It’s unfortunate that Ted Nugent is now known more for his political opinions and outrageous statements than his music.
After all, he’s an icon of rock ’n’ roll whose onstage presence is just as powerful as his political presence—and he’s bringing his music to the Aqua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, Aug. 30.
Nugent wasn’t made available for a phone interview, but he was willing to answer some questions for the Coachella Valley Independent via e-mail.
He’s known as the Motor City Madman, an appropriate moniker given his history as a recording artist and stage performer. His career began in earnest in 1964 as a member of the Amboy Dukes. In 1968, the band—which was undeniably ahead of its time—released Journey to the Center of the Mind, a hard-rock classic which stood out in the era of psychedelic rock.
Nugent is known for his opposition to drugs and alcohol, and he has acknowledged in previous interviews that he didn’t realize the title track of that album was a reference to the psychedelic drug experience. However, he did acknowledge the album’s place in rock history.
“I was certainly very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated virtuosos far ahead of their time and much better musicians than myself,” Nugent wrote about the Amboy Dukes. “The superior rhythm section of Dave Palmer on drums and Greg Arama on bass guitar was a very powerful musical force to reckon with. Though I came up with some pretty inventive guitar maneuvers and songwriting, the full credit should go to my fellow bandmates for thinking way outside the box at the time.”
The Amboy Dukes came to an end in 1975, and Nugent headed out on his own. He quickly earned a reputation as a high-energy guitar virtuoso who broke out with the songs “Stranglehold” and “Hey Baby.” His songs were beloved within Los Angeles skateboarding and surfing circles, and Nugent became renowned for his seemingly ceaseless energy in his shows.
Nugent credited the venison he was eating (thanks to hunting, one of his big hobbies) as well as other factors for his energy.
“My unbridled love of the music, combined with my athletic, clean and sober mind, body, spirit and soul, gave me Herculean energy and spirit and indefatigable drive to pursue all musical roads less traveled,” Nugent wrote.
Nugent’s success carried on through the late 1970s and most of the ‘80s. In 1989, he surfaced as a member of the supergroup Damn Yankees, with Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Michael Cartellone. In 1990, the group released a self-titled debut with the smash-hit “High Enough,” which landed them in the Top 10; the album went double-platinum album. The Damn Yankees also released Don’t Tread, in 1992, which went gold. The group reunited for performances in 1999 and the 2010 NAMM Show in Anaheim; Blades and Shaw also contributed to Nugent’s most recent studio album, Love Grenade, which was released in 2007.
Nugent, who recently announced he’d be releasing a new live album in October, said the Damn Yankees hope another release is in their near future.
“Logistics, timing and scheduling coordinated availabilities is a Herculean task, but with any luck, we should hit the studio in early 2014 for a summer release of a killer CD,” said Nugent. “I know I speak for Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw and Michael Cartellone when I praise the killer music we made as Damn Yankees, and how all four of us would absolutely love to make music again and hit the road together. We all hope it happens someday. One never knows.”
Nugent’s love of hunting and firearms has earned him the scorn of animal-rights activists; in fact, Nugent said he’s received death threats. Still, Nugent lives for hunting, and said that being in nature is his preferred method of relaxation.
“Of all the incredible blessings in my life, the fact that I figured out the physics of spirituality balance and healing powers of nature long ago are the most powerful determination factors for my quality of life,” said Nugent. “I literally get giddy and hyperventilate in anticipation of every tour, every concert, every song, every night, and every hunt and every day. The soul- and ear-cleansing silence of my annual eight-month hunting season prepares me better than anything available to mankind to throttle my style of skull-dusting dance music. God loves me more than he loves others, obviously, and I thank him hourly.”
As for his controversial political statements, don’t expect the right-wing conservative to apologize anytime soon—no matter how outlandish those statements become.
Just a few lowlights: During a radio interview in 1992, he said, “Who needs to club a seal when you can club Heidi?” in reference to the Fund for Animals’ Heidi Prescott. In 2007, during a live performance, he said “(Barack) Obama’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Nugent earned a visit from the Secret Service after saying at the 2012 NRA Convention: “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” And most recently, he addressed racial profiling and the George Zimmerman acquittal by saying: “I think when you use the word ‘profile,’ if a Dalmatian has been biting the children in the neighborhood, I think we’re going to look for a black and white dog. At some point, you’ve got to be afraid of black and white dogs if the Dalmatian’s doing the biting.” This came days before he joked about hunting Democrats on Mike Huckabee’s radio show.
He acknowledged that his remarks have hurt his record sales, but he has no plans to go silent on political matters.
“There is no question that my record sales took a serious hit for my being so outspoken on such volatile … issues. So be it. I am incapable of backing down, and have no regrets for standing up for what I believe in,” Nugent wrote. “I’ve always been right, and my haters have always been wrong. 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 incredible career is far beyond any dream I could have ever imagined.”
As for his current tour, Nugent is still as energetic as ever, and he promised fans a great show.
“The intensity and pure animal energy of my band and music is always a shock to unsuspecting civilians, even after all these years,” he wrote. “We just keep getting tighter and having more fun all the time. I shock (myself) nightly, and nothing shocks me. They will revel in the best all American rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll the world has ever known.
“If you’re not having fun with me, you’re weird and need some serious help.”
Ted Nugent performs at 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $25 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.