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At the conclusion of This
Is Spinal Tap, director Marty DiBergi's warts-and-all
(or, as David St. Hubbins puts it, "all warts") documentary
of the metal pioneers' 1982 American tour, the band's future
couldn't have looked brighter. But true to the up-and-down nature
of Spinal Tap's legendary career, the band proceeded to do the
only thing that could derail certain success: they disbanded
to concentrate on solo projects most of which either failed
miserably or were never fully realized. Lead guitarist Tufnel's
much-anticipated trilogy, Clam Caravan (which includes
the neoclassical "Lick My Love Pump") remains "under
construction"; St. Hubbins's "Saucy Jack,"
a musical based on the life of Jack The Ripper, opened and
closed in London in record time; and bassist Derek Smalls played
the North England pub circuit in various Tap copy bands.
But after an almost eight-year
hiatus (during which Tufnel was mysteriously conscripted into
the Swiss Army and St. Hubbins and longtime girlfriend/interim
manager Jeanine Pettibone settled down in Pomona, California),
Tap is back, reaching new levels of volume and stretching the
boundaries of hard rock indeed, of art in general
with Break Like the Wind. Featuring guest appearances
by Joe Satriani, Slash, Cher, Nigel-lookalike Jeff Beck, Dweezil
Zappa and Steve Lukather (who co-produced the album with Dave
Jerden and Danny Kortchmar), BLTW proves once again that,
temptation notwithstanding, you can't underestimate the triumvirate
of Smalls, Tufnel and St. Hubbins. In addition to Smalls's debut
as lead vocalist ("Cash On Delivery") and a Tufnel
guitar-scatting solo that would make George Benson blush ("Spring
Time"), the album contains "Rainy Day Sun," the
flipside of 1967's "Listen To The Flower People," and
"All The Way Home," a pre-Tap demo featuring Nigel
and David in their Squatney skiffle days, circa 1961.
"We may be gods,"
sings David St. Hubbins on "The Sun Never Sweats."
"Or just big marionettes." There is perhaps no better
summation of Spinal Tap's lofty position in the pantheon of rock
GUITAR WORLD: Where's Ian Faith,
NIGEL TUFNEL: Yes, Ian died.
GW: How did he die?
DAVID ST. HUBBINS: Who cares?
TUFNEL: You get news like that
and you go, "I'm not even going to ask how."
ST. HUBBINS: He was always prone
I apoplexy, because he had very thin English skin and very thick
TUFNEL: He was prone to apoplexy
and ... what do they call it? Embezzlement.
DEREK SMALLS: He took everything
personally including our royalties.
TUFNEL: From what we hear, even
his mum didn't go to the funeral. She said, "Go bugger off!
I've better things to do."
SMALLS: We have a custom label,
a subsidiary of MCA, named in tribute to him
ST. HUBBINS: but mainly
because it's a great name.
SMALLS: It's called Dead Faith
ST. HUBBINS: Dead Faith Records,
Tapes & CDs
SMALLS: And Any Other Form Of Recorded
Entertainment There May Be In The Known Universe. That's the
GW: Would you characterize the
new album, Break Like The Wind, as a reunion? A comeback?
Or something else?
ST. HUBBINS: It's both, really.
We reuned and we came back.
SMALLS: It's a reassertion. A reinsertion,
ST. HUBBINS: I was happy where
I was, producing local groups in Pomona and teaching soccer for
the Parks Department. I was really living the life of Riley.
I passed my 40th birthday and said, "Well, maybe this is
it." As long as I could go out to the Rainbow every Friday
or Saturday to see some of the old blokes and recharge my UK
batteries, then spend the rest of the week just being a suburbanite,
I was perfectly happy. I thought I had rock and roll out of me
blood. But one day we all had some legal things to talk about
on the phone, and we said, "Let's get together and jam a
bit." We did it and it was great.
GW: What did you think of This
is Spinal Tap when you saw the finished product?
TUFNEL: We were betrayed, basically.
SMALLS: Call the butcher's union,
I said. Marty DiBergi? Try the butcher's union.
ST. HUBBINS: Because we really
came off I don't know if you picked up on this
as sort of second-rate. A great big joke. As if we were at odds
with our art, which couldn't be further from the truth.
TUFNEL: [to David] You put
it best: Somebody who'd seen that movie would never dream that
we were a smooth act.
SMALLS: [nodding] The pod
TUFNEL: Exactly. Every night, that
pod opens and Derek gets out. The night they're filming, there's
a jam-up. So people who see it go, "They're stupid."
ST. HUBBINS: Now, if we'd turned
the cameras on Martin DiBergi, and caught him slipping out of
a hotel room with some 14-year-old girl I'm not saying
this happened but if the camera had caught him doing that,
if it had been in our hands, we would have at least had the decency
to come to him and say, "Look, we've got this on film"
TUFNEL: "How much money
ST. HUBBINS: Exactly. "What
will it take for us to take it out?" We would have made
those choices on firm moral grounds. As it happens, we were just
GW: Yet for all that the film doesn't
always show you in a good light, you're more popular now than
ever. Not many acts could make that claim particularly
after an eight-year hiatus.
ST. HUBBINS: Well, they miss us,
you know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Always leave them
wanting more. Half a loaf is better than none.
SMALLS: See, it's the flipside
of what happened when we were active: we tended to become less
popular. A karmic turn of the wheel, there.
GW: After Mick Shrimpton exploded,
the movie shows the gig in Japan with Joe "Mama" Besser
on drums. What happened to him?
ST. HUBBINS: We assume he's dead.
SMALLS: He was not a well man.
He had a jazz background.
ST. HUBBINS: We assume he either
returned to the world of jazz or he died.
TUFNEL: Which is really a toss-up.
