A few days ago, GuitarWorld.com tracked down the Motor City Madman himself — Ted Nugent — who's gearing up for a seven-week US tour that kicks off July 11 in Boise, Idaho.
We discussed the tour, his gear and a lot more in what — as is often the case — turned out to be a loose, candid exchange. Read our conversation below, and keep up with the Nuge at tednugent.com.
GUITAR WORLD: What can your fans expect from you on this tour?
Unrepentant brutality from a gang of murderous rhythm & blues maniacs. Mick Brown, Greg Smith and Derek St. Holmes create the most intense, ferocious and tightest R&B&R&R anywhere anytime. My guys are so good, it’s stupid. We are the last of James Brown's illegitimate mongrels and damn proud of it. If I wasn't me, I'd definitely go see me.
While you released a single in 2011, there hasn’t been a full-length studio album in nearly six years. Have you had a chance to focus on writing new material in recent years?
I don't necessarily "write" new music as much as I unleash it. I jam on any one of my amazing guitars every day, and wonderfully adventurous patterns come forth that are as fresh and raw and primal and fun as any from my youth. I am a very, very lucky guitar player. So yes! I have a wad of killer new songs we can't wait to capture and record ASAP, we hope in early 2014.
You’ve been a guitarist for so long — there's your solo career, the Amboy Dukes, Damn Yankees and more. Do you ever take a moment to assess your own abilities? For instance, wow does the 2013 version of guitarist Ted Nugent compare to the 1975 version?
A musician’s incremental growth factor projects musical moments with lives of their own, and I could not be more proud of all my guitar-driven music and songs. Only a punk-ass kid from Detroit could have possibly come up with the guitar solo on the classic masterpiece "Journey to the Center of the Mind" back in 1968. And the same goes for every lick, every song, every year right up to 2013, where my playing and improvisational jihads are intensely gratifying and musically inspiring beyond description.
I will never be a victim of "too many minds" [The Last Samurai] as I remain deliriously uninhibited and primal in my playing and creativity. I think it’s all the fresh venison I stalk and consume.
You are — and have always been — associated with the Gibson Byrdland, which strikes me as an odd choice for a rock guitarist. But you make it work! What drew you to that model in the first place?
His Holiness Jimmy McCarty playing uncharted shit on a Byrdland through a Fender Twin Reverb amp onstage at the Walled Lake Casino with Billy Lee and the Rivieras [who became Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels] back around 1960 when my band, the Lourds, opened up for them, Martha and the Vandellas and Gene Pitney. The sounds young Jim created were inspiring and disturbing, causing me to rethink everything I knew or felt about music and guitar playing. There is simply no other guitar like the mighty Gibson Byrdland.
Have you changed anything about your rig over the years, specially recently?
I am constantly experimenting with amps, speakers and assorted gear, but I always end up with a very simple rig, which has been a Peavey 6505s for years, along with a little old rag-nasty Kustom 2x12. My tone changes people's lives.
Have you ever woken up and said to yourself, “I don’t feel like playing 'Cat Scratch Fever' tonight”?
I never, ever get tired of unleashing my masterpieces. My band will tell you there simply are no other songs that are as much fun as mine to rock out. Being so very wise to totally escape the sonic bombast of my killer music for extended hunting seasons each year forever, my soul and ears are virtually cleansed of the outrage, so when it’s time to tour each summer, I literally cannot wait to play these amazing songs.
I've been slamming "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Johnny B. Goode" for more than 50 years, "Great White Buffalo" and others for nearly that long, and every night as we prepare to attack the stage I tremble with erect enthusiasm like I'm about to pounce on my first piece of ass. Did I mention I am a very, very lucky guitar player?
Many hard-rock and metal musicians have cited you as an influence. But in your opinion, do you think of any particular musicians who you feel were strongly influenced by your style?
I hear the undeniable influence of my magical pedal tone everywhere and enjoy it. I so admire so many killer guitarists out there that I revere each of their own styles and touches. All the best guitarists that turn everybody on are influenced by everybody and everything in their lives. I certainly am.
A lot of still hope for a Damn Yankees reunion. Do you ever see that happening?
I hope to hell we can! Killer guys, killer band, killer songs, killer music, killer fun! Those guys deserve me.
Some musicians make headlines for non-musical reasons, such as their lifestyle and political inclinations, and eventually it affects their image as musicians. Do you feel that your lifestyle or political views have had a negative impact on the success of your albums and tours?
There's no question my record sales took a serious hit for my being so outspoken. So be it. I so dearly cherish this glorious experiment in self-government that I will be damned if I will ever be silenced or compromise my spiritual obligation to do my part for all things America. I turn up the heat constantly. My career is far beyond any dream I could have ever imagined. My musicians are all world class, my concerts are always packed with the ultimate music lovers on earth, and I am having the greatest tour of my life.
On the other side of the coin, do you think people who are fans of your music are correct in judging you based on the non-musical aspects of your public life?
Everyone has the right to judge as they see fit. The quality of people that stand with me are the best on earth, and I wouldn't change a thing.
When you do VIP meet-and-greets on tour, what is the "Ted Nugent backstage experience" like for those fans? Do you take time to listen to and talk to them, or is it more like a "quick autograph and photo" kind of thing?
I have been told most emphatically by many of my backstagers [Ted Nugent DangerZoners] that my meet-and-greets are the best, longest and most intimate of any they have ever experienced. So what else is new? These are people that have done the backstage thing with many bands. We do everything better. We get a killer roundtable going in the dressing room, they get to meet the band, fondle my phenomenal guitars, I show 'em some killer licks, let 'em fondle my assorted hardware, I sign all sorts of their stuff, give them all an assortment of 8x10s, guitar picks and all sorts of killer Nuge stuff.
It really is a lot of fun, and there are always heroes of the US military and children's charities in attendance to further intensify the whole gitdown.
When you’re not on tour, do you go out to see other bands' shows? If so, what's the best show you’ve seen lately?
I very rarely do because I have so much fun with my very large family. I love my sons, daughters, brothers, sister, grandkids and all my wonderful family so much, I am driven to maximize my time with all of them as much as possible. We live a very simple life of hunting, fishing, trapping, shooting, grilling and absolutely thrilling campfires every chance we get.
My musical cup runneth over with my 65 years of nonstop ultra-rockin', although I still thrill at the occasional opportunity to hang and jam with my buddies in Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Grand Funk, Sammy Hagar, Kid Rock, Joe Bonamassa and others whenever I can.
Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.