The Unstoppable Ted Nugent
By: Dennis Cook
"I am a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally. Let's get it on."
This is how Ted Nugent tells me he plans to open his upcoming guide to life, Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto. He's not shy about sharing his opinions and he has a lot of them. A working musician since the early '60s, Nugent has blossomed into a blue collar cottage industry, the six-gun version of Jimmy Buffett, with television shows, books, bow hunting excursions and, of course, a huge catalog of over 30 albums that have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide. He'll be the first one to tell you he's a phenomenon, and it's kind of hard to argue with him. But, in recent years, Nugent has become a lightning rod for conservative hot button issues, where he's always happy to weigh in.
"The Klan and the Nazis suck, and I am their enemy and I'm gonna funk 'em up. I'm not obeying your laws and I'm not getting on my knees while you burn a cross on my lawn. I'm gonna shoot you funkin' dead. I'm a Black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally and I can't be contained," says Nugent. "There's a line drawn in the sand, and in [Ted, White & Blue] this is how I define it ultimately: On my side is a huge mass of humanity who says we are not going to ask what our country can do for us. We are going to get up early and do what we can for our country. On the other side, you've got sniveling pimps and whores and welfare broads and people who think those are legitimate job descriptions siding with Obama and Hilary. I don't know how a mind or a soul decays to that low. I don't know how that happens."
Undeniably, one of rock's godfathers, Nugent is talented, violent, self-aggrandizing, freewheeling, distressingly patriotic and, above all, a pretty damn good time. And like many good times, he's a bit dangerous, uncomfortable to many and liable to get you slapped if you follow in his footsteps. As he'll be happy to tell you, most men aren't Ted Nugent, who runs the razor's edge between bat shit crazy and scary smart, and you're never quite sure which way he'll lean as he sprints around. Love him or hate him, he demands a reaction, pouring baking soda into our soda pop and shaking us with a wicked smile.
JamBase: You are precisely the smart ass I imagined you'd be.
Nugent: Well, I didn't invent the middle finger but I perfected the motherMONKEY.
JamBase: I've been a fan of your music since I was a kid. There's something so funking primal about it.
Nugent: How can you not be? If you have a heart, a soul and a penis, well, I'm your boy.
When people say "cock rock" I think Ted Nugent.
Whoa. Now you're starting to scare me. No, I appreciate that. You love the vitality, the authenticity, the spirit, the defiance, the irreverence, the autonomy. You love the fact that I will not funking back down. We all have that inside of us but political correctness has just about de-balled 90-percent of the population. Davy Crockett lives and I'll be glad to shoot Mexicans from the wall of the Alamo. If you don't want to shoot 'em with me, then shut the funk up and load my gun!
Ted Nugent from MySpace
Nugent is utterly unafraid to speak his mind. In fact, he often lets loose without a second's pause, uttering things aloud that most of us, even in our darkest moments, know to keep shuttered tight inside. To him, he's just being honest and throwing it all out there to be sorted in the light.
"The bottom line is not just speaking one's mind but before the mouth opens the brain feels a duty to sponge information, evidence and facts, and always put them through the logic meter, based on good will and decency" offers Nugent. "So, when I do speak my mind it's not just a knee-jerk reaction but a well executed delivery of genuine, sincere research so I know what the hell I'm talking about. Big difference, you know? I'm 60-years-old and I don't have many hunches anymore. I very rarely speak my opinion. I'd rather hear my observations of irrefutable occurrences, facts and, again, that dangerous 'L' word - logic. I dare to genuflect at the altar of logic, and someone who tries to pry my knee from the ground is gonna get a crowbar upside the head."
"Logic serves everybody in a positive way. It's the abandonment of logic that's created these squawking critics of me. God sent Michael Moore to find those who oppose me," Nugent continues. "All this energy, all this confidence, all this humility - because I'm humbled by logic - and all the music I've created, even the pre-recorded stuff from '62/'63 jamming with The Lords [Nugent's first band], it was about defiance. I understood what Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry were singing about. I discovered it was about defiance and a celebration of life, and my music and my politics are one and the same. And what is politics other than an individual's pursuit of happiness and demanding from our employees, i.e. elected officials, that they exercise good will, decency and logic in their policymaking? My hand can stroke a puppy and change a diaper, but it can also turn into a fist and knock the shit out of you. It's the same thing, just depending on what the moment's motivation might be."
Rock 'n' roll is often viewed as a numbskull thing, the work of people too dumb for higher pursuits. And while the man who gave us "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" might seem to be the last dude you'd look to for lofty, cogent advice, there's philosophical underpinnings to his pummeling musical assault that go beyond pussy, fighting and carousing. Moreover, step back from the more consciously salacious outbursts and it's hard to dismiss the value of at least some of what he suggests.
