Interview: Ted Nugent is a Smart, Reasonable, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nut-Job
By Brian Ives
“I didn’t invent ‘adorable,’ but I think I perfected it, right here in front of you.”
If you can’t laugh at the above Ted Nugent quote, you might have a hard time dealing with an interview with Ted Nugent. In fact, you might have a hard time dealing with it anyway, depending on where you stand politically, and how much tolerance you have for his Gonzo brand of political grandstanding in this interview. Though, he denies that there’s any kind of theatricality to his oft-repeated and retweeted incendiary comments.
My diet is nothing like the Nuge’s, I’m not a gun owner and my ballot probably doesn’t resemble his on Election Day. But I share his love for Chuck Berry and the founders of rock and roll, I know he loves his dogs, and I figured that’s enough common ground to at least be able to have a conversation. That’s what I tried to do: not demonize the guy (too easy). Not toss him interview-chum in the form of questions about the President (he’ll go there anyway, for no reason at all). But to actually speak to him as a person, albeit one who is always on stage, as long as a mic or camera is in his vicinity. It turns out that he’s a bit crazy. At others, he makes sense.
And surprisingly, he’s a bit more open-minded than you’d expect. So you might want to be on the lookout of a Ted Nugent/Tom Morello co-hosted radio show in the future, which may not be as far-fetched as you would think.
Below is the entire transcript of the interview, unabridged.
Radio.com: Your new album is called Shutup&Jam!
Ted Nugent: Shutup&Jam, what a concept! You know, as soon as I wrap up my “daily obligations,” making sure that my elected employees are accountable to that whimsical oath [they took] to the U.S. Constitution, I grab my guitar and cleanse my soul, and I’ve been known to shut up and jam… temporarily. It’s a reflex to the heartbreaking culture war that we’re in, where there is a division in America that is so unnecessary, but it is what it is. I don’t really have many “opinions,” but I understand self-evident truth, and I understand logic and I understand common sense. I don’t really care what you believe in. I mean, I do care because I’d like you to believe in the right thing, but I’m a public performer so I can’t frisk the spirit of everybody who comes to my concerts. So we don’t have to agree on anything except the music when the curtain goes up, you know what I mean? I’ve got a lot of friends that are liberals, and I’m slowly but surely fixing that. But in the meantime, we can shut up and jam and have a good musical get-down. And we do, every night.
Do you think your message ever gets lost in your messaging? Your interviews have an element of theater to them.
If you’re a sheep, a “we the people” stand appears radical. Doing my job as [an American, and part of] “we the people” appears to be outrageous to people who have given up their soul and are intentionally disconnected and obviously don’t give a damn. So, someone like me — and everyone I know—- who really gives a damn and speaks up, that comes off as shocking to people who just blindly follow their leader. So I apologize for nothing. I come from Detroit, and you don’t say ‘No thank you’ to someone who is trying to hurt or rob you: you shoot them between the eyes! I suppose if you want to bend over and be a victim, shooting someone between the eyes comes off as really outrageous. I believe in survival, I believe in good over evil and there’s a whole bunch of us that stand with me. So those that don’t stand with me, are the weirdos. That’s the lunatic fringe.
Shutup&Jam has a Chuck Berry kind of vibe.
Isn’t my music the last of the real rhythm and blues? Isn’t it great? It’s because of my musicians, we were weaned on Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, all the founding fathers, the gods of thunder, who invented the foundation and the pulse of the greatest music in the world. And I say this as a cute statement, but it’s actually undeniable: when was the last really cool song you heard from France? You can’t do this in France! You can’t create this stuff anywhere but America, where you’re free to express yourself! So this music comes from that school. If you’re a real rock and roll music lover, the thing that ShutUp&Jam has, which is what Damn Yankees had, and the Amboy Dukes, and the Ted Nugent Band, and all the bands that we love, I don’t care if it’s Bruno Mars or Aerosmith or Sammy Hagar or ZZ Top… it’s about songs. “Paperback Writer,” “Satisfaction,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Walk This Way,” all the killer songs in the world start with an identifiable guitar pattern that is basically a bastardization of either honky-tonk or boogie woogie. And that’s in every cool piece of music in the world that you and I love. Even though I’m 65.7 years old — I’m old! — I still have this unbelievable, perfect, pure, unbridled passion for the same uppity, spirited cadence that Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Little Richard created in the beginning. But I represent it and I project it and deliver it in my own style and signature.
When you were on the VH1 show “Supergroup,” I remember Evan Seinfeld (of Biohazard) referred to blues as “old man music,” which must have bugged you.
