Exclusive Interview: Ted Nugent

by Jesse Capps | August 10th, 2012


The incomparable guitar genius and fire-breathing intensity of Ted Nugent have carved him a permanent place among the legends of rock. Hailing from Detroit, the guitarist’s prodigious talents, ear-shattering volume and over-the-top onstage antics quickly earned Young Ted the moniker of “Motor City Madman,” along with international acclaim.

Recognized as the world’s leading guitar showman, Nugent’s no-holds-barred career spans five decades of multi-platinum hits. From the ground breaking Amboy Dukes’ “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” to classics like “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever,” Damn Yankees chartbusters like “High Enough,” cult classic “Fred Bear,” and now “I Still Believe,” Ted’s rapid-fire sonic assaults continue to sell out venues around the globe.

The sounds he wrings from his almighty Gibson Byrdland leave audiences gasping for breath and begging for more. To millions of guitar lovers everywhere, Ted Nugent is rock and roll.

With over 40 million albums sold and more media face-time than most active politicians, Ted Nugent has earned his status as an American icon.

Acclaimed for his bold, insightful commentary on issues ranging from the American Dream to bio-diversity, Nugent is a regular guest on top-rated radio and television programs nationwide. Nugent’s own Spirit of the Wild television show is a six time winner of the Golden Moose Award for programming excellence on the Outdoor Channel, where he serves as Ambassador for the network. Ted has been inducted into the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame, marking the pinnacle of recognition for Nugent as a bona fide Bowhunting Legend of the 21st Century.

We caught up with Ted in the midst of his Great White Buffalo tour. He recently wrapped up a successful summer run with Styx and REO Speedwagon and continues to play to jam packed venues all across the country. While Ted is always an exciting interview you can guarantee an earful during a presidential election cycle! Sit back and hold on for Deadly Tedly and his unfiltered, bombastic points of view.

First off, what were the guys in Styx and REO Speedwagon thinking?  Was it really safe for their self-esteem to have you on stage before them?

To each his own I always say. Both bands have killer musicians and killer music and powerful songs that represent moving moments in many people’s lives. They did just fine. But, believe me, it wasn’t always pretty.

It’s always great to see you on the road and you’re out with Derek St. Holmes again this year.  How does it feel to have him back in the band?  Is he back to stay?

Derek and I are Motor City soul music Blood Brothers. Always have been. But life, especially a passionate musical creative life, demands we each pursue our own vision with heart and soul. Derek has been on his personal musical adventure and created some killer songs. But instincts and unified dreams brought us back together and we see no end in sight. he brings a magic to my music that everybody dearly appreciates.

What made you realize it was time to have Derek back as a part of the band?

No moment of realization occurred, but rather a simple logistical regrouping that happened to make sense in both our lives at this time.

How is the Nugent/St. Holmes on-stage relationship different now as opposed to what you guys were doing in the seventies?

These days every concert is like all the best nights of the past. The power and joy of the music owns us and we push each other to maximize the delivery. Better living through chemistry.

How have your priorities changed as a rock n’ roll front man over the years?

They haven’t. I was inspired by the greatest showmen talents ever: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Mitch Ryder, Mick Jagger,  Wayne Cochran, all things Motown, and a supreme, high energy delivery of ultra tight, ultra soulful, fiery passionate music has been Job One for me since the 1950s. There is no Plan B.

I would imagine having Derek back around expands what songs you could include in your live set.  Did you guys mess around with any older songs in rehearsals?
Our list of killer songs is frightening. We have way too many amazing live rockouts to choose from so we perform those that we feel will create the best possible concert. You have no idea how intensely fun this all is.

Does your current band have plans to write any new material together or record a new album?    

God knows we talk about it and want to more than anything! But schedules and logistics are insurmountable at this time. I’ve got killer new songs we love, and Derek and I plan on writing together next hunting season when the fresh wild meat will inspire us.

Derek seems enthusiastic about celebrating the early Ted Nugent records – he recently suggested playing the first record live, front to back.  Do things like that interest you?

Oh hell yes. But again, there are some songs I cannot imagine not performing from this insane long career. We will follow our instincts.

Can you elaborate on the Nugent family television show you’re working on?

We are very, very proud of our Spirit of the Wild show on Outdoor Channel and it is getting better all the time. Now we are filming a new Discovery Channel show that documents our amazing American Dream quality of life as hyper active celebrants of the things we love. We operate a working ranch at our home in Texas and our daily activities are so much fun and my wife so damn beautiful that I’m sure people will love watching how busy and productive and passionate our lives are.

I’m 35 years old.  I was raised to have self-respect, respect for others, to be responsible, and to work hard.  What’s happened?  I’ve never seen so many capable people lazily lying around with their hands out, thinking they deserve part of what someone else has worked so hard to attain.  America needs an attitude adjustment, Ted!

