"Terrible Ted Rates the Players: If there's one thing Ted Nugent likes more than playing guitar, it's talking. Just listen to this ..."
Enjoy this Ted Nugent interview from the March 1987 issue of Guitar World, which featured Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan on the cover.To see the Vai/Sheehan cover—and all the GW covers from 1987—head here.
Ted Nugent is the first to admit that his career has had its ups and downs since the turn of the decade, which he attributes to poor management and overexposure. So the Nuge started to manage himself and switched record labels and booking agencies to get his career back on track.
And while he was recording his most recent album, Little Miss Dangerous, he got a call from Bill Conti to work on the sci-fi movie Nomads starring Pierce Brosnan, Lesley Ann Downe and Adam Ant. Nugent is obviously more animated than the movie, which never caught on with the public—the soundtrack album was never released.
"The feedback, the dive bombers, the explosions, the rhythms, the aggressions—all the good things," he enthuses. "It elevated me, inflated my feedback—it was my typical bombastic approach. Conti boosted me. He has the computer mayhem. My inherent gut-level elements of 10 years of rock 'n' roll is on the score—the aggressive, the audacity, the sonic warfare elements." The Motor City Madman has put his Les Paul Fusion, Gibson Byrdland and ’59 Les Pauls to rest and is now exclusively using Paul Reed Smith Wonder guitars he helped design—he even provided the maple from his Michigan property.
"The instrument is magic," he says with a smile. "It sounds like a Black & Decker guitar. It has one of the finest tremolo systems in the world. I contoured the back to fit my body. It has a trim neck with width and depth and tall aggressive frets. It's a special guitar in the feel, touch, sound, dynamics and sonic dimensions." Nugent plugs into Marshalls "With everything except volume at about a half up."
He also has Fender amps with Celestion bottoms and JBL speakers, and a Sunn Penetrator amp (not marketed yet). He uses a stereo chorus and a little DDL for effects. Nugent also plays Guild and Fender basses. Nugent lists James Brown and Wayne Cochran as his biggest influences for their groove, while also mentioning Lonnie Mack, Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, the Kinks (actually Jimmy Page's solos), the Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix, Sun Ra and John Coltrane as influences.
"The caliber of guitar playing today," he says as a preface to the rating of the ax players, "is beyond scope. People accept an earth-shattering guitar solo as a good guitar solo. When Neal Schon does a solo at the end of a Journey song, it's acknowledged as a nice bridge when, in fact, he has come close to reversing the axis of the earth in doing such a brilliant guitar solo."
JIMI HENDRIX: "A master craftsman, a pilot of an emotional roller coaster who came the closest to anyone in the history of the guitar to master the unlimited dimensions of the tonal and lyrical capabilities of the instrument. "
ERIC CLAPTON: "The definitive reorganizational white blues guitarist."
MIKE BLOOMFIELD: "One of my biggest influences—an early assertive tone-conscious white adaptation to the blues masters with a very excitable and flamboyant flair for rhythm and blues-based rock 'n' roll"
EDDIE VAN HALEN: "A contemporary leader of the pack with as much impact as any individual guitar player who ever lived—an innovator when innovation seemed to be attacked, an inspiration to every guitar player who wants to take the lyrical interpretation of the instrument beyond its confines."
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN: "A sensational technician—an innovative adapter of classical Baroque into a rock 'n' roll contemporary flash."
GARY MOORE: "A deceptively underrated guitarist, who has the widest range and repertoire of styles that I would like to hear more of. He’s a sensational guitar player."
CARLOS CAVAZO: "An interesting, exciting guitarist who has some unique statements on the instrument which we don't hear from other people."
DAVE MENIKETTI: "A real traditionalist who has a lot of fire in his playing."
VIVIAN CAMPBELL: "He's a bit better than I thought; he was in a band that opened for me in Europe in 1977 when I did not think much of him. His recent work with Dio was upper-caliber stuff"
ANGUS YOUNG: "If you can separate the energy from the guitar, his guitar playing is one of the most exciting and well constructed for his genre of any of the rock 'n' roll guitarists."
STEVE STEVENS: "A real exciting player."
MICHAEL SCHENKER: "A very lyrical, expressive player."
BRAD GILLIS: "A very exciting player who has drawn from all the obvious influences and orchestrated his playing very well."
