Tom Morello defends friendship with Ted Nugent: "I reserve the right to be friends with anybody"

Tom Morello and politics go hand-in-hand, indeed, the Rage Against The Machine guitarist is famously a Harvard graduate in political science, and RATM/Morello's music is largely centred around left-wing political views, activism and social justice. Which is why some people may find it curious that Tom Morello is friends with right-wing rocker, Ted Nugent.

In a new interview with NME, Morello has addressed his friendship with Ted, stating "I reserve the right to be friends with anybody." Morello continues, “I reserve the right to confront opinions I disagree with, with open heartedness and love, or by throwing a brick. That’s up to me.

“In the case of Ted, I know he’s become this right-wing caricature but there have been several times where I have reached him on issues that you might be surprised about. But he is still crazy uncle Ted who says all sorts of shit.”

This isn't the first time Morello has answered questions about his friendship with Uncle Ted, even defending misdirected criticism from one Twitter user that his "white privilege is showing" by needing to point out that he is not, in fact, white.

Explaining his friendship with Nugent to Howard Stern earlier this year, Morello said, “For his 60th birthday, someone reached out to me and said, ‘We’re making a video, and we’re asking guitar players [to contribute]. 

“At the time, the Ted Nugent which was sort of known in the world in general was this kind of more right-wing caricature – people were not thinking of him, first and foremost, as the guy who shredded on ‘Stranglehold’.

“But then I had to think, ‘What is the video that I’m going to make for Ted’s birthday?’ And I put some thought into it, and I said, ‘It’s gonna be about two things. One, it’s gonna be things that Tom Morello and Ted Nugent have in common,’ and I went down this long list of [things like] free-speech advocates, our love of rock and roll, our respect for black artists who created rock and roll…

"And then the second was things that Ted Nugent taught an adolescent Tom Morello about sex. And then I went through ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ — these strange words, like the lyrics to the song ‘Cat Scratch Fever’, the lyrics to the song ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’, which were utterly foreign to me, and I had to ask about on the playground…

"Anyway, so Ted called me up after that. While we certainly have differences, I consider him a friend."

Meanwhile, Tom Morello has been busy of late, releasing The Atlas Underground Fire, and revealing that reading an interview with Kanye West inspired him to record the guitar parts for his new album on his phone. Morello also recently guested in the video for The Children Will Rise Up - the song he co-wrote with his son Roman and Nandi Bushell. 

Tom Morello, The Atlas Underground Fire is out now.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.