May 13, 1980
By Gene Triplett
Ted Nugent - Lloyd Noble
Will the Real Ted Nugent Stand Up
He refers to himself affectionately as "the Nuge," "young Ted," or "the boy," when recounting his hunting conquest and rock and roll triumphs.
For all of the rigors he puts himself through, he is remarkably youthful-both in appearance and demeanor, for a 31-year-old father of two. His boyish enthusiastic braggadocio is seemingly boundless, and he's given to shouting, even shrieking with passionate conviction, when he's speaking on subjects close to his heart, (guns, rock and roll and women).
In short, a conversation with Ted Nugent-the undisputed king of tooth gnashing, super-decibel rock guitar is just what one would expect it to be.
In a backstage interview at Lloyd Noble Center following his April 13 concert, Nugent was a little more composed than the loin-cloth-wearing madman who had rampaged across the stage that night (though he did brandish a pistol once during the conversation, just to make a point.) Now clad in plain corduroy pants and long-john shirt, he seemed surprisingly fresh and energetic when by all rights he should have been a sweating heap of half-conscious humanity.
"I passed out twice tonight but I stayed on my feet," he allowed. "I don't know what happened. Things were spinnin' around. I couldn't see nothin'. I heard a familiar drum fill and I started playin'.”
"I don't know. I'm just really bad at controlling myself when it comes to stuff that I really enjoy, y'know? I'm really good at self-discipline except for like when it comes to rock and roll, huntin' and sex, y'know? I just don't know when to stop."
Nugent showed no signs of hyperactive tension as he reclined in a folding chair taking occasional sips from a bottle of Pepsi. He has no such physical maladies, and he shuns all types of drugs. He also denies any violent tendencies. His drive, he says, is pure, natural intensity.
"When I'm up there sweatin' and I look like this (his face contorted in that famous maniacal grimace) when I got my fucking guitar where I look like I could bite a crowbar in half-there ain't an ounce of violence in the boy. Not an iota of violence. It is called intensity.”
"When I'm (making love) I'm grittin' my teeth, but I ain't violent. I'm happy!"
He used the analogy of running a foot race, noting that the runner's grimace and his taut muscles are the result of that same kind of intensity.
“But detractors of rock and roll don't understand that,” he said.
"...Violence in rock and roll. Sorry, there isn't any...That is violence! That's called good clean fun, that's called livin' it up...Man was meant to intensify, man was meant to work up a sweat...When you cut wood or you lift cinderblocks to build your house or to work, that's intense. And maybe the manifestations are violent-like because of the intensifications-but no violence, sorry."
But what about the fans who sometimes get out of control?
"I go to a lot of rock and roll concerts. Mine alone aren't enough. And you get an occasional can through the air or firecracker… People are so intensified because, first of all there aren't enough vehicles in life to apply real intensity to.”
"You get your meat wrapped in cellophane, slap that baby in the microwave, sit back in your car, touch the gas pedal, go to the grocery store, touch the gas pedal...Everything is a cruise. Nobody's gotta work anymore it seems. Except for some of your manual laborers, which are probably your most well-adjusted individuals. "So in rock and roll shows, the natural instinct to get involved and to intensify surfaces, and these kids don't know how to control it so they whip a fucking grenade in the air or somethin'. They don't mean to hurt nobody, I guarantee it.”
"Now I admit, too, that there are occasional wounded mother fuckers out there who are your typical delinquents and your typical criminals who are gonna cause harm regardless of the environment."
Nugent related a recent incident in a concert in Abilene, when he stopped his show in mid-song after a can flew by his head. He asked the audience if they came to have a good time and the response was thunderously affirmative. Nugent assured the crowd he was there for the same purpose, and not to "lose an eye." He then declared that if another dangerous object was lobbed his way he would stop the show again, search out the culprit and "crush his skull."
There were no more flying cans.
On the subject of the disastrous Who concert in Cincinatti, where 11 people were killed in a crushing crowd, Nugent angrily denounced the criticism that incident brought upon rock concerts in general.
"Number one, the Cincinatti thing can in no way, no stretch of your imagination, be related to a rock and roll event. When you get an intense crowd-whether it's rock and roll fans, soccer fans or the housewives down at the Kroger meat giveaway-if you try and get'em through one door there's gonna be pain."
It was a case of gross mismanagement. It had nothing to do with the Who, it had nothing to do with rock and roll as a form of draw."
