Bedtime for Gonzo
This interview, conducted by Bob Mack, is excerpted with permission from the Beastie Boys' 'zine Grand Royal.
You remember the "Thrilla in Manila"? The third and final superfight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? Well, what follows is more like the "Illa in Vanilla," the worst, wettest, whitest exchange between two grotesque gringos that you're ever likely to come across. Inthis corner, the Challenger, the conveniently reactionary libertine and libertarian, Grand Royal media assistant Bob Mack. And in this corner, right-wing Robin Hood, onetime shill for Energizer, butt of the best joke in Fletch, former rock star and undisputed Lightweight Champion of the World, Ted "The Nuge" Nugent.
This non-title fight came about after Grand Royal received a press release from Levine and Schneider claiming that Ted was finally at work on a potentially credibility-salvaging solo album with Derek St.Holmes, the dude who played guitar and sang on the classic mid- to late-'70s Nuge albums Ted Nugent, Free-for-All, Cat Scratch Fever and Double Live Gonzo. That is, way back in the day before Tedosaurus rex was caught unaware by punk, a phenomenon he still felt compelled to badmouth as late as 1980, when he emptily boasted to Britain's NME that Police drummer Stewart Copeland would be "choppin' wood for me someday" (presumably after "New Wave" blew over).
Needless to say, things didn't work out that way: The Police went on to international superstardom while Ted has only kept his name in the mix by forming the atrocious second-tier soopergroup Damn Yankees. We wanted to speak with the Nuge because (Beastie Boy) Mike D has a couple of beefs with him. For one thing, Ted charged an exorbitant amount for the sample of his song "Homebound," which the Beastie Boys used for "The Biz vs. the Nuge." Such haggling reminded us of other gripes we've got with the Nuge.
Obviously, we also felt obligated to prod Ted about his aggro endorsement of bowhunting (and simultaneous taunting of animal rights groups). But more important, we felt it was time to finally call him out once and for all on the Big Issue. In short, why had he sold out and gone so soft? You know, like: Nuge, what happened? What are you givin' us? What's really goin' on? On April 8, 1994, the date Kurt Cobain's death was announced, we tried to find out. We heard about Kurt when Levine and Schneider's sexy secy Kimberly screamed as the news came over the fax, literally seconds before we were ushered into the lion's den. Actually, it was more like Lion Country Safari because at this point Ted is more Snagglepuss than King of the Beasts. We didn't bring up the news about Kurt because we knew Ted would just use the opportunity to go off on some heartless, tasteless tirade (as, of course, he ended up doing on fellow blowhard Howard Stern and his radio show only days after the following Crossfire-on-crackesque confrontation).
BM: What was up with Damn Yankees? They were pretty lame.
TN: (Incensed) Pretty lame? You got--did you see us live?
BM: Why would I want to see you live when the album was so lame?
TN: Oh, well, tell us more, Mr. Expert Never Saw Us Live But We're Lame! What's your middle name, Bob, "Insulated"? I've got the night off, I'm gonna sit home in a hot tub? Fuck you!
BM: (Singing) "Woah, oh-oh, Damn Yankees"--fuck that! And that video with all those guys shooting at you but not one hits you?
TN: Goddamn right! I'm the fuckin' Nuge, man!
BM: (Laughs) You're basically admitting that Damn Yankees were wack byhooking back up with Derek St.Holmes and trying to cut your first decent solo LP in 20 years. Tell us about that.
TN: No, let's talk about the Damn Yankees first.
BM: Okay, because everyone was disappointed with that--
TN: No, they weren't.
BM: Yes, all your old-school fans were!
TN: We sold four and a half mil--that's a beautiful thing, my friend. Don't be jumping from edge to edge--the Damn Yankees was genuine, a musical adventure.
BM: Oh, c'mon. It was a cash-out.
TN: Get the fuck outta here! I jam with Tommy Shaw, he played R&B, it hit a nerve with me--
BM: But why--
TN: I got the floor here! When I get moved by a piece of music, it doesn't have to be Motor City Madhouse to get me excited. I have a panorama of emotion. From angst to lullabying my children to sleep. (Bob laughs) And when I get moved ...
TN: ... on any emotion that genuinely intrigues me, I jump on it with both sets of teeth clinging to the fuckin' jugular. (Belches)
BM: "High Enough" was like microwave rotation!
TN: Get the fuck out of here, it was--
BM: Played 15 times a fuckin' day.
TN: Well, first of all, Bob, welcome to the real world! You know how many times I've watched MTV? Once in my fuckin' life.