Let me tell you what bugs me: nothing. I see a cockroach and I’ll stomp it, but it didn’t really “bug” me, I just got rid of him. But [what Seinfeld said] is a self-inflicted limitation, and I have none of those. So I’m aware of Yusef Lateef and Sun Ra and John Coltrane. My music cup runneth over. I try to encourage people: don’t cut anything off, don’t limit yourself. Give it a good listen: you might find something [you like] in that goofy Sun Ra noise, that dissonance. Before I learned “official musicality” – which you should avoid at all costs – I listened to some Sun Ra and Yusef Lateef and John Coltrane and that’s where “Journey to the Center of the Mind” came from. When you intentionally and aggressively pursue musical communication with those powerfully impactful musical geniuses, you will pick up something.
What’s your take on your gig being cancelled at the Coeur d’Alene Casino?
I’m so good at advancing the most politically incorrect policies of the world, i.e. I’ve been involved in all 50 states upgrading our 2nd amendment rights. So we the people can, in fact, keep and bare arms. The left hates that. The liberal Democrats and the Huffington Post and the Saul Alinsky gang, they hate that I’m so effective. I have expanded and increased hunting opportunities all across the globe because I know conservation, I know wildlife management models of indisputable success. So I am able to, dare I say, perfectly articulate my case. They’re not, so they literally have an army assigned to destroy Ted Nugent.
When you study my haters’ agenda, they literally specifically state they want America to be like Chicago: a gun free zone. Are you kidding me? You have to have a sun-baked turd for a soul to see [a place] where the most people are killed everyday, and want more of that. In those jurisdictions where we have accomplished [the right to bear arms], not only does violent crime go down, not only does the use of guns in violent crimes go down, but assault type crimes, like rape and shootings, they don’t just go down: they go away. So like I said to Piers Morgan before I got his ass fired [note: Nugent has previously taken credit for CNN firing Morgan], you’ve got your dream in Chicago, and I’ve got mine in Rifle, Colorado. You’re pickin’ that one, really? You’re a sick, evil, dangerous, soulless supporter of criminal outrage. My name is Ted Nugent: and what do I seek, and what have I accomplished? True peace and love. Because bad guys don’t go to Rifle, Colorado, because everybody’s got a gun. And I know we’re talking about demographics here, and we’re talking population dynamics. If you enforce laws, and good people aren’t forced into unarmed helplessness, bad guys go to gun free zones, where every mass shooting in the world [has taken place]. My haters want more of that?
Do you really think people are trying to destroy you?
They’re literally maniacally scrambling to destroy me because I [makes air quotes] “murder innocent animals.” I have caused so many idiots to abandon their own lives to unite to destroy mine, and fail at it miserably, that’s just a bonus. You know what I think? I think God loves me more than he loves you. Because he has given me this unprecedented bonus in life that, just by doing good, I upset feeble people every day. It’s just another burst of wind beneath my wings. I got my peace and love by destroying those who would mess with it. You know, John Lennon‘s “Imagine” is about living a fantasy, which is a lie, and it’ll never happen and if that’s what you pursue, have a nice day. I’ll meet you at the Gaza strip. Let’s see how that peace and love is working out for you. So I know I’m on the right course. And my haters are all wrong, they’re all bad, they’re all brain-dead, they’re all soulless, and they’re literally chimps, marching like Planet of the Apes, marching to Saul Alinsky and Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda, to not just disagree with their enemies, but to destroy their enemies.
A read an interview with you where you pointed out that most people who are against hunting have never seen a deer, dying of old age, get ripped apart by wolves in the wild.
They get eaten alive! And the more insulated among us — many who live in the urban world – don’t understand that if you don’t kill the surplus [population] every hunting season, the fawns that are born the next year are gonna live… where? Certainly not along the highway where the other carcasses are. Certainly not in your neighborhood, because you’re not going go give them back their natural habitat. Certainly not on Long Island, where you’re already spending millions of dollars hiring sharpshooters to slaughter the deer, instead of letting we, the people, use them as a valuable asset, to feed people. Do you see how insane this is? So, if you’re against hunting, you’re literally insane! Deer have babies every year, and there’s no more room [for them]! [The population] will expand to the point where it destroys the habitat, which destroys the quality of air, soil and water, and diseases will come in an wipe the animals out, and you will use tax dollars to hire sharp shooters to shoot the animals and put them in a hole in the ground. Here’s one for you: I am part of the original Hunters for the Hungry program. Every year for twenty-six years — and you’ve never read this in The New York Times, you’ve never read this anywhere – we distribute two hundred and fifty million meals, to homeless shelters and soup kitchens of the purest, most organic, nutritious, low-fat, low cholesterol protein available on planet earth. And somebody who hates me wants to put an end to that. I can’t think of anything more win/win/win. Balancing the herds, balancing the environment, hours of family recreation, billions of dollars in industry because hunters have to buy licenses, tags, permits, supplies, groceries, this is an enormous industry that we can’t live without.