GW: Last year's auditions for a
new drummer were pretty competitive with Mick Fleetwood
and Debbi Peterson, among others, contesting. Who did you eventually
ST. HUBBINS: Well, we saw some
great people some who we're definitely going to use when
we play our big gig in L.A., or perhaps in a video. But it seems
like the wheel of fortune has stopped, and landed on the younger
twin brother of Mick Shrimpton, Richard Shrimpton.
TUFNEL: He was always in Mick's
shadow, but, ironically, a better drummer more chops. But he
dropped out and worked in a shop where they sell used stamps.
People come in and say, "Give me two Ivory Coasts and a
San Marino." Again, it's the karmic wheel turning around
and stopping. He's in good health, which, of course, is a major
plus for us.
GW: What about Viv Savage, the
ST HUBBINS: He's dead. Sadly, he
TUFNEL: He went to visit Mick's
grave, up in Hampstead, and the grave exploded.
SMALLS: It was like swamp gas.
TUFNEL: Scientific people have
an explanation for that sort of thing. When dead matter is under
the ground for any length of time
ST. HUBBINS: Gaseous build-up.
It's methane, and also what you find in beans, that kind of nitrogenous
TUFNEL: An organic explosion. Tragic,
really. It's unfair, in a sense, that Mick died twice.
SMALLS: The irony is that we found
out later that Viv had originally been a drummer.
TUFNEL: He gave it up as a teenager
to play keyboards, as best he could.
SMALLS: If we'd known that, we'd
never have hired him.
GW: I've never heard of this happening
to other bands.
SMALLS: Oh, and what of the Grateful
Dead and keyboard players? Imagine if
they'd hired Viv Savage.
TUFNEL: It just seems more focused
in our case. I mean, look at all the actors that have died. John
Wayne died, Clark Gable died.
ST. HUBBINS: [to Nigel] They
were over the hill; I don't think that's a great example.
SMALLS: Race car drivers, perhaps.
GW: More than any group, Spinal
Tap has either followed, anticipated or paralleled almost the
entire history of British rock. from skiffle to heavy metal.
TUFNEL: Sort of a living time line.
ST. HUBBINS: Of course, there are
a few missing chapters in there, too. We recorded but did not
release a dance album during the disco era; we never went punk;
we never went new wave. We experimented with r&b, but only
as filler for our live act.
SMALLS: Britain is very fashion-oriented.
A lot of its musical styles are like bits of clothing you put
on and take off. You know: "This looks good." "No,
ST. HUBBINS: We've never been like
that. We're sort of like Gibraltar. We're always there, obscuring
most of the view. Especially when you get up close to us
have you noticed that? The closer you get to us, the more the
view is obscured.
GW: The new album includes your
old skiffle demo, "All The Way Home."
TUFNEL: Yeah, it was recorded in
'61. We don't even remember who played on it. David and I were
in the Creatures and the Originals, respectively, and it was
probably one Creature and one Original.
ST. HUBBINS: We had an acetate
we shopped around, but we didn't actually have appointments.
We'd just show up and they'd say, "Bugger off." Or
we'd play it for them and they'd read their mail or order breakfast.
We didn't really make a big dent in the industry, but looking
back on it, for all the youthful sass, it's quite a mature work.
GW: The Beatles were just a little
older than you. Did you ever meet them'?
ST. HUBBINS: I never met any of
the Beatles. I enjoyed their music, I liked it, it was light.
With a few exceptions, it wasn't really what you'd call gritty,
hard music. It was more like really accomplished, professional
TUFNEL: It wasn't dirty. It was
musicians who washed their hands.
SMALLS: No jiz. Jizless music.
TUFNEL: It's okay to have music
like "Here Comes The Sun," if you're shopping in the
market, buying meat or poultry. [Sings very high] "Here
comes the sun, here comes the sun. There it goes, here it comes."
ST. HUBBINS: We're not trying to
TUFNEL: No, that's just the way
it is. They know it.
GW: So you wouldn't count them
as a major influence on Spinal Tap.
SMALLS: A bit of the reverse, actually
listen to "Rainy Day Sun." These guys were taking
acid and listening to other people's music.
I met George much later; it was at a mutual friend's home, long
after the Beatles. We were having dinner, and all of a sudden
George says, "I've got this tape of my new record."
And we all had to sit and listen to his record.
TUFNEL: But back to "Rainy
Day Sun": I would not be surprised if they heard that record
and said, "Hmmm." Or maybe it was George Martin. 'Cos
there's backwards stuff and a string quartet on our record as
GW: So "Rainy Day Sun"
was pre-Sgt Pepper's?
ST. HUBBINS: They both came
out in 1967. It's one of those great-minds-think-alike sort of
things the single came out within weeks of Sgt. Pepper's.
On this album we used one track that's an album remix of
"Rainy Day Sun," which was the flipside of "(Listen
To The) Flower People." It was just truncated, chopped off
willy nilly by the record company, and we finally had a chance
to put it on in its entirety, with the sound collage at the end.
Another group might have had an ego problem here because the
bass player on that track isn't Derek; it's Ronnie Pudding. He
was an excellent musician but got too big for his hat size, if
you know what I mean. Went off on his own, failed miserably,
but at least had the backbone not to come crawling back.
TUFNEL: He did ring up, though.
ST. HUBBINS: Oh, he called a few
times and we wouldn't take the calls. But he didn't literally
crawl which we admire him for. But to get back to my point,
a lot of bass players not like Derek would say, "As long
as you're remixing, let's yank that duff bass part
SMALLS: Well, I did say that.
ST. HUBBINS: But you didn't mean
it. So we kept Ronnie's bass. But you know what he did? Derek
went in, this man, this Christian martyr, and said, "Let
me just tweak it a bit." And he re-eq'ed the bass part,
made it sound a bit more up to date.