Phil Rudd: "I'm a changed man, but I'm still every bit the rock drummer I was"

PRess shot of phil rudd

The rock world looked on in disbelief when in late 2014 AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd was arrested and charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill and possession of drugs. As the band severed ties with him, and eventually re-hired Chris Slade for the following year’s AC/DC world tour, Angus Young was a master of understatement a when he remarked that Rudd had “got himself into a bit of a pickle”.

Having served eight months of home detention and insisted his life is changed, the drummer continues rehab with a club tour to promote a solo album that’s called, perhaps appropriately, Head Job.

What are your feelings about the six UK dates you’re playing in May?

It’s exciting, and I hope they go down alright otherwise it’ll be a waste of time. I’m rehearsing in Vienna at the moment and the band is very tight.

Are you bringing bassist/vocalist Allan Badger and guitarist Geoffrey Martin (both New Zealanders) who played on Head Job?

Yeah, but I’ve added a couple of extra guys: an old mate called John Proctor on bass, and a rhythm guitarist, Michael Furness, so it’s now a five-piece.

The album has some rhythmic and driving moments, such as Repo Man, but tracks like Crazy and No Right are much more melodic than some people might expect.

We try to keep the show kicking, but at the same time it’s more relaxed [than AC/DC]. Yet the hard-driving snare drum is still there in the background.

It’s a long way down from stadiums and arenas to 500-capacity clubs. The egos of many musicians used to playing those places wouldn’t be able to handle that.

I keep my ego very much in check, y’know? If you don’t do that [pauses]… it can be your worst enemy. It’ll be nice to be that close to an audience again.

Will the set include any AC/DC songs?

I’m playing Shot Down In Flames and Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation because they’re favourites of mine. They fit really well [with the songs from Head Job], actually.

When people ask, do you describe yourself as a member of AC/DC, or a former member?

I don’t know. You’d have to ask Angus. I’ve no idea what’s going on with them. It’s all because of my own stupidity, and of course I regret that. But I’m always available for Angus. He knows that.

With AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust tour over, in your gut do you think the band will work again?

I’ve absolutely no idea, mate.

But you’ve made it clear you want your job back?

Absolutely. But of course it’s all down to Angus. Whether he’d want me back or not I don’t know. I’ve been through all of that bullshit with substances and everything, and I’m very happy to have come out the other side.

In October 2014 you told Classic Rock: “With AC/DC, you fight for it or you’re out.” Why would anyone believe you’re a changed man?

I am a changed man. I’m a lot more sensible. But having said that, I’m still every bit the rock drummer that I was; I’ve still got all of my game.

You told the New Zealand Herald: “I don’t really want to play with Axl. I don’t really rate him.”

Oh look, I’ve already said that I don’t know anything about the band’s future. If Angus wants me again, I can fit in. I’ll go with that. Brian [Johnson] couldn’t stand there in front those Marshalls any more, and I can understand that, mate. But Axl did quite a good job filling in. I miss being in AC/DC.

The tour ends in Edinburgh on May 28.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.