By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Since his return to the Ted Nugent band in 2011, legendary vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes has been one happy and reinvigorated musician. St. Holmes was an integral part of Ted Nugent’s success, especially on Nugent’s 1975, self-titled debut album. On that ground breaking release, St. Holmes was responsible for singing 8 of the 9 songs, including the classic rock anthems: “Stranglehold,” “Stormtroppin’,” “Hey Baby”, and “Snakeskin Cowboy.”
Die-hard fans of Nugent are now thrilled to see the dangerous duo of Nugent/St. Holmes back and rockin’ the stage together. Currently, the Ted Nugent band, which also consists of all-star bassist Greg Smith and former Dokken drummer Mick Brown, are part of classic rock package that features Styx and REO Speedwagon. After this tour, the band will round out the summer by playing a month plus of headlining shows in late July and August. In addition, there is also talk of a new Nugent record, the first to include St. Holmes in over 18 years.
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with one of the most recognized voices in classic rock, Derek St. Holmes. During this interview, St. Holmes discusses his return to the Ted Nugent band, his future recording plans and also his past collaborations with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and Michael Schenker, plus much more.
RockMusicStar: Derek, the last time we spoke was about two years ago and you had just returned to the Ted Nugent band, after a fifteen year absence. Since then, you have two full spring/summer tours under your belt and are currently on your third one. How has your return to the Ted Nugent band been so far, and has it lived up to your expectations?
Derek St. Holmes: Yes, being back has been great. Ted is the sweetest that he could possibly be. He and I are best of buddies. We are having a really good time, and having a real good time being on the road with Styx and REO Speedwagon, again. This is the first time, that REO and Styx brought back a third act. And we are pretty proud of that.
RMS: Yes, you toured with them last year. How is the tour doing this time around?
DSH: The audience has been great and that’s the same as last year. We go first, and that’s at 7pm and a lot of the crowd is already there. But with so many bands being out on tours, some of the attendance numbers are down in some cities, but some are up in other cities. It seems like every act in the world is on tour right now. And people only have so much money. If Carrie Underwood comes to town, and your kids want to see her, you’re going to spend your money on that show and not on the Styx, REO, Nugent show. It’s just the way it is.
RMS: Well, screw that, I taking my kid to see Styx, REO and the Nuge, before I go to Carrie Underwood.
DSH: (laughs) Well, I’m happy to hear that.
RMS: For most of the shows on this tour, you are going on first and playing only 9 songs. Because of your position on the bill, does that motivate the band to kick the intensity up a few notches, and set the tone for the rest of the show?
DSH: Very good question and the answer is, yes, absolutely! It’s really easy for us to go out there and wham-bam them with only having to play 55 minutes. We are getting really spoiled by it. But we have a few headlining dates coming up. And we will have to play longer. And that’s fun, but it’s a little harder. But all the bands on this bill are playing great with a lot of intensity.
RMS: If I was in a band, I certainly wouldn’t want to go on after Ted Nugent.
DSH: (laughs) Well, God bless Styx and REO Speedwagon. They are really on their A-game. During the 70’s, I don’t think that I would have gone out and watched bands that were on after us. But now I totally enjoy going out, sitting there and watching them perform. They are all incredible musicians, and you’re not going to see that from very many bands, especially the newer bands. But we are all very thankful to be out here and making this happen. It really is great.
RMS: I honestly don’t think that Ted Nugent and band have ever sounded better. I hear this from many Nugent fans.
DSH: Thank you. It’s really a pride factor. When I was growing up, you had to be as good as Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix and you had to keep that up. Nowadays, it’s interesting watching some of these up-and-coming bands. First of all, there are a lot more bands now than when we started, or at least it seems that way. And it took a while to rise up the ranks.
RMS: Last year on this tour, your drummer Mick Brown had a bit of a Spinal Tap moment when he got arrested for driving a golf cart while intoxicated. Were you involved in this incident in any way and how did Ted react to this situation?
DSH: (laughs) No, I wasn’t involved in any way with the golf cart caper. It’s funny because Mick doesn’t do anything like that anymore. Sometimes you just have to screw up to learn. The second night of this tour, when Mick came off the stage, there were a lot of police at the bottom of the stage ramp. And they grabbed ahold of him and put him in a golf cart and cuffed him to the steering wheel. For a split second, Mick thought he was going to jail. The whole crew had hired fake police, it was hilarious. He got a rude awakening.
RMS: How did Ted react when the incident happened last year? I’m betting that he was at least a little bit upset.
DSH: He was disappointed. He said that it would be best if something like that never happened again, because somebody could have gotten hurt. He brought us all into a room and I’ve been in these meetings with Ted many times in my career with him, because I used to be the wild one in the band. So, he explained that you don’t want to hurt anyone, yourself or the tour. He then said, from here on in, everyone needs to look after each other and keep everyone in check. And don’t allow anything like this to slow us down ever again. And that was it. But if this would have happened back in the days when I was there before, he would have fired you, right there on the spot. He would have found somebody else; that’s how he used to be.
RMS: So, Ted has mellowed over the years.
DSH: He has grown up. He is used to dealing with problems like that, because he has so many children. But, he is very patient and kind now. He is still very intense on stage, but off the stage he’s a kinder and gentler Ted Nugent. Just like we all are, it’s a lot different when you’re in your 60s and loving life.
