Ted Nugent Sounds Off on Detroit Muscle, Joan Jett, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
All images courtesy of Getty Images/RSN Entertainment
Ted Nugent’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll is hard to miss. It’s bold, brash, and brazen. And depending on your disposition, it can be seen as habitually offensive. But don’t tell that to Nugent, who, at the ripe age of 73, feels that he is just getting started.
“I haven’t been rockin’ this long by giving a shit about what people think of me,” remarked Nugent. “If people love me, hate me, or only tolerate me, I’m fine with it. I do what I do, make the music I love, and get it out there for my adoring fans to listen to. And the feedback is sometimes positive, but sometimes I have to deal with pushback. I’m ok with all of it. I’m here to rock, and come what may; that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Stone-faced as the flames and adversity seem to continually build around him, Nugent released his most recent record, Detroit Muscle, in the spring of 2022. An energetic affair with typically polarizing lyrics deeming Nugent as precisely who we’ve always known him to be. And while his persona has galvanized fans for decades, it’s hard not to find at least a hint of infectious rock ‘n’ roll badassery between the lines of perceived treachery via diabolical thematic reasoning.
Whether you love or hate him, Ted Nugent isn’t going anywhere. A musical cockroach shrouded in a deerskin jacket, the indignant rocker seems eternally intent on poking the proverbial bear and then eating it alive once agitated enough to react. And it’s that point of Nugent’s shtick, isn’t it? Infecting bystanders by way of his devious inner child via music. It’s unrelenting, and if it wasn’t for the duality that Nugent represents, you might almost find a way to see it as endearing.
As objective listeners, it’s ultimately up to us to decide if we enjoy Nugent’s latest music, as it does have several redeeming qualities, at least at face value. But a downside comes with the territory: an endless stream of socio-political noise and rhetoric. Accordingly, one’s ability to enjoy Nugent’s “good-time music” will fall in the ability to drown all of that noise out.
As chaos ensues around him, Nugent settled in via phone to discuss his music, philosophy, politics, and the haters who present a jagged thorn in his grizzled side.
Andrew: “Come and Take It” presents as a bold statement, Ted.
Ted: Well, let me start by saying I love talking about my music. But as for “Come and Take It,” obviously, I’m a free man. And I like to make sure I protect myself from anything and anybody that wants to tamper with my freedom, or maybe shall we say, infringe on my freedom. So, even though the song is about some serious subject matter, it’s still a fun and high-energy song.
Andrew: Is that to say you feel your freedoms are being infringed upon?
Ted: I think you and I both know they are. Even if you’re not too sure, let me be the one to tell you that they are, my friend. Make no mistake about it; there are a lot of evil forces out there. And they’re coming right out and admitting that they used to lie to the brainwashed sheep that make up this country. The big line is, “Everyone wants common sense gun reform.” Oh, is that so? What the hell is common sense? Do people even know what that means? Here’s the truth: what they say is not what they mean. There are no unsafe guns out there. What is out there is unsafe court and justice systems. And there are a whole bunch of unsafe judges and prosecuting attorneys. And all of them want to take the guns we are legally entitled to, and all of them want to infringe on our rights as human beings and citizens of the United States of America.
So, I made a statement that is consistent with what I’ve always said: “I’ve got the right to keep and bear arms. I got that right from God. There is no man who can take that from me.” And if they try to, I say, “Hey, fuck you, asshole. I don’t need anybody’s fucking authorization. Eat shit.” And so, numb nuts, Joe Biden, he’s coming right out, like the freak that he is, and trying to take my guns. He’s trying to take all of our guns away. He says they’re unsafe. Well, I don’t fucking agree. Ok, Joe, here’s my guns; they’re right here. Come and take them. But know that if you come up here, I’ll hire Mike Tyson to shove a God damned hickory stick up your ass. Give it your best shot, dirtbags. So, that’s what the song is about. It’s a fun song. Do you feel the love? I’m feeling the love. [Laughs].
Andrew: You’re love for Detroit, and its music scene has seemingly never wavered. How did that factor in during the inception of Detroit Muscle?
