UPDATE: A New Zealand court dismissed Phil Rudd’s appeal October 5th, ruling that the drummer must serve out the rest of his house arrest. Rudd’s lawyers argued that the sentence was harmful to his music career as it prevented the drummer from reuniting with AC/DC. However, the judge rejected that argument, saying in a statement that there was no evidence to support that Rudd’s AC/DC band mates even wanted him back, New Zealand’s 3 News reports.
For embattled former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, this was not how 2015 was supposed to go. In an alternate universe, the 61-year-old musician would have already traipsed through Europe with his band on their Rock or Bust tour, delivering a career-spanning set that may be short on surprises, but long on grand spectacle and bombastic rock tradition. He would have currently been rehearsing and preparing for the group’s upcoming North American leg, performing classic rock chestnuts alongside the band’s latest album, to which he contributed in 2014.
Instead, he is speaking to Rolling Stone from his Tauranga, New Zealand, home, where he will be confined for the next eight months as part of his sentencing on threatening-to-kill and drug-possession charges. Friends, family and other well-wishers are allowed to visit, but he’s legally mandated to not leave his house; it’s a prohibition that has, according to Rudd, allowed him to “get really organized” while working with court-appointed psychiatrist Rupert Bird, a specialist in methamphetamine psychosis “who’s helping me through my imbalances and personal issues.
“It’s all going quite well,” Rudd tells Rolling Stone. “He’s a highly qualified maniac from the Clockwork Orange school of psychiatry. I’m learning a lot of things. I’m a big fish in a very small pond down here and I’m not used to it. But it’s been an asset in a way; there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Rudd takes a pause, choosing his words carefully. “But then there is.”
Last November, Rudd was arrested for attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill and possession of marijuana and methamphetamine. Prosecutors dropped the murder-procurement charge due to “insufficient evidence” one day later, but the others stuck, resulting in a sentence of eight months of house detention, entry into a rehabilitation program and a ban on alcohol and drugs.
“Everyone seems to fuckin’ hate me, but everyone really loves me”
The details of the case painted Rudd as a musician unhappy with the release and reception of his 2014 solo album Head Job. In a summary of facts presented to the court, the drummer allegedly asked that his former security guard-turned-personal assistant be “taken out” following the failure of the album. The release of that album “didn’t go well,” which infuriated Rudd to the point where he fired much of his staff, including the assistant.
Last September, Rudd allegedly phoned an unnamed associate and asked if they would murder his former assistant in exchange for $200,000, a car, a motorbike or a house. The following day, Rudd made several threatening phone calls to his former assistant, culminating in one communication where the drummer allegedly stated, “I’m going to come over and kill you.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Rudd denies ever asking anyone to be “taken out” or any sort of murder-for-hire exchange, though a report by New Zealand TV station 3 News said that the drummer apologized to the man he threatened. (The apology was accepted.) For Rudd, the whole incident stemmed from a record-release-party altercation that has been blown out of proportion.