On my side is a huge mass of humanity who says we are not going to ask what our country can do for us. We are going to get up early and do what we can for our country. On the other side, you've got sniveling pimps and whores and welfare broads and people who think those are legitimate job descriptions siding with Obama and Hilary.
"I have a very cute statement and that is I never went to college 'cause I was too busy learning shit. What I've learned is quality of life comes from attentiveness, discipline, heart and soul and consciousness, conscientiousness, decision making and choices based on how things affect others more than yourself," says Nugent. "No matter what anyone says, I have always been - and I force myself to continue to be, in ever increasing increments - an asset to everyone. You cannot find a hurt soul in my vapor trail. I'm not perfect and there's been some bumps in the road, but I will give up everything to make it better for someone else [pauses], unless that person is a robber, a thief or a rapist. I will go out of my way and forfeit a moment of happiness or even the pursuit of my happiness for another's. If some journalist somewhere would be honest enough to admit that it would be a fascinating story. I haven't sacrificed any fun. I'm happy. I rock my balls off six months of the year. There's no fault in that. My family is healthy and educated, independent, productive and kind AND I still rock my balls into a firestorm every night! I don't know what else I can do."
Again, step back from the racially charged remarks, the bow hunting, the bare-chested he-man-nedness and Nugent's main crime is a big mouth - just words, and words that one could easily tune out if they only choose to. He is an erectile symbol of the First Amendment, and, by gum, he's gonna exercise his rights and his jaw muscles as often as he can. It's hard to imagine anyone agreeing with everything he says but he says so much there's a shot at common ground with a pretty big range of folks. Sure, some of what he comes out with should give one pause but despite his voluminous ego and alpha male disposition, Nugent is still just one guy. He doesn't set policy or lead a cult or anything of the sort. He's a rock musician, a 40-plus-year survivor in an industry built on youth and contemporary currency. And he's often most entertaining when one disagrees with him because it tests our own beliefs, our own core ideals, and even if they don't line up with his we get a nice view of our own inner temperature just being around him.
JamBase: People get very put out by words, by ideas that don't agree with their own. They take personal affront at something you said rather than understanding freedom of speech means saying things we don't see eye-to-eye on. Why not listen to something or someone else instead of getting your panties in a knot?
Nugent: Bingo! And don't get upset! Smile, shake my hand and go have a nice day. I never force anyone to listen to me. Let's get to the tip of the culture war spear, since I've been riding it for 42 years, shall we? And that is my life of guns. I have machine guns. I shoot them, and I like to carry guns. I've never said anybody else has to! I've never said you have to defend yourself. I think it's sinful to NOT defend yourself, but I'd never force anyone to own, carry, shoot or even look at a gun. But my critics attempt to ban my ownership of them! I'm not telling anyone they need to eat moose. I never told anybody to shoot a deer, to eat a deer, but people want to tell me I'M NOT ALLOWED TO!!!
Don't ever tell anyone they can't do something - unless it's raping or killing someone or something like that. If you want tofu I'll funking get you some tofu! I don't give a shit. If you can't defend yourself and a rapist has you in a chokehold I'll shoot the motherMONKEY for you. That's the big difference between the Left and the Right; the Left dictates theology, I don't. You don't have to defend yourself. You don't have to educate yourself or be the best that you can be but don't send me the bill for your shortcomings.
JamBase: There is a profound sense of timidity about many, many people. Hell, I'm often too big a chicken to speak my mind even when I know I should. I usually want to kick my own ass at those moments. I think we've been indoctrinated to have this sort of ingrained timidity these days.
Nugent: We were just talking about that last night. A big, fat Hispanic kid came up to me at the sushi restaurant we were at and said, "Hey, Uncle Ted, I love the way you stand up for what you believe in. I sure wish I could say stuff like that." I'm telling you, Dennis, if I had a nickel for every time someone stopped me at a restaurant, gas station, hotel, a church or a school to tell me that [trails off in disgust]. I take 'em by the scruff of the neck and yell, "You can! Nay, you MUST! You WILL! Why the funk not!?!"
What I always come back to with you is the music. The other stuff, politics, whatever, is around the edges of that gutbucket sound you make.
Every night in concert I guarantee you the celebration will continue. There are more laughing faces in my concerts than anywhere! I'll go up against Richard Pryor's comedy routines! We make people feel alive. They feel the energy and they feel the passion and the believability factor is contagious. We believe in this music! And that's why people come back, because music is the universal communication. And when you put as much heart and soul into it as we do every night you can't go wrong. My guitar will clench your soul.
I didn't invent the middle finger but I perfected the motherMONKEY.