Ted: Well, the record was originally called Handsome Devil, which was named after me, of course. During one of his rallies, Donald Trump called me “The greatest Handsome Devil in the world,” and I happen to fucking agree. [Laughs]. It was going to be called Handsome Devil because I just thought it was so fucking cute when President Trump – my president – called me that. He singled me out in the crowd and asked me to come up and play, so I played the “National Anthem and raised some adequate hell with my Detroit muscle, both literally and figuratively. And after I was done, Donald looked over at me, thanked me, and he said, “Ted, you Handsome Devil. Thank you.” So, we were gonna call it Handsome Devil as my celebration of the unrivaled – and that’s quite a bold statement, which I’m really good at – musical force that is me. And, of course, the musical authority of Detroit music.
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Andrew: “Alaska” appears to be personal in nature. What are its origins?
Ted: Well, again, you know me. Of course, you do because there’s nothing unknown about Ted Nugent. As such, everybody knows that I love to fucking hunt. I love the mystical flight of the arrow and the neanderthal martial arts of archery. And all that goes into how I approach my guitar. I think of my guitar playing as a martial art, and I think all the great musical talents – like myself – approach their instrument and musical visions in that way. People like me submerse themselves into musical pursuits. And that circles back around to my love of God’s miracle out there, which provides all this meat to feast on, which fuels my beautiful art.
And so, when I hunted Alaska, going into it, I had these grandiose dreams of hunting the last frontier full of caribou, brown bears, grizzly bears, black bears, moose, and wolverines. Alaska has an unbelievable dynamic of wildlife; it’s a paradise for a man like me. I love the idea of getting out there, setting up on a mountainside, and getting nice and close to that fresh meat with a sharp stick. It’s a very spiritual experience epitomized by my campfires with Native Americans who live up there, with whom I’ve forged a bond. So, I’ve always had a love affair with Alaska, the magnificence of nature, and certainly the wonderful native people that pursue that native lifestyle in God’s country.
So, I reminisce about those early inspirations all these years; I’ve probably hunted Alaska 30-plus times over 30 years. And it stirs the soul; those campfires in Alaska, surrounded by those snowcapped peaks, cleanse me. And the wonderment of wildlife is very stirring, very impacting, and is a true juxtaposition of my celebration of nature as a healing power against the abuse of mankind. I see it as a mitigating healing power against pollution and industrial irresponsibility. So, “Alaska” is a song that celebrates its magnificence and the heartbreak of things like the Exxon Valdez and trying to put electronic grids out there. So, I know Alaska intimately. And those intimacies have to come out in my music because my music is the absolute, honest expression of my life, soul, and responsibilities.
Andrew: Would you say this record has fully captured the essence of who you are at this point in your life?
Ted: Well, if you go back to the first Amboy Dukes recordings, I have songs about living in the woods, migration, hibernation, and hunting. So, I’ve always celebrated my love affair with nature, and I’ve done so as a conscientious and responsible participant. I harvest the surplus and cherish the sacred flesh that fuels my mind, body, spirit, and soul. But even after all these years, people are still confused by that statement. People seem to think that somehow their tofu salad doesn’t cause any deaths. I mean, I don’t know what could be more of an indictment to the level of denial and stupidity out there. Do some research, find out the truth, and you’ll see that you’re killing the planet a hell of a lot more than I am by hunting, morons.
Andrew: Do you feel pigeonholed or misunderstood?
Ted: In some ways, yes. But in most ways, I don’t give a shit. I will say that many people don’t understand me. They take my tendency to tell it like it is rather than sugarcoat it as me being out of mind or something. I know that many people think of me as the “Motor City Madman.” To most people, I’m this outrageous, high-energy, rock and blues maniac, which is very accurate. [Laughs]. But on this record, you’ll hear this beautiful instrumental called “WinterSpring SummerFall,” which is very soothing and very introspective.
It’s me taking a moment, looking inside, and breathing easy as a break from the treachery built around us in life. The stress and the criminality inherent in our government, the overt dishonesty of media, and what people accept as “fact” is fucked up. And “fact checkers” aren’t helping us. Why? Because career liars employ them. It is just unbelievably stupid out there. So, that song shows a different side of me that I want people to see, and it’s my way of taking a breath from the noise. Maybe more than any other album, I’d say that Detroit Muscle is a true amalgamation of my life.
All images courtesy of Getty Images/RSN Entertainment
Andrew: Earlier, you likened your approach to the guitar to martial arts. Can you expand on that?
Ted: Anyone who has known me long enough knows that I am one with nature. I am Crazy Horse, Daniel Boone, and Davy Crockett all rolled into one absurdly gorgeous and talented package. I have lived that life. I’m a farmer. I am a rancher. I plow my own fields. I plant my own crops, and I harvest them, baby. And yes, I kill critters, butcher them and eat them. I’m the only primal scream guy out here who plays rock music.