BM: You gotta be on top of this, Ted.
TN: You know what I'm on top of? A real America with working-hard, playing-hard, white motherfuckin' shitkickers.
BM: Why do they have to be white? Aren't there any black shitkickers?
TN: Show me one!
BM: There's plenty. There's one named Russell Simmons.
TN: Ain't never heard of him!
BM: He's head of Def Jam Records. In fact, I heard that you told Russell you were a bigger nigger than he'll ever be.
TN: That's exactly what I said.
BM: Now what did you mean by that?
TN: I meant that I've got soul, that I don't resort to fuckin' electronic drumbeats, and I listen to James Brown and Wilson Pickett--those are niggers! Those are fuckin' spirited, genuine Afro-Americans.
BM: See, I still have a problem with this attitude.
TN: What attitude?
BM: Most people would call it racism, Ted.
TN: I'm not a racist by any stretch of the imagination.
BM: Then why do you equate shitkicking and real America with white people?
TN: Because the black guys with this rap, electronic, make-believe talentless music make me want to throw up! Where's the soul?
BM: Time out, Ted!
TN: Are you gonna let me answer a question or not?
BM: No, I'm gonna cut you off, 'cuz if you're an artist (Ted belches), why does the first paragraph of your latest press release say that your art is "designed to piss off liberals"? That's propaganda! Liberals and conservatives have nothing to do with it! I'm a conservative! I like your early music! Why don't you get back and jam like you fuckin' used to? Without all the cheesy--
TN: You've got 15--
BM: You've got electronic drums!
TN: Wait a minute, Bob, you've got 15 points. Which one do you want to talk about?
BM: (Laughs) You better start answering 'em all!
TN: Well, if you'd shut the fuck up, maybe I could!
BM: I'm sorry, sir, go ahead.
TN: You are pretty sorry. Let's go back to the shitkickers. I make my music. Do you know who can listen to it? And enjoy it? And buy it? Anybody. You grasp that, I suspect?
BM: I grasp the free market.
TN: All right, do you think I cater to anybody?
BM: I think you pander to the marketing impresarios and FM radio.
TN: Pander to what? How do I do that?
BM: You haven't played your heart out since this album (brandishes copy of the 1975 album titled simply Ted Nugent).
TN: That's not true.
BM: What happened after Double Live Gonzo? You started trying to live up to your shtick!
TN: No, no, no. Do you really want an answer to that, or are you going to go wild or something?
BM: Yes, of course I do!
TN: When I did Double Live Gonzo, I was going through--
BM: By the way, there's a rumor it was recorded in the studio.
TN: Double Live Gonzo? Nooo, the whole thing was live, that's why it sounds horrible. If we'd done it in the studio, at least they could have cleaned it up and got some good performances out of those fuckin' twits. I guess the bottom line is: We can circumvent everything from Double Live Gonzo right up until today, Bob, by telling you that you're absolutely right. Do you realize that most guitarists would give up their left nut to create the sonic identity that I had with the Byrdland? And do you know that I missed that, I didn't even grasp it for a couple of years?
BM: But what happened?
TN: I was on an adventure. My life is an adventure. For example, when I go hunting, I don't go to get meat. If I wanna get meat, it's a lot easier to go to the fuckin' store. You know what I'm after? Adventure. So I come home empty-handed. Now, but you say--
BM: You've even said that your best hunts are the ones when you come back without a kill. Does that irony not dawn on you?
TN: I didn't say that.
BM: Well, you said something close to it.
TN: Well, some of my best hunts were probably some of the ones where I didn't kill something, because of the people I was with--maybe my last hunt with my dad. So you can certainly grasp that. There's a spiritual dynamic that comes from the hunt. But let's get back to music. I'm in the middle of Tazmania studios right now, a studio I built, but I'm not producing this record. I'm capturing it.
BM: But is it going to sound rich and resonant and vibrant like the old days, or are you gonna have a lot of cheesy digital shit goin' on?
TN: Fuck all that stuff! All the digital--
BM: Ted, if that album comes out and sounds wack--
TN: Listen. Shut the fuck up! You ask a question, don't answer yourself.
BM: (Laughs) All right.
TN: I'm the fuckin' answerer, you're just the fuckin' weenie question guy. You get to write the questions 'cuz you don't know. I get to answer 'cuz I do know.
BM: Okay, then, lay it on me.
