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We remember the sadness we felt when we heard Ian Faith had
died. But the incredible, shocking and completely undeniable
truth is that the legendary manager of such rock groups as Spinal
Tap, Salt In Their Wounds and Crusty Panties is alive. And not
only is he alive, but he's talking, exclusively, to Spy contributor
The phone rang, and I answered, and I heard that
familiar "Chickie! Hal-lo, man!" Never had I felt such
terror, as would anybody who thought he was talking to a dead
man. Particularly a dead man named Ian Faith.
The memories came flooding back: learning that
Faith had overdosed in the Chelsea Hotel; hearing Scott Muni's
show on WNEW-FM with Pete Townshend and Ian Anderson reminiscing
about the legendary manager. I also remembered Ian's funeral
in Woodlawn, New York. His most famous proteges, David St. Hubbins,
Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, had come, as St.
Hubbins recently admitted to Rolling Stone, "because he
owed us a great deal of money." Before long they were literally
dancing on his grave and, in their celebration, laying plans
for their reunion, the one that is engaging the nation today.
As soon as the call came, I knew I had to see
him. I found him in his little bungalow in the Caymans. After
the usual finding-someone-alive-whom-you thought-dead pleasantries,
we got down to business.
How and why did you pull of this incredible
Well, my motivation was really the band. Several years ago
the affairs of the band had become ...let's say tangled,
and I felt it best to devise some strategy whereby I could take
upon myself, uh, the responsibility for these various...well,
indiscretions, really. They weren't crimes or anything
Indiscretions on your part?
Let's put it this way: They were collective indiscretions
that I had individually undertaken. I mean, I had individually
undertaken the indiscretions and in some cases committed outright
fraud as a representative of the band. And it was as a
representative of the band. A vote had been taken at various
times, to the best of my recollection electing me to act
as an officer for the band's business.
Let me get this straight. You were defrauding people on
the band's behalf?
No, not in the main. I had received advances from interests in
Europe and elsewhere for albums that were yet to be recorded.
Such sums get eaten up when you're dealing with a band that has
the artistic sweep of a Spinal Tap. You really can't skimp on
the money. You've got to give them what they need to fulfill
I'm not sure I understand.
Fulfilling their vision involved going to certain secluded
places so they could work in peace or, more precisely,
my going to certain secluded places so they could work
in peace. Anyway, to make a long story short, this situation
was, well, in a way desperate. And that was when I quite
openly well, not openly as far as everyone was concerned;
I was being open with myself let's say I quite consciously
embezzled money. I actually committed a crime in order to draw
attention away form the potentially damaging indiscretions that
had been committed by the band collectively, without their knowledge,
Not a lot of managers would make that kind of sacrifice.
No, no I don't think many would. My strategy was to
put myself in the position where the authorities would blame
only me for those apparent crimes, and then kill myself.
And the members of the band could plausibly play dumb.
Exactly. Still, I do think the band has been very ungrateful.
As it says in the Bible, "Greater love hath no manager than
that he lay down his life of his band."
I guess it takes a certain subtlety of mind to grasp that
you would be stealing from someone for their own benefit.
Exactly. Precisely. It was beyond them, frankly. I've
always said the band's skills and talents are intuitive, they're
not cerebral. They don't have minds, in the usual sense of the
Tell me how you actually pulled off this hoax.
Well, it's remarkably easy to die in New York City. It did
take the cooperation of a good friend and sympathetic ally
a very good friend called Hassan, a gentleman I met in Beirut
some years ago.
Let's go back to that day and review it, step-by-step.
We're talking about November 12, 1990. You were in the Chelsea
Hotel, and you'd just completed a three-week binge involving
alcohol, drugs of various kinds, sort of setting up
No, not that many kinds. I mean, I wanted to make it appear
that I was overdosing, but really it was only one or two kinds,
The point being that you set everybody up to believe you
had been indulging by having the appearance of indulging.
Exactly, Chick, exactly. Finally, after a few weeks, I went
to my room and stuck a syringe in my arm. But I didn't push the
plunger. I then assumed a dead position. I had taken this Japanese
blowfish stuff, which lays you out so that if you're examined
in a rudimentary fashion, like by policemen, you can appear to
Especially in New York, they have so many corpses.
