Phil Rudd's Interview

Definitely worth a read. Talks about the “philosophy” (again) of AC/DC but to me, more profoundly, of the whole essence of rock and roll.

Phil Rudd – The Cyber Drum interview

Phil Rudd

Cyber Drum Interview (

Phil Rudd
Warner Brothers Recording Artists
Molson Center August 15, 2000
Interview by Steven Scott Fyfe

Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution and AC/DC is definitely back. Don’t count these guys out just yet because their latest album Stiff Upper Lip, is in fact an indication that this Aussie quintet still knows not only how to write good rock music, but again have applied their signature expertise as only they know how.

Rediscover these multimillion selling hard rockers AC/DC next time they’re in your city and see these legends put on a show (over two hours) of pure rock anthems; gems like Shook Me All Night Long, Shot Down In Flames, Noise Pollution, Bad Boy Boogie, Hell’s Bells, Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap), Highway to Hell, A Whole Lota Rosie, Let There Be Rock and so on. The new album features hits like Stiff Upper Lip, Safe in New York City and All Screwed Up.

The only way I can explain the show is like you wish everyone could see it. It’s like, if someone knows you’ve been to Disney Land and they ask you to tell them about it, you can’t, it’s impossible, everyone has to experience it for himself. This is the same for AC/DC, you don’t go to one of their concerts, you experience AC/DC!

I was fortunate enough to meet the boys and can honestly say that they are all gentlemen. No egos here people, none at all.

I sat down with Phil Rudd (an easy going all-around nice person) to talk about his exceptional career in Rock ‘n Roll.

What would you say have been the most significant changes in drum manufacturing since you started playing over 30 years ago?

Sonor would be the single biggest improvement in drum hardware in the whole drum manufacturing because it allows for much more endurance. I’ve been with Sonor for about 20 years now and I enjoy playing them, they’re great drums all around. I use the standard kit with one tom up front, two big floor toms, a 24-inch bass drum, and a 5 ¾ snare drum for the reaction between the heads.

Your snare sound has always been a punchy one, any tuning tips?
Tuning is a feel thing, if you can’t feel it you can’t tune it. There is usually a small range in the way you can tune a drum to have a particular response to it.

You’ve always been known as a straight-in-the-pocket powerful drummer that digs deep down in order to achieve the groove. Can you talk about how you and Cliff Williams (bass) worked out parts for your latest album Stiff Upper Lip?
The rhythm section is Cliff, Malcolm and myself and we all lock together to get the groove. We all listen to each other to lock and be tight because, if one person decides to go by himself, this doesn’t mean anything. We are all looking for the pocket, and search for the real feel of the thing, and that is the essence of what we try to do.

On your numerous recordings, we feel your attention to accents, dynamics and all-around control in your signature playing style. Can you translate this approach to our younger readers at Cyber Drum for them to understand your perception on playing?
It’s always good to wait and see what happens. When I was younger and starting out I had a speed period, was into fast fills, speed was my interest, paradiddles and different rudiment combinations. My first inspiration to play drums and to be excited about music was probably a song called Tin Soldier by The Small Faces where you have a breakdown in the middle section then the guitar comes blaring in. You have to feel the songs together in order for it to have an impact or something, you can’t just go out by yourself and be pretentious and you have to feel the whole thing. Everyone has to be listening and playing together. One guy alone it just won’t work, you need back up.

After 30 years in the music industry, what inspires you to keep going at it still?
It’s the same thing, the same feeling as when I first started. Now it’s bigger stages and monitoring systems and visuals. The inspiration comes from the same place you know, it’s like a jockey who wants to ride, if he loves to do it he can ride good and having this combination doesn’t hurt, you have to be into it and want it. It’s whether you can generate some adrenaline. We all work pretty hard to get the results that we are looking for. Angus says it best when he says we can’t fake it and on stage, you can see we all have a great time playing the songs together. At the moment, the band is having the most enjoyable tour we’ve ever had and we are enjoying everything about it. It’s a lot of work but at the same time, a lot of fun. We still like to work at it.

