By Lee Zimmerman
At age 61, Ted Nugent still bears a remarkable resemblance to the manic guitar slinger he portrayed in his younger days, a man still bristling with the unrelenting energy and the unrepentant attitude that became his signature style.
Although he got his start with the Amboy Dukes in the heady era of ’60s psychedelia, he’s only been aligned with one other outfit since — the heavy metal, heavy-handed super group Damn Yankees (which also featured Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Michael Cartellone). Indeed, for the most part it’s been his string of solo albums that have most effectively documented his grit and defiance.
His latest tour — tellingly titled “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead” — suggests that even as he approaches the age of eligibility for Social Security, the so-called Motor City Madman isn’t about to mellow. Indeed, his love of weaponry and outspoken support of the National Rifle Association continue unabated, and his conservative views often make the right-wing radio crowd — Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck etc. — seem like liberal ideologues by comparison.
Not surprisingly then, The Nuge was first off to a bear-hunting expedition prior to embarking on what promised to be an equally killer tour. Happily, he allowed Goldmine a few minutes to chat with him prior to his departure …
You’ve always veered away from the norm in terms of the usual rock ’n’ roll lifestyle — you don’t do drugs, you’re unabashedly pro guns and seemingly conservative in your political beliefs. What’s more, you’ve never really won a whole lot of praise from the critics. How has this apparent estrangement from the rest of the rock community felt to you?
Ted Nugent: I’ve never felt any estrangement from anyone of merit. My time with great musicians has always been very positive, and I have been treated very respectfully, especially in jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix, Rick Derringer, Johnny and Edgar Winters, B.B. King, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Heart, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Kiss and so many others. I am good friends with Sammy Hagar, Kid Rock, Toby Keith, John Rich, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and many other gifted and talented fellow musicians. I’ve been having the time of my life brutalizing my guitar for more than 50 years now, and having more fun and creating more intense music in 2010 than ever in my life. The positives obliterate the negatives and its getting better all the time. “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead” will be the most outrageous rock out of my life. Know it.
Detroit has been such a hotbed of great music for the past 50 years — you, the Stooges, the MC5, Bob Seger and the Motown sound all hail from Motor City. Is there still a tight musical community there that you’re a part of? And why do you think Detroit has had such an impact on popular music?
Nugent: Amen! The mighty Motor City has gushed energy, soul, piss and vinegar forever. Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, Billy Lee, Johnny Badanjek, Jimmy McCarty, Earl Elliot and Joe Kubrik laid down the gauntlet for high-energy, ultra-tight, defiant R&B and rock ’n’ roll for all of us way back then. By the time we were exposed to the mighty Funk Brothers of Motown, we knew we had to be absolute animals on our instruments or forget about it. That pride and spirit is alive and well today with Kid Rock, Eminem, Jack White and a whole gaggle of intense, defiant rockers all over Michigan. I am their godfather and proud of it.
We have to ask— what happened to the loincloth and the high boots?
Nugent:I ate them. Killing fresh ones this week.
It’s said that you weren’t aware that “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” the song that you recorded with the Amboy Dukes and brought you to national prominence, alluded to drugs. Is that true? And when did you find out that the song did have drug references?
Nugent: It is amazing but true. I was tuned into the music and the masters of music. I was aware that hippies were drooling, puking and dying all around me from drug abuse, but I wasn’t hip to the nomenclature. I figured it out soon enough. Sadly, most of them didn’t. Why do you think they call it dope?
You gave Meat Loaf one of his earliest breaks when he sang with your band back in the mid ’70s. Have you kept in touch with him? What Nugent: Another Michiganiac soul brother for sure! We run into each other on occasion, and I consider him a great man and a friend.
Why didn’t Damn Yankees last longer? Did egos play any part in its disbanding?
Nugent: Healthy egos created the monster talent and energy of the Damn Yankees. Being the driven adventurers that we are, we all sought new mountains to climb, and it appears the Damn Yankees ran its course. But you never know! Those guys deserve me.
