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Abuse Your Delusion: The 1992 Guitar World Interview with the Almost-Legendary Spinal Tap

Abuse Your Delusion: The 1992 Guitar World Interview with the Almost-Legendary Spinal Tap

Here's an interview with Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) of Spinal Tap from the April 1992 issue of Guitar World. To see the complete Spinal Tap cover -- and all the GW covers from 1992 -- click here.

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 neo-classical "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 and roll.

GUITAR WORLD: Where's Ian Faith, your manager?

ALL: Dead.

NIGEL TUFNEL: Yes, Ian died.

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 to apoplexy, because he had very thin English skin and very thick alcoholic blood.

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 Records.

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 legal name.

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, really.

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.

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 sequence.

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 screwed.

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.

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.

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