‘We Just Captured the Beast': Ted Nugent’s Track by Track Guide to ‘The Music Made Me Do It’
Fresh off both the release of his 15th solo studio album, The Music Made Me Do It, and a successful morning buck hunt, Ted Nugent called to offer us a track-by-track tour of the record.
Nugent says The Music Made Me Do It's new songs were completed in just five days. Clearly, he wasn't lacking for inspiration. "I play my guitar every day. I wrote a song this morning. Well, I don't know if I wrote it, but somebody did, divine inspiration. The same way the founding fathers wrote the Constitution is how I make music. God looked down at me, laughed hysterically and went, 'Try this, motherfucker!'"
He's quick to heap praise on his musical partners, including drummer Jason Hartless, bassist Greg Smith and producer Michael Lutz. "I've always had really dedicated music-loving maniac musicians at my side, throughout my life. This year is intense and more so than ever. So when I create, I just channel and unleash these licks and they form syllables and statements that I believe in, everything from sincerity to 'Wango Tango' - which was the most sincere song of my life, by the way. We got together and I showed the guys the songs and basically in unison, almost like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they all went 'FUCK!' I mean, these are great songs, let's do this.'"
It didn't take long from there. "We got in the studio, and I showed the guys the licks in my stream of consciousness, out-of-body arrangements, that I think James Brown, Wilson Pickett and maybe Sun Ra would appreciate. They had a life of their own. We got in and I swear to God, five days later, the album was done. We recorded all the basics and all the overdubs and all the vocals. We caught it all on the ultimate original analog gear, the Neve boards and my old Fender amps, and we just captured the beast. The beast was still snarling and saliva was still hitting us upside the face. One of the guys said, 'You know if the 25-year-old Ted Nugent showed up, you'd kick his ass!'"
Here are Nugent's comments on each of The Music Made Me Do It's ten tracks.
"The Music Made Me Do It"
"What else could you call this record except for The Music Made Me Do It, because that's the battle cry for everybody I know. Not only because it is the most soulful, uppity, energetic, defiant soundtrack to the American Dream, but because it is needed and celebrated now more than ever to counter punch the pathetic soulless pop drivel running amok out there!"
"Where Ya Gonna Run to Get Away From Yourself"
The album's second song features both its sharpest riff and most pointed lyric, as Nugent warns listeners not to "stand in line for the government lobotomy." "How wonderful is it to come up with a guitar riff that actually syllablizes, 'Where the hell are you gonna run to get away from yourself?' What a wonderful little statement question that is... and it actually has a riff to go with it."
"Cocked, Locked & Ready to Rock"
"That song certainly has been coming out of me for a while now. Every time I tune my guitar, something like that happens. We captured the beast. Oh, you can't constrain the beast. The beast will not be tamed. I love my music, I love my guitar, I love my amps, I love my Lewis-and-Clark-meets-Sacagawea tonal exploratory outrage. When I've got the greatest funkmasters at my side, like Greg and Jason... honestly are you kidding me, 2018?"
"'BigFunDirty' was coming out of my guitar for the last couple of years," Nugent says of the song's origins, before once again paying major props to Smith and Hartless for their contributions to both this album and his most recent summer tour. "Best tour of my life. The intensity, Greg and Jason ... Dear God, they're animals. They just put so much heart and fire and soul into every lick, every song every night, every gig. It's just unbelievable how much this band has progressed and morphed without losing that uninhibited, youthful piss and vinegar factor. I'm a lucky son of a bitch, no doubt about it."
"I Love You Too Much Baby"
"That's such a throwback, a classic old rhythm and blues lick and song. It's almost like the first time you've heard it, you've already heard it before." The track finds Nugent joined by singer Alyssa Simmons. "She is like Mahalia Jackson meets the greatest soul singer of all times, what a sexy, soulful gal she is. (Producer) Michael (Lutz) said, 'You know what, I got a girl in Detroit that would just kill this lead vocal with you.' She's gorgeous, she's soulful, she reeks of music and I just couldn't be more proud of what she's did."
An entirely faithful musical recreation of Nugent's 1977 anthem "Cat Scratch Fever," but with completely different, hunt-focused lyrics. "'Backstrap Fever.' Why not? You know we've been singing that version around the campfire for years." And exactly what cut of meat is he talking about? "What they call the tenderloins, which is a misnomer. The tenderloins are actually in the loins, which are two tubular steaks within the interior of the carcass. Whereas what they call tenderloins is actually the back strap, which would be the top of the filet. those are sacred chunks of meat, and they're the most delicious flesh on the planet." Watch out, this could become a trilogy: "I went to a trapping convention once and I sang it as "Can't Trap Beaver," Nugent admits.
"I Just Wanna Go Huntin"
This track was originally found on Nugent's outdoor-themed 2004 compilation Hunt Music, and if you're looking for hidden lyrical meanings, search elsewhere. "Life inspires me, freedom inspires me. Mrs. Nugent inspires me. My dogs inspire me. Campfires inspire me. The woods inspire me. Critters inspire me. Storms inspire me. Life inspires me. I get high on air! Killer music erupts from my Gibson Byrdland on a daily basis, and grinding grooves and exciting guitar patterns have a life of their own. I love making guitar music more today than ever in my 60-plus years of jamming."
"Fred Bear (Acoustic)"
Nugent again reaches into the past, with an acoustic version of his tribute to bow-hunting pioneer Fred Bear - which originally appeared on the 1995 album Spirit of the Wild. "That song has been the No. 1 request every fucking year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania," he declares. "So I'm really proud of that. The number of times that 'Fred Bear' has been played at the return of flag-draped coffins for the military heroes by their families, family reunions, Bar Mitzvahs, anniversaries, graduations, a lot of funerals - that song has such a legacy of bringing families back together. Feuding families. Two brothers hadn't spoken to each other in over 20 years, one was in Ohio, one was in the upper peninsula of Michigan. They both heard 'Fred Bear' for the first time the same day. They hadn't spoke since their dad had died. They were raised to go hunting opening day of deer season, and they hadn't done it since their dad died. They both called each other on the spot, and they got back together and they haven't missed an opening day since. I hear these stories all the time."
"Sunrize (band)" / "Sunrize (Fender Bass VI solo)"
A two-song instrumental suite that also dates back to Hunt Music, with the longer version finding Nugent putting aside his guitar in favor of a bass solo. "That was a take-one creation. Whenever I pick up an instrument, things happen. Michael Lutz and I were experimenting with a new recording device, what was that... 1990? 1991? Anyway, I have this killer Fender Bass VI. A classic old six-string bass, that doesn't really have bass strings, but they're bigger than guitar strings, and the low E is like a bass string. I believe Jack Bruce played one for a while with Cream, and I think Joe Perry played one on 'Back in the Saddle." I sat down and started that, Michael was recording, and three minutes later he said, 'What was that?' I said, 'I don't know but it's cool as hell!' And then I double-tracked it and played it the same way twice. So it was on a little diddy I had called Hunt Music, but I've been so bombarded by people who love it when they go camping and hunting, that I needed to include it. It's such an emoting of what a sunrise is, especially for those of us who hunt and fish. We've been part of all these life-awakening sunrises, beyond the pavement in the great outdoors, in the healing powers of nature. I think I channeled those experiences and those sensations of a lifetime in the mountains, in the forests and in the swamps. It is the audio version of special sunrises with special people and special places. And because the lick is so melodic, we've been playing it onstage in the middle of other songs for years. It really is melodic and it moves, it's orchestrated emotionally, with great crescendos."
Watch Ted Nugent Perform "The Music Made Me Do It"