A Candid Conversation With Ted Nugent

By Andrew Bansal

Motor City Madman Ted Nugent has unleashed his 14th studio album ‘Shutup & Jam!’ via Frontiers Records, a assortment of quintessential classic rock ‘n roll. Nugent and his band are currently on a US headline tour, and are set to ignite the stage at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills this coming Friday July 11th, and for two nights at the Grove Of Anaheim on Sunday July 13th and Monday July 14th. Last Tuesday July 8th, on the US release date of the new album, I had a candid conversation with the man himself, to talk new music, performing live, and philosophy. Enjoy it below, pick up the great new album and catch Uncle Ted on tour this summer.

It’s great to have you on Metal Assault for a one-on-one interview, Ted. Your new album ‘Shut Up & Jam’ is ready to release today, and the title itself makes quite a statement, almost like telling people to stop and focus on the music. How did you arrive at this title?

Well, just stop and look back at my album titles. All my album titles are so fucking cool! Are you kidding me? (laughs) But no, I just play my guitar every day and I feel the primal uninhibitedness and free-flowing, spontaneous need for music gluttony, and things come to mind. I just have a tsunami of images, visions, ideas, statements, syllables and word combinations, and one fine morning when I pick up my guitar like I do every morning, and I do my chores and run around the ranch, that stuff just flies out of me. The title is not surprising or clever, it’s just topical and timely. I think I have a real garage band, a real raw, primal, spontaneous loud guitar ‘taking over your entire being’ type songwriting approach that I don’t even think qualifies as an ‘approach’, it qualifies as an eruption. These songs just fly off my guitar neck every day. So if anyone honestly took a cursory review of what I’ve done in the last almost 50 years making music, you’d think, ‘Oh yeah, this is Ted Nugent, This is expected’. What will go down in history as clearly the most shameful embarrassment by America is this obnoxious line in the sand that’s been drawn between people willing and dedicated to produce versus those who refuse to produce, and it really is that simple. I mean, if you look at my politics and the politics of our founding fathers, it’s all based on being as productive as you can, whether it be to your family, to your neighborhood, community, country, fellow man and mother earth. And that idea of productivity goes with the title ‘Shut Up & Jam’. I don’t care what your politics are, Tom Morello, I love your guitar playing! Shut the fuck up and jam! (laughs) Somebody who claims that I’m too political is so brain dead, because it’s always been about the music. Last night we had everybody in my audience, we had hippies from Boston, we had hardcore Texas rangers, we had hard right, hard left, and everybody in between, every imaginable section of the political spectrum and every walk of life. And you know what we all did? Shut up and jam! I’ve been doing it for 50 years through 6500 concerts. It works perfectly! That’s why my music is so much fun. If you’re not having fun with my music, you’re weird. Andrew, are a young man, do you love rock ‘n roll? Do you appreciate authoritative, fun music?

Yes, I absolutely do. That’s the only reason I’m talking to you right now.

Wouldn’t you think that this music can be described as authoritative, powerful and fun? I think if you go back all the way back to the Amboy Dukes, this is my, I don’t know, 40th or 50th record. I don’t keep track, I know it’s a lot and I know I’ve written hundreds of songs and they’re all fun and individual American dream-oriented and I think I cover all the bases but I never sit down and go, ‘I think today I should cover all the bases’. I never think anything. I’m a healthy, dynamic, emotional, alive being and things just erupt. So I never plan a solo, the notes, the lyrics or the crust of the music. The beauty of how much God loves me is in the guitars in every corner of my house, and I grab them and unleash things so pure, natural, organic and raw, I have no control over the situation even though I’m in total control. It just happens, and that’s the beauty of my music. There are plenty of people out there who like to make political statements, or try to avoid political statements, or celebrate the flesh and the spirit. I’ve always plunged into all of it because I’m such a human being. People who aren’t judgemental are the ones who can really have a good time with it.

I agree with that. But this album for you has been a long time coming. It’s your first one in seven years. What were you going through and what took you so long to put it out?

