Exclusive Interview - Ted Nugent

Next Tuesday Uncle Ted is going to unleash “Ultralive Ballistickrock.” I’ve always been a greatest hits Ted Nugent fan. He’s one of the best guitar players of all time. It wasn’t until I listened to “Ultralive Ballistickrock” that I realized just how impressive Ted Nugent really was/is. There are certain guitar players that can actually turn me on with their playing and Ted Nugent is now one of those guys for me. A month or so ago I got that chance to chat with Uncle Ted about the upcoming live release. Check it out here.

You can listen to the interview live here:


Ted Nugent (TN): Hello Bob. Ted Nugent calling.

Bob Zerull (BZ): Hey Ted how are you doing?

TN: I’m doing so good it’s stupid. How about you?

BZ: I’m doing great. Thank you so much.

TN: Except for my knees and the government, life is perfect you know what I mean? I say we work real hard to replace both of them.

BZ: Sounds good.

TN: Yeah it sounds miraculous actually.

BZ: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us.

TN: Well my pleasure. I was losing my voice yesterday. There’s something about these James Brown banshee screams for two hours every night, I think that might be it.

BZ: You’re currently in the middle of the Ted Nugent Black Power 2013 tour. You told Rolling Stone magazine that this tour was going to be the best tour of your life.

TN: It already is. There’s no question about that. You know I’ve done, I guess somebody told me we were gonna do our sixty-five hundredth concert this year Bob, so I’ve been around the block a few times. It’s just unbelievable. There’s just no explaining it. Well I guess there’s a good explanation for it because of the reciprocal velocity and love of the music and love of the politics, but what an incredible tour. Mick and Greg and Derek, they just bring such fire to every song every night, and you know audiences. I’ve been watching animals dancing and pumping fists for fifty years now, but there’s something really really over the top about this year, so I’m a really happy guitar player right now.

BZ: I was gonna say. You’ve played in super groups before, but the band you’re with now is a super group in its own right.

TN: Absolutely you go back to the, you know when I won battle of the bands in Michigan in 1963, my band was called the Lourds. Tom Noel on drums, John Finley on rhythm guitar, Pete Primm on bass, and John Drake on lead vocals, and a little snotty nosed white boy, Ted Nugent on the fender duo sonic guitars on a sears silvertone amplifier. How beautiful is that? And we won the battle of the bands because we were trained by Billy Lee and the Rivieras and they became Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and what James Brown and certainly Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis demanded from music, and that is that you just go for it. You put your heart and soul into every song, every lick. So those musicians that I just identified, we’re talking 1960, I mean the Velours started off in Tom’s basement in ’59, but we were just kids but we were emulating our heroes, and even though I was gonna say black heroes, I’ll let you tell Mitch Ryder he’s not black, and Jerry Lee Lewis, he’ll punch you right in the nose.

The black authority, the black soulfulness of certainly Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, definitively Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and epitomized with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis because he was emulating the gospel stuff as was Elvis Presley and everybody. It was all about the black soulfulness and that uppity spiritedness and dare I say the defiance of “Tutti Frutti,” a gay black man with an oversized pompadour singing about “Long Tall Sally” and your white children. If you don’t love that you’re from Mars man. In fact I guarantee if there’s any life on Mars they would love that. So we really did everything we possibly could to be like our black heroes and so in 2013, all these 60 years later or whatever it is, yeah over 60 years, 62 years later, no I guess not 62, but 57, 55 years later, what Mick and Greg and Derek know, celebrate, and force out of themselves every night is that soulfulness of all of our heroes, and so when you have that love of the music the capability of delivering that quality of music as such gifted musicians, and then you have the professional dedication and passion that we all share.

