Ted Nugent Talks Hunting, Hetfield, Hagar, and Packing Heat (Among Other Things)

Jon Wiederhorn
Yahoo MusicJuly 2, 2014
(Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)
(Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

Metallica frontman James Hetfield has caught some flak in the past few weeks for narrating an eight-part History Channel miniseries called The Hunt, about bear hunters in Kodiak, Alaska. Anti-hunting activists in the U.K. were so up in arms that many protested Metallica's appearance at this year's Glastonbury Festival. In such a position, it's hard to tell whether you want a guy like wildly outspoken hunting/NRA advocate Ted Nugent on your side, but during in a new interview with Yahoo Music, the Nuge comes to Hetfield's defense.

"I put James Hetfield in the positive column, definitely," Nugent says. "If he's a hunter, I salute his hunting lifestyle. And I believe he's a good, efficient, and certainly qualified and ethical hunter. Unless I hear otherwise, I give him the old Uncle Ted backstrap salute."

In addition to praising Hetfield's decision to support hunting, Nugent says he'd love to head out on hunting expedition with Metallica's frontman, but suspects Hetfield is more the stealthy, private kind of hunter.

"James has kept his position on hunting kind of undercover this whole time," Nugent says. "I know for a fact that his management has told him to keep it under wraps and not talk about it, because they might lose some record sales. Now that it came out in the open, you saw that their management was absolutely correct. But good for him for coming out and supporting the hunting lifestyle."

For much of the past year, Nugent has split his time between hunting for deer, quail, and other game on his Texas ranch and working on his first studio album in seven years, Shutup & Jam. While many of the album's songs are as many as five years old, Nugent didn't start recording the album with his team of musicians until after he had double knee replacement surgery in February.

"I saw I ain't going nowhere; I can't go nowhere," he says. "So I looked at my position and thought, 'This is the perfect time to start working on a new record.' Thank God the band were all available during my knee rehab. We set up and started rocking, the planets aligned, and we got, if not my best record, certainly one of my best records ever. So now, everything's great. Except for my knees and the government, life is perfect. And since I've replaced my knees, now I'm working on the government."

In the epic Q&A below, Yahoo Music also to the Nuge about recovering from surgery, what Independence Day means to him, the heroes of the U.S. military, the creation of his new album, how there aren't enough guns on the streets to keep citizens safe, death threats, conservatism, and how American citizens would benefit by killing and eating their own game.

[The views expressed below do not necessarily reflect the views of Yahoo]

YAHOO MUSIC: You're currently recovering from double-knee surgery. Ouch!

TED NUGENT: I had them both replaced on Feb. 26, and the prognosis indicated that I would have anywhere from six to 12 weeks of savage pain and then increased mobility. Unfortunately, the savage pain continues to this very moment. But my mobility factor is reasonable and upgraded on a daily or weekly basis.

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Man, it has become a real test in my life. If pain is weakness leaving your body, I must be Superman.

Do you take medication or are you gutting it out?

Yeah, and that's a clusterf---. I've been clean and sober my whole life, so the average painkillers and narcotics almost turn me into Ozzy. I've become a stammering zombie. It's a tough time for me now because I hate the drugs. I hate the narcotics. I hate the painkillers just on a philosophical level, not to mention the physical level. But if I don't take the painkillers, it's agony beyond description. That being said, I spend so much time with real warriors and heroes of the U.S. military that have given up their entire legs and their arms and their skin and their eyeballs that I don't dare wimp out and complain. I continue to charge forth.

Did you write and record Shutup & Jam while recovering from knee surgery?

Yes, and I think that's very telling. My music, like my hunting life, is so soul-cleansing, so remedial, so rehabilitating, and such an escape. When I was jamming with the guys, I would very cautiously lower myself from my truck and bend my legs to stand upright and gimp into the studio. Then I would grab my guitar and all of a sudden become bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and having so much fun with the music – especially since I was surrounded by these unbelievably gifted monsters that I get to jam and collaborate with.

This is your 14th solo studio album, not including the records you did with the Amboy Dukes or Damn Yankees. After so many records, what kind of vibe did you want to capture? Were you looking to a particular era of your career for inspiration?

No, we were all just giddy on Howlin' Wolf meets Chuck Berry meets Little Richard and James Brown and the Motown Funk Brothers. We'd listen back to mix and go be-bopping around and then I'd go and play a solo. The session was a complete out-of-body experience.

Did you overdo it during any of the sessions?

I think on my gravestone it will say: "Ted Nugent. He overdid it." [laughs]

Has riding bison, swinging on ropes, and jumping off amplifiers onstage over the decades been detrimental to your health?

