Ted Nugent Talks New Live DVD, Early Influences, Obamacare + More
The legendary Motor City Mad Man Ted Nugent rode through the USA in recent years on his “I Still Believe Tour” and the trek has been captured on his new live 2 CD/DVD release titled ‘Ultralive Ballisticrock,’ set to arrive on Oct. 22.
All the hits are here and then some, and the band features Derek St. Holmes, the original vocalist & rhythm guitarist for the Ted Nugent Band from the ’70s plus Greg Smith (ex Rainbow) on bass and Dokken’s Mick Brown on drums.
The ever-outspoken Nugent recently talked with Loudwire about the new DVD, his early influences, his thoughts on Obamacare and much more. Check out our interview with The Nuge below:
Ted, after watching and listening to the new release, it’s clear your energy levels have not wavered much from way back when.
No question. My music has a life of its own and the fact that I get to dive onto this sonic white-water raft every night is no doubt a gift from God. I’m 65 years clean and sober and so things are working pretty damn good except for my knees. I have two bad knees from jumping off all those amplifiers over the years. But the music has such an energy all unto itself that what Greg, Mick, Derek and I do every night keeps us young. I’ve played some of these songs 5,000 times and I can’t wait to keep playing them again and again. They still turn me on.
I don’t really think at all when I’m up there. Like a great samurai warrior once said, if you’re not handling your sword properly, it’s the result of too many minds. One thing I do not happen to have, when I grab my guitar, is too many minds (laughs). I feel like a kid in the garage with my first live amp and my first piece of ass every night. I’m a lucky guy.
Was there a show you saw early on that inspired the kind of high-energy you’re so famous for?
Absolutely. It was in 1960 or 61 at the Walled Lake Casino in Walled Lake, Michigan just west of Detroit. I was about 13 and my band was opening for Gene Pitney, Martha and the Vandellas and the headliner was Billy Lee and the Rivieras. A year later, Billy Lee and the Rivieras changed their name to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. But what I saw that night out of Earl Elliott on bass, Joe Kubert on rhythm guitar, Johnny Badanjek on drums and Jimmy McCarty on a Gibson Birdland guitar through a Fender twin reverb amp established a level of outrageous energy that I never forgot.
The spirit of that rhythm and blues band was ultra-energized and ultra-focused. And what Mitch Ryder delivered the night was a firestorm of authority. The shrapnel just from the tambourines, I think he played eight of them that night, was epic. And they were just teenagers then. The inescapable throttle of that rhythm section and the overall intensity absolutely established the only way to perform. I’ve remembered that for every concert I’ve played in my life, going on 6,500 now. That was the musical moment for me. That’s still the bar I try to eclipse every night and you see that on this new DVD.
Your band on this last tour seemed like the perfect fit for you.
I look at this ridiculous career mine and think, God has blessed me every step of the way starting with the my early bands like the Royal High Boys, the Amboy Dukes, all the way through Damn Yankees and these guys today. The most gifted and renowned virtuosos have been in my bands. I’ve played with some of the greatest guys to ever live, I’ve jammed with guys like Keith Moon – I am blessed.
My band members today push me to try harder because these guys love these songs. I think that’s what you sense – the chemistry. We have that kind of fire together. I feel all of their human passion each night and I am blessed, fortunate, humble and lucky to have these men behind me.
Out of the 6,500 shows over the years, do any stand out for any special reason?
It will be hard for you to believe my response, so take a deep breath and please just believe me. We recently wrapped up our last show this year in Laughlin, Nevada, and things happened in that show that never happened before. But that’s how every single night is. There is a spirit of unbridled excitement in every show. So there are none that stand out because they ALL stand out. We get together before hitting the stage each night, we punch each other’s fists and we yell out the name of our favorite heroes: James Brown! Wilson Pickett! Chuck Berry! There are no Caucasian licks played by this band! (laughs) Every night is an orgy of musical dreams.
I witnessed Mitch Ryder, Brownsville Station, Bob Seger, the MC5 – all of them – and I channel all those shows every night. those bands I grew up watching. And Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, James Brown. It goes on. When I watch guys today, when I’ve seen [Bruce] Springsteen or Sammy Hagar or Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger — I know that they are feeling the music like I do and they understand that idea that you go out every single night and just leave it all out there.
The age range of your live audience seems to cross several generations, too.
It’s very inspiring and humbling. I see little boys and girls out there along with old farts like me. We do lots of family events like River Days and Rib Fests — big outdoor family get-togethers and I love that. A lot of it’s from a TV show I do on the Outdoor Channel that celebrates the way we hunt. That brings people out I know. And every night onstage I emphasize to young people, you cannot have this much fun or play with this kind of energy unless you are clean and sober.
To achieve the American dream you must be clean and sober. I tell them, don’t succumb to pressure – stay clean and sober. That’s the most gratifying thing for me – steering kids away from the sheep that march in the wrong direction.
The world has become, as you have no problem discussing, a much more dangerous and serious place today. Do you look at your shows as an escape from the headlines?
Absolutely. And we need musical escapes away from all this crap in the world, now more than ever. If you just pay a modicum of attention to the headlines you know it. There is an increasing abuse of force and corruption in the American government right now. When you’ve got someone forcing a pallet of documents down the country’s throat, screaming that you don’t have to read it, you have to sign it and then find out what is in it after it gets passed, I mean, can you get any more anti-American or anti-we the people than that?
Yet that is what they did, the shoving down all of our throats with Obamacare, which is clearly against the Constitution and clearly did not get voted on by we the people. Then we have this Fast and Furious program from with the number one law officer in the United States, intentionally violating the oath of the Constitution and sending illegal guns to Mexican gangs! Cecil B. DeMille could not write this script – it is too obscene.
So your stage becomes your own pulpit to preach from.
Sure. I articulate clearly onstage every night that you came here to escape the chaos and abuse of power in our government. And you are here to celebrate the Chuck Berry escape mechanism. But at the end of each concert I tell people to go home and fight to eliminate the bad and the ugly.
I’ve been in our government’s face since the 1960s and it breaks my heart and brings me no joy whatsoever to have to say these things. It is a tragic and heartbreaking time, but look, this experiment in self-government happens to include guitar players too – and so I’ll be damned if I’m going to shut up.
Our thanks to Ted Nugent for taking the time to chat with us. You can find out more about The Nuge’s new DVD ‘Ultralive Ballisticrock’ by clicking here.