There's many things that can be said about controversial classic rocker Ted Nugent, but one thing you can't call him is dull. Having played over 6,500 shows in a nearly 50 year career, Nugent continues to maintain a rigorous schedule. This past week, he released, Shut Up & Jam, his first album in seven years. Calling himself "spiritually erect," Nugent says things couldn't be better, that is unless you count the pain he's been in since having his knees replaced in February. During the first half of our chat, there's a strange, clicking that sound, which Nugent half-heartedly jokes and says it's the NSA, calling out Attorney General Eric Holder in the process to stop listening to our call. There's never a moment that isn't interesting with the Motor City Madman, as you'll see for yourself.
OC Weekly (Daniel Kohn): Can you believe you've been doing this for nearly 50 years and played as many shows as you have?
Ted Nugent: Yeah, I do. I had to have both of my knees replaced in February because they were both completely destroyed after leaping off those amps for all those thousands and thousands of times. I think it was Dirty Harry who said "a good man knows his limitations." I'm learning my limitations and there will more leaping off those damn amps! For everything I've done, I'm certainly not on a road that's been traveled. My music is special and unique, as are the musicians I work with and the people who love my music are too, so I never think about age. I'm 65 1/2 years old and if a 30-year old Ted Nugent showed up, I'd kick his ass!
What was it like working with Sammy Hagar for "She's Gone?"
Sammy and I have known each other forever, for probably 40 years, since Montrose when they opened up for me. I think, like all of the great music in the world, they were all raised on the blues. Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Lightning Hopkins and certainly Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, and everyone in Montrose was raised on that tight black rhythm and blues. So I admired Montrose, I mean, who doesn't, and they'd sit on the stage and would watch every show and we'd talk after and became good friends. I'd been on-stage with Sammy dozens of times jamming on "Wild Thing" and "Rock and Roll" and other songs, and it's always a riot. He's a musical monster and he's one of the most soulful, gifted vocalists and songwriters. So, after I had my knees replaced and was crippled up, I knew I had to make this record because I loved these great songs that I had written. I sent "She's Gone" to Sammy and he fell in love with it and said he was in.
Is Shut Up & Jam an ethos you've lived by your entire career?
I know not everybody agrees with everything, that's ridiculous. I love individualism and independence, even from those who love dependence. Because under Barack Obama and a lapdog media, they've brainwashed people that they should be dependent. I think dependency is the most soulless condition a person could ever strive for. I'm talking about able bodied people who chose dependency. I think it's a curse and a scourge. My independent celebration gets more inflamed every year and more positive and I think shut up and jam is what I live by. When it comes time for music, hey Tom Morello, shut up and jam! Let's just celebrate what Chuck Berry taught us. I don't care what your politics are, I've been playing for millions and millions of people for 50 years and we don't check people's political profiles at the door. I really don't care what you believe in, we have stoned hippies and goofballs out there. I think my audience is working hard, playing hard American who strive to be the best they can be and produce as much as possible and escape the doldrums of every day existence. So I don't really care what you believe in at the concert, music has always been the universal communication. Some of the best music in the world comes from drug addicts, so shut up and jam! It's the battle cry and hopefully it's contagious.
With all the things you have going on – your hunting show, new album and the 25th anniversary of your camp – is this the busiest you've ever been?
No question about it. But it's good busy. Think of my life, what is my job? Hunting and rock n roll! I have the number one hunting show on television and I'm going on the road with the greatest musicians with the greatest audiences. How could I not enjoy this shit? It's beyond a dream. Even at 65 1/2, I still have passion for the things I love.
That's something people, whether they love you or hate, can't deny. You've always believed what you've believe and have always stood your ground.
Absolutely. I'm not a hunter or a guesser. I study and I draw conclusions based on statistics, facts and historical and current evidence. My opinions are all based on facts, self-evident truths and real science. When I read the Constitution and Bill of Rights, I realized the Founding Fathers would never allow a king or a tyrant or dictator to control your life. That's why Barack Obama is such a tragedy because he's pulling that same shit. I write weekly blogs for all of these different websites and eight or nine magazines, and I'm not ambiguous. I celebrate truth – not Ted Nugent's truth – but science and creation truth. It serves me well. That's why I'm a happy guy and why some people hate me.