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Why Did Phil Rudd Go to Prison?

Phil Rudd is best known as the drummer for the legendary rock band AC/DC. He first joined the Australian group in 1975 and performed on their classic albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s. However, Rudd has also gained notoriety for his legal troubles later in life, most notably convictions in New Zealand that led to time spent in prison. This article will provide background on Phil Rudd’s music career, summarize the criminal charges against him, and analyze how incarceration impacted his life.

Phil Rudd’s Music Career as AC/DC’s Drummer

A native of Australia, Phil Rudd first played with the rock group Coloured Balls in the early 1970s before being recruited to join AC/DC in 1974. He took over drumming duties from original member Tony Currenti just as the band was gaining major momentum.

Rudd’s powerful, pounding drum beats were featured on classic AC/DC albums like T.N.T., Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, and Highway to Hell in the late 1970s. He co-wrote many of the band’s songs with Angus and Malcolm Young during this period.

However, Rudd exited AC/DC in 1983 after tensions with other band members worsened due to his increased drug use and erratic behavior. He was replaced by Simon Wright.

Rudd rejoined a reformed lineup of AC/DC in 1994 and remained with the group for two more decades. He participated in massive tours and albums like Ballbreaker, Stiff Upper Lip, and Black Ice. But Rudd was again let go from AC/DC in 2014 when his legal troubles began overshadowing the band.

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The Crimes Leading to Rudd’s Conviction and Incarceration

In 2014, Phil Rudd was living in Tauranga, New Zealand when a series of serious charges were brought against him by local law enforcement. The most notable included:

  • Attempting to procure a murder – Rudd was accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill two people, though the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
  • Threatening to kill – Rudd directly threatened a victim repeatedly.
  • Possession of methamphetamine and cannabis – Drugs were found in Rudd’s home.

After initially pleading not guilty, Rudd changed his plea in 2015 and was convicted on the threatening to kill and drug possession charges. He was sentenced to eight months of home detention rather than jail time.

However, just two weeks into his home detention, Rudd was arrested again for breaching the terms of his detention by consuming alcohol and violating curfews. This resulted in four more weeks of actual jail time for Rudd to serve.

Consequences of Incarceration on Rudd’s Life

Being convicted of serious felonies and serving time, albeit relatively brief, had major impacts on Phil Rudd’s career and personal life:

  • Public embarrassment – Rudd’s reputation took a big hit, particularly in his adopted home country of New Zealand.
  • Removal from AC/DC – The band swiftly fired Rudd and distanced themselves from his troubles.
  • Career decline – With his time in AC/DC over, Rudd struggled to find work or form new bands.
  • Financial hardship – Legal fees and lost income severely hurt Rudd’s bottom line.
  • Personal relationships damaged – The ordeal put strain on Rudd’s family and friends.
  • Health issues – Rudd suffered a heart attack a few years after his legal troubles began, possibly related to stress.
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While not a lengthy prison sentence, the consequences of even brief jail time were severe and life-altering for Rudd.

Rudd’s Life and Activities After Release

In the years since his convictions, Phil Rudd has maintained a low profile in New Zealand and struggled to revive his music career. He was able to rejoin a reformed version of Coloured Balls for some performances and recording in the early 2020s. Rudd also released a solo album in 2019 titled Head Job.

However, the album and Rudd’s other musical projects since prison have not achieved substantial success. Musically, he has been defined by and unable to escape the towering legacy of his AC/DC fame.

Outside of music, Rudd has apparently tried to live a healthier and more stable lifestyle post-incarceration. But details of his personal life remain very private. The drummer is now in his late 60s and keeps busy pursuing minor musical projects near his New Zealand home.

Key Factors Behind Rudd’s Legal Troubles

Examining the chain of events leading up to Phil Rudd’s convictions and jail time points to a few root causes:

  • Long history of drug abuse – Rudd had reportedly struggled with addiction to meth, cannabis, and alcohol for decades.
  • Mental health issues – Rudd was displaying erratic behavior pointing to instability or illness.
  • Cut off from support of band – Once fired by AC/DC, Rudd lost the structure and income the band had provided.
  • Isolation – Living alone in a small town, Rudd did not have close friends or family to support him.
  • Reckless decisions – Poor judgement led Rudd to commit serious crimes on impulse.
  • Refusal of help – Rudd ignored advice to get his life in order after initial charges.
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Rudd’s situation highlights how drug abuse, mental illness, and isolation can contribute to dangerous behavior landing someone in prison.


In summary, revered AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd saw his music career and personal life unravel in 2014 when he was convicted of drug possession and murder threats in New Zealand. His refusal to comply with the terms of his home detention resulted in actual jail time being served.

The consequences of even brief incarceration were severe for Rudd, costing him his spot in AC/DC and limiting his opportunities going forward. While a minor musical comeback has occurred, his life has never fully recovered from the damaging ordeal.

The legal troubles that landed Rudd in prison appear to have stemmed largely from untreated addiction and mental health issues. His situation stands as a cautionary tale about the consequences of reckless behavior. But the drummer has since focused on sobriety and turning his life around.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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