Abuse Your Delusion: The 1992 Guitar World Interview with the Almost-Legendary Spinal Tap
Last year's auditions for a new drummer were pretty competitive -- with Mick Fleetwood and Debbi Peterson, among others, contesting. Who did you eventually decide on?
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.
What about Viv Savage, the keyboard player?
ST. HUBBINS: He's dead. Sadly, he passed away.
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.
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.
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, it doesn't."
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.
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.
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 music.
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 be unkind.
TUFNEL: No, that's just the way it is. They know it.
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 well.