EXCLUSIVE: As the foundation to one of the most successful bands of all time, Phil Rudd knows a thing or two about hard rock and roll. A member of AC/DC for the majority of their career, he recorded such seminal works as ‘Back In Black’, ‘Highway To Hell’, and ‘Let There Be Rock’ with the band, to name just a few. Parting ways with AC/DC for the second time in 2015 after a well-publicised brush with the law, Phil is now concentrating full time on his solo band. And why not; “I played next to fuckin’ Malcolm Young for close to forty years, mate - I know how a guitar’s supposed to go”, he reasons. We caught up with Phil to discuss the solo band, their upcoming tour, and a little Acca Dacca history. Head job; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Phil, how are you this morning?
I’m cracking, mate. I’ve been up since five o’clock. I get up really early, mate. I’m an early bird anyway.
It sounds like you’re back to full health again, following your recent health scare [Phil reportedly suffered a heart attack earlier in 2016].
Thanks mate, I am. I’m very, very well. I’m really in good shape.
You’ve just announced a run of European dates in support of your album ‘Head Job’. Are you excited to be taking the solo band out on the road?
Oh, fuck yeah. I’m used to the hard grind. I’m just not sure about my mates, but they’ll be okay, I’ll keep them in shape! It’s a bit different – I’m used to the old style of one on, one off, but we’re going to be working hard, so hopefully we can rise to it.
You’re going back into the small clubs for the first time in years. Are you looking forward to getting up close and personal again?
Yeah, and I’m looking forward to having a big, fat sound and making the place move around a bit, you know? The ‘Head Job’ album is the stuff that we’re mainly going to be doing, and hopefully, fuckin’ nailing it.
You’ve playing with a trio now, instead of the five-piece; does that mean that you have to work a bit harder?
Well, we’ve got another guitarist now. We’ve got a rhythm guitarist that we’re highly beating into shape at the moment. He’s just the right guy for us, so we’ve lucked out. It’s all coming together quite well.
The ‘Head Job’ album was put together while you were still with AC/DC.
Well, in and out of AC/DC. There were a couple of long pauses in between there.
Is that why you decided to do it, because AC/DC were having some downtime?
No, I decided to do it way back, in 1985, when I first split from the guys for a while. I was sort of sitting around, and was kind of isolated from everything, and it’s just some stuff I started doing by myself. It’s just grown into what it is, and I’m certainly real happy with it.
So you’ve been thinking of releasing something solo since 1985?
Yeah. I ended up building a studio, because I’m very musical. I’m not really a sort of a highfalutin’ musician, but I am a sort of a ground level kind of achiever; that’s my forte. But I am really looking forward to it. You know, coming to Ireland, that would be fuckin’ fantastic. I don’t know if there are any Irish dates on there, but that would be fuckin’ great, mate. I’ve got a bit of Irish in me; I come from the Boyles. I don’t know if they’re a popular clan or not – I better be careful what I say!
You’ve always been a fan of fast cars, and the video for ‘Head Job’ features you driving around in pretty tasty motor.
That’s a Ferrari 599; one hundred miles an hour in five seconds from a standstill. It’s a fuckin’ beast. I couldn’t understand why they made it go so slow on the video, but I love it, I love it.
It harks back to the 1979 AC/DC movie ‘Let There Be Rock, which saw you hammering around in the snow in a Porsche.
Yeah, that’s right. That was the lake near Paris. That was a 928 Porsche. Yeah, they’re similar, but un-similar.
The album ‘Let There Be Rock’ turns forty in January. Do you have many memories of recording it?
Yeah, sort of. All those early albums that we did at Albert [Productions, AC/DC’s early Australian label] are all kind of; you could mistake one for the other at any time, you know? I remember the first recording. ‘High Voltage’ was the first thing I ever recorded with the band, and that was pretty nerve wracking, with George Young [producer, and brother of AC/DC founders Angus and Malcolm Young] looking on. I was just a young fella, you know? But they made me what I am today, and that’s a good thing. So it’s all good.
How did recording an AC/DC album work back then; was it a case of “Phil, you have three days for drum tracks”?
No, we’d go in as a rhythm track band; Malcolm and Angus and Cliff [Williams, bassist] and myself, and we’d get a feel for the song, and then get the drums down.
Which is your favourite of the albums you recorded with AC/DC?
I probably like ‘Rock Or Bust’ as much as any of them. It was ten days; it was in and out, in this day in age where it can take six months to get a couple of tracks down, depending on how you go about it. But I love ‘Hard Times’, and the guitar sound on ‘Emission Control’ is fuckin’ out of it, man - it’s the best guitar sound I’ve ever heard.