As for recording, do you enjoy clicking to every song?
I have never used a click track on any of the albums I’ve recorded, never in my life have I used it. You know, it’s not about my timing per say, it’s the feel of the guys and what we’ve got. Man, you can’t rock to a click, it just doesn’t happen. We rock as a band and we all listen to our tracks and, if it sounds good, it sounds good and the songs are great to play. I’ve never used a click track, ever. The song will dictate your playing. Every riff has its own speed and feel and that’s the mental hook-up with the songs.

Are you a drummer who reacts to the feel of the music or rely on your chops?
I do react to the feel and as for chops, sometimes you get inspired when you get a certain sound on stage, especially when you have a huge sound system. You can be playing a simple part, get inspired and have the combination of feel and chops come together.

How do you keep the energy up night after night, performing for over two hours the rock anthems that AC/DC has been doing for 30 years?
Well, that’s something we enjoy doing. We get to the show and fifteen thousand people there give you the horsepower to do it and you just do it. The whole thing just comes up because you know what you are doing is simple but hard to do. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve all come to appreciate it in each other now. In the past, we were more fired-up and much more aggressive and now, we just enjoy what it is we can do and there are no restrictions or limits, everything is still one hundred percent. We do still battle to get that raw sound on stage and you need to be able to feel it in order to enjoy it. Some nights you do enjoy more than others because it does happen when the overall sound might be swirling, and you may have a problem hearing someone and instead you hear indirectly from the hall and when this happens, you must work hard to try to keep everything together where it’s supposed to be.

When someone is having a hard night and you feel it, how do you deal with the situation?
It’s more trying to allow ourselves to think how one could enjoy this more by imagining you are in a small club somewhere instead of a big hall and to recreate that fat little club sound. I mean, we do play on a big stage and I am surrounded by massive monitoring systems with four different feeds of sounds coming in just to hear everyone. And we do try, even though we are not close to each other, to have that sense. So it’s like we all know what we are there to do, the parts just come at you and the last thing you want to worry about is where am I now? (laughs). Because if you have to think about what’s coming next, you won’t get there.

As for staying healthy on the road?
All the energy is directed towards the two hours of the show and you have to keep yourself down during the day and not run around everywhere. It’s a workout in itself and self-supporting. You have to be careful not to hurt something that would result in a few days off, it is physical what I and we do and you don’t want a pulled muscle or something. The most important thing in the day is the show. You chill out and you prepare yourself to peak at the right time.

Recently, in Madrid, Spain, a street was named in recognition of the band. How does this attention make you feel?
Well, I can’t wait to go to Spain and see what it’s all about. It’s obviously a huge compliment for a band like us to have such an influence in a community because they don’t name many streets after rock bands.

What is your opinion on MP3s and Napster on the Net?
I do think that you can’t hand a person’s livelihood around for free. It’s like going out making copies of Playboy and selling them on the road, you won’t last very long. The ability to be able to transfer files so easily doesn’t mean the intellectual property should be forgotten. It’s a serious copyright situation.

From all the records you have done with AC/DC, is there one that stands out more?
I think Stiff Upper Lip in a lot of ways is my favorite album. It was fun to record and it was a great environment in the studio. (Recorded at the Warehouse Studio in Vancouver owned by Bryan Adams). We had great songs to play, one is All Screwed Up which you don’t hear about much because the record companies pick the singles, and we let them do this. Other great ones include Can’t Stand Still and Safe in New York City. They’re all great and fun to play.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Colored Balls?
Colored Balls? (laughs). Well, that was a one gig career that one. I was really young and they asked me to do a show one night and the rehearsal was like eh…… six joints and the biggest can of beer!

Advice to anyone interested in following in your footsteps….
You have to persevere, have the right inspiration and to know what it is you are trying to do. You don’t have to do certain things for a reason, but if this is your desire and focus….it’s what all of us in the band had and still have today.

Endorsements include: Sonor Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Easton Drum Sticks, and Rhythm Tech.

Phil uses a few Paiste Signature Cymbals series and the new Dimensions, which he says, are really nice to play.

Easton sticks have built a special stick for Phil (black sticks) not available to the general public. “The beauty of it is that each one is exactly the same”.

Sonor Drums, according to Phil, are the single most significant change in drum manufacturing since he started playing drums more than 30 years ago.

Thanks to Johanna Dine, Mitch DePalma and Eric Boisvert of Warner Music Canada.
Article by Steven Scott Fyfe.