Hassan then pretended to find my body and reported it to
the hotel manager, who of course was distraught. Well, he wasn't
that distraught this kind of thing happens fairly frequently
in the Chelsea but I had been a good tipper. Anyway, things
became a little bit more complicated. We couldn't have me taken
off to the morgue, so the body that is, me
had to be replaced by another body.
Whose body did you get, Ian?
Well, in fact. it was that of a friend I had met during the
binge, and he was actually dead. And that was just a lovely bit
of good luck, because this person Jose? Julio? I can't
remember hadn't been dead when we met.
But what about the open casket at the funeral?
Oh, well, that was me. At the undertaker's I was put into
a coffin in which Hassan had hidden six scuba tanks, so that
when the coffin was closed and I was lowered into the grave,
I would be able to survive for several hours. So that was me,
with a rapt smile upon my face, being paid my last respects,
which very few people bothered to do.
It must have been difficult for you to hear such derogatory
comments from former associates.
Yes, that was depressing. I mean, obviously I expected some
form of anger you know, it's a classic survivor thing
Well, something like grief, at least. Certainly what I did
not expect was the vituperation. I remember, as the first
shovelful of dirt hit the coffin, Tufnel yelling, "Bye,
Ian, come back as something I can eat!"
Which seems to me a bit rough. I thought they were just stamping
down the dirt, but later, of course, it was reported that they
were actually dancing. Dancing, whooping, high-fiving, the works.
Let's talk about what you had been doing after splitting
with Spinal Tap before your death.
The one significant undertaking was in Europe. I was in touch
with a friend of mine, a fellow named Danzig. He's one of those
very interesting chaps who deal with six or seven countries at
once you know. he's doing a feature film in Paris financed
with Arab money, and the rock score is being done by some Nazi
psycho-metal band he's booking into Sweden he's one of
these postmodern Renaissance men. Anyway, he was in contact with
some moderate Iranians inside Iran who wanted to improve the
image of their country. One scheme was to start up a record company
with Iranian money, Moderate Records, and Danzig offered me a
chance to join in.
You were going to the A&R guy?
Precisely. My plan was to assemble an Iranian band that I
wanted to call the Mullahs of Invention. In the end, we did find
some Turkish kids in Bremen who looked Iranian, and we bought
them a Marshall stack and some Gibson SGs to get them started,
but then I found out to my horror that the money that
was coming in from Iran wasn't staying in the company. It was
moving right out again in cash, usually in the equipment of Israeli
rock bands, to Tel Aviv. And some days later there would be a
new F-14 on a runway in Teheran. The whole company was a conduit
for getting arms into Iran.
Although for a while there, we were in clover, because here
we were, with tens of millions of dollars going through the accounts,
the richest record company in Europe and no product! We
didn't have to go out and push anything. We just had to sit there,
basically, picking our noses and getting laid. I actually thought
of it as the pinnacle of my career, because it was sex, drugs,
but no rock 'n roll. I didn't have to spend half my time trying
to get some pumped-up little wanker onstage, you know, just to
play a set. But then the American Congress got their knickers
in a twist, and the whole thing ground to a crashing halt.
Is this how Spinal Tap's back catalog ended up in Teheran?
Well, this is one of the bones of contention between me and
the band. The thing is, we had this group, the Mullahs, but they
didn't have any songs. But, you see, I was sitting on this huge
catalog of songs by this group called Spinal Tap, which for all
intents and purposes didn't exist anymore. So I slipped the songs
into Moderate's catalog.
You sold them?
Well, no, not exactly I more or less actually contributed
the catalog in return for my salary. But that's why there's been
contentiousness about where the Spinal Tap catalog is. I guess
you could technically say it's owned by
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Technically. But so what? Let him sue! You know what's
he going to do? Cut off Nigel's hand?
Tell me, Ian what did you do while you were underground?
Well, it's extremely difficult to trade on one's reputation
when one is reputedly dead. So I kind of had to take what I could
get. And one thing that turned out to be quite lucrative was
rights to concessions at skinhead rallies in Europe.
