Local AC/DC tribute singer auditions for spot on tour

By Aaron Boehmer and Kyle Strickland

It’s likely the dream of most cover or tribute band singers: the chance to perform with the real band. For local AC/DC tribute band, Back in Black, it happened in 2016. That’s when lead singer Darren Caperna got the chance to audition as the temporary lead vocalist of AC/DC when the band’s singer Brian Johnson left the Rock or Bust world tour due to a hearing problem.

At first, Caperna thought it was a joke, but he and Back in Black lead guitarist Michael Mroz were soon on a plane flying out to AC/DC’s rehearsal space in Atlanta, where Caperna would audition for the role of temporary lead singer.

Darren Caperna speaks to Wingspan about fellow band member Ken Schiumo, father of baseball coach Kenneth Schiumo Jr. (Back in Black)

“It was just the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Caperna said. “Their rehearsal space was six full Marshalls. This was to audition, and we were just doing song after song. They had the setlist for the Rock or Bust tour and we did that whole setlist, two hours set, and I did every song with them. We were there for like a total of five hours and it was just amazing.”

But even though Caperna knew every song, he was stumped during the audition when the song ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)’ came up on the queue.

“There are some songs that I have no idea what he [Johnson] is saying, I can’t find the words anywhere.” Caperna said. “So [for this] song, I’m finally going to figure out what he’s saying here.”

But the lyrics that Caperna couldn’t not decipher didn’t come up, and instead question marks filled the screen on the teleprompter.

“‘Well Brian forgot what he said and doesn’t know what he said there so he just makes stuff up as he goes along with it,’” Caperna said of what AC/DC drummer Phill Rudd told him.

Throughout the experience, Caperna and Mroz kept their band in the loop.

“Mike was sending stuff, ‘he’s singing T.N.T. now, he’s singing ‘Givin the Dog a Bone’ now,’” Caperna said. “Everyone was experiencing it through the text.”

Pictured performing, local AC/DC tribute band Back in Black gained the attention of the real band when Darren Caperna was asked to audition for a spot to fill in for Brian Johnson on tour. (Back in Black)

Even though the rest of the band was back living their lives, they took time out of their day to follow the string of texts.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was one of those guys on the other end of the text, so I was paying a lot of attention,” Back in Black bass player Sheldon Conrad said. “I ended up stopping at a bar because it was just like ‘I can’t even do anything anymore today, I’ve just got to go sit and read this stuff.’ It was just a really, really fun experience living vicariously through these two guys.”

Back in Atlanta, those that auditioned before Caperna weren’t given nearly as many songs to perform as him.

“We were told that they had auditioned other people before me,” Caperna said, “And they were like ‘yeah we’ll give you about four or five songs, and then you know they will make a decision.’ But I was there for five hours.”

Despite the lengthy audition, Caperna lost out to someone with a bit more name recognition,

Drummer Ken Schiumo (above) was asked to join Back in Black after impressing lead vocalist Darren Caperna after perfectly sight reading a piece with the band (Back in Black)

Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose.

“I could say that’s one of the most memorable things that ever happened to me,” Caperna said.

Despite Caperna not receiving the role, Mroz was happy just knowing their tribute band had got the attention of the very people they admire, in one of the biggest rock bands around.

“Just to know that AC/DC had even acknowledged us would have been cool,” Mroz said. “But turns out they’ve been following us a long time.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on May 26, 2020.