An Interview with
who will be playing lead role in the film
'Bon Scott: The Legend of AC/DC'
that took place on December 6th, 2014.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan
Glenn: When did you first start acting?
Rob: It was the school productions and church productions when I was a kid. That’s where it really got started early on.
Glenn: Did you go to acting school as well?
Rob: No. No particular formal training. Like a lot of some people... It's not that I believe you can't learn that but I think it's kind of like being a musician. You are either somewhat born with it or you are not.
Glenn: So when did you first get into liking AC/DC?
Rob: It's been a long time. A good friend of mine bought me the 'High Voltage' album. The American version and I've loved 'em since. I think like a lot of people.
Glenn: What was it about AC/DC that really turned you onto their music?
Rob: Well if you've read very much about AC/DC and listened to their genesis of how they came to be. They were talking about jobs like what Malcolm Young had and Angus had before they got into the band. One of the things that was said about Malcolm was that he worked in a machine shop of some kind. He used to sit and listen to the machines running and would pick up the rhythms of the machines. That's a lot of the same thought process that I've had since being a kid and I really picked up on that. Australian music is very, very rhythmic and it's very, very tight and very much like the human metronome. That's probably what turned me to them.
Glenn: What would you say was the first Bon Scott song you tried to sing and thought, 'Wow I've got the voice for this'?
Rob: Well let me pull a Rockstar Mark Wahlberg for you here. I was in a band at the time that was un-named. At that time we used to have the big PA system. I had that in my flat at the time. That was my stereo. I had my turntable on top of this massive PA. I was getting ready for a band rehearsal one day and my guitarist was coming to pick me up. This guy made a name with Doug Martin. Apparently he came and he banged on the door and I didn't hear him because I was belting out 'Live Wire' off the 'High Voltage' album. I finally heard him knocking and I threw open the door and I said, "What's Up?" and he said, "You're the new singer, that's what's up". That's how it happened it was kind of a funny story.
But yes, that's how I then became to be that person who became known really for the music side of this. I have what was rather an uncanny vocal range and for whatever reason I just happen to have been blessed with the ability to mimic Bon Scott of all people because his voice is very obscure. But it happened and it was really cool. I've always enjoyed it a lot.
Glenn: Do you have any trouble with the phrasing because sometimes you do get some singers from America in tribute bands and they don't get the phrasing right - do you find some phrases harder than others to pronounce right?
Rob: I think that if you've tribute bands in general, there must be hundreds of AC/DC tribute bands. Some are pretty good and some are really bad. As a tribute to the music I think they are doing it because they like it. I think that's the main thing. But I've taken a couple of stances on that. I'm a pretty competitive person. I believe if you are going to do a tribute act, rather than a cover act you really need to be spot on because that's what people expect. It was a lot of studying, a lot of listening, a lot of listening to that phrasing and really honing in on what this guy and what the band did. I'm a little biased but I try to speak truthfully and I think I do it exceptionally well. You do it well or you don't and you leave that for other people to judge.
Glenn: What AC/DC songs do you like singing best?
Rob: 'Jailbreak' has always been a favourite. That was somewhat of a deep cut. Obviously most fans know that song but it didn't get a ton of radio play. Whenever I would hear it on the radio it was like, 'Oh that's awesome, they are playing 'Jailbreak' which is great. It's always been a favourite. 'Rock And Roll Singer'; 'Live Wire'; 'Squealer' has been a favourite to sing and 'Up To My Neck In You'. I'm open to all that and if I'm singing and I feel them but those are some favourites.
Glenn: When did you first get the idea of having a film about Bon Scott?
Rob: Back in 2008, a company in Australia wanted to do a film about Bon and I think what has happened has happened on a couple of different occasions. That was that the band kind of shut it down and I just don't think the filmmakers pushed hard enough or pushed forward with the project so they never really materialized. I think that the Australian Producers had every intention of doing it and I have been in contact with them on a couple of different occasions because fans had gotten hold of me and said, "Hey they're doing this film, we think you ought to be involved and we're going to shoot them an e-mail, why don't you get in touch?". So I did and I spoke to them on a couple of different times that didn't really materialize into much and the project basically fizzled. I guess that's where the genesis of turning it into an American production really started.
Glenn: What stage are you at with the production at the moment?