Where does your quality of life come from? The quality of air, soil and water. And where does that come from? Not Manhattan! It comes from wildlife habitat, which hunters, fisherman and trappers have perfected over the last 150 years. There’s more deer, more cougar, more bear here than when Columbus arrived. And that’s good: if the habitat is good enough to support all of that wildlife, that’s where air, soil and water quality comes from. It’s amazing that the author of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” has to bring forth this information!
Ted Nugent’s thoughts on air, soil and water quality are never the most widely quoted segments from your interviews.
That’s the part that gets edited out!
Some of your points about Native American issues were lost among the statements that you made about the controversy of whether or not the Washington Redskins should change their name. In your op-ed, you suggested concentrating on the high school dropout rate, or the amount of alcoholism in the Native American community, as opposed to just changing the name of a sports team; it almost sounded reasonable.
You know why I come off as a reasonable guy? Because I’m reasonable! You know why I make sense? Because I make sense! And the people who don’t like reasonable, and who don’t like sense, can’t stand me because I’m so reasonable and sensible. I know that in the world of logic by productive people, none of this makes any sense. But that Barack Obama is the President of the United States, that so doesn’t make sense; we’ve come to the pinnacle of absurdity. So you have to just take a deep breath and go, “OK, absurdity exists, they want more slaughter, more gun free zones, that doesn’t make any sense, but they really do want it.” You have people who want to kill my family because we eat pheasants. Because to some subhuman somewhere, eating pheasant is murder. Go to my Facebook page [and read the comments], these people, while they were sleeping, someone did a lobotomy, removed their brain and inserted a turd, and closed it back up. That’s why they’re personally hygiene challenged, and they don’t make sense, and they go to the hash bash and they think Grateful Dead music is music.
Speaking of substance abuse, another interesting moment from “Supergroup” was when you declared that you were going to “fix” Sebastian Bach. Even for you, that’s an ambitious thing to try: to “fix” someone else’s drinking problem. Obviously he fell off the wagon afterwards.
In my presence, it was fixed. But only oneself can guide oneself on a true north compass setting. Sebastian Bach is a great guy, I love the guy, incredibly gifted, a gentleman for the most part, but he’s weak. He’s weak. And he doesn’t understand the concept of the [body as a] Sacred Temple. He doesn’t understand accountability. He doesn’t understand – clearly – how his indulgences and his poisons ruin his life. And his relationships, and his marriage. And his musical capabilities. I love the guy and if he’s watching this, I love you, but when you’re the drunk Sebastian Bach, you’re nowhere near the Sebastian Bach that you are when you’re clean and sober. Case closed. That isn’t a Ted Nugent opinion, that’s scientific truism. I do what I can. I told Jimi Hendrix he was gonna die. I told Bon Scott he was gonna die. I told John Belushi he was gonna die. I told Keith Moon he was gonna die. They all thought I was an idiot, they called me “a**hole,” and a loser. Because I wouldn’t drink and puke and drool! I didn’t take it personally. I knew that drugs had destroyed their sense of logic and their sense of decency. I said, “No I don’t want any of that Bon, and why you’re killing yourself, I’ll never understand. If I had your voice, I’d rule the planet.” I give advice where people are willing to hear it.
When your drummer Mick Brown got busted for DUI after one of your shows, I was sure you’d fire him.
Well, he had a couple of beers and went on a golf cart ride! Whoa! Let’s crucify him! That’s no big deal! Even I can look the other way for that!
I just thought you had zero tolerance for that sort of thing.
I have zero tolerance for dangerous criminal behavior that compromises the music. It was the last date of the tour. He watched me get up on stage with Tommy Shaw and the Styx guys and we played a Damn Yankees masterpiece, “Coming of Age.” I can understand how anybody could lose control of themselves under that musical jihad. It was a very powerful musical moment. It was very magical and I think he did a couple of extras, saw some good-looking chicks with short skirts… I don’t bemoan his decision. A golf cart and two pretty girls? It was harmless.
But you would never have done that.
No, but that’s me and my real liberal sense of tolerance. To each his own!
Are there any musicians who you respect, even if you don’t agree with their politics?
