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The Music Makes Him Do It: An Exclusive Interview With TED NUGENT

By Ruben Mosqueda, Contibutor
Thursday, November 15, 2018 @ 11:00 AM


"It if wasn’t for Dave Grohl, I’d go on an assassination tour of people who make shitty music!"

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Photo Credits - Brown Photography

TED NUGENT the ‘Motor City Madman’ as he’s often referred to, took time from his busy schedule [hunting as he says in this interview] to chat with KNAC.COM. Over the course of his career NUGENT has sold more than forty million albums and performed over 6,500 shows.

TED NUGENT has a new album due on November 9th titled The Music Made Me Do It, his follow up to the 2014 release Shutupandjam! He has added a nice bonus to the first pressing of the new album---A live concert DVD Live At Freedom Hill, featuring his current rhythm section bassist Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless. As a friend said, “Just wind him up and watch him go!” I did just that and NUGENT exploded as if he had been fired out of a cannon. As I hung up the phone, a three point buck sprinted across the field in front of my house. NUGENT released an album titled Spirit of The Wild, did he not?

KNAC.COM: Ted you have a new album, The Music Made Me Do It...

Ted Nugent: [laughs] I have a feeling that, the music makes you do what you do, doesn’t it? KNAC.COM: [laughs] You’re right. If you can believe this, I discovered your music through wrestling. I forget who I was watching wrestle, it was one of the Von Erichs, I can’t recall which one at this time because there was a shit load of them. Anyway, he was using “Stranglehold” as his entrance music...

NUGENT: Oh, there was a lot of them that did! You remember when Kirk Gibson hit the homerun at the bottom of the 9th [of the World Series]? If you look, he was shouting at [Dodgers manager] Tommy Lasorda demanding to pinch hit because he knew what the pitcher was going to throw next! I know this to be true because Kirk is a good hunting buddy of mine. If you look closely when he’s rounding the bases he still has his ear buds in! He was listening to “Stranglehold” right before he went up to bat! So that inspired him to know all! [laughs]

So, I’m fully aware of what you’re talking about, I think that song is a universal battle cry, not just for me, but everyone. It’s the soundtrack of our lives! The ups and downs of this rollercoaster that we call life. Ruben, if you only knew the number of communications that I have had with military and law enforcement, that listen to “Stranglehold” before they go into a raid, a mission and life threatening situation, it’s incredible. Since that record came out in 1975, that song has been latched on by people, it’s like the number 1 breeding soundtrack! It’s the sexiest song in the world! It’s also a defiant song, when good goes up against evil, it’s the song for victory--it’s got such a powerful connection, man!

KNAC.COM: And then there’s the groove, Ted...

NUGENT: Well, let’s talk about that groove! In the title track of The Music Made Me Do It, there’s a bridge right before the second verse that goes, [singing into the phone] “Everybody loves the groove, you gotta get up and move, and take it into your soul. You couldn't tear me away, I need it every day, I love that rock-n-roll.” Stop and think just how important that is, and the tightness from the history of the funk brothers and all my black heroes, and the bass players and drummers that I have had at my side over the course 50 years! They are literally the best on the planet! From CARMINE APPICE to CLIFF DAVIES to TOMMY CLUFETOS to TOMMY ALDRIDGE to DENNY CARMASSI to MICK BROWN to DAVE PALMER in the AMBOY DUKES to my current drummer JASON HARTLESS. I have worked with just the greatest rhythm sections on the planet, that’s why the music makes me do it! I feel so blessed to have had all these individuals by my side over the years, they are such a talent, and groove is everything!

KNAC.COM: Ted, over the years a number of your contemporaries have drifted away from the idea of a new album, mainly because albums don’t sell like they used to.

NUGENT: And rightly so!

KNAC.COM: Have you ever considered throwing in the towel, in terms of recording new music? It seems like you could tour like you have been doing for decades and not issue new music and still do pretty well for yourself.

NUGENT: There’s a number of things at play here. First of all I think the title of the record says it all. I play my guitar everyday, to this day the music still makes me do it. I’ll be 70 years old next month, I’m still like a horny 12th grader with my guitar and my loud amp, playing it at maximum volume, while mom and dad aren’t around! That’s the God honest truth! [laughs] I still have that primal scream alive in my gut, in my balls, in my soul and in the fingertips. I love guitar grooves and punishing riffs! I still get an erection when I hear GEORGE HARRISON playing that lick on “Paperback Writer”! Or that ‘fuzzy’ guitar tone on [THE ROLLING STONES’] “Satisfaction” or an AC/DC song!

