AC/DC’s Search for a Frontman After Brian Johnson’s Departure

In the high-voltage world of rock ‘n’ roll, few bands have electrified stages and audiences quite like AC/DC. Known for their thunderous performances and a catalog of hits that have become anthems, the band faced an unforeseen challenge in 2016 that tested their resilience and commitment to their fans. This article delves into the temporary departure of Brian Johnson, AC/DC’s iconic frontman, due to serious hearing issues, the band’s commitment to fulfilling their tour obligations, and the surprising journey to find a temporary replacement.

Brian Johnson’s Sudden Departure

In March 2016, AC/DC fans worldwide were shocked by the news that Brian Johnson, the band’s lead vocalist since 1980, had to step away from touring immediately. Medical professionals warned Johnson that continuing to perform live risked total hearing loss. The band was mid-way through their “Rock or Bust” world tour, and the sudden departure of their frontman left the future of the tour in jeopardy. Johnson’s health concern brought a spotlight to the often-overlooked issue of hearing loss among musicians, emphasizing the need for awareness and prevention.

AC/DC’s Commitment to Touring

Despite this setback, AC/DC was determined to honor their commitment to fans who had purchased tickets and eagerly anticipated the band’s performances. The decision was made to find a temporary replacement for Johnson to ensure the tour could continue without further cancellations. This move demonstrated the band’s dedication to their fan base and their professionalism, ensuring the show could go on.

The Search for a Temporary Frontman

The task of finding a temporary replacement for such a legendary figure was daunting. AC/DC needed someone who could not only handle the vocal demands of their repertoire but also embody the spirit and energy that Johnson brought to live performances. The band auditioned a handful of artists, a process shrouded in secrecy and speculation. Among the auditioned was Nic Cester of Jet, known for his dynamic voice and electrifying stage presence, which hinted at the diverse range of talent considered for the role.

The Volume Test: Auditioning for AC/DC

Cester’s account of his audition reveals the intense, electrifying atmosphere that defines AC/DC’s music and live performances. “And I remember watching AC/DC thinking there’s no way all of those amps are on. Let me tell you, they were all f***ing on, and it was the loudest thing I’d ever heard in my entire life,” Cester recalls. This statement alone underscores the sheer power and volume that AC/DC brings to their shows, challenging even the most seasoned musicians.

Righteous Anger and the Ultimate Test

The audition wasn’t merely about vocal prowess; it was a comprehensive test of endurance, attitude, and adaptability under pressure. Cester’s experience was a trial by fire, orchestrated by Angus Young and the band to see how he would react to the extreme conditions of performing live with AC/DC. “He put me through my paces and I realise now. It was righteous anger, I guess. And everything was a test to see how I would, you know, handle it, you know, the volume,” Cester explains. This process highlights the band’s meticulous approach to maintaining their high standards, ensuring that any potential frontman could not only match their musicality but also embody the resilience and energy required to lead an AC/DC concert.

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Professionalism and Pushing Limits

Despite the intensity of the audition, Cester speaks highly of the professionalism exhibited by Angus Young and the band. The goal was clear: to push Cester to his absolute limit and assess how he would react. This method of evaluation speaks volumes about AC/DC’s commitment to excellence, ensuring that any temporary replacement for Johnson would uphold the band’s legendary status. “Yeah, it was pretty intense, but. He’s super professional guy, you know, and he wanted to push me to my absolute limit to see how I would react,” says Cester, reflecting on the experience with a mix of awe and respect.

Ultimately, the band surprised many by announcing Axl Rose, the iconic lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, as the temporary frontman for the remaining dates of the “Rock or Bust” tour. Rose, a fan of AC/DC and a formidable vocalist in his own right, stepped into the role with reverence and enthusiasm, bringing his unique energy to the performances while paying homage to Johnson’s legacy.

Harmonizing Technology and Talent: Brian Johnson’s Return

The most uplifting aspect of this saga is Brian Johnson’s eventual return to the band, facilitated by groundbreaking hearing technology. Stephen Ambrose of Asius Technologies reached out to Johnson with a solution that promised a potential return to the stage without risking further hearing damage. This innovative technology, utilizing the ADEL™ (Ambrose Diaphonic Ear Lens) system, was designed to deliver sound in a way that minimizes the risk of hearing loss by alleviating the pneumatic pressure caused by loud noises, a common hazard for musicians.

Johnson’s collaboration with Asius Technologies underscored a significant moment where human ingenuity and technological advancement converged to overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. This breakthrough not only marked Johnson’s return to the studio for the recording of “Power Up” in 2020 but also symbolized a victory for musicians and performers facing similar battles with hearing loss.


Nic Cester’s audition story is more than just an anecdote about trying out for one of the greatest rock bands in history; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit and exacting standards of AC/DC. The band’s decision to audition musicians like Cester during a challenging period demonstrates their dedication to their craft and their fans. Although Axl Rose ultimately took the helm for the remainder of the “Rock or Bust” tour, Cester’s experience sheds light on the rigorous process behind maintaining the legacy of AC/DC. It’s a reminder of the passion, professionalism, and sheer volume that define AC/DC’s storied career in rock ‘n’ roll.

Listen Or Watch To The Full Interview With Jet Below

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