Bruce Springsteen! And Tom Morello! Tom Morello claims to be an ultra-liberal. But let’s examine Tom Morello’s life, shall we? He works really hard. He gets up early. He puts his heart and soul into being the best craftsman he can be. Provides for and protects his family. He’s true to his family. So far, he sounds an awful lot like Ted Nugent. Shutup&Jam, if it’s a shout-out to anybody, is probably a shout out to my good friend Tom Morello. Because we talk politics, and we should do it on film sometime, it’s quite telling. Because the typical liberal, when they attempt to debate me, always ends up with a very predictable statement: “Yeah, but still…” If you give people stuff, dependence will be the result. If you give a beggar money, you’re helping to kill him! Because he will spend that money while you lie to yourself and feel good, you’ve actually expedited the death of that individual, because he will buy dangerous deadly things with that money! You gotta be kidding me! If he wants a sandwich, give him a sandwich! That’s not what he wants! My point being: Tom Morello, I love him dearly, I respect his musical genius, and I respect him as a man. And when it gets time to have a legitimate political debate, we remain civil and gentlemanly, and eventually we can both shut up and jam because we both come from the Chuck Berry school of uppity, spirited, freedom-drenched American rhythm and blues.
You both have experience on the radio; maybe you guys can co-host a show.
It’d be great radio, because he’s a funny guy, he’s quite witty. And I value my capabilities in those arenas. So, it’d be real interesting. And then when it was all said and done, I think I can get him to apologize on camera for the mistakes of his assumptions, and admit that he’s really a conservative.
Wendy Dio told me that she is going to produce a reissue of the [1985 metal charity project] Hear N Aid. What do you remember about that session?
I’m a charity guy, my life these days pretty much revolves around charity. I don’t think you can name a children’s charity that the Nugent family isn’t involved in. We can’t say no. And every military charity, once we vet them and make sure the money goes to the heroes of the military, and not to administrative costs. We work with Freedom’s Angels, where we work with the canines for warriors because one of the greatest moving experiences in our lives – Shemane and I – is our dogs. We love our dogs! Our lives revolve around our dogs (laughs), Happy and Gonzo. So, we know what dogs bring in a healing capacity, and the love of life you get from the responsibility of pet ownership. And I’ll say what is very uncomfortable – it’s the most uncomfortable thing I can say as a human being and as an American – that the post-traumatic stress syndrome and suicide rate are at an all time high, and it hurts me to say this: it’s because their Commander-in-Chief is the enemy. He violates the Constitution that their buddies came home in a box, fighting for. Hundreds of those guys have told me that. It’s like in Braveheart, where William Wallace says, “My own blood brother has turned on me.” That’s how these guys feel. We fix that, with a dog. We get these very special dogs, it takes a lot of training. I can cry here for you. It saves their lives! But it’s very expensive because these dogs have to be trained for six to twelve months.
Well, back to Hear N Aid, you seemed like more of a blues rock guy among a bunch of real metal guitarists. That must have been a weird session.
I’m a dirty guitar player. I’m a grunting and grinding sex animal guitar player. You remember the baby boom? That was me. You couldn’t not make love while “Stranglehold” or “Little Miss Dangerous” is playing. [With no transition here, he adds,] Mrs. Nugent doing Zumba in the living room with a guitar lying by. Get yourself a wood chipper, you know, the kind where you throw logs in and you get sawdust? And then get a bungee cord and you hang on to your legs and you just drop your nuts into the woodchipper when it gets out of control because when Mrs. Nugent is doing Zumba, that’s the only hope I have.
Mrs. Nugent does Zumba?
She’s the goddess of Zumba! Zumba flies her all over the world to train their teachers. You gotta Google Mrs. Nugent! The Ikettes? Forget it? Mrs. Nugent is the blackest, most grinding, svelte, rhythmical beast that has ever descended onto the planet. I know that that sounds like wild Nugent hyperbole, but it’s the only way to explain it. When you see her do that stuff that she does… I gotta get the wood chipper out!
Have you tried Zumba-ing?
There’s actually a video on YouTube of me Zumba-ing with Mrs. Zumba. [note: Not quite, but he plays guitar along with Shakira's "Waka Waka" while Mrs. Nugent demonstrates her Zumba moves in this video.] I’m really uncoordinated. You’d never know I was from Detroit!
You’ve shared the stage with KISS over the years and made some digs at their enormous stage production. Is that all in good fun?
We’re the musical portion of their gig! I say that with tongue in cheek. I love KISS, they play great music! They’re great songwriters, and as far as work ethic and being consummate professionals, they’re the gods of that. They’re dear friends of mine. I’ve never said anything meaningfully disparaging about Paul or Gene or the KISS boys. But a lot of real purist types think that the kabuki, vaudeville, burlesque stuff is counterproductive to the music. No! It’s what it is. It’s great music and if you don’t like the rest of the stuff, go see ZZ Top. Which, in its own way, is the same thing! Or, Bruce Springsteen! His whole “working class” thing is as real as the kabuki makeup. God bless Bruce, he’s phenomenal, he’s got one of the best bands in the world, and I love everything about him… mostly (grins). But my point is, some of my die-hard rhythm and blues fans dismiss KISS, or anything that’s isn’t gung-ho rhythm and blues, grinding rock and roll. But I’ve never subscribed to that. I’m much more open-minded than that.