What bands and/or other artists entice you these days?
Nugent: A Saskatchewan, Canadian, babe named Val Halla, who I am having open for me on the current tour. She reeks of soul and spirit! And anything Joe Bonamassa does thrills me!
Let’s talk politics a bit. You’ve never been afraid to express your political views. What do you think of the rancor and division in our nation today?
Nugent: It is heartbreaking and totally unnecessary, really. The line drawn in the sand is a direct result of the curse of apathy and the cluelessness that results from intentional, lazy disconnect. Those who are not interested in doing anything for their country, but rather demand a shopping list of bloodsucking demands from America have the perfect president and gang of czars for their sheep-like, self-imposed dependency. It’s embarrassingly soulless, really. On my side of the line drawn in the sand are ass-kicking, hard-working American families who don’t want the government to do anything besides protecting our borders and enforcing our laws, and to basically get the hell out of our way to be the best that we can be. The criminality of the Mao Tse-Tung fan club in the White House will go down as one of the most bufoonish, ignorant crimes in the history of the world. Damn shame. Sadly, we get what we ask for. I fight it every day of my life. And I shall win.
You were Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. Have you interacted much with this group or have they urged you to get involved? Have you ever considered a run for public office?
Nugent: Thank you for noticing that. Yes, thank God, the so-called Tea Party movement is simply “we the people” waking up that this glorious experiment in self government, by all considerations, demand all Americans are duty-bound to actually participate. The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Ten Commandments and Golden Rule are still the guiding lights for this amazing and unique American Dream, and the Tea Party is simply demanding a return to these pillars of freedom. I like it. I am as involved as anyone can be. Godspeed the Tea Party.
Why do you think most musicians tend to lean more toward a liberal point of view?
Nugent: I’m not so sure they do, but those that do, do so due to substance abuse that rots their minds, or a fantasy- driven life that’s due to their self-imposed insulation from discomforting reality, both pathetic conditions for pathetic people.
Your involvement with the National Rifle Association is well documented. You’ve served on their board, but have you ever been nominated as president of the NRA? Or ever asked to do public service announcements or lobby on their behalf?
Nugent: The NRA is surely the most powerful grass-roots family organization in the history of mankind, standing up for the irrefutable self-evident truth that free people have the right from God to defend themselves and have the individual right to keep and bear arms in order to do so. Unarmed helplessness is a soulless and irresponsible condition, and only a fool would allow it. I will do all I can for the NRA in any capacity in which they wish me to do.
Have you ever met Sarah Palin? Ever thought of going hunting with her?
Nugent: I have met the great lady, and yes, I would love to go hunting with her. I hunt the magnificence of Alaska nearly every year and would certainly enjoy a Palin campfire anywhere, anytime.
You’re about to take off on a bear-hunting expedition. Where are you heading?
Nugent: I killed stunning black bears in New Brunswick and Alaska so far this spring, and hope for another magnificent rug steak with my bow and arrow in Quebec next week. Killing bears with sharp sticks makes for some mighty fine soulful, intense rock ’n’ roll guitar noise, I assure you.
Your love of hunting is well known, of course. But what do you say to those who deplore hunting because they say animals are defenseless against modern weaponry, and that it’s a cruel sport that gives man an unfair advantage? Do you think hunters would be as enthusiastic about the sport if animals could fire back?
Nugent: I say nothing. I simply go hunting and kill things. It is perfect.
What is one question you’ve never been asked?
Nugent: Why I haven’t been asked to be the master of ceremonies at the Pink Pistol gay rights events… ever. Life ain’t fair.
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get the invaluable record collector’s resource: Goldmine® Record Album Price Guide, 6th Edition
• Get “The Everything Bass Guitar Book,” with CD, From lines and licks to chords and charts
• Download Goldmine’s Guide to AC/DC (PDF download)