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After the release of the 1984 heavy metal rockumentary
This is Spinal Tap, the band promptly sank into hibernation.
Obscurity, if you will. Their time had come and gone. The dream
was over. But like a phoenix from the ashes, or a bum from a
dumpster, they have risen in 1992 to plug themselves into the
biggest hype machine that would still speak with them: MCA Records.
new album, Break Like the Wind, smells of gratuitous celebrity
appearances, overblown production values and piles of money thrown
at a series of nagging problems. In short, the state of heavy
metal today. Their drummers continue to die inexplicably, the
latest being Ric Shrimpton, younger brother of Mick Shrimpton,
whom you may remember spontaneously combusting on-stage in their
Nailing down an interview with the three primary
members the Tap triumvirate was next to impossible.
Press days were canceled, smoke screens thrown up by publicists
and managers. We began to wonder if they even existed at all,
or if they were just a gigantic farce played out by attention-starved
actors for the benefit of themselves and a pandering media. We
decided to write the interview ourselves. Unfortunately, halfway
through composing our tale of revenge, the phone rang. It was
Tap, calling from a limo on their way to Spring Break at Daytona.
Our plans were ruined. We had to talk with them. After all, it
was their dime. We began the interview speaking with David St.
Congratulations on Tap's new album.
You like it?
It's turning some heads out there.
It's turning various appendages, and heads being among the
top three, I think.
What's it like being quoted by someone every waking moment
of your day?
You mean, people we run into on the street, or by other performers?
In the media, actually.
It's nice to see they know we're still alive, as lived vicariously
through our public influence.
Before the new album came out, you hadn't been heard from
in quite awhile. Were you washed up?
We did split up, yeah, in a difficult way. We came to a series
of musical differences, and career upsies and downsies. All that
added up. You know, it was rather insurmountable. Derek got stuck
in Japan for nine months eight months Nigel went
off to join the Swiss Army or something. I'm not sure if he was
in the Swiss Army. Take everything he says with a grain of salt.
I moved to the States. I remained in Pomona, California, where
I've been coaching soccer teams. And also managing local bands,
making demos, stuff like that. Keeping busy.
What's been the biggest change you've noticed since you
guys are on the comeback trail?
It's not like we've been away. We've done a lot of listening,
keeping areas open, and then
But you've been away for eight years.
That's true, but during that time, you know, we've seen every
next big thing become everything's last big flop. You know what
I mean? We've seen it come and go. All we know is if we stay
true to our goals, and don't go try making any vast improvements
on what we feel is basically a good, you know, generic approach
to what we do, then I think that's what we'll do then.
Your new album has all these famous people playing on it:
Cher, Slash, Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck. Is this a way of keeping
generic, or just another cheap ploy to sell records?
A cheap ploy that works is a ploy of genius. To answer your
question with an old quote, which I'm sure I should place with
its utterer someday.
What was it like working with Cher?
Oh, it was great. It was great in one sense that she insisted
on me not being anywhere near her when she sings. In fact, the
papers said I had to be 100 yards away from Cher when she's actually
doing vocals, which would be a house and a half down the road
from the studio where we were doing it.
But it was you who sang the duet on Just Begin Again.
Oh yeah, it was me, but I put my bit on first, and she came
in, did her bit, and they asked if she'd like to hear my track,
and she said no. She's very professional. Beck is an old friend,
Satriani's an old friend, Lukather, Waddy Wachtel, all these
people we've known through the years, it's nice to play with
them again. Dweezil Zappa, we'd never played with before. Genius.
Brilliant guitar player. And of course Nicky Hopkins, who had
done the original tracks on "Rainy Day Sun." Leading
session man in Britain.
And so we did this track. He came in and did it.
We had it back in, and he came and he sat and he listened to
the track, and we said "Is there anything you'd like to
change?" "Nope, did it right 25 years ago. No use going
back." So he charged us a triple session, but he was worth
it. Even though he didn't play a note. He just came in and said,
"That's fine. Move it on."
Who writes most of the songs? Who wrote the anthem Majesty
It was basically my work, I think. It works different ways.
Some songs come purely Springtime is purely a Nigel tune.
Clam Caravan is very much Nigel. Just Begin Again is Derek's
tune. Words and lyrics. But I think basically, we're at our best
when we come in all fresh-faced. We've already shucked away all
the chaff, and we're left with only the golden bran that is at
the heart, the kernel of rock and roll.
And it does work on you like a bran.
Yeah, it does make you shit, I suppose. Yeah, that's the
other thing that makes it like a bran.
In the song Majesty of Rock, what are you striving for
when you say "The scoring of the goal / The farmer takes
a wife / The barber takes a pole / We're in this together."
Are you guys looking, scraping for something more meaningful
We were scraping for one more rhyme. For "roll."
It's always the last thing. I mean, really, it's the last thing
we could come up with. We'd already used "hole."
You guys have maintained the big hair look for a long time.
There's a lot of concern for the environment right now. Do you
feel that the hair products you use are harmful?
I use a completely natural chamomile soap. I can't say the
name. Doctor somebody. Chamomile soap. You can use it as toothpaste.
It's that clean. You can get in the shower with a toothbrush,
wash your hair and your teeth at the same time. The suds will
trickle down into your mouth and you can continue brushing, and
as it trickles down further, do the rest of your body as it runs.
It's an all-over washer. So I don't do anything to the atmosphere.
I've never used a conditioner, because if things were honest
a conditioner would be called "shampoo remover." You
want to talk to some of the others?
Yeah, put Nigel on.
