Thunderstruck – an interview with Back in Black

 

By Ryan Javier

 

Photos by Jesse Garcia and Ryan Javier

 

DALLAS – One of the most anticipated acts of the 2015 Jack FM/CBSradioDFW annual Throwback, who were coincidentally the headliner, was Back in Black – the quintessential AC/DC tribute band.

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Back in Black was formed by lead guitarist Mike Mroz and vocalist Darren Caperna, in 2001. Bassist Eric Sykes, guitarist Scott LePage and percussionist Ken “Da Crusha” Schiumo round out this group of extraordinary musicians. What sets Back in Black (BIB) apart from other AC/DC acts, is that BIB performs tunes from both the Bon Scott and the Brian Johnson periods. The reason why they sell out venues and have played before tens of thousands of spectators is simple: Back in Black is the BEST at what they do. BIB is the ultimate AC/DC concert experience.

Back in Black is incredibly adept at their craft. BIB is able to precisely recreate AC/DC’s timeless sound, so well in fact that they have even been contracted by 20th Century Fox to reproduce hit tunes from the “boys from down under” for major motion pictures such as Napoleon Dynamite and  Garage Days.

After an awe-inspiring performance at Gexa Energy Pavilion amidst a screaming crowd numbering in the thousands, Back in Black’s co-founder Mike Mroz (MM) answered a few questions from TTL’s Ryan Javier (TTL) on the behalf of the band.

TTL: Thank you for inviting TTL to your performance at Gexa. You guys were incredible! Tell me about your set list for the Gexa show. How did you guys come to choose those particular songs?

 

MM: First thank you for taking the time and the interest in our band that means a lot to us. The setlist was pretty easy to choose, we like to deliver the songs that the AC/DC fans want to hear, so they were all the hits.

 

TTL: Both you and Darren Caperna are originally out of L.A. How did Back in Black wind up in DFW?

MM: I was relocated to Dallas for my job in sales for a video game company. At that point I was kind of frustrated with the whole music industry and was ready to give up guitar but then I got the itch again and decided that I was just going to go out and have fun and play AC/DC music all night and not really care if anybody showed up or not, and that’s how this crazy thing took off. At the beginning I was flying out Darren (who had relocated to New York) for every show. He and I both saw the potential in the band and he relocated to Dallas.

 

TTL:  It’s been said, and most will agree, that Back in Black sounds better than the real AC/DC. The genesis for the whole BIB project was Mr. Caperna’s natural ability to personify Scott and Johnson. But what about the rest of the band?  Was it at all challenging to learn to sound and move like AC/DC?

 

MM: Yes Darren is definitely my secret weapon and the reason I put this whole project together. When I first started learning the AC/DC songs I immediately realized how incredible Angus Young is as a guitarist. He has such a great feel but to also capture the energy he expresses when he plays and runs around was very, very challenging. After 15 years, I’m still not even close!

Another challenge was finding the right guys that would commit to the sound and simplicity of AC/DC it’s such an easy formula but it has to be done exactly the right way. I’m very fortunate that Eric, Ken and Scott are dedicated to delivering the most authentic AC/DC sound.

 

TTL: How do you prepare for live show? What’s your pre-show routine?

MM: Darren takes about 5 seconds before the show and starts screaming out a couple of lines from a few of the songs and he drinks about a case of beer! Heaven help us if we show up to a venue and his beer isn’t ready! I try to stretch out a little bit so I don’t pull a hammy and absolutely need to do warm ups on the guitar to get my fingers ready.

 

TTL: You guys have performed with such heavy hitters as B.O.C., Grand Funk, Cheap Trick, Bad Company and many, many more. Who was your favorite “big act” to share a bill with?

MM: Without question it was with Cheap Trick [which is] one of my all-time favorite bands and it didn’t hurt that we were performing in front of 36,000 people for Bone bash in Fort Worth. I remember playing TNT and winning over that incredible crowd and looking to my right and seeing Tom Peterson, Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander all watching us perform. When we walked off the stage they were there to congratulate us, it was pretty incredible.

 

TTL: What’s your favorite song to perform live and why?

MM: I’d say Thunderstruck is my favorite song to perform, every time and everywhere [that] we play the song, the AC/DC fans just go crazy and it’s really a fun song to play on guitar.

 

TTL: For someone that has never seen you guys live… Describe your show and why one should attend.