RMS: How would you compare this current line-up of the band to the original Ted Nugent band?
DSH: I would say that it is 99.9% as good as the band we had in the 70s. This current band has never recorded together. But I’m hoping that we can record with this line-up and translate the power that we have live, to the recording.
Ted’s management has already said that I will be involved in any future recordings. And I’m looking forward to it. And it’s exciting to think about what it is going to sound like, especially with Ted being 64, and with me being 60. But we probably won’t start recording until later in the fall or next January. Ted has been walking around the dressing room with his guitar and his amp on, and he’s coming up with all of these great licks.
RMS: I can’t wait to hear the new material. Now, after you left the Ted Nugent band for the first time in 1978, you formed the band, St. Paradise with your Nugent bandmate, Rob Grange (bass) and Denny Carmassi (drums) from Montrose. That band open for Van Halen in 1979. What was that tour like?
DSH: Yes, we did an entire tour of Europe with them. It was fun. They were high a lot, especially Eddie. He liked to drink back then. We really didn’t hang out that much, but we should have. The thing that I love about nowadays, is that everybody hangs out together, because we finally learned that we are a different tribe ourselves. It’s fun to be with a bunch of other people that are just like you are. Back then it was very much a separated camp. But, back to the question, St. Paradise was really a powerhouse and we were on top of our game, just as they were. But they were getting a little more juiced up. There were a couple times when they would go up to the top roof of the hotel in different cities in Europe and get buzzed up there. Denny and I would look up at them and say “no thanks.” The last thing that we want to do is get busted in Munich, Germany, let’s go this way.” But it was all good; they were risky little kids, but it all worked out. We had a good response on that tour, which was a lot of theaters. I still have one of the concert posters from that tour in my house.
RMS: At the time, Van Halen fans had a reputation of booing the opening bands off the stage.
DSH: No, we went over very well. We were a powerhouse rock and roll band. But, it went down really well. Everyone liked us. We were just as intense as Van Halen, but going in a different direction. I even remember Eddie coming up to me one night and saying that we were too loud. I couldn’t believe that he was saying that to me. He had 15 Marshall’s up there. (laughs) But, I was using Hi-Watt amps and they could rip your head right off. But he was right; we were super loud, but so were they. But those were really good times.
RMS: After St. Paradise, you formed a band and recorded an album with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith – the project was called Whitford/St. Holmes. Have you ever considered or discussed doing another record with Brad Whitford?
DSH: Absolutely! Brad recently moved to Nashville, he now lives about 15 miles from me. So, now we meet for coffee in the morning. And it’s really cool. We talk about doing another record all of the time. And over the last few months, we have written some songs, and six of them are ready to record. But the only problem now is that we are both on tour for a while. But we keep texting back and forth and when we get back home, we will do more writing. We also want to get a band together, which will be easy because so many quality musicians live in that area.
RMS: That’s great! You are really a very busy man, and it seems that moving to Nashville has reinvigorated you.
DSH: Yes, it has reinvigorated me. That’s one of the reasons that I moved to Nashville, it’s a really musical community. The first day that I moved there, I saw Robert Plant in a restaurant, right around the neighborhood that I live in. I also saw Stevie Winwood working out of the rehearsal place that I go to; he’s one of my favorite musicians of all time. The guys form Night Ranger live there; Kip Winger lives there. The list is incredible.
RMS: You were also in the Michael Schenker band for a brief time during the early 80’s. What was that experience like?
DSH: That was incredible and a lot of fun. Michael is intense and an incredible player. He knows what he wants. The band at the time was really good. It was also fun living in England and recording and touring there. But at the time, I was married and just had a child. I went over to England for an audition, and I got the job and never came home. So that was really stressful to start with. So I was trying to balance that with the rigors of touring, plus putting the songs together with Michael. Everyone at the time was going through a lot of family stuff. Michael was just about to get married; it was all crazy. And we were only 30 years old, so there was also a lot of alcohol and drugs being used. I was trying to get away from all that stuff at the time. But it was running rampant.
After one of the tours, I gave my two weeks notice. As much as I was enjoying it, I wasn’t enjoying it. And that was it. Michael’s brother, Rudolf Schenker tried talking me out of it, telling me I was the best second guitarist that Michael ever had in his band. But now it’s kind of funny because when I see Michael he walks by me like he doesn’t even know me. I don’t know why; maybe he’s still angry. But it really would have been difficult to keep that train on the tracks. I think Michael is an incredible player and I do like him, but he is a quirky dude.
RMS: Maybe it could have worked if you just had a little break to go back to your family.
DSH: Well, that the thing with all these bands, no one want to give you a break, it’s work, work, work until everyone is exhausted and wants to quit. If we could have just had a little two-week break in between, we could have still been together. But who knows?
Ted and I even speak about our past together, trying to figure out why we couldn’t keep it together, and it was because we worked way too much, all of the time. If we just could have had a maybe a year off, we would have probably still been together. But the money-hungry managers don’t want to slow it down, and that sometimes breaks it up. But that’s not going to happen this time.
Special thanks to Linda Peterson for setting up this interview. And Nelissa Thibado for her assistance.
For more on Ted Nugent, please visit www.tednugent.com