Ted Nugent. Legendary Detroit rock & roll madman. Guitar God. Amboy Dukes. "Journey to the Center of the Mind." "Baby Please Don't Go." Solo artist. Headbanger supreme. Thirty million albums sold worldwide. "Cat Scratch Fever." "Wango Tango." Sex addict. Right-wing extremist. Militant anti-drug activist. Noted hunting advocate. Conservationist. National spokesman for DARE and MADD. Board member of the NRA. Sheriff's deputy of Lake County, Michigan. Editor/publisher/ author. Frequent guest on the talk-show circuit. Nice guy. Butthead. Great interview.
OC Weekly: What songs are you playing in concert these days?Ted Nugent: Well, basically, Buddy, I've continued the saga for 38 years live and in the face of unsuspecting civilians, playing whatever I fuckin' please. The past couple of years on my tours, I've been playing Temptations, Four Tops, Sam & Dave, and James Brown shit because I am the Black Nuge. And we do the classic shit because America deserves it and because I get a thrill out of playing it. I still crave that shit, man. The reason my music has been so wonderful all these years is because I've always surrounded myself with absolutely dedicated, heart-and-soul motherfuckers. Why are you opening for KISS? Fuck that—they should be opening for you.
Well, believe me, when I get done with 'em, that's exactly what America thinks! The title of this piece should be "Nugent Indecent to the Fat Jews!"
Hey, watch that shit. I'm a fat Jew.
I love fat Jews. I'm working with 'em, aren't I?
I always thought where you had a real attitude, KISS had a marketed attitude.
But it's real marketed attitude. But yeah, I am a street urchin in and out of my wilderness explorations. I'm more experienced, more intelligent, more prepared and more defiant than ever. I'm able to channel my cravings for the sonic outrage that rock & roll is supposed to be while still accurately seeking and representing emotional, human experiences in the songs where I've determined to do so. I mean, "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" is a love song in the final analysis. I get to strut and dance naked on the human experience nightly with my guitar and still be a good father and a good citizen in my community and an American Independent.
How do you reconcile this whole Rush Limbaugh/ Charlton Heston thing you're noted for with being the ultimate wild man of rock?
Well, in many instances, they do not [approve]. That's the people who fear experiences outside their own world. I am the wildest motherfucker with the most outrageous sensually and sexually explicit guitar licks in the history of electronics. But last week, I did a DARE program. I'm a DARE officer. And the law-enforcement agencies, the representatives of MADD who signed me on as their national spokesman last month, they reviewed, scrutinized, analyzed and screened my reputation for all it is and all it's worth. In the final analysis, when I gave that assemblage of grade schoolers and high schoolers my militant anti-drug message—middle finger, street slang and all—drug counselors, parents, moms and dads who were suspicious of Nugent's anti-drug message in a school assembly came up to me, and some of them were crying. They said they'd never seen a more meaningful anti-poison, anti-bullshit message in all their lives—because I did it like a wild man. Charlton has embraced that. I'm on the board of directors of the NRA. Charlton Heston is the only person who has ever received more votes than I have. And that's because the real shitkickers, they understand Ted Nugent. They understand that when you're facing an extreme situation, you'd better call on a fuckin' extremist! And I'm proud to qualify as an extremist. I play extreme guitar, I eat extreme-quality dead meat, I will use extreme measures to respond to extreme conditions, and anybody who doesn't agree is a fuckin' Grateful Dead fan! I got the Father of the Year award at my kids' school. That was for the DARE program and the fact that I organized reading classes, field trips and nature studies. I bring guns to school—which is supposedly against the law, but I explain to kids that they can be used for positive things or misused. . . .
You support kids bringing guns to schools?!?
Not unless it was in an organized and appropriate way. My point is I do these things that are way, way beyond political correctness, that are embraced by the authorities who are very fearful of crossing that line. So my point is I don't have anything to reconcile. I live the extremes. Yeah, I sing "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" and admit that I was addicted to pussy, but I got married 11 years ago and have been monogamous ever since. This one girl interviewed me and asked me how I can reconcile saying that I obey the Ten Commandments, and I said, "What do you mean?" She goes, "Well, with all the animals you kill, you don't obey Thou Shalt Not Kill." And I went, "Wait a fuckin' minute! What is this, the Special Olympics of interviews? What the fuck are you talking about? Aren't you a member of a society that has chicken cordon bleu on occasion? Last time I checked, it's dead! Just because you personally didn't knife it, somehow you're not complicit?"