Nigel seems to be nodding off. Nige? Nige? Want to talk to
The Nose? Want to talk to The Nose, Nige? Nige? Just a minute,
we have this special thing we break under his nose.
Nigel Tufnel: Hello, Jim?
Hello, Jack, how are you doing?
I'm fine. Sorry if I woke you up.
As am I. Is it freezing cold up there in San Francisco?
No, it's very nice, actually.
It's a very nice city. As far as living there. I might live
there. I don't like L.A. at all. Fucking shit heap.
We've been reading some of the other interviews you've
done, and apparently one of your guitar solos was substituted
at the last minute.
No, only a bit of it. They removed about two-thirds of it.
There's a third of it left on "Break Like the Wind,"
and they replaced the part they took out with a bit from Beck,
Satriani, Lukather, you know, et cetera.
Did you feel sabotaged?
Oh, completely. No, worse than sabotage. More like, you know,
putting a dagger in the back. You know, I thought it was a joke
at first. They said "It's a birthday present." They
erased part of my solo, put these other chaps on, and then coming
in for the mix, I noticed the other guys' names on the sheet
of paper and I thought it was a joke. Like a tribute.
Is this the first time a member of Spinal Tap has tried
to sabotage another?
Well, again, you know, it's all in the eye of the beholder.
We don't generally do things like that to each other. We'll have
disagreements still, rolling around a bit. We don't punch any
more, but we bite. Scratching here and there. You know, that's
part of the band. You know, if we weren't doing that we'd be
fucking Peter, Paul and Mary, and you know, who'd care? Not me.
There's a trend about musicians, once you reach a certain
level of success or maturity that you start giving back to people,
What? What do you give back?
Charity work, things like that. Are you guys going to do
some of this?
What an awful idea. Um, you mean, you don't get any money?
You'd do benefit shows.
Well, you know, I have my own charity that I'm working on.
Basically it's an animal rights group. Animals don't talk. They
don't tell you things. They say with their eyes, they communicate
with their faces. They seem like they want to be in other places.
You look at their little round ball of fur, and he would look
at you "Oh, I want to be in Rome," or maybe, you know,
So we work out getting money and getting these
poor animals to travel there. And they go all over the world.
It's been pretty much roadblocked by problems in different countries.
So it's a theory that I'm really working hard to make it a reality.
But that's alright. It's been a long time. Maybe it's time to
give it back, and I choose to give it back to our feathered friends,
our furry friends, our scaly friends.
When you played the Gavin Report here in San Francisco,
did you know that you opened up the show by saying "Hello
Oh, really? Did I say that?
I don't remember who did.
You know, usually Derek does those announcements. He always
mucks it up. But we're really sorry if that's true. I think he
meant "Hello Oprah," as in Oprah Winfrey.
She was there?
No, but that's a good excuse, isn't it? You'd have to talk
to him about it. We're traveling around, we just got back from
Australia, and we're going to Florida to do Spring Break, and
Tuesday there's New Orleans, and so we've been traveling a lot
so you must forgive us if that happens.
Well, I'm sure this is probably the two billionth interview
that you've done.
Uh, in fact it is literally.
Yes. We'll be sending a box of chocolates.
Thanks. That's very nice. Is Derek there?
Yeah, he's here. He's off in his own little world. Would
you like to speak to him?
Is this Derek?
Derek, congratulations on the new album.
Oh, thanks. Congratulations on the third consecutive interview.
You guys have been auditioning lots of drummers. That's
been a big problem, hasn't it?
The auditioning, no. The dying, of course, yes. I would find
that is a two-parter, and the second part would be yes.
So who won the contest to be your guest drummer?
In every city we're playing in, we're holding drummer auditions.
Each of the winners gets to play with us. God have mercy if something
Do you have to take out some sort of insurance policy?
Oh, we've got a blanket policy.
You've written some songs on this album.
Begin Again and Sun Never Sweats.
And you also do vocals on one.
Yeah, I'm lead on Cash on Delivery. David wanted a voice
that was more brutal.
The terrible saga of Viv Savage. He's not with you anymore.
No, he's dead. He was very close to Mick Shrimpton. I'm really
holding my fingers together like this. He goes to pay his respects
at Mick's grave, and he's standing, kneeling around the grave,
and the fucking grave explodes.
He wasn't the drummer though. He was the keyboard player.
Right, you see, it turns out that he had been a drummer as
a boy, started keyboards at 15. The curse, somehow, if there
is a curse, knew he was hiding that he played drums.
At the Gavin Convention we bumped into somebody claiming
he was Viv Savage.
You know this is weird. I mean, there's a tribute band playing
all over the place, with a Viv Savage lookalike.
Yeah, and he gets work.
Off of the work Viv Savage did for you.
He is a Viv Savage lookalike. He is going around doing thatthe
Viv Savage Experience.
In your records Smell the Glove and this new one, we were
looking at some of the liner notes. It seems all the songs that
Spinal Tap records are written by people other than yourselves.
If you look at actually you're looking at the old
album. If you look at the new album, you'll see that each song
is credited to Smalls, St. Hubbins, Tufnel. The last album, there
was this contractual deal where they made the movie, and Ian
Faith, our manager, had us sign these papers. He said "Don't
worry about it," and they gave the actual publishing credits
away to other people.
So these people Christopher Guest, Michael McKean,
Just you know, sitting there picking up their checks. Like
McCartney does, you know.
Is there a possibility of litigation here?
Where money's involved, there's always a possibility of litigation.
You can only keep so many lawyers alive at one time.
So this team isn't writing songs for you any more?
No, never did. Never did.
That was just a
Rip-off. You're familiar with that?
I work in publishing.