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Exclusive Interview: Ted Nugent
Multi-platinum guitar icon Ted Nugent will release Ultralive Ballisticrock, a new 2 CD+DVD release, October 22 on Frontiers Records. The live footage was captured and recorded by seven cameras in 5.1 audio mix on the “I Still Believe Tour” at Penn’s Peak on August 14, 2011.
The lineup on the album consists of the legendary-and-still-raging Nugent on guitar and vocals, Derek St. Holmes on guitar and vocals, Greg Smith on bass and Mick Brown on drums. The set-list is killer, packed with the songs that forever changed the face of rock, and the performances are razor sharp and electrifying, adding up to a sonic and visual extravaganza that’s not to be missed.
Says Nugent, “To be surrounded by such world-class passionate virtuosos is every musician’s dream and I live it every song, every concert, every night, every lick, every tsunami of soul sweat. You dogs deserve me!”
Nugent and his band are tighter than ever, all thanks to their deep love, appreciation and respect for the music that came before them – the inspiration of the forefathers of rock n’ roll. It’s impossible to capture and experience the funk and soul sonic bombast of a Nugent gig on a man-made object, but Ultralive Ballisticrock is as close as you’re gonna get without being downwind of a live and in-person Ted Nugent rockout.
Rock Confidential spoke with Ted Nugent on a cool, rainy October morning with the release of Ultralive Ballisticrock as the excuse. Like Ted needs an excuse to run his mouth, right? After a loving threat of being gutted with a rusty spoon if there were any misquotes, the journey began. Can you feel the love?!
I got a call the other day, “Do you wanna talk with Ted next week?” I had to do a double-take at the calendar. It’s October – aren’t you supposed to be up in a tree somewhere killing shit?
I am up in a tree! I’m scraping the predator blood off my fingers as we speak! I shot a beautiful eight-point buck this morning. I am stoned on the Spirit! I dragged in that buck, it started raining like a bitch so I started playing with the Labradors. You’re next! If I have too much effervescence for a normal civilian, stop me and let me know and I’ll call 911 to see if we can get you some resuscitation!
I do need resuscitation every time I listen to Ultralive Ballisticrock! If I can say so, you’ve never sounded so big, sweaty and black.
That is the ultimate compliment! My god! That is all I really aspire to. I’ve wanted to be big, sweaty and black all my life! You’ve heard me for the past 65 years, clean and sober, railing on about my heart. I’m talking about this magnificent buck that I killed for my family’s food and sharing venison with the soup kitchens and homeless shelters. You feel the excitement and the passion and the genuine dedication in my voice. If you don’t you’re experimenting with Timothy Leary. What you see on Ultralive Ballisticrock, I demanded I had ownership of that recording that night in 2011 with Greg Smith – my god!, Mick Brown – good god!, and Derek St. Holmes – Aretha Franklin with a boner! The reason I wanted you people to witness it and wallow in the Spirit and the attitude and the energy is because I’m so proud of the music I’ve created and how I’ve attracted and lured in the world’s greatest musicians – the most passionate music-loving maniacs a guitarist could ever dream of collaborating with. What you just identified as big and black and sweaty is the ultimate compliment because all of us – Greg, Mick, Derek, everyone in the Amboy Dukes, everyone in the Damn Yankees, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Sammy Hagar – every band that projects that passion and that vitality, that authoritative rhythm and blues rock and roll Spirit – our heroes are big and black and greasy. Everyone from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the mighty Motown Funk Brothers, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, James Brown – are you kiddin’ me?! That compliment, although a cute play on words, is accurate and one I take to heart. No one you will ever communicate with loves the music more than me and my boys. We captured it that night and we are so damn proud we could blow ourselves. That will be the next video, by the way. (laughs)
If I wasn’t me I’d get a front row ticket to see me! I’m really that good! ”
These songs are just monstrous, especially tracks like “Turn It Up” and “Hey Baby.” The band really does sound dangerous on this album.
