The man allegedly hired as a hitman by AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd says the rocker told him he was being threatened for not paying "working girls".
Rudd, 60, was charged with attempting to procure murder, threatening to kill and possession of methamphetamine and cannabis following a police raid on his Tauranga home yesterday morning.
The alleged hitman, whose name has been suppressed, told the Sydney Morning Herald in an exclusive interview that Rudd was the "Hugh Hefner of Tauranga", claiming that the amount he spent on "company is like someone's yearly wage".
The man told Fairfax Media: "The girls that he gets, working girls and that, they're p***ed off, he tells them 'Nah I'm not paying you' and then the partners come and say they want their money."
He said although Rudd was burning his bridges with those "who care about him'' he was still a "good fella" with a "big heart".
"You've got to feel sorry for him - just the expectations everyone has of him," he said.
He told the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday he was running a small business in Tauranga some years ago when he first met Rudd. They had been friends ever since. He said the rock drummer was "a good fella", though he'd had some problems.
When asked by the Times about murder plot allegations, the man replied: "I don't know what you're talking about."
He said Rudd had recently asked him to work for him after firing two other employees. The ageing rocker had become irritable recently and burned a lot of bridges, the man said. "He's burning the ones who care about him."
Despite the allegations, Rudd was a good person, he said.
"The joys of being a rock star, always in the spotlight. You've got to feel sorry for him - just the expectations everyone has of him. He's a good fella. He's got a big heart."
The man said police called him yesterday morning to inform him of Rudd's arrest. Both people alleged to be the intended victims refused to comment yesterday.
When Daily Mail Australia contacted AC/DC's ex-manager, Michael Browning, he had only just heard the news and said it was a "bit of a shock, but there you go".
A statement on the band's website said: "We've only become aware of Phil's arrest'' as the news was breaking.
Rudd appears on the balcony of his house to dismiss the media. Photo / John Borren
"We have no further comment. Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year."
Rudd was silent during a brief, shoeless appearance in Tauranga District Court yesterday afternoon and has been released on bail until his next appearance on November 27.
According to court documents, Rudd is accused of attempting to hire one person to kill two others between September 25 and September 26.
He is also accused of threatening to kill a complainant on September 26.
Details of the complaints and the names of the alleged intended targets and hitman were suppressed by Judge Louis Bidois.
At the request of defence lawyer Tony Rickard-Simms, Rudd was remanded on bail until November 27 when he will reappear in court. His bail conditions include that he lives at his Bureta home and not contact any of the complainants.
Rudd leaves yesterday, driven by a blonde woman. He was also charged with drugs possession. Photo / George Novak
The maximum penalty for procuring a murder is 10 years' imprisonment, while threatening to kill carries a maximum of seven years.
The drummer refused to speak with gathered media as he pulled away from the court in a late-model soft-top Mercedes, driven by a woman who had watched the court proceedings from the public gallery.
Rudd's defence lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, said he was not prepared to comment on the police allegations.
Rudd's two-storey home yesterday remained under guard by security contractors, who were running errands for him and keeping people away from the property.
Security staff watch the entrance to Rudd's home. Photo / John Borren
A resident told the Herald he was shocked to have arrived home from work to learn what his friendly next-door neighbour had been charged with.
"I know Phil, he's a good neighbour ... we'll chat about any old thing.
"I even see him out mowing the lawn for the elderly lady next door, so he's a pretty down-to-earth guy."
Another neighbour said: "This is quite a surprise."
Biographer Jesse Fink, author of the new book, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, said he was "stunned, absolutely stunned".
Mr Fink told Daily Mail Australia Rudd had "deteriorated" in recent years.
"You go back and you see photos of Phil from the Seventies, he's a beautiful man, a very handsome man.
"To see someone deteriorate as much as he has is quite alarming."
The Australian-born drummer has lived in Tauranga for a number of years.
He first moved to New Zealand in 1983 after being sacked by the band, but hooked up with the band again in 1994.
Phil Rudd, pictured earlier this year in Tauranga, has been a resident of New Zealand since the early Eighties. Photo / George Novak
Rudd was absent from some promotional material and photographs for AC/DC's 16th studio album, Rock or Bust, which will be released in Australia on November 28.
- With Daily Mail Australia, AAP and Bay of Plenty Times