Abuse Your Delusion: The 1992 Guitar World Interview with the Almost-Legendary Spinal Tap
This interview with Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap appeared in the April 1992 issue of Guitar World magazine.
Is the songwriting also a democratic process?
ST. HUBBINS: It happens in various ways. Sometimes Nigel will come in with a lick or the entire framework of a song, and we'll work on it a bit. Sometimes he writes alone, sometimes I write alone. "Clam Caravan" was basically all his, because he wrote that for his solo project. "The Majesty Of Rock" is mine. "The Sun Never Sweats" is a Derek Smalls creation, as is "Jazz Odyssey."
A lot of people identify Zeppelin as being the fathers of heavy metal. Do you agree?
ST. HUBBINS: The Who really had that great wall of sound from the very beginning -- from "My Generation."
TUFNEL: I go back before the Who. In 1961 , there was Chic Dooley. He was the first one to use Hi-Watts, as well. Very distorted, big wall of sound, terrible words. Never had any hits at all.
ST. HUBBINS: What was the name of that pub he played in -- Queen's Lips?
SMALLS: It was the Snout & Trotters, wasn't it?
ST. HUBBINS: He was like the resident group there. I never saw him, but Nigel used to rave about this bloke.
TUFNEL: He also played the App & Twittle. A lot of people started there. Charlie Watts used to do a bongo solo there, in '62.
How would you describe the relationship you had with your former label, Polymer?
ST. HUBBINS: We have not had good luck with labels. We were on Megaphone for years and years, but they’ve gone under. What we're really trying to do now is get hold of our back catalog. And Polymer's legal position is that not only can't we have our back catalog, no one should have it.
SMALLS: There's been a lot of publicity about MCA and Polygram [Polymers parent label] having this lawsuit, and the story is that it's about the rights to Motown, but that's a front, a smokescreen. The real story is all about our back catalog. They couldn't care less about Motown.
What do you think of the new technology, and the change over to CD's? A lot of the experimentation you helped pioneer, such as backwards masking, is now virtually lost, since you can't play a CD backwards to hear what's going on.
ST. HUBBINS: It 's very simple: All you do is make a reel to reel tape copy of the CD --
TUFNEL: Kids don't have reel to reels anymore. You don't see many of them.
SMALLS: And you can't move your cassette backwards either. There's a conspiracy between the Japanese and the Dutch -- because they invented the cassette -- to get rid of any kind of recorded medium that you can play backwards.
TUFNEL: I was the first person in Britain who had a reel to reel in my car. It was a Wollensack, 3-3/4 speed. You 'd plug it into the lighter of the Couper, place it on the front passenger seat, and reach over between shifting. Flipping the reels while making a U-tum was a bit of a hazard.
Has Spinal Tap ever been confronted with any lawsuits along the lines of those fought by Judas Priest or Ozzy Osbourne, relating to teen suicide?
ST. HUBBINS: No, because I think our music is very life-affirming. We do have a song called "Christmas With The Devil," but that's not a satanist song; it says you might have a really good time in hell.
SMALLS: One reason they don 't sue us is that the lawyers who tend to think up these cases go after bands --
ST. HUBBINS: With money.
There 's a cut on the new album called "Bitch School." Aren't you wary of the flak you 'll doubtless get from feminist groups?
ALL: Oh, please! Stop.
TUFNEL: I don't know why, because it 's not about women; it 's about a dog. It's so easy to make that cheap association.
ST. HUBBINS: We had another verse where we mentioned kibble. If we 'd left that in, there 'd be no confusion. The song was just too long, though.
SMALLS: I think it 's insulting to women, to think that they're so stupid that they're not going to know it's about a dog.
TUFNEL: It's in the lyrics: "You' re so fetching when you're down on all fours." Now, given, it's true that if a woman was in that position, she may or may not be fetching. But a dog is always fetching when it's down on all fours!
SMALLS: Depending on the breed.
On "Break Like The Wind," it sounds as though Nigel is just building momentum in his solo [Nigel grumbles]when, suddenly, Slash comes in, followed by Lukather, Satriani and Beck.
ST. HUBBINS: He's a bit sensitive about it. He really didn't know about all this.
TUFNEL: It's what you call a sucker punch.
ST. HUBBINS: [to Nigel] We thought you'd be delighted -- like when we brought you
the noddy books back from England.
TUFNEL: But that's different. If I did the liner notes and said, "Written by Nigel Tufnel and Jim Tuba," instead of you --
ST. HUBBINS: But these are genuine people we're talking about. We thought you'd be delighted to have some of your contemporaries as well as some younger blokes --
TUFNEL: Slash is not that much younger.
ST. HUBBINS: What Nigel didn't understand is that they were all paying tribute to him.
TUFNEL: I understood it very well. It was a surprise -- that part of it worked -- and I understand the tribute part, but I walk in and see on the board, from left to right, "Nieve" [the name of the board], then "Beck, Satriani, Lukather, Slash." I thought it was a send-up. As if I'd said, "Here's the vocal track: David Bowie." He'd have gone, "Ha ha ha. Very funny ." "No, David. The real David Bowie is singing on this instead of you!"
SMALLS: You know, it is the real Cher singing on "Just Begin Again."
TUFNEL: It is the real Cher, and it's the real Beck, but that 's not the point! The point is, ask me. Say, "Nige, what 'bout this idea?" Give me the chance to say no.
ST. HUBBINS: And you would have said no, because of your modesty. What we asked them was, "How would you like to come in and replace eight bars by your idol, a person you respect." They really do respect Nige.
SMALLS: You know, you can't pay Jeff Beck just to play on your record. You can't ring up the musicians' union and say, "Give me Jeff Beck's number." It would cost you a fortune just to have him come in and do an eight-bar solo. He did it out of respect. And Nigel's too modest to acknowledge that.
ST. HUBBINS: Too cranky, as well.
TUFNEL: Well, my ego's healthy enough to admit that it turned out good.
SMALLS: As for the bits that they replaced, we sampled and used those elsewhere.
ST. HUBBINS: In fact, I'm using one as the message on my answering machine.
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