If I wasn’t me I’d get a front row ticket to see me! I’m really that good! (laughs) My band aspires to the tightness that James Brown taught us. The authority that Little Richard brought to this new musical uprising. How old are you Jesse?
Well it’s very important you hear this young man. I’m 65 years clean and sober and I was born in the tsunami of defiant spirit of the black founding fathers of this music that continues to drive this quality of life. There would be no Red Hot Chili Peppers or Justin Timberlake or Christina Aguilera or Aerosmith or British invasion. The Beatles, the Stones, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Led Zeppelin, the Who – they couldn’t have possibly existed if it wasn’t for black American soul artists. I know you know this because it’s all about the music, but a lot of people don’t know that. That’s why I called this year’s greatest tour of my life “Ted Nugent Black Power 2013.” A lot of people don’t know that every piece of moving music that everybody loves comes from a black guy in America. None of this stuff is legal in France! Maybe you can reference the last really cool song from Switzerland? There isn’t any! You’ve gotta have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights and some defiant, uppity, irreverent black guys that are moved by sex and Spirit and attitude that are celebrating the de-shackling of slavery and the celebration of freedom that only black people could have created the music for. It’s important we share this information because a lot of people think the Chili Peppers came up with that groove.
Your music has evolved over the years, especially live. It’s like Motown Appreciation 101 taught by Professor Nuge.
When I talk groove, uppity, irreverent and out of control and sexy … the real interview Jesse, and I know I’m a fun interview because I’m so out of control and everyone needs to snuggle with someone out of control every one in a while – I’m the ultimate snuggler, the real interview about Ted Nugent music is with Derek, Greg, Mick and Tommy Aldridge, Tommy Clufetos, Marco Mendoza, Barry Sparks, Michael Lutz, Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, Michael Cartellone, Carmine Appice and Denny Carmassi. I just listed some of the most talented and gifted virtuosos in the history of humankind! These have all been my bandmembers, Jesse! They will tell you they absolutely can’t wait to play “Free For All.” They can’t wait to play “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Turn It Up” and “Hey Baby” and “Motor City Madhouse” and “Dog Eat Dog” and “Gonzo” and “Fred Bear” and “Crave” and “Great White Buffalo” because my songs are just cooler than everybody else’s! It’s like the ultimate garage band of a bunch of crazed kids with their first loud amplifier unleashing the tone from the necks of their guitars and grinding like idiots. Here is it 2013 and these idiots, the Ted Nugent band, can just play better than any garage band or any band that’s ever lived. It’s the authenticity of that spontaneous primal scream eruption when you first begin to experiment with your musical dreams. That is more volatile, spontaneous, primal and instinctual than ever before because we so love the damn music.
Let’s talk about that. I have a deep emotional and inspirational attachment to the music I love. I’m afraid that with digital everything, illegal downloading, and streaming music everywhere that there really isn’t value placed on music anymore. I don’t think the kids are really gettin’ it.
Well, you’re absolutely correct. You must love the music because that observation is a difficult one to admit to. You understand, being in your 30s, why we love Aerosmith and Sammy Hagar and all these bands that are still on the road today selling the most tickets. Styx, REO, Journey, Foreigner, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Ted Nugent. It doesn’t matter. We were all weaned on such a passionate authoritative creation that it compelled us to invest all our time and money to make this record that we knew would communicate and impact and connect with people. Now, with the digital age, you spend your life fortune buying a piece of ground. You get the best seedlings for the best tasting apples you’ve ever tasted. You hire the most dedicated workhands to cultivate these apple trees. You bust your ass and make incredible sacrifices and take incredible risks to invest everything you have to get the best apples you can possibly produce and market and the consumer gets them for free! Who’s gonna pay the ranch hands? Who’s gonna pay for the fuel to get the apples to the fruit stand? You’ve gotta be kidding me! So – nobody is investing the time and effort and money to go into the studio to express their outrageous musical dreams because there’s no return! Do you realize how many phenomenal, gifted, passionate, creative, adventuresome musicians you haven’t heard? They won’t go in and record because they can’t make their money back. Thank god there are consumers out there that will still pay for the sound and the gas and the lights and the stage and the equipment and the salaries and the per diem and the hotels! Thank god! There are so many artists – I love Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry and even those well-groomed so-called country artists. That’s not the shitkicker, middle-finger celebration of pure, irreverent animal sexuality that made the greatest music in the world. There can’t be a Rolling Stones ever again. No one is willing to invest for no return.