Rob: Well I've just heard from a prospective investor / prospective producer yesterday and I'm supposed to meet with them on Monday but originally, NBC/Universal in London was the first production company that was interested in this. They had actually contacted us and had the production company here in the United States and expressed a strong in acquiring and developing the project. Where the conflict came was that they owned Sony obviously and I think they had gone to their music division and enquired about music rights and so forth and they had a bit of an internal conflict so they at that point backed out. What I can say is that NBC/Universal is the biggest entertainment company in the world and they cancelled and they just don't do that. I mean that's not something normal. The real irony of this project is the worldwide publicity this has got before it's even been shot. It's still in development. At this stage we are looking for the right fit. We've been contacted by a number of different people from fans to production company’s ad documentary companies and film entities and so forth. But we're really looking for the right fit at this point. With movies, movies require a budget and you've got to have the money to make it. Everything else... the rest of the apparatus is in place. We are just looking for the right production company this time.
Glenn: So hopefully, you'll get some comeback soon?
Rob: Right. We and I personally have felt just speaking of the UK in general, not that there's not American interest in this - Cleary there is worldwide interest in seeing this come to fruition and ultimately shot and be done. I have personally always felt that the UK film end would have a high level of interest in this. Not that that's not the case but I've been a little bit surprised that a UK company hasn't really jumped forward more aggressively on this particular project. Even A-list actors who tried to engage in film projects of their own... you know films take a long time to make. I think a lot of people have very high expectations about the amount of time that they feel like it should take versus the amount of time that it takes in reality. You are talking about a lot of money. You are talking about a lot of issues that surround films and people are saying, "When are you shooting the movie? When is it coming out?". We wish it happened that way but it takes more time than that .
Glenn: Then you've got AC/DC's Management as well to deal with?
Rob: Yes. I don't know if you saw recently, I think about a month ago, there was a big story that I think has been kind of a pinnacle of the publicity on this has always been on upswing and hasn't really cracked code very much. You'll see publicity about 'The Bon Scott Project' and you'll see it plateau out a bit in spite. But about a month ago there was a story that hit MSN Entertainment and Yahoo Entertainment, The Sunday Morning Herald, the UK journal and everywhere in-between. It was regarding a couple of films that kind of cleared the way for 'The Bon Scott Project' and one of them was the Jimi Hendrix biopic by John Reilly who did '12 Years of Slave' and there was a Judas Priest documentary that had been... I believed they started the creation of that all the way back in 1992. But anyway, both of those projects had to do a lot of clearing through the courts for fair use doctoring what is legal and what is not. Anyway, long story short, both of those cleared and the Hendrix film was out and the 'Priest film I think is on its way out. The story basically was that those two films really cleared the way for the Bon Scott Project.
Glenn: The Bon Scott Project would be mind-blowing. I think a lot that surrounds the Bon Scott thing was 'What happened to him?'. 'Was he murdered?', Did he choke on his own vomit? I think that's where it gets a bit weird about things where there was that guy that disappeared. That's my personal thoughts of it. Whether the band's got some other ideas, I don't know. The band good do with some good publicity after all the Phil Rudd stuff that's taken place.
Rob: That's bad. Yes I feel bad for them on a lot of different accounts for that. Right now there are a few issues. What's interesting about the position I'm at is there are a tremendous amount of rumours around that are just simply not the case. As a great example, one of the big rumours is that these guys who are making the Bon Scott film, they are trying to use a legal loop-hole and pirate AC/DC's music and do things the wrong way ad so forth. I'm like, 'Where do people get this information?'. It's just mind-boggling to me and it's completely 100% not true but those things perpetuate themselves a lot of the time and spread.
But with the really unfortunate news about Malcolm and the fact that he's out of the band although I'm happy to see Stevie Young step in. I thought that was a natural choice and I thought that that would happen. I'm happy for the band and for him. But really disappointed and I'm affected as a fan about Malcolm. I just feel real bad and obviously I feel bad for his brother. For me, the relationship with me and AC/DC has been a little bit fortuous. They seem like a good group of guys but at this point they've expressed interest in the film not being for reasons that are obviously their own. That's not going to stop us but with all due respect, I think they could use some good publicity and we have all good intentions with this. We're just out there to tell a story and we want to tell a true story.