Well, my life is so full, Andrew, you’ll vaporize in about three hours trying to keep up with me (laughs). I’ll be 66 years old this year, but I’m blessed with so much fucking energy. I’ve been clean and sober for all my 66 years, and I eat nothing but healthy. I’m super alive, I’m really carpe diem. I seize every moment of every day. Last night’s concert was so inspiring and so stimulating. But I hunt 300 days a year, I’m a working farmer-rancher, I get my hands dirty and I weld and repair shit. I work in my trucks and I’m self-sufficient with my own wood, and I plant my own wood. I’m looking at a beautiful pond right now. I’m so alive and passionate about the things I pursue in my daily life, it’s just incredible, my nine kids, 11 grandkids, my brothers and sister. I have all these other engagements with books and publications too. I’m so alive during the day that when I hit the sick at night I literally go flatline. I become comatose, because I live so fully during the day. At least eight months a year the hunt is in front of me, so you’re not going to get me to record or tour during my hunting season. A lot of the songs on ‘Shut Up & Jam’ were written as many as 10 years ago, like ‘Do Rags And A .45’. But good music is timeless. ‘Fear Itself’ was written just a couple of days before we started recording, when I jammed on my guitar and these great chords came out. ‘Semper Fi’ was written a day before recording. ‘Never Stop Believing’  was written 6 years ago. ‘I Still Believe’ was written about 7 years ago. ‘I Love My BBQ’ was written about 5 years ago. So I make music everyday and I latch on to the riffs that I like the most. I’m just like every other guy that prioritizes his energy. I would hope that smart people always prioritize their energies in the pursuit of whatever brings them the greatest rewards. In my life, the greatest rewards are identified by God, family, country, music, hunting, conservation, writing, communicating, so I’m a busy, busy motherfucker right now. I was actually lucky I had knee surgery in February and because I was so immobilized, it was the right time to get me into the studio because I couldn’t do anything else! So if you really want to get a record out of Ted, you want to shoot him in the knee caps, and then when I’m recovering I’ll make some killer fucking music (laughs). But it’s also difficult because you’ve got to realize that the guys I play with are some of the greatest musicians that have ever walked the earth. To get Greg Smith, Mick Brown, Derek St. Holmes, Sammy Hagar and all those guys in a room together is almost possible. So the fact that I was almost immobilized with a double knee surgery, and those guys were available, my god it was like an orgy. It was like, ‘Oh my god, are we actually in the same room to make music? Come on!’ It was very exciting, and the energy on the record is a direct result of the velocity of putting it all together and the passion everybody has for this kind of rhythm & blues music.

Right, and you’re currently on tour in the US. I saw you last year in Anaheim and you clearly still love playing.

Oh, I can’t wait to play Phoenix tonight and I’m going to do stuff I’ve never done before. And then the next night in Ramona CA I’m going to do something I never did in Phoenix, and so on to the next night, and then Agoura Hills, Anaheim and Las Vegas. It’s just a fucking riot, and that’s because when I’m not rocking my balls off I’m like a caveman, but with electronic gear. So my hunting, ranching outdoor life, and my primal scream, raw, year one, passive life is so opposite to the electric dynamo that is my music life that when I came out of a tree stand sweating my balls off, I can’t wait to get on stage because it’s so opposite. And I think that’s what you identify with when you see me live. It’s so critical for real honest music that you have to love it, you have to crave it and look forward to it, or otherwise you’re not going to put as much of your heart and soul into it and it’d be noticeable. Every song I play is the most important song I play.

Right, it shows. But for an artist like you who’s had so many albums over the past decades, people always want to hear the classics. Are you in a way competing against yourself when you play live, because you do want to present the newer music as well, and you want play a bit of everything.

Yeah, your assumption is accurate and it’s intellectually sound. I love my classics, so I want to play ‘Free For All’, ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’, ‘Strangehold’, ‘Cat Scratch Fever’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Motor City Madman’. I want to play all those songs, I love those songs. And as a guitar player they’re like an execution of fingers-on-fretboard guitar licks. When I was a young kid in Detroit with my first loud amp, those were the kind of licks that came out of my fingers. Now I’m an old idiot with louder amps, and the same kind of licks come off, and that’s what you hear on ‘Shut Up & Jam’. So we’re playing ‘Everything Matters’, ‘Shut Up & Jam’ and ‘Fear Itself’, and because the Anaheim concerts are a fundraiser for the Semper Fi military benefit, we’re going to play the ‘Semper Fi’ song for the marines on both nights. So yeah, I love them all! We still break into a Chuck Berry song, we do a Motown song and stuff like that, and all my guys in the band know that kind of music. I’m pretty self-indulgent because I think I’m a bigger fan of the music that I play than the ticket buyer is. I know what I would want to hear, and as a musician I know what I want to play. So it’s a selfish thing, but by demanding the best for myself, I think I deliver the best for the ticket buyer.

That makes perfect sense. I have just one more question for you. I have the greatest respect for you for standing true to yourself, whether it be music or anything else that you believe in. So for people who are doubting themselves and not able to do the same, what’s the biggest advice you would have?