There's no question it was the amp leaps. I hope you people enjoyed that! I saw a video recently of Eddie Vedder, and he was climbing up on stuff and jumping, but when he jumped he jumped hesitantly, like a scared kid from the roof of a garage that was being prodded to do it but he didn't really want to. When I leaped off the amps – and there's plenty of footage out there of me doing it – I squatted and I catapulted myself off those f---ing amplifiers. Ka-F---IN' boom! I would hit that stage over and over again for thousands and thousands of nights. And then in 2007, when my knees gave out on me for the first time, I heard the word "meniscus." I said, "What is that?" And the doctor said, "It's what you don't have any of." I really beat the s--- out of them. I did much worse than any football player or hockey or baseball or basketball player ever did. I never understood. When it comes to rock 'n' roll amp-leaping, I'm the biggest idiot of all.

Sammy Hagar guests on the track "She's Gone." What's your relationship like with him?

He and I go back to 1974, '75, and '76. [His old band] Montrose was opening up for us when we were out west, and everybody revered the Montrose music. Find somebody that doesn't like "Bad Motor Scooter" and give them some nerve gas or something. He comes from the same black gods of rhythm and musical geniuses as I come from. Montrose, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Journey, Foreigner. All the bands that make great music that moves our lives, they're all propelled by the black heroes that invented that emotional, authoritative, soulful, grinding, sexy, fiery music. So Sammy and I connected immediately on that level. And I've been onstage with Sammy, if not 100 times, then 95. I got onstage with him with Sammy Hagar, Montrose, Van Halen, the Waboritos. It has been a mutual admiration society, I think. So when I wrote "She's Gone," I sent it to Sammy. It absolutely hit him right between the eyes. He said, "I love this. It's the kind of music I want to do," and so we did it.

Did Sammy come into the studio, or did he email his vocal tracks to you?

We wanted to do it together in the studio, damn it. We tried our best but he was in the middle of all kinds of stuff. I couldn't leave Texas. So we sent him the tapes, and he did it. I didn't have to give him any direction. I said, "Hagar-ize this for me." I sent a rough vocal of my own and said, "Here's how I would sing it, and here's where I'd punctuate and here's how I would go with the melody." And he called me back when he got it and said, "I'm not gonna sing this. You need to sing this! That's a motherf---er!" And I said, "No, no, no, no. You're singing it. I want Sammy Hagar on my record." So it ended up being a duet where we traded off verses, so it was killer.

July 4th is a celebration of America and Americana. Does it mean a lot to you?

It means everything to me. Independence Day is celebrated every day at the Nugent house. I have a real honor and a humbling life of communicating, hanging with, training with, and certainly connecting with the heroes of the U.S. military. I'm on the phone and I do charity work 300 days a year in one shape or another. We've always had an open-door red carpet for the military heroes and their families on tour. I represent operationfinallyhome.org, so I really do spend a lot of time with shattered and destroyed lives, trying to help with the physical ailments and tragedies of these great warriors. I've known forever that freedom is not free and that independence came when the king tried to be a king in this experimental self-government. We met his boys at the bridge and we shot the motherf---ers. I understand the sacrifices that have taken places continually over the millennia to protect us every day. They've given me my freedom to plug in my guitar and rock or go hunting and fishing on my own land and defend myself with a firearm and speak my mind and choose my religion and have security and privacy from the government and make sure there is no king d---ing around with us. I take that to heart because I've seen the cost.

No matter which side of the aisle you place yourself on, we've slipped so far as a nation from where we were when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And that's something that's evident as well on July 4.

I don't agree with all of that. There is a glaring line in the sand right now, no doubt about it. But that doesn't mean we're not still Americans and that there's not still civility. If you to go my Facebook, you'll see millions and millions of people that are giving to different charities I post, and celebrating by sending pictures of kids with fish, deer, elk, and squirrels that they shot. At the same time, there's a tiny little lunatic fringe that literally threatens to kill me and kill my family because we eat venison. So I'm well aware of that glaring division. However, even within that dichotomy, I've seen what we felt on Sept. 12, 2001. I still believe — and that's why my record is called Shutup & Jam and that's why one of the songs is called "I Still Believe" and another is called "Never Stop Believing" — because I believe that in the heart and soul of America we do want to get back to self-sufficiency, rugged individualism, the freedom to pursue our individual dreams, which is based on earning your individual dream. That's the conservative stance. And unfortunately that line drawn in the sand gets very vicious at times. The number of death threats I've had because I'm a hunter or because I'm on the board of directors of the NRA is absolutely stupefying. I don't take it personally, but it breaks my heart and saddens me that an American would want to kill another American because I believe in self-defense.

