After doing Riff Raff, I wanted to embark into something seemingly simpler (seemingly!). So I chose another one I knew already, at least in part (every time I approach these fine songs, I find some difference to what I used to think/know).
The microphone used in this album (Powerage) – or the microphones – was a Neumann U47 FET, a different microphone to the Neumann U47 tube version, which is older than the FET design.
The FET design came into place after Neumann couldn’t source anymore (in good quantities) the VF14 valves (tubes) needed for the original U47.
Since I don’t have a U47 FET – and I don’t intend on getting one for now – I used the closest thing (in my mind) that I could use: its former self.
The two microphones are said to be slightly different, but I do not know in what they differ, frequency response wise. Eventually, will look for the charts.
Bon was also a user of the U47 FET for vocals, and I think he sang thru’ a U47 FET here.
While Mark Opitz – sound engineer for this album – talks about two microphones, the “AC/DC in the studio” interview talks about one microphone per cabinet. That’s what I used.
The final position is what you see on video, nothing really complex, a 3 inch distance from the outer right bottom cone, towards the outer part of the cabinet. I always use the bottom cones, especially on the slanted cabinets. I had tried the top ones, but they give a “funky” strange response, you can hear a lot more the room and I didn’t want them. Better a straight position as on the bottom ones.
The sound of the guitars on this album is rather bright – especially on the rhythm ones – so I did slightly put some center cone as well in it.
Additionally, it is my strong belief that the whole album was recorded solely with Marshall 2203s, which is what I have done as well.
Now, the real news for us here could be the fact that I used 1979 Celestions G12-65s here. It was a much better instant match than the Celestions G12Ms (note of June 2014: I think it was a proven fact that the whole album was played on G12Ms, not G12-65s – I was wrong here).
The cabinet I used here is a “new” entry for me. It is an original, near minty 1979 slanted cabinet of the period loaded with them Celestions G12-65. It was acquired on ebay, from a disabled guy names “Philippe” and solely thanks to the help of brother/member Rob Taylor, who has completely managed from within the UK the pickup and shipping process. Philippe – being disabled – wouldn’t do anything but open the door at the carrier door buzz for pickup. Thank you once again, Rob! Additionally, the ebay link was proposed to me by brother/member SGAce – George – who has also had his wife give birth to two wonderful twins. Thanks to you and Congratulations, George 🙂
I did try it on a few Powerage songs (Angus’ parts only), and I came to the conclusion that Angus used exclusively Celestions G12-65s also on Powerage (as well as on Back in Black, that is) (note: you’re so wrong again, Fil!).
Therefore, I am going to draw a temporary conclusion here, which I have already shared with brother Franz (Banane) and to which he agreed (he was actually of the same idea, too): Angus used almost only G12-65s from 1978 (inception date) on for a good number of years. He must have liked them a lot better than the G12Ms.
The G12-65s sound a lot like G12Ms, but they give different things, too. Less bass and more tight; treble are “harder” sounding but not harsh; really, tougher I would say. Mids maybe are less prominent, more controlled. Very fascinating. Will experiment some on Highway to Hell as well. Generally speaking, find the G12-65s more controlled.
I am rather certain Angus did use extensively the G12-65s in that era: if you have some, or can (and want to) find some or even use those on amplifier emulators (in place of the G12Ms) use them as much as you can, record yourself and report back: we are very curious here of your own results!
I wanted to use the Schaffer-Vega here, so I am telling you that I tried it here just for kicks; imagine my surprise when I (think I) found out that it was actually played entirely with the SVDS system? This is one of the few songs AC/DC did (in the studio) where Angus continued on with the solo while playing live with the band (or so it would seem; Powerage was a very much post-processed album as well, where a lot of editing went on after recording). It seems to be a whole take, rhythm and solo, no overdubs. It seems to be; things might have been different and maybe they made it sound like it was a whole take but it wasn’t. We don’t know for certain yet.
It was an instant match – at least it was to my ears – the rhythm came out nicely immediately on the SVDS. I think I hear the sound of the SVDS on rhythm as well (definitely so on the solo). Angus may have used the guitar volume rolled off to 8-ish for the rhythm, and fully open for the solo. I do hear the compression of the SVDS on both takes (rhtyhm/solo).
Very surprising for me. So, you are reading this right: I think this was one of those songs done in the studio where the SVDS was used for both parts: rhythm and solo!
Someone has written somewhere that they couldn’t get quite the same sound (without the SVDS). It either sounds too thin or thick (on a 2203, I suppose, which was the one used) and additionally, during the chorus, the 3 chords (flat D, B and A) won’t crunch enough if the guitar is too clean; but then, if you make those chords crunch, the riff will sound too crunchy, while it does sound rather clean on the song, for Angus’ part). I truly believe this was in fact the effect of the SVDS. With the SVDS, it does come out effortlessly clean or crunchy depending on how you roll off the volume and hit the strings.
So this is another big plus/demonstration that SVDS may have been used on the entire take?
There are currently still doubts on how exactly the main riff was played; if on the first fretboard positions or how Angus played it on the now well known VH1 take (upper on the fretboard). I tend to think – just how member Hagus Young pointed out in the comments – that it was played on the higher fretboard positions but only on two strings (G and B). I did play instead also the D string, fretting an entire 3 strings chord; this obliged me to strike the strings with up-strokes instead of with downstrokes like Angus does on such live video (VH1). I needed in fact to give the thinner strings more accent to put them in evidence against the D fretted string notes. I may retry to get this done right.
While I though it was going to be a piece of cake for me – naive me! – it was instead the usual tougher than expected. Angus timing is freaking nice, he always puts those riff chords laid down slightly after the drums, what a great freaking groove. Took me quite a while to enter that groove myself, dancing a bit to it as you usually see me do. I simply will NOT get it done right if I don’t move to it. Sigh. This teaches me once again that this band earlier work has always have to be approached with tight concentration. Wow.
You can actually hear Angus’ guitar spilling over into Malcolm’s guitar microphone really clearly. In fact, if you – like me – pan all the way to the left and then, “mono” Malcolm left channel to the centre, you clearly still hear Angus. Which was useful to me to play to Angus’ timing while playing myself. You literally have to keep your timing to match Angus’ strikes or it will sound horrible, with your guitar coming earlier or later than Angus’, having the song lose a lot of its original appeal.
Same goes for the solo. It’s an easy one, right? It’s a slow one, so it’s easy. Fuck no. Also the notes were slightly (fairly) different to what I used to play in my older video(s). I had to re-learn it. There is a plucked part in the beginning, if you listen carefully you’ll hear it.
PS Quickly linking this older tutorial here for now. Watch it fully, don’t stop at the first minutes; I did cover here both ways of doing the riff. The one I used in this recent video is covered later on in the tutorial. Solo is partly wrong (as tutored). This latest re-cover of it is more accurate.