AC/DC's Phil Rudd: 'I'm going to be back'

Sunday 9 Aug 2015 6:30 p.m.

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Former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has opened up in a series of frank interviews about his life and troubles. He says he is ready to return to drumming with AC/DC when his home detention sentence is up, if his band mates will have him.

Rudd is on home detention after admitting to charges of threatening to kill an employee and having drugs in his home.  He invited 3D in for a heart-to-heart chat.

'Never give up'

Rudd is in his element – fag in hand, blasting down the road in his prized McLaren MP4, just one of the luxury vehicles in his $9 million fleet.

"I was born to drive," he says. "I was born to play drums. Whatever I love doing, I'll do best."

But this is no ordinary Monday morning commute. Rudd, the drummer who's driven rock giants AC/DC for four decades, is on home detention, convicted on serious charges of drug possession and threatening to kill, so this is a rare outing – only as far as the Tauranga courthouse. And court is one of the few places the inquisitive media and the reclusive rocker meet.

He's there to defend a new charge, that he's breached the conditions of his home detention. But how did the drummer of one of the world's biggest bands end up in the dock in the first place? Well, funnily enough, it all stems from rock and roll.

A year ago Rudd was partying at his waterside restaurant in Tauranga, celebrating the launch of his first solo album, Head Job. But the evening got out of control and Rudd got upset and angry.

"Yeah, well we all do that," says Rudd. "I was under a lot of stress. When you're doing it yourself you don't realise what a job it is. I got in at 7pm and everyone was pissed. Everyone was pissed and painful. I don't like people that are pissed. When you want to listen to my album don't turn up pissed, know what I mean? Know what I'm saying?"

Rudd blamed one of his employees for the chaos and ended up calling him in a rage and threatening his life. His lawyer argued it was just an angry phone call, a momentary lapse of reason.

"I was expecting a discharge without conviction and get on a plane and go straight back to work," says Rudd.

But the court thought otherwise. A conviction and a sentence of home detention meant an end to Rudd's hopes of touring with AC/DC and eight months restricted to his Tauranga waterfront mansion.

It's where we've come to spend a couple of days, to get an insight into the extraordinary world of Rudd – a world of excess that fairly screams rock and roll.

"If your wife leaves you, it doesn't matter," says Rudd about his Ferrari. "You can take this car to bed with you, mate. It's so sexy.

"It's sexy and it's brutally quick. Brutal!

"Being locked up here is the biggest problem. I want to go out fishing, I want to go to the airport.

"I spend far too much money on far too expensive cars, which are worth 10 times the price here as they are anywhere else, but this is the economy I live in."

This is economy he's used to. KIt's what's paid for the lifestyle. AC/DC, arguably the world's finest rockers, have sold more records than Queen or U2, and packed out stadiums worldwide for decades. For most of that time, Rudd's iconic thump has been the backbone of the band, and their fans have been his life.

"The fans are everything. It's the reason where we are and all that. Without the fans, there isn't anything at all. So the fans are the most important thing and everyone knows that. We've always been a band that we give it all to the fans every night, whether we can survive or not for another couple of decades, who knows? But I think we can. I think we can go longer than the Rolling Stones."

But right now Rudd's not going far. He's appealing the conviction that restricts his travel. But in the immediate future, it seems the closest he'll get to his AC/DC band mates is when they tour here later in the year.

He says he's not sure they will ask him to re-join.

"You don't want to act like something is happening and then look like a complete dickhead when it doesn't."

But he says he is determined to get back in there: "Never give up."

'I've grown up'

Peaceful seaside settings and the thud of hard rock seem an unlikely mix. But Rudd – the hard rocker's hard rocker - has long had an affinity with New Zealand.

"I can get from here, which is a really nice place to live, to my boat in about three minutes and to the airport in a minute and a half from there. Here you can throw a stone – the mount is there. It's all small and I like it that way."

Rudd has been living in New Zealand for more than 20 years – most of which he's spent under the radar. But there are plenty of locals in Tauranga who appreciate having someone like Rudd living quietly in their midst.

"He does a lot behind the scenes here for local community that a lot of people don't know about," says Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell from the Mauao Performing Arts Centre. "He's been very generous; he is a generous man."

Ms Rudduck-Gudsell is encouraging Rudd to support the local performing arts centre, as he's supported many other causes.

"Who gets to have a world-class rock star, real rock star, living within their community?" she says. "I think it's something we should be proud of."

"Phil's actually an amazing kind of character," says friend Trev Rodgers.

Mr Rodgers has known Rudd for two decades. The engineer-come-black-belt-martial-arts-guru counts himself as one of the drummer's best mates and says the image of Rudd as violent couldn't be further from the truth.

"I think you can see the Irish temper," says Mr Rodgers. "The years I've known Phil, he's never harmed, never sold drugs to anybody, never harmed anyone, never killed anyone, never assaulted anyone. Phil's had a bit of a pick-up lately; the last few months and probably made the wrong choices. But that's not the Phil we know."

Rudd has been playing drums since he was a teenager, inspired by some surprisingly gentle heroes.

"I love the Beatles," says Rudd. "They were a bit schmaltzy, a bit namby-pamby, sort of pussy – I don't care."

In fact, he's happy to admit that even stars can be star-struck.

"I love Ringo's playing because the feel, the Beatles' feel, is the best."

But there are darker aspects of Rudd's life. These days he's not proud of them and even a bit reluctant to talk about them – like, for example, drug use.

"Anything as far as drug use that I admit to is only as real to what I admit to it being. No one has ever drug tested me. I've never had a drug test."

But the court heard he was dabbling with meth.

"Yeah, but you can't prove it. I mean, if I was in a bad mood I might have just been in a bad mood."

He also says he is in control of himself at the moment.

"Absolutely, yeah. I'm getting help from Dr Bird – the country's most prominent psychiatrist … I was born with an imbalance, you know. I suffer anxiety and a lot of insecurities, depression and stuff. "

He thinks the darkest days are behind him. You don't have to spend long with Rudd to see how important playing with AC/DC is to him, how much he feels the loss of that life.

"I've got a lot to think about now. I've grown up, but not grown old. I hope there's a difference. I still want to play the drums. I've got a lot of game left and I reckon I'm just starting to f***ing get cleared up. So I just want a chance to get back in with the boys and just carry on from there. This last tour bulls**t, you know, sure. Last tour, AC/DC will never retire, Angus will never retire."

He says his focus at the moment is to get his job back.

"I saw the error of me ways 20,30, 40, 70 years ago. Everybody does stupid things but, you know. You make your own mistakes."

Despite those mistakes, Rudd's band mates have always praised his unique playing ability. But right now, drummer Chris Slade has replaced Rudd on the Rock or Bust world tour.

"Slade! He's a good drummer, mate. Chris Slade's a good drummer but I've got no idea what he's doing up there. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. I got nothing against Chris. It's just he hasn't got a permanent job. I hope! That's all."

"Phil's strong and he can mend his ways and get back again, you know," says Mr Rodgers. "We're proud of him, the way he's going good."

"I'm going to be back," says Rudd. "I've never been fitter; I've never felt better; I've never been psychologically or physically in better shape my whole life, and I love playing. I've realised who I am and what I can do and I just want a chance to go out there and show everyone who the man is.

"I'm the man."

Credits:

  • Producer: Chris Wilks
  • Camera:  George Murahidy
  • Editor: Toby Longbottom

3D

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