Ted Nugent talks a lot about discipline. Speaking on the phone from his ranch outside Waco, Texas, the Detroit-born guitarist of "Cat Scratch Fever" fame comes back to it again and again. His life of clean living is the way to go, he says, living another way is nothing less than insane.
Nugent, who comes to Phoenix Sunday not to perform, but to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual conference, is an old-school conservative. As a member of the NRA's board of directors he's a gun nut, sure, but he's also a bow nut, a family nut, and an organic food nut. And an alarm clock nut.
"I like to call it the alarm clock army. Those of us that still set our alarm clocks because we have a responsibility to perform, and to produce, and to be punctual and attentive and professional and pursue excellence. We come in every shape and form, we come from every walk of life."
Nugent is the sort of old-school culture warrior you might have expected to evolve in the wake of Barack Obama's landslide win in November. Not really. He's still offended if you suggest Red States have a meth problem, Rush Limbaugh is an addict, or advocate some mild form of gun control might be prudent.
And God help the hippies, wherever they are.
UP: How do you make rock n roll and conservative politics fit together?
TN: The best rock 'n' roll in the world is about defiance. Now there are alternative routes that are taken that are as legitimate as hell because all good music should and does, in all imaginable ways, capture the human experience... Anybody that has gotten downwind within miles of my music knows that the uppitiness, the spiritedness, the defiance factor, the sheer fun factor, not to mention the over-the-top authority music as projected by the incredible virtuosos I've been privileged to jam with, and to collaborate with, all these years.... My music is the middle finger on fire in its ultimate form. So I never spend my time trying to figure out why, the beauty of my music is that it's raw, it's primal, it's spontaneous, its as organic as an erection. There's no explaining my music.
UP: Were you always conservative, did you always picture yourself growing up and becoming part of the NRA's board of directors?
TN: No, not at all. I was certainly brought up in a hardcore - dare I say militantly disciplined - environment, my dad was drill sergeant, U.S. Army Calvary, in World War II and Korea, and God bless the man, Warren Henry Nugent, he never stopped being the drill sergeant, to which I attribute my gushing joy and positive spirit and quality of life, because none of that, that I just mentioned, is possible without discipline... So conservativism was merely a direct result of the discipline to get up early, work my ass raw to be a productive member of my family, my community and this country... So it came in from pragmatism and logic, especially as forced in to my life by the sheer buffoonery of the hippies: getting stoned and drooling and puking and stumbling and falling all over themselves and killing themselves. Does anyone really need to look further than the dead bodies due to substance abuse and irrational, irresponsible, criminal, no-accountability indulgences that were around me in the 60s and 70s?"
UP: When you talk about the hippie thing...
TN: How old are you, Martin?
UP: I'm 28.
TN: Then you haven't the faintest fucking idea.
UP: To people my age and younger, it's almost like those battles are over, those battles have been fought...
TN: They certainly have but there is still a horrible, deadly curse of substance abuse in this country.
UP: Yes, but now, the problems with that are, I would say, probably effecting more conservative Middle Americans that are hooked on meth than the suburban liberal kids who made up the hippie movement.
TN: Really? Now, wait a minute, I'm not recording this, but I recall your statement just seconds ago: You're actually claiming that the meth problem is in the conservative community? You're trying to push some buttons here.
UP: No, no, really. When you look at it, the states that have meth problems are Red States, they're not Blue States, ya know?
TN: No, look at the Red States. Let's look at Michigan. That's a Red State, but it voted liberal because of Detroit and the hash-bashers at The University of Michigan. That's like the lunatic fringe. Maybe a handful - and certainly isolated, and island of buffoonery - and they couldn't be classified as conservative by any stretch of the imagination... There's a big difference between conservatives and hillbillies. Hillbillies are like the leftist of the left. They're one of the reasons safety nets were created.
UP: But they're the ones who are "God, gays and guns." Those hillbillies are the people who vote based on those things.
TN: Number one, anybody downwind of meth doesn't vote, I assure you that. Number one A, anybody doing meth isn't going to church. Certainly, you've gotta be pulling my fucking chain here?
UP: No, I'm just saying, when you talk about the hippies and the drug problems, I understand how that kind of birthed your politics, but, maybe, things have moved beyond that. Who's your new enemy, is kind of what I'm wondering?
TN: The enemy has always been law-breakers and those who wake up in the morning and choose to be in the liability column. And, I mean, there's a whole array of subhumans that participate in that disaster and they come from every imaginable walk of life but, certainly, I can't imagine you really believing that those kind of substance abusing liabilities...
UP: Well, look at Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is a substance abusing criminal.
UP: He was. He was hooked on oxycodone.
TN: You're one of those guys that's going to try to equate rush Limbaugh with meth heads?
UP: No, but he was illegally using drugs.
TN: He had a prescription drug problem for a period of time. But, in the final analysis, is Rush in the asset column or the liability column. Did he learn from his mistakes or didn't he?
UP: I don't know. I don't know him.
TN: You call yourself as journalist and you don't know that?
UP: I don't know him personally, I don't know where he is personally.
TN: I think it's universally known that Rush beat that demon. And he's been on the law-abiding side for many more years than he was on the law-breaking side... but to compare Rush's blink of and eye stumble to the drug culture. Martin, I gotta tell you, when I see you I'm going to have slap the shit out of you. I'll buy you a mocha, then I'll knee-cap you. Because that is so soulless. What a far-reaching fantasy.