Ya think! It is a sad day in America when excellence is actually condemned by many in the government and slovenliness and dependent gluttony are rewarded and praised. We need to send Obama back to Chicago and let him organize soulless communities again and take back the American Dream of rugged individualism, independence and the proud Herculean work ethic that drives the greatest quality of life in the history of mankind. God knows I am fighting with all I’ve got.

Tell me about discipline in the Nugent household while you were growing up.  How much of that same discipline did you use while raising your family?  Did you decide any part of your upbringing should not be applied to how you raised your kids?

My dear father was a gung-ho US Army Cavalry drill sergeant at the age of 19, and he never quit. We were raised to be the absolute best that we can possibly be, and half-assed mediocrity was forbidden in the Nugent household. That demand for exceptionalism remains the battle cry of all the Nugents to this day.
What are some “do” and “do not’s” that you think serve as catalysts for responsible, productive Americans? 

DO respect and take care of your sacred temple by remaining clean and sober and eating a sensible, healthy diet. DO get an alarm clock and set it so you can Carpe’ Diem with all your heart and soul everyday of your life. DO NOT allow poisons into your sacred temple. DO obey the law and dedicated yourself to be an asset to yourself, family, fellow man and the good earth. DO put your heart and soul into being the absolute best that you can be. Stand up for The American Way and demand US Constitution accountability from our employees in government. Give the world the best you got, and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you got anyway.
It’s always explosive during an election year when you’re around. This election should be about common sense.  And common sense tells you that the guy in charge now doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.  I can’t say 100% that Mitt Romney does, either – but anything is better than Obama.  I get tired of picking between the lesser of two evils.

Barack Obama’s charge to “fundamentally transform” America is indeed to dismantle the greatest quality of life the world has ever known. Mitt Romney will help us restore the principals of excellence and The American Way. Know that.

I loved Herman Cain.  Rick Santorum scared the shit out of me.  Now that Mitt Romney is in, what did you think of some of the other candidates?  Who were you pulling for in the beginning? 

Rick Perry would have made the best President of them all. He would have upgraded America like he has Texas. I admire all the Republican candidates in many ways, but Mitt Romney is the only boat with the lifesaving medicine for America that is leaving the dock. Know that.

Isn’t it time for an updated version of “Kiss My Ass”?  You’ve got a much bigger cast of characters to work with now!

With the runaway gangs of America hating communists in the Democrat party, I could sing that song nonstop forever until these America haters move to France or Cuba or just go away.

Anyone with a pulse knows by now that you’re outspoken about your beliefs. Do you remember a certain point growing up that you started paying more attention to things going on in the world?  When did real world events start to influence your songwriting?

One only has to listen to my original songs in The Amboy Dukes to know that I saw the world going to hell with the increasing filth of the doped up hippie pukes all around me. I really started to turn up the hell raising heat when I saw these America hating hippies and Che fans infesting our schools and government. This “We the people” thing includes guitar players dontcha know.

Let’s talk about your Byrdlands for a minute. How many do you own?
I think about 16 at this time.

Even though you pretty much own every Byrd in existence, are you constantly looking to add to your collection?
I’m always looking, and occasionally purchase a new classic Byrdland, but for practical pragmatic reasons, I simply don’t need any more.

Tell me about the most recent Byrdland you’ve purchased.
I snagged a fine handsome ‘68 sunburst out of Ohio a few years back. The damn thing caresses my inner soul.

What kind of mods/upgrades do you do to your Byrdlands?
Except for the swapping of the plastic toggle switch knob with a larger brass Gretsch strap knob, I leave these sacred originals original. You don’t tamper with perfection.

How many do you take on the road?
I keep six beasts handy: the mighty ‘61 Black beauty, a ‘60s cherry burst, a ‘60s tobacco burst, a ‘60s blonde, The mighty Great White Buffalo and a backup ‘80s blackie. Sometimes more and sometimes rotate ‘em like the loving harem they are. Jealous Byrdlands are more dangerous than jealous women.

Which Byrdland have you had the longest?
I’m not certain, but I’ve had a couple of blondes, the black one and a couple of bursts for more than 40 years.

Does any guitar have more of an emotional attachment than the rest?
No, they are all functional weapons of mass construction that are loved simply for their utilitarian musical duties.

What kind of strings do you use?
I use GHS 10, 12, 15, 26, 36, 46 and thin picks, striking the strings with the rounded end not the pointed end.

Personally, how is the Nuge feeling these days?  Are you comfortable with where you are in 2012?

If it weren’t for the vile criminality and runaway abuse of the government, my life would be indescribably perfect. The music is an escalating force to reckon with, my family and friends are the greatest human beings in the world. Hunting has never been better, and at 63 years clean and sober, I am drunk on happiness, gratification and freedom.

Ted, thanks for making time for this! What words of wisdom do you have for your fans and the readers to wrap everything up?

Never back down, never give up, never let idiots have any effect on your lives. Stand strong, take the absolute best care of yourselves that you possibly can, and stay true to the things you believe in. Never fail to tell the people you love that you love them and will be there for them everyday.


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