With the guitar, I’ll give you an example of my greatness and how I look at my instrument. Just this morning, I had been out with my dogs, and we fed the fish and tended to a bunch of other things around my ranch that needed doing. It was hard work; I’m out there and got my hands dirty and bloody. And I was tired, but I still got a squirrel for the dogs this morning, and I was one with nature. And so, when I came in, I was so far removed from electric guitar, or even the creative process, that I needed to tune into all of that to find it again.
So, when I come into my man cave – the cuckoo’s nest with wall-to-wall guns, ammo, bows, arrows, and dead critters on the wall – I’ve got guitars and amps everywhere. And when I plug in – I don’t want to brag, I’m just conveying the details – and I start playing, I am so cleansed of stress, negativity, and worldly considerations, that I am pure as pure can be. And when I start playing, every time I pick up the guitar, these neck-breaking, killer guitar patterns erupt from me. It’s like this out-of-body, Last Samurai-type shit. [Laughs]. Because I see myself as a samurai master, which has been quite a fulfilling endeavor to attempt and accomplish if I don’t say so myself. But my point is that if you unleash your raw impulses, magic can happen. And that magic makes up Ted Nugent, the man, and the musician.
Andrew: Do your lyrical themes develop in the same manner?
Ted: I never sit down to write lyrics. I do not have a pad of paper and a pencil in my cuckoo’s nest. I do not consider titles, lyrics, chords, patterns, keys, or tempos. I don’t consider anything. I come in, so eclipsed by the spirit of the wild that I don’t need to do that. It just comes to me. And I know that all my haters who don’t understand will hate that, but I’ll repeat it, just in case you fuckers didn’t catch it: nature heals. I am harvesting God’s gift. And that’s how my music comes to be; it flows from nature, through my body, into my hands, through my guitar, and out into the world.
Many people don’t know or seem to have forgotten that a walk in the woods will recreate you. It’s called recreation because it literally recreates your spirit and energy. And I do it every day. I do it every day, numerous times every day. So, when I pick up my guitar, it’s like a horny teenager busting his first load; it’s raw, unencumbered, and uninhibited. It’s like me busting a load through my guitar, a primal, sexually-driven grind. I call it Motown, funk brother shit; I’m channeling it, and I love it. My music explodes with a life of its own; I merely facilitate it.
But with lyrics, if this makes any sense, I sing my songs before I write the lyrics. The cadence and the pulse of my guitar pattern will write the songs. The simplest way I can express this is the cadence of my guitar grind defines the lyrics. It brings about a lyric and a lyrical rhythm. And I thank God every day because I love music, and I can create it the way I do. And I don’t want to make a pop song because I wouldn’t say I like pop songs. Real music lovers hate pop music because it sucks. I don’t want to make any corn dog, country fair bullshit. I want to make something that jives, grooves, and shakes. Give me something with somebody’s forehead veins popping out during the guitar solo. That’s what Ted Nugent’s music is all about.
Andrew: Given your unique approach to the guitar and music, do you feel overlooked by Rolling Stone and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Ted: I couldn’t give a flying fuck about what they think. Do I think I belong on the 100 greatest guitar player list? I know I do. How about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Do you think I should be there? It doesn’t matter; I know I do. Biased assholes, who hate my politics, hate my lifestyle, and don’t like that I’m unafraid to speak my mind have kept me out. These are the people who want to shut me up. These are the people who want to keep me down. These people wish I’d go away with every fiber of their fucking being. But I’m not going away – quite the contrary.
But the funny thing is, it doesn’t matter what I say. Earlier this year, I praised Joan Jett in an interview and said I liked her music. I said she didn’t belong on Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitar players list, but I wasn’t criticizing her; it was me criticizing Rolling Stone. I praised her and called her an authoritative musical force with a great work ethic. I said that Joan Jett is a legend in the world of music. I even referenced “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and said it’s a great song; I’ve always thought that. I praised her, but I did say after the fact, “If Ted Nugent isn’t on that list, then someone like Joan Jett shouldn’t be on that list.”
Andrew: So, it’s safe to say that you feel your words were taken out of context.
