Thunderstruck: AC/DC fans in shock as drummer faces murder plot charge

Phil Rudd, the band’s drummer, has been charged with trying to arrange two murders

Kathy Marks
Friday 07 November 2014 04:15
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AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd

He provides the thumping beat that has powered AC/DC to the pinnacle of hard rock. Theirs is a world of excess, tight trousers and vast sums of money.

But yesterday the rock scene in Australia and beyond was reeling from news that Phil Rudd, the band’s drummer, had been charged with trying to arrange two murders.

Mr Rudd, who was arrested in an early-morning raid on his luxury beachside home in Tauranga, New Zealand, made a brief appearance in Tauranga District Court yesterday, shoeless and dishevelled.

As well as allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill two men in late September, the 60-year-old is charged with threatening to kill one of them and with possessing drugs.

The news horrified fans of AC/DC, one of the highest-grossing acts of all time whose hits include “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. The band – who are poised to release a new album, Rock or Bust, in December, and were planning a world tour in 2015 – have already lost guitarist Malcolm Young, who quit in September after being diagnosed with dementia.

Mr Rudd – who joined AC/DC in 1975, two years after it was founded by the Scottish-born Mr Young and his brother Angus – moved to New Zealand’s North Island in 1983 after a bust-up but rejoined the group in 1994. He released his first solo album, Head Job, in August.

The judge, Louis Bidois, ordered the identities of Mr Rudd’s alleged targets to be suppressed, along with that of the alleged hitman. He granted bail on condition that Mr Rudd not contact anyone involved in the case and remain at his Tauranga home, about 125 miles south-east of Auckland.

The drummer – who left court in a silver Mercedes convertible, driven by an unidentified blonde woman – has not yet been required to enter a plea. He will next appear in court on 27 November.

Mr Rudd, who along with fellow AC/DC members was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted of trying to procure the murders.

The heavy metal pioneers have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. “AC/DC” stands for “alternating current/direct current”, which the brothers felt symbolised the band’s raw energy; their sister had spotted the initials on a sewing machine. One of the world’s biggest touring acts, they are rivalled only by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and U2. Their hits include “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black” and “It’s a Long Way to the Top”.

They were not, however, an instant success. Rolling Stone magazine said of their first album in 1976 that “hard rock has unquestionably hit an all‑time low”. It was not until 2008 that the publication put the band on the front cover.

In 1989 the US military flushed General Manuel Noriega out of his Panama compound by blasting AC/DC music at him non-stop for two days. It used similar tactics against Sunni Muslim gunmen in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, tormenting them with heavy metal including AC/DC.

A spokesman for US army psychological operations said at the time: “It’s not the music so much as the sound. It’s like throwing a smoke bomb. The aim is to disorient and confuse the enemy to gain a tactical advantage.”

Rumours that the band would retire after news of Malcolm Young’s illness were dismissed by Mr Rudd, who said: “Angus will never retire and as long as Angus never retires I won’t fucking retire either.”

Mr Rudd owns a restaurant in Tauranga called Phil’s Place. Earlier this year, New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority ordered him to pay more than NZ$72,000 (£35,000) to three employees whom he reportedly yelled at and abused after they failed to deliver an antipasto platter to his private aircraft hangar.

Mr Rudd did not appear in a new photo of band members released last month. The drug charges relate to cannabis and methamphetamine allegedly found at his home during yesterday’s raid. The raid reportedly followed a tip-off.

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