Oh my god, first of all we have to admit that when our founding fathers started this experiment called government, it was inevitable that power ultimately corrupts. People are finding themselves in the doldrums or with less inspiration than they think they would like to have, like I have. I’m inspired to be living every single day because I’m a lucky motherfucker. But that’s because I haven’t been brainwashed by the powers that have been corrupted. The powers have convinced people that they needed a ‘handout’, that they deserved a handout, so more and more people went, “Hey! There are jobs available, but so are handouts and I’ll just keep taking the handouts.” Even though that’s a feeble excuse of a human being, it’s also the weakness of human beings to buy into the brainwash. You see it in China, Japan, a large part of Europe and unfortunately in America, specially where you’re standing right now. So, I recommend people to take a deep breath, stop all the drinking and drugs so that they have a clean consciousness and their functions are kicking, the brain processes and the intellect is optimized. You’ll start to realize that you have to be your own biggest critic and identify with what you’re doing in your 24 hours. What are you doing with your gift of the day? Are you doing something that makes you happy and gratified when you go to bed at night, or are you using your hours failingly doing things to hurt yourself, hurt others and don’t bring satisfaction? And I don’t mean selfish indulgent satisfaction, I mean intellectual and spiritual satisfaction. Did you do something for someone else today? Were you the best you could possibly be today? The song ‘Journey To The Center Of The Mind’ by the Amboy Dukes did that for me as a teenager. Doesn’t this stuff sound like something you’d tell a 6-year old, Andrew? But that’s what we need to say to ourselves in America today, because you need to go to bed knowing whether you’re an asset or a liability. If you strive to be in the asset column, you’ll be so happy that your energy will go up, you’ll take better care of yourself, you’ll be more productive, and you’ll be lighter on your feet, not only literally but figuratively. Doesn’t that sound like good advice from an old fucking guy who wrote ‘Wango Tango’? (laughs) I actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. If you go on my facebook, you’ll see that I have more than 12 million followers, out of which most of them are positive, and some of them hate me and threaten to kill me for eating rabbits and deer. It’s enough information and confirmation that I’m on the right track here. But on the other hand, the positive energy humbles me everyday. I’m not really an educated man per se. I never went to college because I was too busy learning shit, but I know I have a grasp of meaningful information to bring happiness to myself, my family, my band, my crew and to be productive. I can still pay top dollar to the top people, 50 fucking years later, Andrew! Are you kidding me? I want to see what Green Day is doing in 50 years (laughs). And I love them, I’m not knocking them. I’m just saying. What is more fulfilling than longevity? That’s your ‘Uncle Ted wisdom from the mountain tops’ of the day, Andrew.

That’s awesome. I’m glad I asked you that question, and I think that’s all I have for this interview. It was a pleasure talking to you, and as amazing as I expected it to be. 

Well, people that hate me, I don’t understand them. I mean, I understand that hate comes from ignorance and a negative life, but you know what I do, I pray for my haters. What a terrible thing. Why would you hate someone who has done benefits for children’s and military charity? I do this everyday. You’ve really got to have a dark, dark heart and sad, dilapidated soul to live to hate like that. So I wish them well and godspeed, and I hope they come out of that terrible dark place they’re living in, because I’m a happy, fulfilled man and do everything for my fellow man. I’ve done more for clean air, soil and water than all my haters combined. I’ve made mistakes in life but I don’t make them twice in a row, I promise you that. But yeah Andrew, I appreciate you talking about the things that I love and asking me questions on it. I feel honored and humbled. I don’t have all the answers but I got most of them, and the manifestation of my policies and beliefs are so positive and so uplifting that they would work for everybody.

Related: Gig Review – Ted Nugent Rocks The Grove Of Anaheim

Ted Nugent links:

Remaining US Tour Dates:

10 Prescott Valley, AZ Tim’s Toyota Center
11 The Canyon Club Agoura Hills, CA
12 Las Vegas, NV Orleans Hotel & Casino
13 Anaheim, CA City National Grove of Anaheim
14 Anaheim, CA City National Grove of Anaheim
17 Council Bluffs, IA Mid-America Center*
18 Merrillville, IN Star Plaza Theatre
19 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre
21 Huntington, NY The Paramount
22 Montclair, NJ The Wellmont Theater
23 Jim Thorpe, PA Penn’s Peak
24 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall
25 Morgantown, WV MountainFest at Mylan Park
26 Oshkosh, WI Leach Amphitheater at Riverside Park
27 Medina, MN Medina Entertainment Center
29 Kansas City, MO Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland
30 Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre
31 Salt Lake City, UT The Depot

1 Sheridan, WY Trails End Concert Park
2 Tacoma, WA Emerald Queen Casino
3 Tacoma, WA Emerald Queen Casino
6 Sturgis, SD Full Throttle Saloon
8 Maumee, OH NW Ohio Rib-Off at Lucas County Fairgrounds
9 Oxford, OH Indian Creek Amphitheatre
11 North Myrtle Beach, SC House of Blues
12 Lake Buena Vista, FL House of Blues
14 Houston, TX House of Blues
15 Biloxi, MS Hard Rock Live
16 Fort Worth, TX Billy Bob’s Texas

*denotes opening for Hank Williams Jr.