Ted: You bet they fucking were. But that’s always how it is; I can never say anything without people taking it the wrong way or twisting it into insanity. And then, when the shit hits the fan, it’s always my fault; it’s never the media’s fault at all. Their hands are clean. But I do stand by what I said; Joan Jett should not be on that list if a guy like Rik Emmett isn’t on it. And she shouldn’t be added before guys like Derek St. Holmes and Dave Amato. Am I wrong?
Andrew: Are you basing your picks on skill alone? Because I’d wager that skill is subjective. Isn’t the point to highlight influence diversely and inclusively?
Ted: Regardless, I wasn’t trying to single Joan Jett out. I was pointing out that the list is flawed, and it lacks players – like myself – deserving of inclusion. And that she shouldn’t be added before those players. Does that make sense, or am I crazy? So, that’s all it was. It’s funny because I never referenced myself in the original interview. That didn’t come until later when I was challenged on it. It’s not sour grapes. Gals like Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell are on there, and I disagree that they should be there before other players. I love both of them. I worship them as artists. They’re not my favorite music, but I appreciate what they do.
Andrew: Can you clarify your final thoughts on the matter here and now?
Ted: I’ll tell you the same thing I said in the interview before it was taken out of context and twisted. I never said a negative word about Joan Jett, but she retaliated by spewing all kinds of hate and lies about me. And in the interview, I praised her, but then she said I was jealous because I was not on the list. I never said that. Should I be on it? If you’re asking me, then yes, I feel I should be. But I also think that Dave Amato, Derek St. Holmes, Rickey Medlocke, and Rik Emmett should be. If you want my honest opinion, Joan Jett is not in the top 100 guitar players. She’s certainly in the top 100 rock and rollers but not in the top 100 guitar players by any measure. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.
Andrew: Why do you feel Joan reacted the way that she did?
Ted: Well, it’s like I said, I didn’t attack her; I criticized the writers of the list. I praised her, and her retaliation was nothing but vicious hate. She even said I was a draft dodger, which I’m not. That goes back to the High Times story I did in the late ’70s about shitting my pants to get out of the draft, which was a joke. But people still cling to that, and things like that keep me overlooked on lists like that because there are so many morons who do nothing but hate in this leftist music industry. These people cannot stand me, not because of what I stand for, but because they’re incapable of debating me. They know if they get in that situation with me, I will rupture and crush all that they thought they knew. So, they avoid me, hate me, and spread lies about me to shut me up. But the jokes on then; it’s not working. [Laughs].
Andrew: Do you feel that it’s for those same reasons you’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Ted: Yes, I do. I believe that those are the reasons why my music is overlooked. In the ’70s, my music had its time, but as the years have gone by and the hate has intensified, my music has gotten buried beneath all that shit. If you really want to get down to it, that’s why I’m not on that list, and that’s why I’m not in the Hall of Fame. And if you think that’s sour grapes, then you can have a nice fucking day. I may not be in the Hall of Fame now, and maybe I never fucking will be, but I’m still standing. Perhaps they’ll put me in after I die so I can’t enjoy it while I’m alive. Who knows? But I can tell you that I’m 73 years old, and I’m still rocking my balls off with people who love my music.
Andrew: What’s your message to your detractors, Ted?
Ted: To all these publications, Rolling Stone, the Hall of Fame, I’d say to all of you: be honest. Because, at this point, it’s getting a little bit ridiculous. It isn’t very ethical. If Grandmaster Flash, Madonna, Abba, and Patti Smith got in before Ted Nugent, then it’s a dishonest, good old boys club. If it’s about the music, then Ted Nugent should be in there, regardless of politics and outlook on life. And that’s all there is to it. I mean, if you love that music, have a nice day. I don’t like that music, and it’s not rock ‘n’ roll.
And then, when people claim to hate my politics, I wonder, “Do they even really know anything about my fucking politics?” Hey, now, let’s examine my politics. I believe in secure borders. Do you hate that? I believe in putting your heart and soul into being the best you can be so that you’re an asset to your family and country. Is that not good? I’m against poisoning yourself so that you die prematurely. Is that such a bad thing? Because most people – most musicians – are selfish and focus on getting comfortably numb instead of being responsible to their bandmates and their families. So, let me ask all of you, is that good or bad? So, name my politics that you hate. Name one. The simple answer is that if people are being honest, they can’t.
All images courtesy of Getty Images/RSN Entertainment
– Andrew Daly (@AJDWriter88) is a contributing writer for Metal Castle and may be reached at email@example.com
Ted should have been in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame decades ago !!!
And I agree 100% about Joan Jett !!