MM: We deliver an incredible authentic AC/DC experience, we are the only AC/DC tribute that will perform [songs from both] the Brian Johnson and the Bon Scott era. Darren was truly born for this band; he can imitate both Brian Johnson (which is incredible feat by itself) and also the voice of the great Bon Scott.  I’m a huge AC/DC fan, but for me personally, it has always been hard to hear Brian sing the Bon songs. Darren does a great Bon voice, and he can do the unique Bon dance moves!

 

 

TTL: The calendar on the Back in Black website states that BIB have a quote: “Special show!”, in Dallas on October 24th. Can you tell me anything about that performance?

MM: Our Secret Show on October 24th will remain to be a secret! We will release details soon but it’s something that the public has never seen or have experienced we are very excited about this show!!!  All I can say is that it will take the whole tribute band scene to a new level!

 

TTL:  Is there an AC/DC deep cut or rarity that you guys would love to play, but haven’t or don’t, and if so why?

MM: I would love to add the song Ride On, but our live show is so high energy we are afraid to slow things down.

 

TTL:  Mike, you have a music school out in Southlake, Texas called For Those About to Rock. The approach is unconventional in that the students tell you what songs they want to learn, which is what sets your studio apart from others. Tell me about that.

 MM: For Those About to Rock School was actually inspired after I had formed Back in Black. The kids in my neighborhood had heard of my band and would come over and ask me to teach them how to play all the AC/DC songs.  Two great things happened, I realized I love to teach and secondly I was really good at it!!  I retired from my job in sales in video games and opened For Those About to Rock School in Southlake. Our focus is to teach our students their favorite songs and place them in bands. Performing in the bands is the great payoff and we’ve had some great success with our student bands.
All Fired Up, the Pat Benatar tribute that performed at [the Jack FM] Throwback fest, are all For Those About to Rock students taught by Back in Black’s lead singer Darren Caperna.
We also had a student band that appeared on America’s Got Talent; they performed at Radio City Music Hall in the finals. I’m proud to say we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary this September.

 

 

TTL:  Are any other members of Back in Black, besides Darren, involved with For Those About to Rock, or similar endeavors?

MM: Yes! Eric Sykes, also teaches guitar lessons in the Plano area.

 

TTL: Are there any charities or organizations or causes that Back in Black would like to plug?

 MM: Yes we work annually with the Russ Martin Foundation, we perform and help raise funds that he delivers to the families of  courageous officers and firefighters in the DFW area that have fallen in the line of duty! – Mike Mroz, Back in Black

 

Visit Back in Black online for info on upcoming shows and more! Be sure to “like” them Facebook and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings by following the band on Twitter.

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Ryan Javier
Dallas-based photojournalist.
https://www.facebook.com/ryanjavier.photography/
http://rrj.crevado.com/

One thought on “Thunderstruck – an interview with Back in Black”

  1. This is Ken Schiumo, drummer for BACK IN BLACK…Ryan Javier did a nice story on the band last June… Link below…

    http://throughthelensmagazine.com/2015/06/thunderstruck-an-interview-with-back-in-black

    Here’s a nice follow-up… 🙂

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – APRIL 17TH, 2016

    AC/DC auditions singer from Dallas-based tribute band Back In Black

    DALLAS, TEXAS – Dallas-based AC/DC tribute band BACK IN BLACK is proud to announce that long-time frontman Darren
    Caperna was selected by AC/DC to audition as their potential new vocalist. The audition took place the week of March 14th at a private rehearsal studio in Atlanta. Caperna was contacted by AC/DC via phone, and was immediately flown out by the band. Joining him was founding Back In Black member and
    guitarist Mike Mroz.

    The audition began with a sound check, whereby the AC/DC tech crew performed a couple of songs with Caperna, to set
    levels, and to help him feel more comfortable. Then after a short break, AC/DC came in the room and greeted both
    Caperna and Mroz. “After the sound check , Darren and I were talking to the guitar techs, and all of a sudden I
    look over my shoulder and Angus Young was standing behind me waiting to say hi!” said Mroz.

    After meeting the band, and having some tea, AC/DC put Caperna to work. The 3-4 song audition turned into a 21-song
    concert. Caperna ended up singing the entire “Rock or Bust” tour set, plus two additional songs that Angus wanted
    to play, “Dog Eat Dog”, and “Riff Raff”. Caperna comments: “Before we started “Riff Raff”, Angus came up to me, and
    said “I’m warning you in advance that we are still a little rusty on this song!” Did I just hear Angus apologizing
    to me?!”