I’m already stimulated, high on life by the passions that I live and pursue and the adventures both literal and figurative, mental, spiritual, physical and mechanical--all of the above. I pull out of my driveway of my swamp, I have just shot this big buck and I’m already ‘stoned’ on God’s creation! And the guts and the blood and the beast! I’m just exulting to my cameraman, a 26 year old guy ETHAN WISKUR. I’m like, “Can you believe, just how beautiful these deer are? Did you see the white around his eye right before I shot him? Did you see he was chasing the doe, then he hooked his antlers in the woods and then I shot him!” And as I’m driving, I smack the radio...Ruben! Guess what?! The opening lick of “Stranglehold” comes on! So, I’m already reverberating with this hunting lifestyle that I lead, which is equal to the music. It’s music, food, sex, hunting, rock ‘n’ roll and the mystical flight of the arrow! I could go on and on and on with the cocktail that makes my American dream a reality. Then you’ve got that dynamic lick come over the radio as you’re still reminiscing over a fresh kill, nonetheless! I’m going to tell you something in a second that will dazzle you and ultimately answer your question. No, I have never been deterred! I have acknowledged the atrocity of the current music industry, where you have the same songs with the same three chords in them! And the little girl singers and the same old country bullshit music! Jesus! It if wasn’t for Dave Grohl, I’d go on an assassination tour of people who make shitty music! [laughs] I’m obviously being silly, but I’m angry like you that there’s no new AC/DCs, AEROSMITHs or VAN HALENs, because there’s no incentive! You don’t spend half a million dollars to make a record so people can have it for free! Just think, if you did that with apple orchards, there’d be no more apples! My point here is that the music still makes me do it. Thankfully, I have the stimuli to create and record these songs and it will not be stopped! I also understand the logistics of capitalism, I can’t pay my band if I can’t make money off the product that we make together! These guys are worth a lot of money and I have to make sure I make enough money to be able to pay them. Greg and Jason, those two guys probably would do it for nothing! [laughs] They love it like I do, but that wouldn’t be fair.

DOUG BANKER, what a name huh? He’s my manager, he’s a mechanical mathematician, he’s a musician and he has all the same influences that I have. He loves JOHN LEE HOOKER, MUDDY WATERS, CHUCK BERRY and LITTLE RICHARD. DOUG is all about that, so you see he gets the spirit of music, but he knows that in order to go out on tour, he knows that in order to crack the first nut he knows you need $300,000 to get the machinery going! I said DOUG, “I’ve got songs, these wonderful songs, the first is called “The Music Made Me Do It”. Get me a damn record label!” [laughs] “Doug just go get one!” He says, “You got it!” [laughs] I don’t even want to know about the landmine of interference and resistance that he ran into in getting the [record] deal. Nothing new there, I mean even going back to the early days, everyone resisted me, nobody wanted to sign TED NUGENT to a record label.

You asked me about “Stranglehold”, nobody wanted a song like that, it didn’t fit the format for airplay, the guitar solo was long and the song didn’t even have chorus! [bursts into laughter] I mean Ruben, how funny is that?! It’s as pure instinctive as breathing! When you’ve got guys like GREG SMITH on bass and JASON HARTLESS on drums and [producer] Michael Lutz from BROWNSVILLE STATION, the mastermind behind “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”, everybody on my team Ruben! It’s an unstoppable orgy of groove, sound, we all love this stuff and we all genuflect at the altar of rock ‘n’ roll. Those Gods of thunder, those great black musicians that I mentioned earlier, I promise you, they’ve influenced EVERY song you love! They inspire me when I roll out of the swamp! The swamp is both literal and figurative. You couldn't get farther away than I do with my bow and my arrow in the swamp, which is 250-300 days a year. When I rise from the primal goo, I literally have to hose the swamp off me every day! There’s no music, there’s no politics, there’s no good, there’s no bad, there’s no ugly, it’s a pure stream of consciousness, the licks are in my head, they’re not really there yet because I’m waiting for ‘the beast’ awaken! I’m listening to the birds, the woodpeckers, some geese in the distance, I see the color changes and I follow the leaves to the ground and I up my radar to maximum awareness. That is so consuming Ruben, I don’t know if you knew anything about hunting, but you know everything, I just told you! It’s so consuming, because I have to kill that animal! That’s how I feed my family, that’s how I provide meat for soup kitchens and shelters, gifts for my friends and neighbors, family and the needy. It’s a necessity, it’s an essential part of my being. I promise you, as walk to my garage to shed the primal goo, I pick up my guitar and fire happens! Ruben, every fuckin’ time! Say hallelujah! That’s why you hear that timeless urgency in my music, because it’s like my first piece of ass all over again! Can anybody else say that?! This is magical shit! That’s why you feel the grooves and the energy and the spirit of that music!