It’s the recipe for ultimate delivery of whatever endeavor you pursue, ours happens to be rhythm and blues, rock and roll so it’s untouchable, nobody thinks like we think when it comes to music, nobody plays music like we play, plus my songs are so exciting to perform, every musician I’ve ever had whether it’s the Damn Yankees, Tommy Clufetos, Tommy Aldridge, Carmine Appice, Denny Carmassi, all the greatest musicians in the world that have been at my side forever, they just glow, they gleam and smile broadly playing “Dog Eat Dog,” and “Motor City Mad House,” and “Cat Scratch Fever,” and “Fred Bear,” and “Stranglehold.” I mean it’s just what the doctor ordered, these are great musical adventures every song so it’s very stimulating. At this point in this long gravity defying career, it’s just more powerful than ever, and I thank God every day for it.

BZ: You mentioned your heroes growing up. When your name started getting put in with them, you know the bands you came up with Aerosmith and Kiss and all those guys, and your name is alongside your heroes names, was that something that was difficult to adjust to?

TN: Well, you know, I take it in stride. I’m so busy cutting trees down to the best of my ability. I acknowledge that they reference me as Babe and Paul Bunyon. So I’m so busy being Paul Bunyan that I smirk appreciatively that they reference my ax capabilities as Paul Bunyan like, but I’m too busy cutting trees to really pay a whole lot of attention to that. I love the music so much that I know I’m playing guitar licks that have never been played before and I know there are gods of the guitar out there, everywhere from Joe Bonamassa, to Chris Duarte, and certainly Joe Perry and Billy Gibbons and all my guitar heroes out there, but I know I’m doing stuff that they don’t even know exists on the fret board, and I’m so driven and compelled, you know being clean and sober for 65 years, and having this incredibly, perfectly balanced life between the unleashed ferocity of my sonic bombast music to the silence of six months in a tree with a sharp stick. I’m so quiet and so spiritual and so genteel dare we say, even though I’m prepared to kill things, it’s a very peaceful stealthy serene lifestyle when I’m not rock and rolling as a hunter especially with a bow and arrow, you have to be so quiet and so stealthy that it’s so opposite of the bombast that the bombast gets more bombastic every year because I crave it as if I was the same 12 year with old with my first log guitar and amp in the garage, and I’m very fortunate to have figured that out so long ago.

BZ: The bombast that you talk about, as you do it for several months in a row does it get to a point where it’s tough to maintain?

TN: No not at all. Again it’s that intelligent balancing act that I perfected way back in the 70s where I vowed to myself that I would never miss a hunting season. There was something, I probably could have told you this even in my mid 20s when I was mightily tuned in. I was very tuned in to my surroundings. I mean just the choice of remaining clean and sober with nothing but drooling, puking dope addicts everywhere around me was pretty damn strong and confident of myself, but now I understand why I insisted on taking off the sacred time of year for my family hunting activities and that’s because it’s, we’ve all discovered, I hope everybody else has, that nature heals and that there’s a battery recharging force, an unparalleled, unprecedented battery recharging force in the healing properties of nature and particularly when you’re a functioning participant in nature as a reasoning predator to get your food and clothing and medicine and spirit from the renewable beasts and so the calming effect and the cleansing of my soul that takes place every time I swap a guitar for a bow and arrow and very quietly and slowly and cautiously and stealthy walk into the wild ground from the rock and roll outrage epicenters.

I’m real good with words, I’m not ambiguous by any stretch of the imagination, but I am inadequate in properly describing the soul cleansing characteristics and currency of my outdoor lifestyle, but just take it for granted that at 65 years clean and sober, tonight’s concert in Pennsylvania will scare the living shit out of everybody because we can’t wait to get up there and play these songs, because I know that I will be going hunting in 3 weeks, not quite 3 weeks actually just about 18 days I think it is, and I’m balanced, and I’m here with my grandchildren now, they’re all jumping in the pool. I was shooting my bow and arrow with the kids here last night and this morning, doing interviews, talking about the things I love to talk about, and working with my editors for our “Spirit of the Wild” TV show, just got off the phone with my son about a huge order of hogs for our game preserve and the logistics for him to go film his bear hunt in Ontario so my life is just a nonstop gymnastic event of things that I love to do so I remain very inspired, plus I’m sitting here at the table with my son and he just cooked me up some fresh lobster and some fresh crab cakes, and so the peace and tranquility of my non stage time is what most people could only dream and fantasize of and I live it every day.

