Although Ted Nugent gets more attention these days as a (pro-hunting, pro-gun, pro-Republican, anti-drug) pundit than as a musician, he’s still a gonzo guitar-slinging madman who draws inspiration from the Motor City music he grew up with.
Nugent will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, in a show that will draw from his substantial body of work, including the classic 1970s albums Ted Nugent, Free-for-All and Cat Scratch Fever. Even after giving more than 6,000 concerts over his lifetime, Nugent’s passion for his music is as strong as ever, which shows through in the following interview.
Jeff Moehlis: What should we expect from your concert?
Ted Nugent: A full-on spiritual erection. Relax, it’s legal, and more now than ever really, really good for you. Mick Brown on drums and Greg Smith on bass guitar are every guitar player’s dream gonzo rhythm section. These guys are absolute animals. They put dangerous amounts of piss, vinegar, soul, outrageous energy and brutal intensity into every song, every passionate minute of every concert. So do I. We are the highest-energy, tightest band on Earth. We make white people dance good. We love, literally crave the music, and clearly my songs are the soundtrack for the ultimate, ferocious American Dream. We are the last of ‘em.
JM: How is touring now different from touring in the 1970s?
TN: My penis is no longer constantly on fire. Mrs. Nugent owns me. All those animal breeding throttles now go 100 percent into each and every performance. It’s an enormous upgrade. Safer, too.
JM: You have now given more than 6,000 concerts. Is it still fun to perform?
TN: There are no words to adequately convey the love for my music that I have. I seek dangerous, uncharted musical territory every night, every song, every guitar lick. By the time I wrap up my fall/winter hunting season, people are in serious trouble.
JM: Many great musicians and rock bands have hailed from Detroit. Which are your favorites?
TN: Along with James Brown, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, my all-time musical influence remains Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Killer band, killer songs, killer energy. I deeply admire Bob Seger, all things Motown — particularly the mighty Funk Brothers, MC5, The Romantics, Kid Rock, Jack White, even Eminem. There is a powerful, intense attitude and soul to Detroit music. I couldn’t be more proud of my Motor City roots.
JM: Do you have any good stories about the Detroit music scene in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s?
TN: A throbbing plethora that are not to be shared with an unsuspecting public. You will have to read my book.
JM: Did you interact at all with two of my favorite Detroit bands, the MC5 and The Stooges?
TN: Absolutely. Incredible music, incredible memories, and life and death lessons on the imperative of remaining clean and sober. Thank you, Iggy (Pop).
JM: Why do you think Detroit has been such a fertile ground for music?
TN: I truly believe it was the intense, soulful, high-energy live concerts by Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and, of course, the mighty Motown Funk Brothers that set the bar for tightness, a relentless black groove, and the challenge of beating everybody else at achieving the world-class level of musicianship that Mitch, Jimmy McCarty, Johnny Badanjek, Earl Eliot and Joe Kubrik delivered at such a young age. They showed us all how it was done to the hilt. I like hilt.
JM: The Detroit News recently reported that unemployment in Detroit is nearly 50 percent. What do you think the future holds for Detroit?
TN: Like for everyone else on Earth, it’s all about choices. The recipe for disaster is not ambiguous, and if Detroit — or anywhere else in America — blindly sticks to the suicidal path of the liberal bloodsucking and excuse-making mantra that has incrementally destroyed this once grand city on that beautiful river, then they are all doomed. It is really pathetic that the punks now outnumber the good folk. That’s why I moved to Texas. I dig accountability, truth and logic. Go figure.
JM: You recently reunited with the Amboy Dukes (the Detroit band best known for the 1968 acid-rock song “Journey to the Center of the Mind”) at the Detroit Music Awards. How did it feel to be playing with the old band after all these years?
TN: Wonderful. All of the surviving members rocked their a**** off and still had that killer garage band touch. It defied gravity, really. I loved every minute of it. What a great heritage I have, being surrounded by the world’s finest musicians all these years.
JM: It is commonly held that sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll go together. How would you respond to that?
TN: For the most part, that is sadly true. I defied the drugs and booze joke all along. Thank God. And thank my mom and dad.
JM: What are your music plans for the near future?
TN: More intense, more soulful, more high-energy, more fun music than ever before. Mick and Greg inspire me every night on stage, and we shall continue to pursue this black-influenced R&B rock that has always turned me on to no end. I’ve written a batch of new songs that drive us wild. Everybody who hears them is genuinely moved on all levels. My new CD should be a riot.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
TN: Stay clean and sober and treat your mind, body and soul as a sacred temple. Eat smart, remain athletic. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be early, stay late. Carry yourself with confidence and pride. Demand accountability from yourself and everyone around you. Put your heart and soul into everything you do, and demand the same from everyone around you. Avoid losers. Get a bow and arrow, discover the spirit within. Aim small, miss small. Listen to every black soul artist, R&B and blues artist you can. Listen closely. Be one with the groove. Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.
Click here to purchase tickets to Nugent’s performance.
— Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB.