Springfield played - I went and covered that. It was the first time I'd seen them live, and it was explosive. So much musical power and personal electricity, humour and drive, on this small, plain stage in this small dark room was mind-blowing.

Who was Bon Scott behind the stage? Can you tell us a bit about the man ? And about Angus ?

Bon Scott had no 'front'. What you saw onstage was what he was offstage; how he came across in his songs was how he came across in person. As Angus said, in his understated Aussie-British way, Bon was "very lively". In other words, always getting up to something. He liked to drink, he liked women, and if he could have both at the same time he had a grin on his face wider than Holland. The first time I actually met him, I was on the roof terrace of the Hyatt House Hotel on Sunset Boulevard - it was nighttime, probably after their show, I don't remember - sitting with Angus and Malcolm, and Bon arrived, clutching a bottle of liquor in each hand, and with one arm around one big-breasted blonde and the other arm around someone who could have been her twin. Angus loved Bon, but in personality he was much different. He wasn't serious exactly - he had a great sense of humour but it was more quiet humour, very dry. And I never saw Angus touch alcohol - or a groupie.

Everyone remember your ACDC lead story in Sounds...

Merci !

Which is the role of Malcolm within the band ? Bon himself said he was the brain...

I always liked talking to Malcolm. He shared a lot of his brother's personality traits - the dry, self-deprecating humour for example - though there was a little of Bon in him too. But he was also the best at articulating the band's musical vision. I don't know if he was "the brain" of the band, but he was certainly the best at explaining what the band was all about.

On a human side, can you still differenciate AC/DC from other bands you have met over the years ?

Oh yes. All you have to do is stand AC/DC alongside some of the other big rock bands that followed, and you can see the difference immediately. Let's just try a few at random: AC/DC and Motley Crue, AC/DC and Guns N'Roses, AC/DC and Nirvana. A whole personal different attitude to life and music. From my experience they've never really changed, even with a different frontman. The only change is that the venues have got bigger.

The band members are known to be very accessible and friendly...

Not accessible exactly - at the age they are now they like their private lives - but friendly definitely.

In your opinion, what ACDC bring to the rock music that was not existing at this time ?

They took out the pretension that had taken over rock music, brought back the guts, blood and balls of rock n roll, squeezed it through an amplifier turned up to levels you never thought possible, and added a very much needed sense of humour

Can we consider AC/DC gave Hard Rock music a second life?

I don't think they would have thought of it that way. They think of themselves more as a rock n roll band than a hard rock band, and I tend to agree.

How did you react to Bon's death?

Shock. He seemed indestructible. And it was so hard to believe that someone so full of life could stop living just like that.

What did you think of Brian's choice at this time ? And today ?

I hadn't met Brian or heard him sing until I was sent my advance copy of Back In Black. What a brilliant album. Everything about it sent chills down my spine. If you've got to introduce a new singer, there could be no better way of doing it. I thought he was a brilliant choice and still do. He's as down-to-earth as Bon was and fits with the band like he was always there.

What is your top 3 AC/DC album ? Why ?

In chronological order: "Let There Be Rock" - what brilliant songs - Whole Lotta Rosie, Problem Child - and played with the kind of raw power that made even the punk movement treat them with respect. "Highway To Hell" - Bon Scott's last album was a masterpiece. The ultimate party album, with a title track that's one of the greatest rock anthems of all time. "Back In Black" - You Shook Me All Night Long, Hell's Bells - the voice is so different but the effect is just as powerful. It's a lethal combination of wild, barely-suppressed emotion at the loss of Bon, and determination to carry on.

Sylvie would you offer us the publication of one of your unseen personal picture with the band ?

Sorry, I don't have pictures of myself with the band. But if you want to see pictures of me without the band there's some on my website www.sylviesimmons.com There's also a link to the epic piece I wrote on AC/DC for MOJO. I don't think I've had any messages from AC/ DC fans in my guest book, so feel free to leave one and say hello!

Do you have any particular message for French fans from www.highwaytoacdc.com ?

I can only borrow from the best - AC/DC - and say, "I salute you". Or should that be "salut" you?! Thanks for having me on your great website. Bises, Sylvie.

(1) : August 29, 30 et 31 1977
AC/DC interview by Sylvoe from her website