Self-defense is one thing, but the proliferation of spree shootings in this country is terrifying.

Isn't it fascinating that each and every one of those spree shootings occurred in gun-free zones? Examine that evidence. I guarantee that in the gun-free zone of Chicago, 10 people have been shot over the last 30 minutes. So now that we know that the gun-free zones, where people are forbidden to keep free arms, where the God-given right has been infringed, that's where the most murders and the more shootings occur... what kind of person would want more of those? Conversely, in every metropolitan area in every jurisdiction, according to the FBI uniform crime report where more people have concealed weapons permits, which means more weapons loaded and on them at the time, there's not only a dramatic reduction in crime, but many personal assaultive crimes like rape and carjacking and home invasion, they don't go down, they disappear.

What about those who point to countries like Japan, England, and Sweden. where it's much more difficult to get guns? The crime rates there are considerably lower than the U.S.

Have you ever been to Japan? Would you like to be a subservient, Emperor-performing individual? I just got back from Europe, and on the airplane from Heathrow to Dallas, an English pilot came out of the cockpit and he knelt down in the aisle next to me and grabbed my hand and said, "God bless you, Ted Nugent. It's an honor to have you on my flight. I wish we had some Ted Nugents in England, because our government has become a tyrannical, unjust force like the old days of the kings, where they can have guns, but we the people can't." And even in the clear-cut case of self-defense, the good guy goes to jail and the guy who broke into the house with a knife is given some kind of a reward. The anti-gunners, the Rahm Emanuels, the Barack Obamas, the Eric Holders — of course when he's not running guns to Mexican drug gangs — the anti-gun people think that only the military and law enforcement should have guns. I think we've seen that movie. It's called Schindler's List.

No one can deny your musical accomplishments, but do you think your strong political position and outspoken views about hunting tend to overshadow your status as a rock hero?

Oh, no question about it. But the beautiful thing about it is there are so many common-sense, logical, historically educated people that I'm still selling out concerts, and I'm going on 50-plus years of touring. I'm going to do my 6,500th concert this year. So yes, there is a line drawn in the sand, but I'm not on my side alone. I think I still have the majority on my side. I think the majority of people believe in capitalism, so you can earn as much as possible so you can help your neighbors who deserve the help. So if you give them help they won't buy crack with it, they'll buy nutrition for their children. So I've got a huge army of self-evident, truth-driven, dynamic, and revolutionary Americans on my side who I couldn't be more proud to stand with. Meanwhile, the people who hate me want to kill me because I eat a pheasant. Who would you rather have on your side?

Do you care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

I do because of Chuck Berry and James Brown and the Beatles and the Stones and the Yardbirds and all of the gods are there. Everybody knows I should be in there. Everybody who has any sense of decency and fairness and music knowledge knows I should be in there, maybe before Patti Smith, maybe before Grandmaster Flash, maybe before ABBA or Madonna. Are you f--king kidding me? Jann Wenner — the founder of Rolling Stone, which is also the founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — he's one of the biggest donators to ban guns. I'm on the board of directors of the NRA. My not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is as cut-and-dried obviously of a political move as anything you could ever point to. On a personal level, I could give a flying rat's ass. Because you know the real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? All those ticket-buyers and all those people that love my music and know that Grandmaster Flash wouldn't know rock 'n' roll if it went up his nose with his last crack snort.

How have you changed over the years since the Amboy Dukes?

Very little. I can play better and I'm better-educated because I absorb as much evidence and truth as I can every day. I've become even more outspoken because I was attacked in the 1960s when I would go to rock stations and hang out with rock 'n' roll people. They couldn't believe I wouldn't snort their cocaine. They wouldn't believe I wouldn't take a toke off their joint. When somebody asked John Sinclair, who was the manager of the MC5 — which is true to an extent because he managed to destroy them by trying to turn them into the White Panther movement — about what he thought of Ted Nugent, he gave me the greatest compliment in the world. This is a guy who's still struggling with personal hygiene and has taken more drugs than Timothy Leary's gang. His quote was, "Nugent was always an a--hole. How can you trust someone that doesn't get high" So let me get this right, John Sinclair? You'd trust your carpenter if he was high? How about your pilot? How about your accountant? That's the line drawn in the sand. If you really look at the profiles of your Michael Moores and your John Sinclairs and the PETA members of the human society of the United States, the animal rights freaks, they're just the scum of the earth, and if the scum of the earth likes you there must be a little scumminess to you that they relate to. And they don't relate to any of mine because I have no scumminess. They've got a lock on it. They hate me because I'm really, really good.