AC/DC's Cliff Williams: “I don’t think the boys would have really appreciated me trying to slap around. They would have slapped me around"

Cliff Williams
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images for BT PR)

In a new interview with Bass Player, AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams has confirmed that, yes he has tried playing slap bass. And no, he's never done it anywhere near Angus Young. 

“I don’t think the boys would have really appreciated me trying to slap around," Cliff confirms in the chat talking about his return to the AC/DC fold and triumphant new album Power Up. "They would have slapped me around, I think,” he laughs.

“I can’t say I didn’t try it, sitting around in a room on my own"

But of course he's had a go on the sly. 

“I can’t say I didn’t try it, sitting around in a room on my own, just for shits and giggles," admits Essex-born Cliff. "But I never wanted to be very good at it. Flea’s a monster at that stuff, and there are other guys out there that are really good – but it was not for me.” 

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There's also another school of thought – there is no better bassist for AC/DC than Cliff Williams either. Music that many think of as 'simple' but its execution is another matter. 

“I don’t think it’s changed much. I just try and do my bit as best I can,” Cliff says of his own style. “If anything, it’s a little simpler. I try to bring it down to what it needs.”

And when you live in the pocket like Cliff, why mess with a winning formula? 

“The songs are very guitar- and chorus-driven," he notes, "so I don’t need to be noodling around underneath. I just need to be playing the framework, and driving it as part of the rhythm section. That’s how I’ve always approached it, and it’s just developed over the years to where it is now."

Cliff Williams

(Image credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images)

As humble as that sounds, Cliff does reveal at least one insider secret of his technique. 

”When I play, I mute with the pad of my hand; it’s just a feel thing. If the string is ringing out a little too much, on this note here or there, I’ll just mute it slightly, just to keep it all even.”

Read the full interview over at Guitar World to find out more about Cliff's new signature model Ernie Ball Stingray bass guitar and whether we'll see him back onstage with AC/DC again after he came out of retirement to track Power Up. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.