Nobody’s making music like that anymore, Ted.
Except me! I’m going into the studio in February. I’ve got some stone-cold sonsofbitches ready to blow up out of my greasy, black fingers. I just hope that people will appreciate it.
Is Derek bringing in song ideas, too?
Derek has always been part of the music scene with me. I’m a runaway freight train when it comes to guitar licks. I played a guitar lick just before I called you that I should have recorded. It was just delirious. It was such a grind. It was such an infectious, throttling rhythm of “Paperback Writer” meets boogie-woogie honky-tonk meets “Cat Scratch Fever” meets “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” meets “Stranglehold” meets “Walk This Way.” I have so many musical ideas that when it comes time in February to get the guys back together to barbeque and shoot machine guns and write music I’m gonna have so many songs written that one record could possibly handle. I’m gonna make sure Derek is part of that creative process. He’s got some really grinding Motor City rhythm and blues stuff, ya know?
Ever since he’s been back in the band I’ve been waiting with a giant bib ready to catch all the drool for you guys to play “Where Have You Been All My Life?”
Isn’t that a great song? That’s a perfect example of how adventuresome we are. Cliff Davies played with brushes and we had a xylophone on the damn song!
I dig how you maneuver the toggle switch on that song.
I’m glad you noticed that. That’s as important to my playing technique and style as anything I do. It’s all about the Gibson Byrdland and letting is spread it’s speaking timber.
I’ve gotta mention we get to see your wife Shemane and the girls come out for a little dance during “Wango Tango.” Is she a regular on the road with you?
Yowza! I’m a super human, otherwise known as a delirious numbnut. We play almost every night on tour. We don’t play a couple of days and have a couple of days off. We still have a scrotum in my band. I mean, all of us have our own scrotums and never shall they meet. (laughs) We run a jihad on the road that would hurt most people. Even though Shemane is unbelievably athletic and is the Zumba goddess, she could have taught Tina Tuner and the Ikettes a thing or two about grind, she doesn’t tour with us all the time. Whenever she does I beg her to get on stage and do a little wango tango greasy two-step because god does my wife have rhythm or what?!
I’m afraid to answer! You’ve already threatened to gut me once already…
(laughs) If you’re short on ammo you’re an idiot! I don’t qualify as an idiot! She is so beautiful it’s insane. Sometimes I go to high-pressure truck washes naked and go through on my hands and knees just to blow my steam off! I actually have my balls sand blasted every Sunday afternoon. (laughs)
That’s probably more for her benefit than yours.
Yes indeed! In fact, she’s the one holding the sand blaster! Even as we speak right now we could talk about all the fine-ass bitches on the road, because it is wall-to-wall fine-ass bitches, but Mrs. Nugent has two T. Rex electronic collars on each of my nuts. If I get too detailed about the wang dang sweet poontang, I get tasered – scrotum first. That’s gonna be the name of my next record! Ted Nugent, Tasered Scrotum First. (laughs)
I think good should always shoot evil dead. I believe war is the answer. You wage war on evil. Next! ”
Speaking of nuts, for the past few years with the morons in office in Washington, I thought “Kiss My Ass” was fitting now more than ever. Unfortunately “Stormtroopin’” seems to be the song that’s most relevant.