BZ: You’ve released several live albums over the years, and this October you’re releasing a live album, DVD, Blu-ray, “Ultralive Ballisticrock,” does this idea come from you or does it come from the label? Where do you come up with the live album ideas?

TN: Well again I am so focused on my passions that it’s not like I have to make any calls and say hey how’d you like to release a record of mine. We’re constantly bombarded with wonderful offers in the realms and beyond of the things I love to do. I do a lot of speaking engagements or I mean I could play 300 concerts a year if I let my booking agency go nuts and I could release a new record every other month if I didn’t have anything else to do, but again that balancing act is what makes my music so pure and raw and honest and primal and what attracts the world’s greatest musicians to my side because everybody likes pure raw primal uninhibited rock and roll and I’m the master of that stuff and my musicians love it because I don’t think you get it many other places. I think Dave Grohl exudes that. I think Steven Tyler and his voice probably still represent that reasonably adequately. I don’t know everybody else that intimately. I know Sammy Hagar still does. He loves every song, every concert every night, and I’m suspecting that most of my cohorts out there do as well, but my manager is tuned in to me, he’s a real manager he’s not just a booking agent and a logistics guy, he’s my human manager, and Doug Banker’s been with my for over 30 years now and he knows the importance of my balance if I’m gonna play with the ferocity that I play with so he’s the one who screens and reviews all the offers and phone calls and opportunities and this was just one of those alignments of the planets where the label was ready for a live record, we recorded this incredible show in Pennsylvania last year and it all came together and here we go.

BZ: You mentioned that you could release an album every other month if you wanted to. Even though nobody buys music anymore is there even a drive to, I know you’re probably writing all the time, but to release music and go through that whole process. Is there still that drive there?

TN: Well I got to tell you, I think once again because I get so removed from the music, when I’m at home I’m a rancher, I’m a wildlife biologist, I’m a welder, I’m a plumber and a carpenter. I’m a fur trapper, I mean I really am. I run a year round trap line on my property, and there’s not like being Jeremiah Johnson during the day to make you want to grab a guitar and play some animal breeding music both literally and figuratively. So no I am so escaped from the music going back to a real primal screen, hands on self-sufficient lifestyle, you know I’ll kill a raccoon or I’ll kill a bobcat and I’ll skin it, and when you’re skinning a bobcat you revere the creature but you’re using him to show respect for his productivity as a commodity and then all of a sudden I get in the house and I wash up and there’s that damn guitar leaning against the amp and I plug it in and start cranking and it’s kind of a bobcat lick comes out. Hey it’s snarling, vicious predator lick comes out cuz I’m the only guitar player in the world that actually handles vicious, snarling predators.

I mean really stop and think about that, that’s awesome. I mean that’s where these powerful licks come from so yeah if I just sat down and went alright I’m gonna unleash all these creative ideas, my god I would just be a flood, a tsunami of killer guitar licks and song ideas and irreverent thoughts and lyric and reverent thoughts and lyrics. All of the above and then some. So I’m a very lucky man that I’ve always chosen my own path, I’ve got an incredible support, plus my wife is so phenomenal and sexy that the beautiful, the sexually inspired songs have no limit. I’m just really lucky on all accounts.

BZ: Do you pay attention to the music industry as a whole right now? It seems like it’s falling apart. Do you have any thoughts on that?

TN: Oh I think it’s falling apart. I think it’s gone. God bless Justin Bieber, whatever his name is and Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and all the country, pop artists out there. I wish them nothing but ultra-success. But you have to admit, how old a guy are you?

BZ: I’m 33.

TN: Yeah you’re just a child. I imagine you love the velocity and the integrity of that 70s rhythm and blues era, the ZZ, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Heart, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Montrose, Bad Company, even the Journeys and the REOs and Styx, I mean there was an integrity and soulfulness to our music that came right from our reverence for our black heroes, and every artist I just mentioned and pretty much every artist, I don’t care if you’re talking Chili Peppers or right up to Bruno Mars or Dierks Bentley or whatever these people’s names are, there’s a Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf thing in all of it. And those of us in the 70s, I think we practiced our instruments harder and longer, and that’s why our music had such authority.