At the other end of the scale, ‘For Those About To Rock’ took months to record.
That one came after ‘Back In Black’, and we did that one in Paris. We did ‘Flick Of The Switch’ in Paris as well, I think. But I don’t know, my memory’s fuckin’ going.
You and the band parted ways during the recording of ‘Flick Of The Switch’, after a fight with Malcolm Young.
Nah, it wasn’t really like that. It was just a misunderstanding, you know, when you look back on those things.
Were you disappointed that you never got to perform any of the tracks from ‘Rock Or Bust’ live?
I was. I was very disappointed, but it’s called ‘shooting yourself in the foot’, young man; I fuckin’ did it, mate, and I did it well. I’m sort of a little bit restricted on travelling around like I’m used to, but I’m coping with that, and I’m not done yet!
Would you be comfortable being in AC/DC now, with Malcolm, Brian Johnson, and Cliff Williams all gone?
Well, yeah, I would be. There are other options, and I’ve got my ideas. Nothing’s impossible, let’s just say that.
Have you had any contact with any of the guys since parting ways?
Yes, I have, I’ve had contact with the guys and the crew. I’ve heard from Brian. I spoke to Brian a couple of days ago. We were talking about cars and how fuckin’ useless he is; how much quicker I am than him! He’s doing all right.
Coming back to the solo shows, and I’m guessing you’re going to be playing a mix of material, including some AC/DC tracks?
Well, we’re doing the Bonfest, so we’ve picked out a few of Bon’s songs, and I think our boy Badge [vocalist and bassist Alan Badger] will do them justice, and we’re looking forward to bringing that back. We’re really looking forward to Bonfest [The international Bon Scott Festival] tremendously. That’s on 28th April somewhere in Scotland. Mate, it will be fuckin’ great, I can’t wait. I’m really excited.
Any hints of what tracks you might be playing?
I’ll tell you one of the Bon ones that we’re going to play. Let’s go and have a look at the list -I’ve got to write everything down at my age, mate. The list says; ‘Shot Down In Flames’, so that’s one. We’ll be fuckin’ rockin’, I promise you that, mate.
Finally, have you plans for a second solo album once this run of dates is done?
Yes, absolutely. It’ll keep up being the solo sort of thing. I mean, I don’t know how long it’s going to go on; I mean, I’m fuckin’ three hundred and forty-six years old now, so I’m not sure how far into the future I’m looking. But while we’re still up to doing it, yeah, we’re going to keep doing it. We’ve got plans for a second album, as long as we’re still alive and not having a stroke or anything.
And you’ll be engineering and producing again as well?
I don’t think I’ll be engineering, but I’ll be producing, I imagine. I like it to be just how I like it, you know? It can be a pain in the ass, but you get what you want.
Did I notice you with a guitar on you, in the ‘Head Job Video’ video?
Yeah, I did. I wrote a lot of the songs. I mean, I played next to fuckin’ Malcolm Young for close to forty years, mate, I know how a guitar’s supposed to go, you know? It’s ‘within’, so it’s coming without.
Phil Rudd's 'Head Job' is out now.
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Phil Rudd 2017 European dates:
Mar. 31 - Hard Rock Café - Oslo, Norway
Apr. 01 - Musiik Kielleren - Jossingfjord, Norway
Apr. 07 - Storlian Rockfest - Storlian, Sweden
Apr. 28 - Bonfest - Scotland, UK
May 02 - Kaufleuten - Zurich, Switzerland
May 03 - Arena - Vienna, Austria
May 04 - Cinema Paradiso - St Polten, Austria
May 05 - Phenomenon - Novarra, Italy
May 06 - Legend Club - Ravena, Italy
May 07 - Durer Kert Big Hall - Budapest, Hungary
May 10 - Lucerna Music Bar - Prague, Czech Republic
May 11 - Brno Semi Lasso - Brno, Czech Republic
May 12 - Livinov Attic Music Club - Litvino, Czech Republic
May 13 - Jablonec N/N - Eurocentrum, Czech Republic
May 16 - Bratislava Rock Café - Dudravka, Slovakia
May 17 - Ostrava Barrack Club - Moravska Ostrava, Slovakia
May 18 - Zilina Dom Odrobov - Ziliana, Slovakia
May 19 - Sk Presov - Pko Presov, Slovakia
May 20 - Pardudice - Zluty Pes, Czech Republic
May 21 - Band On The Wall - Manchester, UK
May 24 - The Brook - Southampton, UK
May 25 - Concorde - Brighton, UK
May 26 - St Albans Arena - St Albans, UK
May 27 - Underworld - London, UK
May 28 - Corn Exchange - Edinburgh, UK