TN: Here's how it works--I got a guy named Michael Lutz. He was the songwriter, bass player and vocalist for Brownsville Station. He knows how to get the fiber, the shitkickers' blood and guts of the Ted Nugent Byrdland guitar, which I'm using exclusively on this album. Not exclusively, I got a couple PRSs in here, but the bottom line is I wish I had the tape to play you right now, Bob, 'cuz if you are truly a fan of sexy, dynamic, Ted Nugent rock 'n' roll, you're gonna shit blood when you hear this new one. It's called The Spirit of the Wild. St. Holmes is singin' his ass off, I'm singing my ass off, the fuckin' guitars are so rich, it's unnatural.
BM: I'm gonna be on you on this one.
TN: Cool. Like it matters to my life? (Laughs) But the bottom line is, uh, I believe in this record. I believed in all the records.
BM: You didn't believe in Damn--
TN: Absolutely, I believe more--the Damn Yankees, I believe--
BM: Is Damn Yankees broken up, or on hold, or--
TN: The Damn Yankees--shut the fuck up, Bob--the Damn Yankees I believed in or they couldn't have hired me. They couldn't have paid enough. The whole concept was mine!
BM: What was up with you acting like a priest at the end of that video?
TN: I thought that was cute. You don't get it.
BM: (Laughs) I get it! It was so obvious, it was like one of those freeway signs with a blinking arrow--of course I got it!
TN: You must have lost your dick in a terrible traffic accident! But at any rate, Bob, wait 'til the record comes out. I think you're gonna dig the shit out of it. We've once again focused on the fiber and the meat of the hollow-body guitars that are my signature. It sounds so good, the music is so fuckin' vital.
BM: Okay, cool. I believe you.
TN: I know where your question's coming from. Like the song "Little Miss Dangerous" is one of the best songs I've ever written, but the guitars sounded like nasal problems. It was such a letdown.
BM: But you gotta--
TN: All right, I do, but, Bob, you gotta realize: I'm a creator, man. I am so enthusiastic about what I do that I don't check my mascara before orgasm. I can't go (whiny voice): "Wait a minute, can we go over those details?" Fuck the details.
BM: Last time I talked to you, you were running the bow-and-arrow adventures over in South Africa, and, as I understand it, you yourself did not actually own the land in South Africa.
TN: No, but I'd love to. Right now I probably wouldn't love to, the way those assholes are doing it over there.
BM: You wouldn't feel any compunction about the system over there! Do you think apartheid is okay?
TN: Well, first of all, Bob, do you know what apartheid is? Apartheid was developed bythe British government many years ago--
BM: Thought it was a union thing, actually.
TN: Right, because the Incatha and the Zulus and the different tribes would kill each other when they worked together. You know that, don't you?
BM: It also has to do with the Afrikaners not wanting the cheap labor in order to prop up their inflated wages, like all other--
TN: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Who doesn't want cheap labor? I mean, have you ever heard of NAFTA?
BM: What is your stand on NAFTA?
TN: I don't even know what the fuck it means!
BM: Yeah, you do!
TN: No, I don't! All I know is that it breaks down the barriers--
BM: You don't like Mexicans coming into America?
TN: I don't believe in free borders when they come over here and fuck things up and when--
BM: Fuck things up? They do jobs you wouldn't do! That you wouldn't even let your son do--
TN: Wait a minute.
BM: Like wash dishes and shit!
TN: Fuck you with your fuckin' little ... hippie fuckin' clothes! (Grabs Bob's Rasta-colored sweater)
BM: Hippie clothes? You're the fuckin' hippie with long hair!
TN: I've busted more hippies than you even knew existed.
BM: What's your stand on NAFTA?
TN: When was the last time you shoveled dog shit?
BM: When I was 13 years old.
TN: Well, I did it two days ago, so fuck you!
BM: I don't have a dog!
TN: That figures, you don't fuckin' love animals!
BM: I live in a shoebox! I wouldn't be so cruel as to have one!
TN: Oh, yeah, here's your dead animal, asshole! (Grabs Bob's leather shoulder bag and hits Bob over the head with it)
BM: I don't give a shit about dead animals, motherfucker!
(Ted's publicist enters and demands that they settle down)
TN: (To his publicist) He's so out of touch. This is a lesson in reality. (To Bob) You're in denial.
BM: Denial, my ass! You're not answering my fucking question!
TN: What's your question?
BM: Your stand on NAFTA, number one!
TN: Fuck! I don't know! What does NAFTA have to do with my music?
BM: It has a lot to do with your music! You sell your music to a bunch of reactionary assholes!