I've not officially endorsed anyone. I have great respect, my respect gushes for Alan Keyes. I've spoken with the gentleman, and every time he opens his mouth, it reeks of common sense, self-evident, truth-based Americanism. He's an absolute hero and warrior. I also salute John McCain for his heroism and his voting record in Arizona . . . 90 percent of the time. But although I haven't officially endorsed anybody, I'm leaning heavily toward George W. because of my relationship with him in Texas, because my voice in the Texas media had a lot to do with sending Ann Richards on her eternal guacamole date with Mario Cuomo. So I support George W. Bush, and I will probably vote for him. My goal, Buddy, is quite honestly to make sure that the pimps, whores and welfare brats that Al Gore and Bill Bradley represent do not get their foot back in the door.
Isn't it incumbent upon a public figure who feels as strongly as you say you do about Alan Keyes to support him? Aren't you settling for Bush simply because he's the front-runner?
The reason I'm gonna vote for Bush is because he's the guy who's in the best position to eliminate the Clinton reign. And yes, I've received a lot of criticism on that line. Mr. Keyes did contact me, and so did George and John, and I didn't get to get back to them all. . . .
So all three Republican candidates have solicited your endorsement?
Yeah, I got calls from all three camps, but I acquiesce to voting for who I believe is the most electable guy. I gotta tell you, when I'm hunting —and I feed my family exclusively on the game that I kill. I've never bought domestic meat; I like my protein organic—there are some bigger bucks with more bulk and admirable hornage that were a little less ideally suited to shoot than the lesser bucks. So I shoot the lesser buck on occasion because I'm a pragmatist. I really believe that job one in America today is to make sure the socialists—the Clintons, the Gores, the Bradleys—are outcast as readily and efficiently as possible. So I'll admit right here that I'll do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Republicans take control, simply because there's not a winnable Independent or Reform Party candidate.
So you won't be supporting Pat Buchanan?
Well, you know, I'd like to, and I do in many ways, but he doesn't deliver all the goods, and he's not electable.
Let's get back to rock & roll.
Sure, baby. Although that is rock & roll because you can't play rock & roll in a vacuum. You've got to have an opinion and an understanding of how your world works around you to use its electricity. A lot of people like to say, "Ahhh, keep the politics out of rock & roll." You just can't do that. I don't care if you're Chrissie Hynde or Bruce Springsteen. Your human experience has to surface either lyrically or groove-wise in your music.
Are people in politics or rock & roll whose philosophies are at odds with your own your enemy, or are they just people with different philosophies?
A little bit of each. Here's an example: Paul McCartney. You couldn't find two people more diametrically opposed than Ted Nugent and Paul McCartney. On the most poignant issues—gun control and hunting—he hates the ground I stalk on. But I have great respect for the man. He's an incredible, premier talent, and as a man, every time he opens his mouth, it sounds well thought-out. He's sincere in what he believes. But I have to say, with all due respect to the man, that if I had taken as much LSD and mind-altering drugs as he did, I would be sincere about living in a fantasy, too.
Let's get back to rock & roll, okay?
Would it be unthinkable that you'd ever regroup with the Amboy Dukes?
Are you kidding me?! I did "Journey to the Center of the Mind" every night this past year! The fucking guitar sounded so perfect I could hardly stand it!
Some people interpret it that way, and the author of the lyrics intended it to be so, but I was such a naive dork that I was not aware of the motivation for those lyrics. I thought it was a song recommending and encouraging self-reflection.
I've got a video of you guys lip-synching that song in 1967. The way it was filmed was patently drug-referential.
I didn't understand it. I've been laughed at for making that statement, but I'll continue to make it because it's true. When that Journey to the Center of the Mind album cover was proposed, and I saw all those glass apparatuses on the artwork, I thought, "What is this?" I wasn't aware of what psychedelic really meant. I just thought it was graphic, abstract wildness—what they called "Op Art" back then. I didn't know those were hash pipes.
If you're telling me the truth here, you were one naive motherfucker!
I didn't have the faintest idea about drugs. I didn't even know there was a drug called hashish. I didn't know you smoked it through a pipe like that. It didn't occur to me until years after that, until well into the '70s. It was a defense mechanism that allowed me to remain ignorant of what this subculture was involved with. I ran from it! Like when people ask me what the good and bad songs are today, I don't know because when a bad song comes on the radio, I change the channel.
Okay, so who's good on the radio today?
Jonny Lang?! You're kidding me, right?
Motherfucker's got soul, man! He's almost as black as I am! Kenny Wayne Shepherd is another guy I love. And I love the Chili Peppers. I gotta meet Flea and kiss his fuckin' ass! And I also love Kid Rock.
You're basically talking about what used to be called blue-eyed soul; white guys doing black music. I recently interviewed Mitch Ryder, king of blue-eyed soul and Detroit rock & roll . . .