KNAC.COM: You had previously issued a couple albums with Frontiers [Records]...

NUGENT: That was another wizardly attribute of mine, I think everybody has to agree that the greatest philosopher of all time was DIRTY HARRY! [laughs] And I’m not talking about “Well do you punk or make my day.” My favorite is when he said, “A good man knows his limitations.” DOUG and I don’t talk about any of that! I say I’ve got killer songs, get me a deal! I don’t want to know who he’s talking to, I don’t want to know what the offers are, I don’t want to know the status of the negotiations, just get it! It’s just like with the guy who builds my compound bows, I don’t want to get into the technical stuff or the minutia behind it, all I need to know is that the bow fits me and that I can hit the bullseye! [laughs] If I got into the minutia of everything that I have going on in my life, I’d blow up! [laughs] Or worse yet, I might take drugs to escape the minutia! [laughs] So, to answer your question, I’m on the label that DOUG determined based on his superior, authoritative analysis of the musical world around us, that serves my best interest to deliver my music to people that love this kind of music. I don’t know how he does it, and with all due respect, I don’t give a rat’s ass! Just make it fuckin’ happen! You’re dealing with a very uppity son of bitch because I just got up and I’ve got five hunters here with me! [laughs] We were just talking about getting into the muck and hunting so we’re so excited and I accumulated all the excitement around me. Plus, we’re talking about my new album, how much more excited can I be before I explode?! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: You were talking early about the start of your career when labels, they kind of shunned you to a degree...

NUGENT: You think? How about to a total extent?! [bursts into laughter]

KNAC.COM: Well, yes, but then there’s this Rock And Roll Hall of Fame thing, I don’t know how...

NUGENT: I think the word you’re looking for is ‘shortcoming.’ [bursts into laughter]

KNAC.COM: Well, I guess some people would say so, but I’m pretty sure people inducted have their fair share as well.

NUGENT: I will speak on behalf of music lovers, not on my behalf, I’m not hurt personally one bit. The music makes me do it, not the hall of fame, not the stardom, not the celebrity, not the money, the music makes me do it! This is a catastrophe of politically correct dishonesty. You can’t not have a band like STYX in there and have MADONNA in there! That’s a lie! You can’t not have TED NUGENT in there but have PATTI SMITH and GRANDMASTER FLASH! That’s just a lie! That’s not even my opinion, if you put together a team of people from all genres straight across the board and have them find one person that could explain how in 2018 PATTI SMITH is in the Hall of Fame but TED NUGENT isn’t?! I’d love to hear that explanation! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Ted, it’s going to get to the point that they’ll have to cave and get you in there.

NUGENT: They’ll have to ‘bend over rover and let Teddy take over!’ [bursts into laughter]

KNAC.COM: Would you pull something like THE SEX PISTOLS?

NUGENT: I would be respectful, because I’d be entering an admiration society that starts with CHUCK BERRY. I’m sure I will have fun with it, I’m sure something cock will arise! [bursts into laughter] I’m sure it will be ‘gentlemanly like’, as long as you know what ‘gentlemanly like’ mean on the tough streets of Detroit! [laughs] I will be respectful, because there is a Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but they’ve made some terrible and dishonest mistakes, but I will not harp those. I will give a nod to my influences who I consider musical authorities. I would be so humbled, I was a punk ass kid from the streets of Detroit who was literally in the vortex of MITCH RYDER AND THE DETROIT WHEELS, MOTOWN, BOB SEGER, THE MC5, THE BROWNSVILLE STATION, GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, DICK WAGNER AND THE FROST and most recently KID ROCK, this massive musical legacy that has been acknowledged by the masses and has meaning in their lives. People who made this music should be respected and honored for taking their musical vision and gift and have presented it to us in sound. That’s what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be. So should MADONNA and PATTI SMITH, well maybe not PATTI SMITH, but GRANDMASTER FLASH should be honored for their talent. I mean MADONNA probably has more fans than I do, but it’s the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,’ they should be in the ‘pop music’ hall of fame. I don’t think you honor ‘non-rockers’, you honor ‘real rockers’. Does that make sense to you?