UP: I just don't know that drugs are a liberal or conservative problem, is all I'm saying.
TN: Bottom line? Do conservatives and liberals all make mistakes? You think? Do conservatives at least not just preach, but do their damndest to implement and certainly live by a realm of accountability? You're damned right they do. Do liberals? No...
UP: I realize you might resent this whole idea, but do you feel like because of Obama the game has been changed? A lot of the ideas you've talked about are ideas that go with the traditional culture war. I feel like in some ways maybe the game has been changed enough that the traditional culture war isn't being fought, and the lines aren't where they used to be.
TN: They're not really unique, they're not unlike what we've dealt with in the past with everybody from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton... For example: Obama has always voted for gun free zones. In fact, for all practical purposes Illinois is a gun free zone. You've got to have a state-issued ID card to buy BBs... The gun free zone sham is the tip of the culture war spear in that our evidence proves conclusively that gun free zones are where the most innocent lives are lost every fucking time. In spite of the evidence that gun free zones are where the most lives are lost every fucking time, the Obamas and the Kennedys and the Shumers and the Brady campaign numbnuts, they actually want more of those... To not be able to choose the right decision I nthat scenario is sub-chimp. You wouldn't qualify as a primate in Jane Goodall's camp if you can't make that decision, yet The Left still chooses the slaughter zones.
UP: Why do you think they want to do that then?
TN: This is the phenomeon Martin. Did you go to college, are you in college, did you graduate from college?"
UP: Oh yeah.
TN: Did they ever tell you about the Bataan Death March in college? Did they ever tell you about how the trains lined up in Nuremburg in '37 and '38 and took people to Auschwitz, to the internment camps, and then ultimately to their death? Did they ever tell you about the Japanese emperor who gathered up Japanese little girls for the army to rape and torture and murder so they could get in the right frame of mind for war. My point is: In the absence of the most evil moments in human history you can pretend those moments didn't happen, so you can pretend that certainly no human would ever force another human to be unarmed and helpless. Unfortunately, there are people in America, there are people in politics, there are people in positions of authority, who want to forcibly unarm, and force in to helplessness, American citizens. That's what this is all about... None of the politicians who want gun control - they can't claim ignorance - they all know that forced unarmed helplessness is a guaranteed victim orgy. They know that. So, they can't claim ignorance, they are either evil to the core or just deranged. Either way, they must be stopped.
UP: You believe that anyone that believes [in gun control] is evil or deranged?
TN: Evil to the core or deranged. If you would force me to be unarmed and helpless I would have to do everything in my power to neutralize you.
TN: Hmmm. Here's one for you, Martin, you sound like a bright guy, you sound like you think you're a bight guy, went to college and all that that stuff - see, you went to college, I never went to college, I was too busy learning shit - you tell me how being forced in to unarmed helplessness is good, tell me all the good comes from that.
TN: "Well" is about where it ends.
UP: There are some countries who take away all the guns from everyone, for example the U.K.
TN: Have you been to the UK?
UP: I have been.
TN: Would you like to live like that?
UP: I prefer the United States but I don't think it's too bad over there.
TN: I think it's too bad. I think there are a bunch of guys - in fact, I happen to know for a fact, that there are farmers, right now, who legally own guns who were assaulted in their own homes numerous times, who finally used a legally-owned gun to shoot a home invader. The home invader sued and won, the farmer is in jail for life. Is that where you want to live?
TN: I didn't think so.
UP: Canada, our neighbors to the north, another great example, they have hunting guns but they don't have nearly the violent crime that we do.
TN: Have you ever spent a lot of time in Canada?
UP: I have.
TN: I have too. Aren't they nice?
UP: They are nice.
TN: Have you ever met such hospitable, welcoming, loving, courteous people in all your fucking life?
UP: They are wonderful people.
TN: Canadians don't beat each other up like Americans. Canadians don't break in to each other's homes like Americans. Yes, they have some drug gang wars going on, yes, they've got some murders and rapes, yes, they've got some meth subculture going on, but the actual instances of violence - not just gun violence: pipe violence, fist violence, brick violence, scolding violence, yelling violence - none of it exists anywhere approaching the level of American-on-American outrage... I don't think there's a society - a modern, advanced, electric society - where the citizens hate each other as much as some Americans hate Americans. It just breaks my fucking heart.
UP: Well, let me ask you this though: You are obviously tuning up the culture war, you are very aggressive about it, do you worry that you're contributing to that hate in any way, maybe even inadvertently?
TN: The opposite. I almost come off like Rodney King sometimes, except that I actually form syllables - you've gotta love that. I think we should all just get along, I'm constantly begging... But do I hate evil? Yes. Do I hate rapists? Yes? Do I hate people who get up in the morning to intentionally destroy America? Yes. But in order to get love, you must direct as much energy toward the evil as you can so you can maximize the love. The love will only be maximized based on the elimination of evil. So I am very effective at steering my energy toward the elimination of evil to help either fix it or eliminate it so love can flourish. See, peace and love, unto to itself...
UP: Now you sound like a hippie.
TN: Peace and love will get you killed. That doesn't sound like a hippie. Good try, Martin. You've gotta tell me, I want the words, say "Uncle Ted is the best interview I've ever done." Say it.
UP: Uncle Ted is the best phone interview I've ever done.
TN: Well if I was there in person with my short shorts on then you'd say it.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.