A Little Chat About Music
JamBase: 1978's Double Live Gonzo is one of THE great live albums.
Nugent: You won't get any argument from me.
JamBase: It's so bold and it stands on its own two legs. It's so in-your-face, right from the cover.
Nugent: Well, I provided the in-your-face but Cliff Davies on drums, Rob Grange on bass and definitely David St. Holmes on guitar and vocals were the electricity. They were the virtuosos that provided the fist to my music. They, like all the musicians I've been incalculably fortunate enough to work with, were world class, top one-percent EVER of rhythm sections any guitarist could be lucky enough to play with. That's why my music is unstoppable, because of the musicians that came up with me.
JamBase: I love the heaviness of your music. Maybe only AC/DC has been so consistently hard all the time.
Nugent: I capitalize on the pummel factor of the rhythm section, on what Bo Diddley created [breaks into Diddley's iconic beat]. You want to get naked around the campfire and start throwing spears at people, which, by the way, I do [laughs]. Tonight in Bakersfield I'm sure someone will get shafted. That is the original unification of a musical rhythm. It's ubiquitous in all our favorite music. Maybe the guys in Metallica couldn't express it the way I just did but they musically articulate it like champions. Music from AC/DC to the Stones and Beatles to The Yardbirds and Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and Sammy Hagar, all our favorite bands, that is the rhythm section funk brother guidance that we all pay homage to in our music. I do it better than all of them because I muff the strings with my right hand, and there's a combination of flagrant ringing and variations of muffing to my playing personified by the "Stranglehold" intro or the "Love Grenade" intro or throughout "Motor City Madhouse." The rwrrr, rwrrr is as blaring as God has ever allowed.
You do have fantastic intros to most of your songs. Like AC/DC, before the first lyric it's a sound that makes your dick hard.
I would hope so. That's why the purple nerve endings are exposed. Pull 'er back and let 'er go! I think what AC/DC personifies is their origins in Howlin' Wolf and Lightnin' Hopkins and Mose Allison, and then electrified supremely by Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, and then carried on through experimentation by a bunch of Caucasian idiots like me and Angus Young. We discovered that power chords can be articulated into passages not unlike Chuck but with entire chords instead of single notes. The bottom line is nothing is sacred except the rhythm.
I gotta tell you, a band that's basically politically retarded, Green Day, also continue that pounding, pummeling authenticity. They are three of the finest musicians that can go shoulder-to-shoulder with the greatest. Their music has a tribal, primal grind to it that you can close your eyes to and pretend they aren't little white brats. As much as I laugh at the naivety of their politics, their cluelessness, their music is just robust and awesome. I'm just genuinely moved by it. The same thing, too, with the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. They are world class virtuosos that combine the grind and the rhythm in a way I really admire.
JamBase: What is it about Detroit? Why do so many tough, enduring rock bands come from there? The Stooges, MC5, Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Grand Funk Railroad...
...Jack White, even Eminem, The Romantics. There is an authority that comes from Detroit that I'm going to rest solidly in the hands of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. They showed us how and I wish more people would give them credit. If you listen to "Jenny Take A Ride," "Shake A Tail Feather" or "Good Golly, Miss Molly," my God, man! They defined everything from then to now about what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be - black soulfulness, incredible tightness from dedication to practice and a work ethic, a vision conveying defiance, piss 'n' vinegar and high energy celebration without losing the grip of the black inspiration.
Firm In All Regards
"My critics are the wind beneath my wings because I know that I'm doing good. I know I'm working hard and that I'm in the asset column. Everybody I know is. I don't know anybody who collects a welfare check. I've never MET anyone who collects a welfare check. I don't know anybody who expects a handout. So, I just glow. I have to stop sometimes to just adjust my funking halo," chuckles Nugent. "I just play my music and tour and do my charity work and speaking engagements and TV shows. I just do what I do. The Michael Moores just find me. I have never gone out of my way to confront, combat or take on an issue. They find me. When they come to get me instead of running away I walk towards them."
"I don't need adulation and I don't give ANY credibility to celebrity whatsoever but there's a genuine, affectionate and very spiritual connection like I had with that fat Hispanic kid. He knows in his heart that he should say what's on his mind, that he should stand up, but he's scared to death of the repercussions. I am not, and my critics are scared to death. I said to a guy the other day who told me they have a real coyote problem in Los Angeles, I said, 'That's weird. You must have asked for it because I don't have a coyote problem where I live. The coyotes have a Ted problem!' You're supposed to be in charge, not the funking varmints. You can take that literally or figuratively, and I do! I don't look for problems but I do the best I can and sometimes I get kicked in the teeth for it. I give the world the best I got anyway."