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Interview: JAMES MORLEY (Bon But Not Forgotten)

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James Morley

Photo:  © Chelle Carr, Rock Shots Photography

 

Bon But Not Forgotten pays homage to one of the greatest front men of rock, the late Bon Scott. Featuring a set list of songs that pay tribute to the much-loved former lead singer of one of the world’s biggest and most popular bands, Bon But Not Forgotten promises a night of High Voltage rock ‘n’ roll to satisfy any AC/DC fan’s hunger.

I caught up with James Morley who is responsible for putting the show together. As James recalls, “I was a massive AC/DC fan and got to know Mark Evans and Simon Wright along the way and so I kept in touch with those guys a lot over time. If we were going to do something for Bon, it would have to be pretty special so I thought, there’s nothing more special than having a couple of guys that actually played in the band and they thought it would be a great idea. More than anything, it would be a bit of fun, so I put it together and for the first one, I think we had Dave Gleeson from the Screaming Jets singing and Skenie was singing on that first one as well. It just grew every year and we kept it going, mainly over in W.A. and places like Adelaide but this year is, I guess, the biggest one so far and it’s got to the stage now where we’ve been approached to do some stuff internationally so we’ve decided to go to Europe and we’ve got some interest in South America so there’s lots of things happening for next year.”

While the Bon But Not Forgotten band focuses on Bon’s music, the later years of AC/DC are also represented by the support bands in the Melbourne, Perth and Sydney shows. “We’ve got a couple of local bands and they’re doing the ‘Back in Black’ album from start to finish to start the night off. ‘Back in Black’ was a kind of an ode to Bon from AC/DC so it fits in with what we are doing. So, while there is going to be a Brian Johnson element to the show, as for our lineup, we’re basically paying tribute to Bon, not only with the classic stuff but with some more obscure stuff as well.”

And joining James in that lineup will be Skenie (The Poor) on vocals, Mark Evans on bass, Simon Wright on drums. Both Mark and Simon were, of course, members of AC/DC; Filippo Olivero is on guitar and, according to James, he ‘made it his life’s mission’ to find the tone that was Angus Young’s unmistakable sound of AC/DC. As James says, “He knows every solo back to front, upwards and downwards. He just gets the whole AC/DC thing.”

Having two former members of the band, and a guitarist who so perfectly emulates the sound of Angus Young, certainly adds some authenticity to the show. “Absolutely,” agrees James. “And that’s the main thing for me. I get to play the Malcolm Young part and Malcolm has been my musical hero for most of my life so I resonate with his style of playing which feels very natural to me and I’m getting Malcolm’s sound as well. The thing about AC/DC is not just the way they play together but the sound that they’ve got so if you can replicate that without forcing that replication, that’s what we’ve got. That’s how we play. I play like Malcolm. That’s my natural feel and having Simon and Mark who were in the band, you just have to close your eyes and it sounds like AC/DC which is a special thing to have.  But I think we are channelling AC/DC more than copying them. I think that’s the difference.”

James never had the opportunity to meet Bon but came very close to seeing what would have been Bon’s last performance.  As he recalls, “I was to go to a gig in Southampton in late ‘79 but that show was cancelled and they rescheduled it and I couldn’t go to that rescheduled show. That turned out to be the last live concert that Bon ever did.”

“When I first heard them in England, I was not a drummer but I guess I was an ‘air’ drummer. I’d sit there with knitting needles and watch Phil Rudd on different videos and I’d record Top of the Pops and I’d replay the same songs and just play along to them and then I’d have the tennis racket and I’d try to imitate Angus. Musically, it all made sense to me. Not necessarily the lyrics; I’m not really big on lyrics but when a song comes on, the music is the first thing I listen to. The feel, the rhythm, the sounds, that sort of thing. From that moment on, with every album, I’d just listen to them ten times a day and moving forward, they’ve always been my number one band. Now, I have a more eclectic taste but they’re the band I always go back to.”

James is perhaps best known for his time with another one of Australia’s great pub rock bands, The Angels. “I was with The Angels for three years,” he tells me. “Before that, I was playing in cover bands around Perth doing stuff like AC/DC, Midnight Oil and that sort of thing. I also played with Choirboys for a while. Did a few gigs here and there with Richard Clapton and a bunch of different people. My projects that I put together are ones that I love doing. Getting up on stage in front of big crowds and playing songs that you love is fun. For Mark and Simon, who were actually members of AC/DC, they love playing those songs but haven’t played them for a long time. They’re playing great songs with a really cracking band so, for any musician, that’s what it’s about; to get on stage with a bunch of people and you all play as one unit and it sounds amazing.”

Bon But Not Forgotten kicks off its first show in Adelaide at The Gov this Thursday, with more shows in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. You can see full tour info here.

The second Melbourne gig, on Bon’s birthday, will be at the Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane, a very appropriate location. As James says, “It’s the most fitting thing that we could do and it will be a night of 70s style, good fun rock ‘n’ roll.”

 

by Sharyn Hamey

 

Copyright  ©  Sharyn Hamey 2017.  All rights reserved

 

 

 

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