Glenn: It's not like you are just doing it for the money. You are doing it for the passion and love for the band and the story about Bon Scott in general.
Rob: I mean, let's be realistic about money. The Young family is one of the richest families in Australia. They are very, very wealthy people and I applaud their success and I have said that on more than one occasion but you can also see that a high level success in the case of Phil Rudd it's kind of seemed to go the other way. God Love Phil - he's a piece of work. It's not just for the money. I'm an entertainer just like those guys are and I'm trying to do a goods thing and they don't quit for the same reasons I don't quit. If I didn't want to do it and it wasn't my passion I would just forget about it and they are probably going to be dead or incapacitated before they quit or they would have quit. Or when Bon died? They definitely would have quit right after Malcolm was out. So I think we all do it for the passion. Money's a tool and it takes money to make movies. I do expect to get paid because I'm worth getting paid just like they are. So it's just part of it.
Glenn: Which parts of the film are you most looking forward to working on and acting in that tell the story of Bon Scott?
Rob: Director, Jerry Getches and I had a discussion about this. Just because of my technical expertise with the band (since) there's been a lot of my input into making sure that there's a level of accuracy that is complied with because I think that's important and people will be judging. There has not been what I would call a very much artistic license taken. We say true story so we want it to be a true story. What I was telling J.R. was that at some point I want to be able to step off and just be the actor. I don't want to worry about things like 'Is this shot right?', 'Is this the dynamic we are going for?' or 'Did he wear this particular shirt?'. I want to step back. When you are trying to capture a character you've got to do some introspective stuff to get there and I guess that's probably what I'm looking forward to. I'm trying to expose to many people who didn't know who he was to this guy and what he brought to humanity. I also want to portray this guy to people who didn't know him or know about him in a way that really brings the spirit back at least for a very short time and makes people happy I hope.
Glenn: So when you are performing shows, do you feel you are Rob singing AC/DC songs or do you really feel that you are Bon Scott for that time on stage?
Rob: That's a good question. I guess the reality is that I've probably taken it I think clearly a lot more seriously than a lot of people. To a certain extent, whenever I perform as a person I have taken it upon myself to do it as an actor. People want the Bon Scott experience so I want to recreate that as best I can so I do approach it as an actor as well as a musician when I'm doing it live. But by the same token, I've just had so many people walk up to me over the years and say, "You know, I saw Bon Scott live and what you just did made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck". So that's a really positive reaction to get from people and for me that makes it really satisfying.
Glenn: Yeah I was curious about this because you are going to be playing Bon in the film so I was curious how you thought about it mentally and emotionally?
Rob: Well if there was a role... and I think anybody that knows me say this by I think if there was a role that was cut out for me in particular because you know how you see certain actors in certain roles and you are like, ‘that person really was meant to play that part - that was just their destiny if you will' if you believe in that, that that person played that part just because it was maybe an extension of them. I feel the same way about this particular part. I feel like he's had a big influence on me in many positive ways. So for me it's somewhat an extension of me. I guess that's why I take it so seriously and I feel real good about it. I'm just one of those people that if I didn't feel like I would or could do it I wouldn't embarrass myself and even throw my hat into the ring. I'd say "Get somebody else".
Glenn: What songs are you planning to put in the movie?
Rob: Well AC/DC have flatly refused along with Albert Productions to grant licensing for any of their music for the film and that has been one of the nagging questions from people. They say, "How can you make this film without AC/DC's music?". Well John Reilly just made the film about Jimi Hendrix without using any of his music and I'll leave it at that. That's my point. You can do it. You can engage in a dramatic portrayal of this guy without using AC/DC's music. This isn't a movie about AC/DC, it's a movie about Bon Scott and Bon had a life before AC/DC and I think was planning on a life after AC/DC to be quite frank. Obviously he was best known for his tenure with AC/DC. Clearly that's when I really paid attention to him and so forth but he was his own guy and AC/DC was kind of instrumental but also not would define him per se. So they are part of the story but they are not the story if that makes sense.
Glenn: Yeah. Because he grew up as Bon in Australia and he had two or three bands before AC/DC before he was about ten years older than the entire band. He would be the best part of 80 if he was still around now which is crazy. But there you go. That's so true. That makes so much sense.