TN: Like you? You bought this! (Grabs Bob's copy of Ted Nugent and laughs uproariously)
BM: For a dollar in the cutout bin!
Publicist: Excuse me one second! Hello! Time out! I have a photographer here [who] is going to shoot some photos. Bob, about five minutes, we've got to get Ted going.
BM: All right.
(Grand Royal photographer Carmelo comes in)
TN: Oooh, it looks like Bob's own personal professional cameraman!
BM: You're damn right!
TN: He's about as professional as you are. Wait a minute! Has this guy got a green card? (Laughs)
BM: He happens to be a Native American, Ted.
TN: Fuckin'-a, man, then you know what the words "blood brother" mean. You know what the word "spiritual" means, don'cha?
Carmelo: Hell, yeah.
TN: Yeah, before bingo and whiskey, you guys were all right.
BM: Ohhh, Jesus! So, Ted, what's really going on? Now that you're like Mr. Clean, no drugs, no alcohol--
TN: Wait a minute! I've never done--What's this, now I'm Mr. Clean? I've never smoked a joint in my fuckin' life, Bob.
BM: Now you say that, but--
TN: I never drank, I never did any of that shit.
BM: What about that picture of you at Studio 54 with Truman Capote and Andy Warhol?
TN: That was cute.
BM: You were hanging out with Truman Capote and you weren't on drugs?
TN: They needed me. Bob, are you calling me a liar?
BM: No, I'm asking you pointblank!
TN: I've never smoked a joint in my life. I've never had a cigarette to my lips in my life. I was raised a hunter. I learned to respect my surroundings and, in order to respect your surroundings, you've gotta be cognizant of how you fit in. And you can't do that when you compromise your God-given senses.
BM: Are you going into politics?
TN: I've been prodded in that direction, but--
BM: Of course you have. Just answer the question.
TN: I don't think I can take the hunting season off. As I have with my whole life, I will follow my instincts.
BM: So what are you gonna do next?
TN: I can tell you exactly what's going on right up until the year 2000. It's very exciting.
BM: Okay, let us in on it.
TN: Well, '95 is gonna be the Ted Nugent Band in heat on America's leg--of course, hunting seasons are off. I do a PBS special, I got my camp for kids, and then I expect by January of '96 I will get back together with the Damn Yankees and see if the chemistry flows between us. But I'm sure the Ted Nugent album I'm coming out with now, The Spirit of the Wild--
BM: Is it coming out on CBS?
TN: Atlantic. And y'know what? I'll hold you to something, cocksucker. Here (gives Bob his card), you call me at that number after you hear my--
BM: Send me a tape!
TN: Shit, you'll buy it!
TN: Discount-bin weenie!
BM: C'mon, man! I'm standing up for you. Everyone else has written you off.
TN: Umm, I will ...
BM: You're lucky to have a guy like me!
TN: ... send you one, 'cuz you will shit blood. This time will be real. It won't be HIV-positive, either.
Carmelo: Shit blood?
In the end, the Nuge was still the undisputed champ, though, as we were leaving, he grudgingly gave us the props when hefound out Bob's mom was from Boonville, Missouri. The next day, Ted leftBob a message at the office: "Graaand Royal. Bob Mack! Yah ha hah ha! Hey, yo, Mack-burger, this is Tedley, your favorite whiteguy. Give me a call at the Westwood Marquis at your earliest convenience andlet's live it up beyond your wildest. You'll be looking at life through tunnel vision, but, in your case, I think it's a flavorstraw. W-w-wow! Live it up! You want a Beastie Boy? I got your beastie boy right here!"
After halfheartedly attempting to return this breathtakingly peculiar message, we figured we'd hear back from "Tedley" soon enough, either when we published and/or when he released his album--both of which were supposed to occur soon after our battle royal. Fortunately, Ted fell almost as behind schedule as we did and only recently unveiled Spirit of the Wild, which, to be fair, ain't half bad. Not that it had me searching for hemoglobin in my stool, but certain cuts, especially the James Brown-styled "I Shoot Back" and the Chuck Dean chestnut "Primitive Man," are more game than lame in their efforts to offset the predictably preposterous standard Nuge dreck like the Dr. Demento-ish "Kiss My Ass" and other duds like the ode to his dead bowhunting mentor "Fred Bear." Needless to say, we'd like to think that the album's delayed release and surprisingly fresh contents had at least something to do with Ted considering some of the points we brought up.
Ted Nugent is scheduled to perform on Friday, January 26, at Celebrity Theatre. Showtime is 8p.m.
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