Ted Nugent doesn't need much of an introduction. To put it lightly, he's intimidating. It has nothing to do with him being so outspoken or the fear he could jokingly pull an assault rifle on me for not agreeing with his politics (which, more often than not, I don't).
It has to do with his musically prowess: he started playing guitar in 1956, inspired by the wild-man sounds of Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters, and has sold more than 40 million records worldwide. For many, he's the world's number-one guitar showman and has performed on stage more than 6,000 times, setting venue attendance records year after year, from 1977 to 2008.
Say what you will about his loud political beliefs -- and believe us, we have plenty of thoughts on his hyperbolic rants -- but come on, who doesn't appreciate the Amboy Dukes' psychedelic masterpiece "Journey to the Center of the Mind" and the raging "Cat Scratch Fever"?
But he's hit a bit of a rough patch lately. A mere 12 hours after this interview, he stated he would either be "dead or in jail by this time next year" if President Obama was re-elected, and the joke led to a stern sit-down with the Secret Service, which in turn led to the cancellation of his Fort Knox concert appearance. Then several astute media outlets pointed out that he admittedly had sex with minors during his heyday. And then, to top it all off, the prolific outdoorsman was found guilty of illegally shooting and killing a bear in May 2009. And no doubt he's quite cranky about the fact that he was reprimanded with two years' probation and a special condition that he can't hunt or fish in Alaska or any U.S. Forest Service lands for a year.
Thank God I interviewed him before all that happened.
But whether you love him for his rock 'n' roll guitar-playing that first made him a star in the '70s, or feel that his conservative commentary has long overshadowed those days, there's no doubt about it: Ted Nugent likes to be loud.
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Up on the Sun talked with Ted Nugent about those damn politics (of course), the current state of rock 'n' roll, what he would do differently in his career, and 40-plus years of unbridled rockin' out.
Up on the Sun: How's the current tour going?
Ted Nugent: My band is so good, so tight, so powerful, so berserk, so passionate, so dedicated that it is an absolute certainty that this will be the greatest tour of my life. We ain't right.
You've been a presence in the music world since the 1960s. What do you think is the key to success in the music industry, and how has it changed since you started out?
My cravings and fiery passion for that magical, mystical all-American grinding soundtrack of uppity defiance was defined by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bo Diddley. It all took control of my musical dreams, cold-cocked me from the get-go, and grows exponentially every year. I have been surrounded by world-class monster musical masters in all my bands from the beginning, and my current band of Greg Smith, Derek St. Holmes, and Mick Brown represent every guitar player's fantasy, every song, every jam, every concert every night. We are a force to reckon with.
What is one of your favorite records and why?
It is impossible to name a single recording as my favorite, whether mine or so many others'. My two-hour set each night is a firestorm of insanely intense high-energy soul music throttling. I have so many killer songs; I love them all.
If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?
I would have waited longer between solo albums due to the maniacal recording and touring schedule on my band and me. We were so inebriated on celebrating our music that we were incapable of knowing that our management were clueless as to the nonstop pressures of nonstop music, especially with the crazed animal intensity of our dedication to the music.
What's something you know now that you wish you knew 30 years ago?
That managers and lawyers and accountants can be soulless criminal thieves of the lowest order.
My cravings and fiery passion for that magical, mystical all-American grinding soundtrack of uppity defiance was defined by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bo Diddley.
How do you feel about the current state of rock music? Do you worry that the peak of rock 'n' roll has passed and younger generations will never relate to that kind of music?
That we unleash my 50th year of unbridled rock-outs in 2012 is proof positive that genuine music lovers and fun gluttons will always show up for bands that put their heart and soul into their music and performances. I love Kid Rock, Dave Grohl, and a few others, but the best of the best erupted from the soulful bands of the '60s and '70s.
Who is one of your favorite guitarists of all time? Or, I'd love to hear if you have an "old" and "new" favorite guitarist.
Chuck Berry and EVH, I suppose. But I would have to include SRV [Stevie Ray Vaughan], Bo Diddley, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy McCarty, [Jeff] Beck, [Eric] Clapton, [Jimmy] Page, Jimi [Hendrix], Ronnie Montrose, Rick Derringer, Derek St. Holmes, Ricky Medlocke, Johnny Winter, Joe Perry, Angus Young, John Sykes . . . so so many!
You've been bow-hunting since the early '50s, before you even played guitar. I heard you're a fan of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. What has been your most impressive feat with a bow over the years?
I've celebrated the physics of spirituality discipline of the mystical flight of the arrow my entire life. Aim small, miss small is the definitive lesson for a higher level of awareness that drives quality of life on all levels. I am not the greatest shot in the world, but I've never bought chicken. My bow-hunting lifestyle is all about how close I can get, not how far I can shoot, but I have pulled off some doozies in my 63 years.
How would you describe your political viewpoint from each of the past four decades?
My dedication to this miraculous, sacred experiment in self-government has been driven and fortified by the powerful time I spend with the hero warriors of the U.S. military and their families who have sacrificed so dearly for my freedom to participate. How dare anyone fail to participate after so many gave so much?
What is something you've never been asked in an interview that you wish you had the opportunity to talk about?
I think I've been asked everything possible over all these media years. I would welcome everyone to visit my website and share the American dream of being the very best that we can be. That is the Nugent rule of engagement.
I can't hear you. I'm too busy celebrating my American Dream of working my ass off providing for my family.
For six months of the year, you're rocking, and the other six months, you're hunting. If you had to choose only one to do for the entire year, which would you choose?
I made the choice many, many years ago that balance in one's life is essential for quality of life. I perfected it and I will stay on course, thank you.
I wanted to inquire about your fellow guitarist Darrell Abbott, as you were one of his favorite guitarists. In the past, you slammed him and Pantera for covering your "Cat Scratch Fever," but after his death, you participated in such tributes as "Six-String Masterpieces." Do you have an opinion at all about his talent as a guitarist, or was your participation because it hit home for you that he was senselessly killed by an American citizen carrying a gun, the latter being a right that you ardently support?
I was very suspicious of a guy who took the moniker of substance abuse. I didn't slam Pantera for their version of my soul music masterpiece, but rather that they simply performed it too white. I participated in his tribute because the Nugent family always offers prayers and condolences to families who have lost loved ones. You may note, that it was the late arrival of an armed warrior who stopped the evil carnage perpetrated by a deranged murderer. None of which has anything to do with the perfection of the Second Amendment.
Over the years, several musicians have been killed by mentally ill fans carrying guns. While I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, how can we regulate those who are not mentally fit to carry firearms and prevent such tragedies?
As long as our society continues with an embarrassing OJ court system instead of a real justice system, there is no way to control maniacs from doing their evil. Fact is, in all jurisdictions in America where there are more citizens with concealed weapons, there is a dramatic reduction in violent crime. Why would anyone want to diminish this proven method of reducing crime?
You're pretty vocal when it comes to calling people out, particularly politicians, and like to use the phrase "sell out." With all the different mediums you've dived into from music; reality television, selling products, designing ammunition, writing a memoir, etc. -- what would be your reaction if someone called you a sell out?
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I can't hear you. I'm too busy celebrating my American Dream of working my ass off providing for my family, so I will continue to hone my amazing music, sell my Ted Nugent Ammo, Nuge Java, and Ted Nugent arrows, book and guide hunts with my Sunrize Safaris and produce Ted Nugents' Spirit of the Wild, the number-one hunting TV show in the world. You see, this way I can continue to make huge donations to children's, law enforcement and military charities across the land, all year long.
That may be the biggest plug I've ever heard.
Ted Nugent is scheduled to perform Friday, May 4, at Celebrity Theatre.