Rob: Oh yeah. I know I agree. They were kind of.. As far as how this story goes, they are kind of a peripheral part of the story. They are clearly a part of the story. Don't get me wrong. I think that's what gives it a high level of interest. But at the same time and as our director said on numerous occasions, it's Bon that makes this story interesting and that's what we're going to focus rather than what I think people think is the obvious and that's AC/DC. Again, it's part of it but it's not necessarily the story.
Glenn: Yeah. Look at the amount of books that have been done but there's been no film at all apart from just promos so it makes so much sense completely.
Rob: It does. It does. People want it badly and Bon deserves it I believe. It's important to remember too that we're attacking this subject matter in a documentary fashion. It really is to educate. You are talking about three generations of fans here. There are people quite frankly that have not been exposed to this guy and that's why we believe the film would actually help AC/DC because it's going to most definitely increase their back-catalogue sales because a lot of these people who would see this film don't know who Bon Scott is to start with. So that's why you make compelling film because it compels people to consider that Rock 'N' Roll Tragedy happened and draw them into the story itself. Then guess what? They become a fan and then they buy records.
Glenn: Would you say you've learnt way more about Bon Scott through having the film idea in operation as such than what you would have done otherwise and if so, what were those things that you learnt most about him?
Rob: My honest answer is not really. What I basically did was convince myself that I knew more about the guy than I thought that I did when I put it on paper. But what I did learn in all seriousness was one of the things that I definitely want to bring to the table from an acting standpoint is that I think this was the guy with a lot of passion and this is the guy that led somewhat of a diconvus lifestyle. AC/DC's first real full-time bass-player, Mark Evans came out with a book fairly recently about his time life with AC/DC. Mark and I have had a few conversations and he is a great guy. I'm very gracious and he's been very gracious about his relationship with Bon which was close because he was the youngest and Bon was the oldest. I think they hit it off well. Anyway, Mark often talked about how polite Bon was and what a nice kind-hearted person he was and how he would come over for dinner at Mark's house and help his mother clean up the dishes. He was just a good soul and a kind person. But the dichotomy was that he had that other side of him which was the lyric and the party-hard rock singer and he lived that. He played that part and lived it because I believe he felt he owed people what they expected of him. Kind of like Sam Kenison did. Kenison was a genius and did kind of the same thing. People expected him to act a certain way and for better or for worse he said "F*ck It" and he did it. It killed him but he did it. Bon essentially lived the same way.
Glenn: In real life, how much would you say you are like Bon Scott and in what ways?
Rob: Probably from a passion standpoint a lot. I think Bon loved women. Would you agree with that?
Glenn: Ha-ha, Yeah.
Rob: I'm good with that too. (We laugh). A passion for music, cheeky - those things are definitely me. I have a kind heart but also have the ability to be dynamite at the same time. I definitely have that ability. I am a lot like him and there are extensions of him that I feel when I perform. I don't mean to sound sick and manic and live my life like his because that is not the case. I am just saying we have some similarities and there are similarities that enable me to channel parts of him that may convince people that 'hey this guy did act like that'.
Glenn: What would you say you are most proud of so far as an actor and also as a performer?
Rob: I'm really proud of the fact that this project has come as far as it has. There has been a lot of obstacles put in front of me personally. Most people have been gracious but as we get closer to our goal of the production apparatus being in place it's gotten a little uglier to be quiet honest with you. The Australians have been a little rough and doubtful and kind of prejudicial. They feel like they own AC/DC. That's their biggest act before them and hey, I get it. They are showing objections to anybody messing with their property but AC/DC's fan base is expansive and worldwide. As we move forward I really am just proud of the fact that we've come as far as we have come with this project. I think that it's going to see the light of day and I think it will finalize itself. I think the people will get to enjoy it. It's historic and it's the only one of its type.
Glenn: Completely. I agree. Right I'll let you get off. I hope it all goes well.
Rob: We're working on it. I appreciate it totally you taking the time to promote this because it's a great thing.
Glenn: Thanks Rob. I appreciate it.
Rob: Anytime, anytime.
Since this Interview was conducted we recieved an update from Rob Liotti, dated January 11th, 2015!
Rob: We have most recently received considerable attention from a few production studios in North America and Europe. An Academy Award winning Director/Producer is looking at the project currently and a free time Emmy Award winning Director of photography has expressed interest in shooting the project. The last two weeks have proven to be very exciting for us.