I think that’s the best word to describe what an Aerosmith song and a Ted Nugent song and an AC/DC song and a Van Halen song and a Sammy Hagar song, we respected and conveyed the authority of those soulful artists that inspired our early days. And that’s why that was so powerful and because we knew that there were people that loved it we were willing to invest our life’s fortune and long periods of our lives to go in the studio and capture them perfectly and record them with the sound and the tone and the character and the authority that we knew the songs needed and demanded and that we were responsible for and we could be compensated based on that herculean effort and risk. Nowadays you can’t because you spend your life’s fortune recording a song and the whole world can have it for nothing. I mean you wouldn’t even grow potatoes if everybody could have your potatoes for nothing.

BZ: It seems like it just holds back even the people who do have that same respect that you guys had and Aerosmith has that they can’t even get a chance. If they don’t hit it on the first try then they’re gone. Like when Aerosmith, they took three albums before they broke you know?

TN: Sure, sure. I’d been recording for a dozen years before I really made an impact I think. You know the Amboy Dukes had some success and I was already respected as a guitar guy. Yeah you’re right. That’s that digital thievery. I mean if everybody downloads your stuff for nothing, nobody’s gonna invest their fortune to do that. That’s why live concerts are so important to me because that’s the real last vestige of delivering that authoritative music to the masses and obviously in 2013 is the best tour of my life, the audiences, I’m still selling out and people are going absolutely bonsai every night and that’s very gratifying that the music still touches people that deeply.

BZ: I’m just wondering what the concerts in 20 years when you guys aren’t touring as much.

TN: Well I’ll be out there. You can always come see me and my boys!

BZ: This day in age with social media and 24 hours news, anything you say can become a headline in 10 minutes after you say it. Is that something that you have to adjust for or is it something you’re not interested in?

TN: I’ve trained with the Marines, I’ve been fortunate to train with US Marine Corps warriors for 40 years and I learned early on that the ultimate attitude in life is to improvise, adapt, and overcome. That being said, I am in many ways set in my ways. I have my modus operandi well-oiled and identified but I’m also willing to blow up my own paradigm, in fact not only willing, but I intentionally seek to blow up my own paradigm and look for that road less traveled or in my world I would call it a non-road never traveled. I do believe that there’s still some Louis and Clark available to us out there who refuse to ever genuflect for the status quo and we accomplish that every night on stage to a great degree and I do so on our Ted Nugent “Spirit of the Wild” show in the hunting world as well by defying the embarrassing status quo out there of Bubba and his fishing pole.

So yeah I’m a status quo crusher. I like stomping on status quo and picking the meat up from the cleats of my shoes from the skull of the status quos everywhere. So that’s an awfully inspiring attitude wouldn’t you say? You might want to implement that into your life because it’s very gratifying because wherever you find the status quo I guarantee it sucks and I’m so lucky and I thank God every day that I’m able to test and push and make the status quo very angry. I don’t set out to make them angry but by defying the parameters of others paradigms it makes them angry and I think that’s just a bonus to pursuing your own dreams in an uninhibited fashion. So I don’t know what other people’s motivations are but I still think that the music will forever remain a force to reckon with because it is the universal communication and when you put your heart and soul into every piece of music you deliver you will connect with people who demand excellence in their lives it is indefatigable it will never ever go by the wayside.

BZ: Awesome thank you so much for taking the time to do this. That’s all I have.

TN: Well my pleasure man. I love my music, I love talking about my music and I can’t wait for a journalist to get it right.

BZ: Well I’m a big fan and I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

TN: Well thanks Bob. I appreciate it. You take care of yourself and I hope to see you out there.

BZ: Alright sounds good.

TN: Thanks man. Crush status quo. Live it up!

 BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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