NEW YORK (Reuters) - For those about to rock, AC/DC salutes you. Unless, that is, you want to buy the Australian heavy metal group's newest album, "Black Ice," on iTunes, or anywhere but Wal-Mart when it drops in record stores on October 20.
"Maybe I'm just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless 'em, it's going to kill music if they're not careful," lead singer Brian Johnson, 61, told Reuters.
AC/DC, formed by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young in 1973, is among only a handful of musicians to refuse to put their music on the popular download website in a move that Johnson defended as a bid to protect the album format from the Internet's emphasis on buying single songs.
"It's a...monster, this thing," he said. "It just worries me. And I'm sure they're just doing it all in the interest of making as much...cash as possible. Let's put it this way, it's certainly not for the...love, let's get that out of the way, right away," he said.
The 15 songs on "Black Ice" stick closely to the bluesy power riffs AC/DC has laid down on their 14 earlier albums that together have sold an estimated 200 million copies worldwide.
Their album "Back in Black" -- the fifth-best selling album ever in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America -- became a heavy metal landmark. The title track, as well as "You Shook Me All Night Long," remain radio standards nearly 30 years after their release.
The follow-up album "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)", a play on the ancient Roman gladiators salute, rocketed to No. 1 on U.S. charts and became a rock classic.
After a break of nearly seven years following 2000's "Stiff Upper Lip," AC/DC reassembled to make "Black Ice," and Johnson recalled getting goose bumps when Angus and Malcolm took their guitars to The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, Canada.
Yet, Johnson's dislike of recording studios drove him out to the receptionist's desk, where producer Brendan O'Brien set up a microphone and Johnson recorded his vocals --- one more sign of idiosyncratic behavior in the band's storied career.
Selling songs online is another issue, too. While music downloads from iTunes to iPods and from other music-oriented Web sites to digital players has become standard practice for music lovers, it strikes the wrong chord for AC/DC.
Under its new contract with Sony's Columbia Music, "Black Ice" will be available only at retailer Wal-Mart and its Sam's Club stores, as well as AC/DC's website.
"A lot of people were saying 'Ah man, you're going to the big Wal-Mart, you're selling out,' Johnson said.
"Wal-Mart were the only big store to stock all of our albums, every single one of them, and they've never deviated. And they sold AC/DC shirts and pajamas for kids, which we thought was really cool," he said.
Fans have snapped up tickets to AC/DC's world tour that begins in the United States later this month, and Johnson said he was working out to keep pace with the frenetic Angus Young, who is famous for sporting a schoolboy outfit on stage.
Johnson, who also races cars, has hired a trainer to get into shape, and hopefully he will be able to make the leap to the rope beneath the giant bell that AC/DC traditionally lowers at the start of rock anthem "Hells Bells."
"The bell's going to come down again and I'm saying to myself, 'Should I jump that 10 feet?'" said Johnson. "Can I still do it?"
Despite the band's hiatus, fan appetite for AC/DC remains strong, with its latest single from the new album, "Rock'n Roll Train," hitting No. 2 on Billboard's Mainstream rock chart.
"Now we've got kids of eight or nine (years-old) who are fans, and their dads are fans. And it's quite mind-blowing," Johnson said.
Still, he was philosophical on whether the band had another album in them. "I'm going to leave it in the hands of the gods. Life is what it is, y'know. You start trying to plan too carefully, it'll come kick you right in the ass," he said.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)