TED NUGENT CONTINUES TO CONQUER NEW MUSICAL FRONTIERS
By Mike Tomano
Recuperating from a recent knee replacement surgery at his Texas ranch, the legendary Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, spoke with On Stage Review’s Mike Tomano to discuss the music industry, his outdoors lifestyle and his latest musical conquests.
Between family gatherings, touring and hunting, the master of gonzo guitar-and-gun play, Ted Nugent, who turned 65 this past December, spends his time writing columns for a myriad of outdoor publications, doing countless media interviews and dedicating tireless effort to military organizations and charities. Fortified by a life led clean and sober, The Nuge shows no signs of slowing down. In recent years, vocalist and guitarist Derek St. Holmes, who sang on many of Ted’s songs during the Seventies, has rejoined the band featuring bassist Greg Smith (Alice Cooper, Billy Joel) and Wild Mick Brown (Dokken.) The result is a powerhouse unit as tight as James Brown and The Famous Flames and as ferocious as the wildcats of Africa that stir Ted’s soul.
MT: Music lovers will be excited to hear that you are preparing a new album. What can you tell us about the new batch of tunes?
TED: Nobody is as excited as my band and I are! To be able to still channel the original primal scream musical outrage of the miraculous founders Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Little Richard, etcetera this late in the game more than 50 years later is enjoyed and appreciated more than words can convey. For many wonderful reasons, primarily that my hunting lifestyle so thoroughly cleanses my soul each hunting season following every summer rock season, I re-enter the firestorm of song and sound creation with as fresh an outlook as is humanly possible. Therefore, the most important elements of real soulful rock-n-roll, raw, irreverent, sincere, sexual, primal, defiant, intense, uninhibited and ultimately outrageous FUN, continues to dominate the inspiration for my songs today, and this batch is ferociously representative of all that wonderful American primal goo. We can’t wait to unleash these beauties on my fellow music lovers everywhere.
MT: There is nothing like a Ted Nugent concert. The tightness of your band is incredible. Detail the rehearsal process for us.
TED: I reference all those pure ingredients I stated, but for some amazing reason, we still to attack our rehearsals the same way we did in the uncharted wilderness of 1958 in the garage with zero limitations. Our rehearsals are mostly wild ass jam sessions out to satisfy our love of intense grinding Rhythm and Blues dominated rock. Fortunately our professionalism rates about even with our passion for the music, so we know that we must deliver the ultimate, musical tightness of our heroes like James Brown. The tighter the band, the more inescapable the groove and spirit of the music.
MT: Your music is reflective of your life: the outrageous humor, your passion, soulfulness and exuberance for life all come through in your songs. Your love of The Great Outdoors is well-known…how does wildlife and nature directly affect your songwriting and guitar playing?
TED: Original music erupted long ago in a cave by thumping a stretched, taught animal skin from a fresh kill and the twang of the bowstring that brought our sacred food, clothing, shelter, medicine, spirit and groove to sustain our lives. Having been invited into the lives of Native American Indians for so many years, this connection with God’s creation and the reverence which it deserves drives my every breath. As a lifetime hunter, this connection is the essence of the physics of spirituality, and my guitar channels this raw purity in all its dimensions every time I grab it. My band gets this, and the sexual energy is palpable. It’s intoxicating.
MT: You’ve been an entertainer and musical artist since you were a teenager. As you look back on the last fifty years, what are the good changes and the bad changes you’ve seen occur in the music industry?
TED: Thank the Good Lord Almighty that I was born in 1948 when the most outrageous, intense grinding music was exploding. That God blessed mankind with a Little Richard and his and others’ phenomenal musical outrage can only happen once in time, and I was surfing the tsunami that gave us all this astonishing rock-n-roll. All that magical music of the 50s, 60s and 70s for sure was all inspired by black guys singing songs of defiance and hope with such authority and passion that all artists since couldn’t help ourselves to be swayed by its raw soulfulness. That inspiration rages on today, but not with the force of yore. I am also heartbroken that advances in technology have dampened the flames of potential new artists due to the fact that so few are willing to make the very expensive investment to create their deepest musical statements since consumers can access the product without adequately compensating the artist. Digital technology has cut creativity by ninety-plus percent. This is sad.
MT: To say you do a lot of hunting would be the understatement of the century. When you are in the woods, settled into a treestand or duckblind, do you have musical thoughts and come up with lyrics, or do you shut that side down when you’re in the lap of nature?
TED: My musical beast never sleeps. The silence and spirituality of the hunt at once nails my focus on the task at hand while at the same time opens the floodgates of uncharted musical ideas. It is truly a fascinating series of events that serves me well.
MT: You’ve often cited Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix and other legends as inspirations for your guitar playing. Who are some of the newer players that make Ted sit up and take notice?
TED: Joe Bonnamassa, John Mayer, Chris Duarte, John Sykes, Dave Amato, Tommy Shaw, and Derek St Holmes are some of my favorite guitarists out there these days.
MT: Seeing you perform in Chicago is always a riot. There seems to be a real connection with Windy City audiences and The Nuge.
TED: The Chicago area is the birthplace of the Amboy Dukes back in 1965 and, of course, the whole Stax Volt, Chess Records phenomenon still holds mysticism for real music lovers everywhere. Chicagoans truly love their music, and we know we must bring our A game to every gig. And, of course, we do and the people appreciate it very much.
MT: You’ve lived a drug-free life with a devotion to hard work and a balance found in The Great Outdoors. Do you ever think, “If only I could’ve taken Amy Winehouse fishing or Philip Seymour Hoffman duck hunting?”
TED: Every time another soul is lost to the scourge of substance abuse, I do indeed think those very thoughts. And I believe it to be true. I have heard more times than you can imagine how my militant stance against substance abuse has saved many lives who followed my lead.
MT: Your son, Rocco, is establishing himself as a hip-hop and rap artist. Will we see a father-son musical collaboration down the line?
TED: I have to believe so, yes. As I so love my children, the ultimate connection is to unite for shared joys and experiences. Rocco is an amazing young man, and like all my wonderful children, I am extremely proud of him.
MT: What advice does Uncle Ted have for musicians planning their first tour?
TED: Remain clean and sober, eat and rest intelligently, practice safe sex, pace yourself both on and off stage, and demand financial accounting.
Nugent’s double CD and DVD release, Ultralive Ballisticrock is available now. Tour dates and All-Things-Nuge are found at www.tednugent.com