Known for his love of guns and hunting, a pastime which only enhances his shrewdly fashioned "Motor City Madman" image-the Detroit guitarist is a prominent spokesman for the National Rifle Association a well-known opponent of gun control, a view which is uncharacteristically right-of-center, considering that most rock musicians arc either markedly liberal of markedly apolitical.
"The documentation is conclusive that where there's gun control, there's more crime," he insisted. "Your criminal element will migrate to a strict gun control society because he knows that everybody's defenseless.”
"Where would I go if I was gonna burglarize somebody? New York City (snaps his fingers for emphasis)! 'Cause they got the stiffest gun control laws in the nation."
Becoming angry now, Nugent began talking through gritted teeth as he continued, "(Gun control) is gonna make it easy on the criminals. I mean, nobody fucks with me down on the farm I live at, or in the communities I live in where there's farmers, 'cause everybody's got guns!”
"How about Switzerland, where it's law, where everybody must own a gun. There's no burglaries or nothin'.”
"People who are for gun control are complete asses. Kennedy's mentally retarded! He pretends that all these facts don't exist."
Suddenly, Nugent stood up and whipped a Walther PPK 380 automatic from his pocket. He placed it on the floor several feet from his chair and quickly sat back down, then folded his arms and affected a comically pompous, worried voice.
"We must ban guns! See this gun? Watch it shoot somebody! All right, let's watch it! According to statistics it should shoot somebody any minute now!"
The gun rested quietly on the floor for a few seconds until Nugent, confident he'd made his point, scooped it up and returned it to his pocket. He allowed that he carries a firearm at all times but has never had an occasion to use one on another human being.
"Wanna know why?" he asked. "Because people know I got it. And because I can outshoot anybody."
Nugent admitted he is not involved in political issues, other than his strong stand on guns and hunting and general 'encroachments upon individuals' freedom.
"However, I've never done any drugs, I will never do any drugs. I think they're stupid. I think they are bad for you. However, they should definitely legalize marijuana. They should definitely legalize cocaine. They should definitely legalize heroin."
For the same reason they should not adopt strict gun controls?
"Yeah, because the more they tried to eliminate alcohol (during prohibition), the more there was flowin', jack...The more they try to stifle these kids from smoking dope..." His voice trailed off a moment in frustration.
In view of his own abstention from drugs and alcohol, I asked him how he felt about his fans' use of drugs.
"First of all, I won't preach on the subject. But my own beliefs are that any individual is a better individual when their senses are finely tuned. And I think that each individual in life has gotta ascertain the best frame of mind for themselves. If someone has concluded through whatever learning process that he would like to get a buzz on...that's his decision. I ain't gonna affect this boy. I'll be goin' this way, jack."
Nugent's ultimate high seems to be the ability to depend on himself alone on the land. He carries it to extremes most city-bred men wouldn't dream of-such as having a bush pilot drop him in the Alaskan Range once a year, "380 miles from the nearest Eskimo camp," where he remains for 16 days with nothing but a backpack, bow and arrow and a .44 magnum.
"If I don't shoot no moose, I don't eat. If a grizzly gets my ass, he eats...You can't imagine what's it like sneakin' up on two grizzly bears diggin' roots. You sweat because you're scared, and it uses the energy up. I'm good with a .44 magnum, but not that good...They can outrun a racehorse for the first 25 yards."
Aside from hunting and rock and roll, Nugent is also able to expend energy on his two children, daughter Sasha, 6, and son Toby, 3.
Nugent is divorced and has custody of his two children and spends every other month at home with them on his rural Michigan farmhouse.
"I experience that (home life), but not the way most people do. Not everybody gets up a dawn and runs through the woods with his dog."
Whatever commands his attention at the moment, Nugent said he devotes his full concentration and tremendous store of energy on that one pursuit, be it performing, hunting or being a father.
Can he keep up the same pace for another 15 years?
"I doubt it...Maybe Johnny Weissmuler and Jack LaLanne can do it...When I find that it is becoming detrimental to my health, or if I just decide there are other interests in my life that I prefer to pursue, then those are the things that will take me away from rock and roll."
But hasn't hearing already damaged his hearing in one ear?
"Very little. Inconsequential. It's been grossly exaggerated in the press. My left ear is about 15 percent at 13 db at about 3,000 cycles which is just above your conversation tone. Hey, my right ear is perfect...I can hear quail sneakin' by at a hundred yards. In fact, I'm goin' quail huntin' tomorrow."