Mark Evans: A Life of Rock and Roll by Kilian Duarte… Few people in this world are fortunate enough to say they have fulfilled their dreams of doing what they love to do for a living and having stories of their accomplishments and triumphs. Even fewer can say they can do that with music, and a near miniscule number can say they did it with one of the biggest bands of all time. Mark Evans is one of those few lucky people who can say they have been there and lived through all the stories. As the first “long-term” bassist for AC/DC (the band went through 5 bass players from 1973-1975) from 1975-1977, he was the low-end sound that propelled the Bon Scott era and was there during their rise to fame. Appearing on the classic albums T.N.T, High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There be Rock, and ’74 Jailbreak, his short tenure was also amazingly prolific and impactful to the bands legacy.
I had the privilege of having a nice hour-long conversation with Mark on the phone from his house in Australia. Having his morning coffee while I was eating dinner (massive time zone differences), we reflected on his career, future projects, AC/DC, and the experience of being on all different levels of the music industry. The oddly sheltering effect of fame, basses, amps, and the Aussie perspective on good rock and roll. A genuinely friendly and approachable guy, the first exchange we had summed it up after I called him “Mr. Evans”… “Please mate, call me Mark! Mr. Evans sounds like your talking to my dad!” In an honestly enviable and pretty bad-ass Australian accent.
Mark released his autobiography “Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC” this past December and is available online as well as major bookstores. Click here for a sample of Dirty Deeds
What in the past year led you to release your autobiography? What about this point in time felt right about having “Dirty Deeds” come out?
A couple of things came together leading to a couple of motivations. It felt like the right time in my life and one where I had been reflecting on my time in the band as well as my other projects. Another motivation was the amount of response I had gotten over the years from being in the band. People asking me questions all the time like, “What was Bon (Scott) like?” “What was it like to be in AC/DC?” which when people were polite and friendly I never minded answering. And at this stage in my life it felt appropriate to do an overview of my experiences.
How was the writing process for you? How did you approach it?
I found that writing a book is much like writing a song. You can’t do it routinely, at least not for me. A week would go by and I would not write anything. But then things that came from outside sources would inspire me. I would be outside working in the garden and then I would be inspired to write something down. I would then do very long stretches where I would be able to have great creative output, sometimes late into the night. It was an amazing experience… the whole thing… and another book is not out of the question.
For those who could only dream of it, and those who wish to have it happen to them one day… What is it like being in a band that is exploding in popularity, as was the case in your AC/DC tenure?
Well it’s interesting because you don’t really notice it all that much while it’s happening. When you’re in a band like AC/DC, especially in the early days, it’s usually the band along with the crew, which is a close-knit group of people. It’s only when you turn the TV on and you’re on there playing that you have those moments where it hits you. It also happens when you notice the places you are playing and the number of people coming to your shows. When we first started the band was playing small bars and clubs to 20-30 people. Then when we started getting played on the radio, things just exploded; Things moved very fast in that situation when you are in it, and your schedule fills up really really quickly. In retrospect it’s quite surreal how fast things move because that is what it is. You come home and all of a sudden you’re in the newspaper and your like, “What’s going on?!” I have seen a lot of people affected by it but it is a very odd situation. Surreal is the perfect word for it, you come home, turn the TV on and there you are.
What gear did you use during that era?
Originally I was using an Australian version of a valve SVT, a company based out of here. Loud amps were always necessary, as I had to cut through the wall of sound and Marshalls. I end up switching up to 5 Marshall 100-watt superbass heads. You had to keep it punchy and not overdrive it too much. Valve amps are my preference but they were heavy, especially when you got into the SVT 8×10 area. I use Gallien Krueger these days (4×10) and I find them to be the right level of warmth and punch. For basses I primarily used Fender Precisions, I have quite a few of those, my favorite being an Olympic White 66’ with a maple neck. Also I have owned a few Gibson basses over the year. I have an original 1964 Thunderbird as well and have gained a sizeable collection of various basses over the years.
What are some practical road tips for a bassist going on the road for the first time?
Always take pairs!! Things are going to break down. Hopefully if you’re going on the road try to bring another one of your own or borrow a second bass. Have a spare amp as well, especially if your using a valve based amp. It is a lot of extra things, but a lot of things may go wrong. Also, first and foremost be on time! If it’s a difference between being a half hour early or a half hour late, be there early and try and enjoy the time to set up and get everything going. The gig comes first, it’s why you’re in a band; the band comes first, that’s the main thing. Be prepared and know your stuff! Be prepared for things to go wrong in a gig because if not you will regret it and that is the pits!
As an Australian, do you believe there is a strong musical community that maybe people in America and Europe would be surprised to find as stronger and more diverse than maybe thought?
Well it’s hard for me to gauge what people in America might view the music culture here to be like. I can tell you though that there are a lot of great players and great bands. And when you think of the population, I think its just getting to 20 million now, and its size (as big as the US), there is a lot of output. And you see it from all over the spectrum from hard rock bands like AC/DC to softer acts like Air Supply and Savage Garden… it goes all over the place. The two strongest cultural forces in our country are probably music and sport. We are a very sports minded country but we take a lot of pride in our musical heritage and I personally am very proud of many of the bands that have come out of here.
You address this in the book, but what is a favorite moment (or moments) you had with Bon Scott?
When I think of Bon… It’s very difficult for me to think of just one moment to recall that’s my favorite. He was a really, really great guy and a very interesting person to know. But a great one I distinctly recall was the first time we were headlining in London. It was at this venue called the Hammersmith Odeon that is a great venue, a great indicator that you’re on your way. It’s a serious gig, we were getting ready to go on and Bon wasn’t there! It seems earlier in the day he had decided to take the subway to the gig and Bon being Bon, had had a few drinks beforehand so he was feeling a bit relaxed. Needless to say he got on the right train going the wrong way! He ended up not showing up until 15 minutes after we were supposed to be on stage. Normally in that situation your kind of like “What the Fuck!” but as an indicator of what kind of a guy he was, he showed up and in his own cordial way said, “I’m sorry guys lets go out there and play!” and we weren’t angry. We knew he would never do anything like that on purpose and that he was such a warm soul. You couldn’t get mad at him for more than a couple of minutes. Great singer. Great lyricist.
Any final advice for up-and-coming musicians?
Absolutely… Absolutely… One of the things I learned with AC/DC, in dealing with my relationship with the guys, is to stick with your instincts and your guns. Stick to what your band does well and don’t worry and obsess over things like what could get played on the radio, stick to what you do. Stick together as a band and try and tough it out, you have to commit to it and keep at it, committing to a direction as a band and don’t try and have a revolving line up. If you are trying to aim your direction with musical trends you’re already out of the game because those only last two or three years. By the time things get rolling it will be over and you wasted your time. Have integrity!