We started out with obvious items, simulated Nazi memorabilia
and so forth, but we eventually added pint bottles of gasoline,
brass knuckles, T-shirts
Black Hanes Beefy-T's, no shrinking, good stuff. I mean,
it's not good, in the moral sense. I mean it moves.
But I must say I didn't feel very proud of myself for getting
involved with the neo-Nazi business, so I did try to offset it
with some benefits.
Yes. One was an international rock concert for tennis players
who've been held hostage by terrorists. It was well, it
was actually a video more than a well, it was actually
held in a television studio and beamed to many, many places via
Are there many tennis players held hostage?
More than you'd think. And when they are released, there'll
be some money for them. A bit.
What plans do you have now?
Well, it's like the end of a fallow period. I'm proposing
to some of my fellow veterans that we set up a Traveling Wilburys-type
outfit, a sort of Managing Wilburys, that would go around the
country orchestrating the careers of groups on the road. Each
band would stay in one place, but we'd be traveling around.
So, who's involved with that?
Um, Andrew Loog Oldham, Allen Klein, Malcolm McLaren, perhaps
Bill Graham's dead!
Look, believe what you want, but I've at least been talking
to someone calling himself Bill Graham who's an angry sort of
fellow who does seem to have some experience in promoting music,
and that's good enough for me. We're thinking of setting up a
new Fillmore, the Fillmore South, in Tampa. Get a very, very
big empty place, get a big parking lot, make it the centerpiece
of a theme park devoted to the mythos of rock 'n roll. That's
the vision , anyway.
Are you working with any new groups?
Yes, I'm quite into the world beat. I've been to South Africa,
and I've lined up quite a few interesting musicians.
Like Paul Simon.
Like Paul Simon, but very much unlike him as well. Most of
my fellows are white.
Yes, Afrikaners. They incorporate a lot of elements not usually
found in black African music. Drums for example.
What kind of music do they play?
Sort of military, but with an oompah flavor. It can be very
I'm working on a big tribute concert.
A tribute? To whom?
That's just it a tribute to whichever giant of our
business is next to pass. The great people, let's face it, are
hitting 50 and more, which means in days to come they will tend
to be dying more frequently. And what's needed is the ability
to organize tributes instantly for rock superstars.
I see what you mean. If you look at this Freddie Mercury
thing at Wembley, it took months to get that together.
Precisely! Imagine how much more could have been raised if
they could have saluted Freddie while fans were still in the
throes of grief! With my plan we have everything in place, so
that as soon as somebody dies, it's all there the arena,
the international hookups, the equipment, the celebrities
so that if, say, Paul McCartney dies tomorrow, I can have a tribute
going for him in 24 hours. I can't mention names at this point,
but believe me, the participants are all top-flight people, and
the animal-rights people or whoever it is that has Paul's ear
or more appropriately, I suppose, Linda's ear will
be very happy that we'd be there, all organized, before the bloom's
off the rose.
Any chance of your getting back with Spinal Tap?
That would be a dream, Chick, to be back with the boys. I
think they could use me it doesn't seem their album has
taken off like the B-1 bomber exactly, now has it? Topped out
at No. 61, off the chart in five weeks. Not that it would be
easy, but I am the fifth member of Spinal Tap, after all, their
Pete Best, Brian Epstein, George Martin and Murray the K all
wrapped up in one. And there are so many memories, so many difficult
memories. Nigel tried to poison me at one point. Typical Tufnelhe
used a bright-blue crystalline rat poison and put it on my salad.
I mean, it shows up, blue does! It shows up on a salad.
So there's a lot of history there.
Yes, but the point I want to make is that everything I did
the embezzlement, the fraud, the illegal transfers, the
skimming was really my way of saying, "I love you,
Tap." I'm very fond of our body of work together, our oeuvre,
even though logging 24-hour days for years on end for a band
is not the easiest way to lead a life that could have been very
creative in its own right. I mean, I had my own dreams, you know,
that I put on hold. But that's all bygones. All I want to say
is that if they want to make the first move, then I'm here to
serve, as I always have been.
And if not?
Then we'll have to take the appropriate legal action.