Thoughts on My Conversation with Mr. Nugent

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Would you want to talk to 'Uncle Ted'?

Would you want to talk to ‘Uncle Ted’?

(The following is a commentary on the interview with Ted Nugent, which can be found here.)

“There’s no way I would want to talk to Ted Nugent.”

That was the thought that first popped into my brain when the possibility of interviewing the notorious rocker came my way.

It arrived in the form of a press release promoting Nugent’s upcoming live CD/DVD release, Ultralive Ballisticrock, and my initial reaction was not only disinterest, but downright opposition to the idea.

After all, the notorious Motor City Madman is as well known as an outspoken proponent of hunting, no gun control, opposing the president … pretty much anything the far right espouses. I am a carnivore, true (and therefore a bit of a hypocrite), but I’m no fan of shooting defenseless critters.

So, yes, Mr. Nugent and I have some philosophical differences to say the least.

But after thinking further about interviewing “Uncle Ted”, I realized, yeah, I really did want to interview him.

My reasons for this quick change of heart? Well, why not? Love him or hate him, Nugent is a compelling rock and roll character, the subject of one of the most compelling episodes of “Behind the Music” ever, and his outspoken nature and gift of gab would all but ensure an interesting interview.

Beyond that, for purely business reasons, Nugent gets attention, and in the journalism business, we’re all about attracting eyeballs to our websites and magazines. Why throw a party if no one shows up? I was confident readers would come to this party, whatever side of the fence they were on.

Sure, I don’t share Nugent’s personal beliefs, but so what? Journalists don’t have to agree with the folks they’re writing about, or even like them. Telling the story is the only objective. And the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that Nugent’s was a story worth telling, and that it would be a good one.

I often post on Facebook and Twitter to promote the interviews I do with showbiz folks. It helps build interest and audience for the stories once they’re published online and in print. In this instance, I asked FB friends if they had any ideas for questions to ask Nugent. I wasn’t necessarily looking for questions, because I had plenty of ideas, but I thought this angle would at least stir up an interesting dialogue.

Did it ever!

Not surprisingly, the comments ranged from snarky-funny to downright nasty:

“Nothing I’d like to say to Ted Nugent would be suitable for an interview.”

“What does squirrel taste like?”

“What exactly is a ‘Wango Tango’? And if you get one, do you need to see a doctor to get rid of it?”

“So, Ted, exactly how *did* you dodge the draft?”

“How much recoil does it take to cause brain damage?”

One friend simply asked, “Why is he worth interviewing? What does he have to offer that is worthwhile?”

Good question. As I stated above, for a journalist, it’s all about presenting an interesting story. We don’t judge. And I was convinced, now more than ever, that Nugent would be an interesting interview. Because, as the 27 replies to my post proved, whatever else he is, Ted Nugent is a guy who is hard to ignore. If you love him, you’re going to want to read about him. If you hate him, you’re going to want to read about him so you can hate him more. But you’re not going to ignore him.

The pot vigorously stirred, I anticipated my interview with Nugent—how would it go? Would he chew me up and spit me out? Would it get nasty? Would I get good stuff out of him? (I wasn’t too concerned about the last item—I figured once he got rolling, we’d get some gems.)

The experience began pleasantly enough, with a polite phone call from Nugent’s office. When the Caller ID read “TED NUGENT ADVERTISING”, I thought perhaps that was the man himself, but no, it was an assistant calling to give me a heads-up that the boss would be calling in a minute.

“You know that Ted talks pretty fast, so I hope you’re recording the call or something like that,” she said.

“I got it covered,” I said. I always record my interviews, as much to ensure accurate transcribing as to save a cool audio archive of these calls.

A minute later, the phone rang again—this time, it was The Nuge himself on the line. And away we went!

Sorry to disappoint his haters, but Nugent was hardly the monster some paint him to be. He actually was a very nice, polite, genial guy who was a pleasure to talk to.

Throughout our conversation, he did something very few celebrities I’ve interviewed have done: He addressed me by name. Frequently. Check out the interview—I left in all of the instances he used my first name. Such a little thing, and perhaps the result of well-honed media skills—but still, a courtesy that was very appreciated. It felt like he was actually enjoying the interview and showing respect to the journalist conducting it.

I do think Nugent appreciated that I focused mainly on his music, which was the reason we were speaking. I typically try to focus on the new release/product the interviewee is promoting—that’s why they’re there, after all—before going off into other topics. And if you read the interview, you’ll see that Nugent is as passionate about his guitar tone and onstage sound and band mates and songwriting and recording process—all of the things that made him a star—as he is about shooting hogs from a helicopter (yes, he covered that too).

Whatever else he is, Ted Nugent is engaged—in his music, in his lifestyle, in what he does. He’s into it. He’s living his life the way he wants to, with no compromises and certainly not bowing to popular opinion. You have to admire a person who is so self-realized, whatever you think of his viewpoints or colorful hobbies.

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