KNAC.COM: Makes sense to me.

NUGENT: I’m a truth and common sense kind of a guy!

KNAC.COM: You recorded a then new song for the 1999 remaster, reissue of Great Gonzos The Best of Ted Nugent, it was titled “Gimmie Just A Little” and it featured JACK BLADES [NIGHT RANGER, DAMN YANKEES, REVOLUTION SAINTS], NEAL SCHON [JOURNEY, HARDLINE] and DEEN CASTRONOVO [JOURNEY, HARDLINE, REVOLUTION SAINTS, THE DEAD DAISIES]. That’s a supergroup, right there. What’s the story behind that?

NUGENT: Oh, what a joy that was. I’m a band kind of guy, but that was great fun, I had always admired NEAL’s work and that drummer was a beast! I’ve always had a world class rhythm section, JACK is an animal! All three of these guys live and breathe music. This came about through an opportunity that we had, we had been bullshitting about working together, so we did! That’s exactly how DAMN YANKEES was formed, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with NEAL. My musical existence is based on great ‘theme patterns’ to create songs, they are what people refer to as riffs or licks. The riff on “Gimmie Just A Little” is NEAL SCHON’s, I was like “That’s a son of bitch! Let’s use that! Let’s make a song out of that!” That was one of those spontaneous moments, I was genuinely honored to work with those world class musicians. It was geographical happenstance, JACK contacted NEAL and he brought DEEN in, it wasn’t specifically for that package, it was just there and we used it for the record. We cut that at JACK’s studio, there’s a lot of great memories attached to the creation of that song. I haven’t see NEAL in years, mainly because our paths don’t cross that often. I think all of my musical endeavours can all be described as ‘spontaneous’.

KNAC.COM: People are still very much interested in some kind of a DAMN YANKEES reunion either in new music or ‘one off’ performance. It must be pretty gratifying to know that people still have a lot of love for that band.

NUGENT: Oh, I see it on Facebook everyday, I communicate with thousands to hundreds of thousands of people, at times millions of people! I take that as musical celebration of the music that I have created throughout my life. The DAMN YANKEES experience was a 100% joyous musical outrage, which I loved every greasy, grimy minute that I loved every second of. When people clamor for it, I get moved, JACK and TOMMY [SHAW] speak on a regular basis, we’re hoping like hell that we can get into a room together again. Ruben, the only word I can use for what it’s like when we’re together is ‘magic’. I think I used ‘first piece of ass’ earlier? That’s what this is like! [laughter] I just can’t describe it any better! I’m out doing my thing and STYX and NIGHT RANGER tour regularly, so who knows when it will happen? I can say this, we were all raised with that great rhythm and blues, soul and funk music, we’re more or less paying homage to those musical impirations. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get together soon, before we get too much older, I hope it’s not before we get too much older! TOMMY is everything you’d want in a friend, an American, and as a musician, the same goes for JACK and [drummer] MICHAEL [CARTELLONE]. I can say the same for all my guys! How lucky am I?

KNAC.COM: You reunited with DEREK ST.HOLMES for a record Spirit of the Wild a few years ago. Any chance there will be another collaboration like that in the future?

NUGENT: Love the record, love that record. He also sang a song on Shutupandjam! too, but as a far as an entire record? I don’t think so. I love him and he’s busy with his stuff and frankly I’m really loving the three piece band. One thing that I’ve become more and more adamant about is singing the songs that I’ve written, that I’m so passionate about. I know I can’t sing like DEREK ST.HOLMES but in the same breath I will say that he can’t sing like I do! [laughs] When DEREK was in the band I knew immediately he had to sing “Stranglehold”, I knew immediately that he had to sing “Queen of the Forest”. As a hunter I take in my surroundings, so I do the same with music and I wrote songs that DEREK would handle masterfully and the he’d sing much better than I would. Having said that, in all of the years that I have been singing “Stranglehold” I haven’t heard a single complaint about my singing because of the passion that I have for those songs and those lyrics. I might not have a beautiful voice, but I do have ‘monster passion’ and delivery of the lyrics. They’re my statement.

www.tednugent.com/


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