QC Musician Mike Swanson: From Electric Shock to AC/DC

Mike Swanson of Electric Shock

Mike Swanson describes his introduction to AC/DC at a very young age. “My brother tossed albums into my room and said stop listening to KSTT and listen to this.” And so he did.

Sure it was “just” AC/DC, but the timing was so different. He practiced on his guitar, but soon it was Bon Scott’s voice that really held his attention. When Scott passed away, many AC/DC fans, including Swanson, thought that was the end of the band. And then along came Brian Johnson.

Johnson took AC/DC to a new level. Says Swanson, “I just loved that raspy voice.” He practiced and perfected the sound at a young age, and reached out to find more music that had that sound, discovering bands like Cinderella along the way.

Since 1995, Swanson has been part of an original metal band called Oratory. Their music has developed over the years and they recently put out a remake of an earlier CD with the music updated to 440 tuning.

That tuning is also a key to the great sound of Electric Shock – the AC/DC Experience. Electric Shock started out when Johnny “Australia” (John DiGiorgio) saw Swanson play a gig where he sang a couple of AC/DC tunes. DiGiorgio invited him over to jam explaining that he wanted to put together an AC/DC tribute, and thought Swanson was the perfect front man.

After that one jam, Swanson was in. He said, “I can do it, but I need to find the right people.” It wasn’t just about the sound, but also the right look and mannerism.

Putting the rest of the band together just fell into place. He knew Mark DeKalb from hanging out with the motorcycles. Mark’s license plates gave him away as an AC/DC fan, so Mike asked him to join the band. It just took one time for DeKalb to jump on board.

Eric Richeal had played in an 80s cover band with Swanson and was also friends with DiGiorgio. Swanson knew Richeal had the skills and the look they wanted for Malcolm, so DiGiorgio helped him catch up on the AC/DC set list and he became the youngest member of the band.

The last person put in place was the bassist. Darren Followwill came from Oratory. Swanson describes Followwill as a metal guy who loves AC/DC, but had moved on. Just like all the rest of the members, they had him there one time to jam and he was hooked.

Tribute bands are special animals, and playing in one has the potential become repetitive. There is evidence that Electric Shock is immune to this phenomenon. Swanson says it is because they go beyond the music, and add to the show in order to keep it fresh. His suggestion to other tribute bands who experience an issue with the music becoming worn is to add movement or change things up. Or just enjoy yourself and make contact with the crowd.

They practice a lot, two or three times a week, adding Swanson at least once a week. The timings are important with AC/DC’s music, and DeKalb keeps the timings perfect. “Mark is a counter,” Swanson explains. “I’ve only had the pleasure of playing with three drummers who could count like that. Mark is a machine.”

Electric Shock is one of very few bands that play AC/DC’s music tuned correctly. Many tributes drop the tuning in order to make the vocals easier for their singers. Swanson and DiGiorgio were both adamant that they maintain the original 440 tuning in order to sound authentic. That includes the signature rasp that Swanson has perfected, even for a three-hour show. “I trained my voice to be that way at a young age,” he explains. And it shows. He can still talk to fans at the end of a long show.

Swanson and DeKalb had made arrangements to attend AC/DC’s show in Florida and actually meet the band in person. Unfortunately, that show was cancelled due to the recent development of Brian Johnson’s exit from the band. Since they already had plane tickets and reservations, they decided to go ahead to Florida. The band was not there, so they didn’t get to meet them.

Meanwhile Swanson has become even more popular on social networks. His Facebook page has been inundated by suggestions from fans that he should audition to be Brian Johnson’s replacement. The traffic to his page became so overwhelming that a friend offered to set up a group that friends could share and pass on their well wishes. With the hashtag #briansbackup, Swanson’s Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois friends are filling their social networks, hoping word will reach AC/DC before they choose a vocalist.

The Facebook group, AC/DC Brian Johnson’s Backup, https://www.facebook.com/groups/546825562157117/ is sitting at around 1900 members currently. Hopes are high that the group will break over 5000 members, which would expand it out of Iowa and hopefully into the attention of the band, or at least their social networking representatives. If you haven’t already joined the group, please do, and share it with your friends.

How does Swanson feel about a possible opportunity to perform with AC/DC? “I have 10, 15, or 20 more years in me, so if I had this chance to hop on with AC/DC and give them another decade of music, I would do it. Because that’s what I want.”

And we think it would be a great match, Mike.