Phil Rudd of AC/DC
We could bleed your ears with needless adjectives and pusillanimous pontification, in a feeble attempt to describe the stone grooves of AC/DC’s Phil Rudd. Seriously, what else needs to be said, other than:
In between flying helicopters, racing cars, and visiting “Dad’s Day” at school, he called us from his home in New Zealand to talk about getting back to business with AC/DC.
Do you ever get tired of being known for boom, bap, boom, bap, or is it something that you’re really proud of?
It’s pretty cool to be known as one of the better-known exponents of that style. It’s just a part of what the whole thing adds up to, really. You have to be a little patient, I guess, to play that way. If you work on your feels and the way your fills step up and step down, it’s pretty cool when you start whacking out the last double chorus and it’s really happening, you know?
And you’ve never used a click track in the studio.
It’s a band thing. If we couldn’t play it, then what’s the point? When the guys write riffs, they write them in a certain way at a certain speed, so that a certain character comes out of them. If you play it too fast, the character thins out, and if you play it too slow you feel like you’re waiting for a late bus. The idea is to appreciate the feel, whether it’s a chorus feel or whatever. It’s supposed to swing, so you base everything around that. But it’s true, we don’t use a click or samples. It’s a blues-roots thing. Muddy Waters never used a click track. Not that I know of, anyway.
Everybody now is using samplers, patching with Pro Tools, and all of that.
Well, it’s the technology. It’s good in some ways and bad in others. If you’re looking to put something together, then you’ve got such a variety of stuff to choose from, but you’re never going to become Ray Charles by using other people’s samples. You have to make something that’s your own.
I read somewhere that when you left the band in 1983, you settled in New Zealand and … invested in a helicopter business?
I bought a couple of helicopters. I learned to fly helicopters when I first visited New Zealand. I have some relatives here, and it was an accident that I visited one time … and never left. So I started flying helicopters and settling into the local lifestyle, which was great. It was great to not have to be going anywhere. You could plan to do something for a couple of weeks. It was a change. And I did a lot of competitive handgun shooting, I raced cars, I had five kids. [laughs]
Which is the hardest to do, it’s got to be the kids, right? Or is that what the handguns are for?
[laughs] No, although sometimes … really, the kids are what you get the most reward from, if you’re patient and wait around long enough.
Is it true that you went to your kid’s school for “Dad’s Day” and took your entire drum set? Did any roadies help you?
I did, yeah. That was a hard day’s work. My roadie lives in Wales, so he couldn’t help me out that day. There was another guy there, Robbie Dean, who is a well-known motorcycle racer here in New Zealand. He brought a big 1100 Suzuki, and he was doing wheel stands on the front wheels, and riding around the basketball courts. And I was banging the drums. All the kids came out, it was great. I really enjoyed it.
Do you have a favorite memory or two from the last, oh, few decades or so?
The greatest thing I’ve ever done with this band was smoke The Stones into the weeds in Toronto in front of 485,000 people. It was for the big SARS benefit that they had there almost two years ago. A big event, I believe it was the biggest ticketed show in North American history. They closed off the motorways, and there was this big mass of people that walked in and out in one day. We did three shows in Europe with The Stones during the summer, and they said, “We’re going to do this one in Toronto, do you want to come?” We said, “Yeah we’ll come.” So we went, and it was The Stones, us, The Guess Who, and Rush. The Stones gave us an hour – that’s a dangerous thing to do. You don’t give us an hour before you go on, mate. We’re not going to leave much left. [laughs] It was a great show, it was tremendous. [Vocalist] Brian [Johnson] was rocking. The whole band just nailed it. We got into the van offstage and went, “Yeah, f**king follow that!” Because we’re an arrogant bunch of little pricks. We do take our command of the stage pretty seriously, in case you hadn’t noticed.