    Mroz and Caperna spent over 4 hours with their musical heroes. Caperna states “ It was all so surreal, we had a
    couple of breaks, and Angus told me some great Bon Scott stories. They were all so friendly, and treated us as
    their peers. I still can’t believe that I sang with AC/DC!!”

    Caperna adds, “Even though I did not get the job, it was the experience of a lifetime! Being in a tribute band for
    16 years, we were hoping that we would be able to meet AC/DC one day — but this goes way beyond our expectations!
    Now, I have a great story to tell my grandchildren, and the guitar students that I teach at For Those About To Rock
    School in Southlake, Texas.

    “This experience was so inspiring and educational — Plus, I had my own private AC/DC concert, fronted by my
    singer”, Mroz continues. “At the end of the night, I saw Angus outside, and he told me that Darren had done a great
    job. I thanked him again for the opportunity. I told him that when I first started our tribute band (Back In
    Black), I was a little uncomfortable wearing his trademark schoolboy outfit. But then I realized that it drove the
    girls crazy!” Angus laughed and replied “Don’t tell anyone our secret!”

    ABOUT BACK IN BLACK: THE AC/DC CONCERT EXPERIENCE:
    BACK IN BLACK: THE AC/DC CONCERT EXPERIENCE captures the raw power and unrivaled energy of an actual AC/DC
    performance. What sets BACK IN BLACK apart from all other tributes, is the the fact that they can perform FULL SETS
    of ALL the high-voltage hits from BOTH the Bon Scott AND Brian Johnson eras — ONE singer — TWO personas. Formed
    in 2001, BACK IN BLACK remains one of the top-drawing, and longest-enduring tribute acts in North America, having
    performed to hundreds of thousands at sold-out shows from Honolulu, Hollywood, and Puerto Rico — to Calgary,
    Canada (concert performance with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and a headlining concert at the Calgary
    Saddledome). They were recruited by Sony Music (AC/DC’s record label), to promote and increase catalog sales. 20th
    Century Fox chose BIB over ALL other AC/DC tribute acts to record their classics “TNT” and “It’s A Long Way To The
    Top” for two of their feature presentations – “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Garage Days”. They were one of the first
    tribute bands chosen by Live Nation/CBS Radio to tour all of the House of Blues venues in North America. They have
    toured major arenas and theaters as part of the “Classic Rock Experience”. They were featured on AXS TV’s “The
    World’s Greatest Tribute Bands”, performing in a nationally-televised, one-hour LIVE performance from Hollywood’s
    Roxy Theater. The band has performed with many classic rock & roll icons including: Cheap Trick, Kansas, Warrant,
    Night Ranger, Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Foghat, Bad Company, Loverboy, Grand Funk Railroad, Jackyl, Blue Oyster
    Cult, Quiet Riot, Living Colour, and many more. The band consists of: Darren Caperna (Lead Vocals); Mike Mroz (Lead
    Guitar); Ken Schiumo (Drums), Ramiro Noriega (Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals); and Chris O’Toole / Sheldon Conrad
    (Bass/Backing Vocals).

    For more information about BACK IN BLACK, please visit:
    Web Site: http://www.backinblack.info/
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BackinBlack.info
    Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/backinblackinfo

    Mroz and Caperna also have an original project called STRIPWIRED.

    ABOUT STRIPWIRED:
    STRIPWIRED is an exciting, high-energy hard rock band with gritty vocals, grinding and torrid guitar riffs, and
    menacing rhythms. Their self-titled, debut CD received rave reviews, including: “Upon first listen to STRIPWIRED,
    their resemblance to AC/DC is so uncanny that you can barely tell them apart. However, this is no plagiarist move,
    as STRIPWIRED have mercilessly catchy, deliciously head-banging original tracks of their own with electrifying,
    magnetic musicianship” –Radio Screamer; “The Best AC/DC record they never recorded themselves” — Michael Sutton –
    CD Reviews.com. They are currently working on their second release.

    To experience STRIPWIRED, please visit:
    https://www.reverbnation.com/stripwired
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stripwired

    ABOUT AC/DC:
    For four decades, AC/DC has reigned as one of the best-loved and hardest-rocking bands in the world. They have sold
    more than 200 million records worldwide, one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time. Their 1980 album “Back
    in Black” has sold an estimated 50 million units worldwide, making it the second-highest selling album by any
    artist, after Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

    For more information about AC/DC please visit: http://www.acdc.com

    PRESS CONTACT: Michael Mroz
    TELEPHONE: (817) 247-6860
    E-MAIL: [email protected]

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