Over the last three years, longstanding AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has suffered a heart attack, been sentenced to eight months of home detention for threatening to kill a man who used to work for him, arrested for possessing cannabis and methamphetamine, and been fired from the band that made him a star. Now, he’s talking to us. We caught up with Phil to chat about his past mistakes, his new solo album, and the future of AC/DC:
Let’s talk about your new album. To me, it sounds a lot like the classic-rock style of a lot of the AC/DC stuff. Did you deliberately set out to make a ‘classic rock’ album, or did it just turn out that way?
‘It’s just what came out. It’s just what we wrote, really. We like raw tracks, so that’s the way the album came out – it’s warts and all, so to speak. It’s not completely different to the AC/DC stuff, though; it’s still got the drive, and we still like how it feels – it’s even got some quite pertinent lyrics somewhere in there. Not bad, eh?
‘It’s just a relief to finally get the songs out there. We actually wrote most of it back in the late 1980s…
‘After I left AC/DC, I caught up with the guys I wrote them with, and went on from there. We had a blast through the songs together one day at my place, and it all just clicked from there. I built the studio, we knocked down some demos, and built things up from there. It’s a long-term process, but the whole thing came around pretty quickly once we started it going again.
If they were written so long ago, why didn’t you take the tracks to the AC/DC guys and try to get them on an AC/DC record? Did you ever do that?
‘Simple answer – no. The reason why should be fairly obvious; I’d never want to interfere with AC/DC‘s songwriting history.
As a musician, does it feel different to play with AC/DC than it does to play with the guys you’re working with at the moment?
‘Urm… Well, it does, yeah. There’s definitely a different approach. I won’t give out the details, it’s just… I get to have a bit more control, which can be good. Be careful what you wish for, though, eh? But yeah, I’m pretty happy with it. I was happy to produce the album, which was an important thing for me. It was nice to have the album come out exactly the way I wanted it.
Let’s rewind a few years. You’re one of the most respected drummers in rock, you’ve just recorded a new album, and you’re about to head out on tour. Then, a few things happen – you get arrested, get kicked out of AC/DC, and you get a whole bunch of drug charges filed against you. Was there ever one moment where you felt it all went wrong?
‘It was a slow-fuse explosion, but it was an explosion. I’m not sure when that was, but it’s all behind me now. I’m a new man, Danny. I’m physically fit, I feel really good, and as I said to another journalist: I am deadly dangerous. I’m playing like a new fella, anyway. I’m really fit; I’ve joined a gym, and I go for walks, and now I’m in much better shape than I ever was. I’m getting match-fit again – it’s hard work to go up and play the hell out of the drums for an hour every night!
Was it hard for you to record the whole of (AC/DC’s 2008 album) Rock or Bust and then not get to play the songs live?
‘Well, I enjoyed recording that album. I finished my sessions in ten days; I managed to get home in time for my daughter’s eighteenth, which was fantastic. Funnily enough, when I got back, they said ‘now you’re getting the sack!’, haha! Na, that was all okay. I’d had a few problems for a while, and I went through a stage of saying that I was okay when they wasn’t, but I’m okay now. I’m still a ratbag, and I still play like Animal from The Muppets, so it’s all good.
Was there ever a moment where you looked at your situation and thought ‘shit, I’ve really fucked up this time’?
‘Oh, absolutely. Yes, without a doubt. When I ended up not getting a discharge for the conviction on that last bit of stupidity… I was fucked. But, through the power of the internet and a few connections, I’m now going to get to Europe. There are some big markets in Europe, and we’re all looking forward to playing some killer shows over there.
‘They won’t be anything like AC/DC shows, though. God, no.
‘There won’t be any jets, and we won’t be letting off any fireworks, and the guitarist isn’t going to pull his pants down. Well, he might… Haha! We’re just going to go and play a great rock show. We might do a couple of Bon’s old songs, though, a couple of the old rockin’ ones. We’re doing Bonfest on the 28th of April, and we’re looking to really nail that one down in honour of Bon. He was a great guy, and he’s truly missed. So, yeah, it’s all good!
If AC/DC called you up tomorrow and asked you to re-join the band, would you do it?
‘Of course, yeah. I’m not sure what the guys would think, but I fucked off for a few years before, so it wouldn’t be completely new! I have a habit of doing that. That’s why my new album’s taken so long, though. I recorded the last four tracks a couple of years ago. They’re probably the best two tracks on the album, actually; the first two, and the last two. So, yeah, this isn’t the first time I’ve buggered off for a couple of years to go and do something different.
Do you think there’s a future for AC/DC?
‘Oh, yeah, I do. There’s definitely a future for AC/DC. It’s an institution, and a juggernaut. I’m sure the old dog will rise again. Time will tell, but time catches with all of us, so they’d better get a move on!
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation.
Describe yourself in three words?
‘Pain in the arse! Hey, that’s four… Let’s go for Pain In Arsehole. I’m a good guy, but one with a tendency to be a major pain in the arse!