RUDOLPH SCHENKER/MATTHIAS JABS: "Exciting guitar players—it’s amazing that Germans can apply the American influences as well as they can."
RITCHIE BLACKMORE: "One of the originals who created his own style and nurtured it and maintained it through all these years and progressed with his style."
FERNANDO VON ARB: "A good player."
SAMMY HAGAR: "He has soul, plays a lot of traditional licks and hasn't gone the techno-extreme route. He plays a real palatable guitar style."
RONNIE MONTROSE: "One of the all-time greats who famously faded out of the scene and denied us the great pleasure of his guitar playing. I'd like to kick his ass so Ronnie would start eating some meat and come back and play like he means it."
BILLY GIBBONS: "My favorite guitar player in the whole world. He's got more soul than any black guitarist I've ever heard; he's got the definitive lyrical style. The great majority of his licks are real traditional, but he does them with such a style that they just drip—the quintessential stylist."
NEAL SCHON: "A brilliant guitarist—the best of rock 'n' roll, jazz, blues and an unknown original stylist. He's underrated; he's one of the most dexterous, fluid players around today. He accelerates Journey's music to the maximum every time. His best work is with Journey."
JAKE E. LEE: "He’s very good, but a real standard player."
DUANE ALLMAN: "One of the greatest white blues players of all time. He made statements with his slide and statements with his tone. He was very lyrical"
PETE TOWNSHEND: "The ultimate rhythm guitarist. Every time he goes for a lead, I cringe, but every time he hits a chord, I refocus. He invented the power chords."
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN: "A great traditionalist with a flow for revitalizing blues and r&b. I love his style, but I don't see the correlation between him and Jimi Hendrix that everybody tries to make."
BRUCE KULICK (KISS): He plays a great guitar; he's fast, controlled and real expressive. "
ACE FREHLEY: "He was always so stoned that I couldn't decipher a lot of his playing, but the nights he shined, he shined fantastically.”
KEITH RICHARDS:' "The all-time slop master—the most grunting, groaning soulful blues-oriented guitarist who ever lived. He plays Chuck Berry music so much like Chuck Berry that he should get a Nobel Peace Prize. Keith is probably the single most influential guitarist I've ever heard."
JOHNNY WINTER: "The blues renaissance man of the seventies. I never cared for his shrilled tones, which are a bit too transparent for me, but he's technically proficient."
LESLIE WEST: "A great underrated guitarist who took the Clapton influence to its definitive end. The master of tone, the master of impact of a given note and an innovator of tones and feedback."
AL Di MEOLA: "An outrageous guitarist who has taken everything from Wes Montgomery to Eddie Van Halen and juxtaposed it all into a slew of styles which is difficult for me to translate but is nonetheless a competent and exciting player."
RICK NIELSEN: "The most fun guitarist in America. Very underrated, and he's got a great sensibility."
B.B. KING: "A spokesman for a generation of blues creationists who established the electric guitar for all of us to feed off. We owe him our heritage."
MICK JONES (FOREIGNER): "The 'Hot Blooded' guitar solo is the nastiest, most emotive guitar solo of all time. He is not really technically proficient but on occasion shows great sensibility in his playing."
MARK KNOPFLER: "He's wonderful—the only guy that dabbles in country that I can listen to."
KEITH SCOTT (BRYAN ADAMS): "A real stabber who plays a real simple, fluid style which is real pertinent to the compositions—well-constructed guitar work."
JIMMY McCARTY (DETROIT WHEELS): "One of my biggest influences. He inspired me to get my Gibson Byrdland in 1962. He 's got a blues band in Detroit and cranks."
DICK WAGNER: "Great guitarist who plays all the traditional Chuck Berry rhythm and blues styles in an exciting, emotional approach, always effective."
STEVE HUNTER: "From the same school—went to town and electrocuted the Chuck Berry style, very influential in music."
TOMMY BOLIN: "I have problems with guys like Tommy, who was a great player but was so badly stoned most of the time that his playing was divertly diffused—a mere shadow of his potential."
DAVE DiMATO (TED NUGENT's band): " I discovered him in a club in Los Angeles where he was playing the best of the traditional Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and more. He has an electric style."
TED NUGENT: "An uninhibited, Chuck Berry devotee but experimented with and broke a lot of ground on feedback techniques and solid variations in tonal and dissonant utilizations. I'm one of the best guitarists in the world, and I play with great emotion."