AC/DC drummer Chris Slade has opened up about the band parting ways with Brian Johnson in 2016 due to the singer’s struggle with hearing loss.
In a recent interview with Vinyl Writer Music, Slade was asked how the band came to the decision to hire Axl Rose as Johnson’s replacement after he had made the decision to exit the band temporarily as recommended by his doctor.
“Yeah. Well, for me, it was quite a long time,” Slade began.
“Me and my Mrs. had to spend a lot of time in Miami, Florida. Towards that break, which ended in Florida, Brian was really unhappy with what he was doing.
“And I could hear him perfectly; I was using in-ears and I could hear the band, and him, perfectly. To me, it didn’t sound as bad as he thought it was. I kept saying to him, ‘Brian, you’re doing fine.’ But he didn’t like it.
“I don’t know the circumstances, but all I knew is that Tim the tour manager said, ‘Brian’s not here anymore. We just gotta hang around.’ I went, ‘Oh, OK.’ It took some time; maybe a month or more. Then we went to Atlanta, GA and there was some auditions.
Slade continued: “I said to Dick Jones, ‘What’s tomorrow? Is it a day off?’ He said, ‘No. It’s Axl Rose tomorrow.’ I went, ‘What!?’ I couldn’t believe it; I heard all the stories about Axl.
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“The next day, there he is. I shook his hand and thought, ‘This guy’s not bad at all,’ and he was telling jokes. And then he sang and I didn’t know he had that voice.
“I really had no idea he could sing like that. It was tremendous from the start. Within the next day, he was in the band.”
In October last year, Brian Johnson detailed the health issues that forced him to take a hiatus from AC/DC.
“It was pretty serious,” Johnson admitted. “I couldn’t hear the tone of the guitars at all. It was a horrible kind of deafness.”
“I was literally getting by on muscle memory and mouth shapes,” he explained. “I was starting to really feel bad about the performances in front of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling. There’s nothing worse than standing there and not being sure.”
The band attempted to soldier through the remaining shows of the tour. However, Brian Johnson’s doctors intervened, emphasising that continuing to tour could result in permanent deafness.
“Cliff and Angus didn’t want to be responsible for me damaging my ears any further. … Shit happens. At least it wasn’t terminal,” Johnson explained.
AC/DC have since welcomed back Johnson, with the Aussie rockers recently releasing a new album out titled PWR/UP.
For more on this topic, head over to the Classic Rock Observer.