[excitedly] Did you really?!? He's my hero! Really?!? Here's a little sideline, Buddy. I'm gonna be on VH1's The List next week, and it's gonna be about the greatest rock & roll band of all time. My inductee will be Billy Lee & the Rivieras. That was Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels before they changed their name. What'd he have to say?
He was really pissed-off because the Detroit Free Press had recently published a list of the most important Michigan rockers of all time, and he wasn't on the list.
Here's the beauty of it: that same cunt who wrote that did a two-part series last year on the history of Detroit music. Dig this: that dirty cunt—Susan Whithall is her name, and she's got toxic vermin living in her pussy, I'm sure—she mentioned everything, even stuff I don't know about, and do you know whose name was not mentioned once?
[getting enraged] That's right. You wanna know why? She told her editors it was because I'm on the board of directors of the NRA and I kill innocent animals! You wanna tell me what that has to do with the history of Detroit music? But I don't get angry. I just get fuckin' even. Because meanwhile, 99 percent of the people she did mention couldn't get arrested today. Meanwhile, I set attendance records last year in Nebraska! Whether people admit it or not, I'm a fuckin' force to reckon with! I'm not a flash in the pan here, kids! Whatever your opinion is of Ted Nugent, you can't claim I don't exist!
Give me your top five Detroit rock acts of all time.
I would put Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels as No. 1. I play a Gibson Birdland because of [Detroit Wheels guitarist] Jimmy McCarty. He was the all-time monster. And I would probably say the Funk Brothers [the nickname for Motown's staff of studio musicians] were No. 2. Oooh, they're so fuckin' good! They were the inspiration for everyone from Mitch to Bob Seger to the MC5. Then Ted Nugent and Bob Seger. And I feel terrible not mentioning the Supremes and Marvin Gaye. We're talking pillars of musical history. The Four Tops, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha & the Vandellas—my god, "Dancin' in the Street"? Get the fuck outta here!
I'm guessing that because of their radical Leftist politics, you don't include the MC5 in your top five?
That's kind of a two-edged sword there. I loved the MC5—I was a big fan, and they reeked of all things defiant in rock & roll, but they were so stoned so much of the time that they never quite delivered the intellectual goods. I mean, like, the cohesion factor that made me mention Mitch Ryder's band.
No, not in the early days. He might have done junk a little bit later. I'm really talking about the pure days, before any of that shit hit the streets.
Does Alice Cooper qualify as Detroit rock in your book?
Absolutely! And I feel bad leaving Alice out because he's a pillar of rock & roll history as well.
What about Iggy?
Iggy, I don't give him much credit for anything. The band couldn't play; there was no groove, no cohesion, no musicality to anything they did. It was kind of like a cheap vaudeville act. It was just trendy; it was just a pose. I generally dismiss Iggy Pop and the MC5.
How do you feel about punk rock in general?
I feel that it was a feeble attempt at real rock, that it was posturing more than playing, which is the criticism I have for a lot of today's bands. A lot of fashion and very little virtuosity. It's like blacks that criticize their fellow blacks for learning how to speak English.
When you're in Orange County, will you be meeting with Bob Dornan?
I probably should. I like Bob. Maybe that's something you might want to help me set up. He and I get along just fine. Common sense is both common and sensible. . . . Buddy, have you ever read any of my writing? I write for 28 publications.
No, but I can look for some of your stuff online.
I wrote for John Kennedy's George magazine last year. John and his wife and my wife and I all got together. We were supposed to go duck hunting last fall, but of course we lost a great man. It was great because he made a personal call to me to thank me for the column and rave about the content.
Again, it seems like your politics would have been at odds with his to the degree where you wouldn't have gotten along with each other.
Not at all. We got along just fine. In fact . . . I don't know if I should say this, how the authorities are gonna react. I went to a George party in Manhattan, and I carry a gun; I'm a sheriff's deputy in Lake County, Michigan. I'm licensed to carry a gun, and I carry it everywhere. But I don't think my license was any good in Manhattan. Anyway, I was packing massive firepower, and John and I and Carolyn and my wife had our pictures taken together, and when John put his arm around me, he got a handful of Glock! [maniacal laughter] And a bunch of Secret Service guys acknowledged it and thought it was great! And John—I could tell that he was frantic to make this point to me—he said, "I'm not against gun ownership; I just think it should be regulated so the wrong people don't get them." And I said, "One day, I would like to get together to have a roundtable with you to see how we can further that cause."
When are you going to go into politics?
Politicians don't have the hunting season off. I've taken four months off to go hunting every year since 1973, and the whole world can kiss my dead dog's left nut!
Thank you, Ted! Ted Nugent performs with Kiss and Skid Row at the Arrowhead Pond, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 704-2400. Sat., 7 p.m. $45-$85.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.