My lyrics are so stream of conscience. I believe that 90 percent of my songs – when I go in and write them, I lay down a rhythmical syllable track. I start singing lyrics that make rhythmical sense through the grind and the Spirit of the lick. When I do so they end up being the lyrics to the song. Singing “I don’t know where they come from but they sure do come, I hope they’re comin’ for me” or “Listen everybody to what I got to say, there’s hope for tomorrow if we wake up today.” I just start singing and then I write them down. It’s as organic and spontaneous and instinctual as it can be. There’s a flavor and a pulse and an uppityness to these songs. When I wrote “Stormtroopin’” it was 1976 and I was aware of the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution and how the British came to take away our guns and we met ‘em at Concord Bridge and we shot ‘em dead. I like it when that happens! I think good should always shoot evil dead. I believe war is the answer. You wage war on evil. Next! “Stormtroopin’,” even “Great White Buffalo” is more of an impact than “Kiss My Ass” because what could be more pertinent in 2013 besides “Stormtroopin’” with the jackbooted thuggery of our own government busting down family farms and ranches over allegations of wetland violations when there are no wetland violations. They break down the doors and hold the people at Gibson guitars at gunpoint. I could go on and on with thousands of examples of what the IRS was doing before they were exposed for being the jackbooted thug punks that they are. So yeah, “In the early morning hours there’s a din in the air, mayhem on the loose. Stormtroopers comin’ you best be prepared, no time to lose. They’re comin’ up your street jackboot steppin’ high, you gotta make a stand. Lookin’ in your window, listenin’ to your phone, keep a gun in your hand.” And shoot ‘em! I know they’re listening to me right now. To the IRS and the NSA listening to this Ted Nugent interview right now: Fuck you! Eat fuck and die! Come to my house. I will blow your fuckin’ brains out. Howzat?
I still can’t get over how the veterans were treated at the war memorials during the government shutdown.
You can’t make this stuff up. This is so indecent. The World War II Memorial never had any guards. There was never any budgeted security. There were never any agents. There were never any barricades. This piece of shit President is so hateful of freedom that he somehow found a budget during the shutdown to hire people to stop the greatest heroes in the history of mankind when visiting their own war memorial for what could be the last time in their life. You can’t make this up. That is pure evil. I’m a pretty creative guy but I can’t come up with a more offensive, soulless, rotten gesture than what our President did to those great heroes. He did it. He did that. He had a meeting with Valerie Jarrett and his gun-running Attorney General and his clown of a Vice President and his idiot of a Secretary of State and all of his jackbooted punk buddies. They actually had a meeting to fuck the World War II veterans. You gotta be kidding me. I’m so heartbroken. That’s why I am like I am. That’s why my music is so passionate. I think “Stranglehold” is the soundtrack to take back America. I think “Stormtroopin’” and “Great White Buffalo” are the soundtracks to wake up apathetic, brain-dead sheep in America. It’s actually working.
The coolest part of Ultralive Ballisticrock is hearing you say every song is the most important song and every gig is the most important gig. I think there’s more to take away from that lesson than just going to a rock concert.
I wish I could share with you the communications I get on a daily basis about the little boys and girls – six, seven, eight years old – that watch our Spirit Of The Wild show and they get that message. They get the message that being the best you can be means being clean and sober and paying attention to your cause and effect. They had to hear that from the author of “Wango Tango”? A lot of teenagers, college kids, people your age communicate with me and they’ve never heard the term “sacred temple” before. They didn’t know that their gift of life from God was a sacred temple and you should show some respect and reverence for it by not poisoning it. They had to hear that from the author of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” Do you realize how insane that is?
The world needs Uncle Ted now more than ever.
The more they fuck with me the louder I get and I appreciate you allowing me to say these things on Rock Confidential. It is about the music and the music has always been the soundtrack of the human experience. Mine is the most vibrant, effervescent, uppity, fun, positive music with reminders that We The People have a duty to monitor our elected official employees in this experiment in self-government. It’s not about fun and games. It’s not about fading out and gettin’ high. If you’re high you’re a liability. If you’re straight you can be an asset – if you pay attention and you care. You’re talking to a guy that’s done 65 years of paying attention because I really, really care.
Cat Scratch Fever
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