Spinal Tap: It Might Get Louder
GW You’ve collected a few hundred guitars over the years. Was it tough to decide which ones to play on the album?
TUFNEL Some of them are the same ones I’ve used for many years, and some are different. My 1955 Goldtop Les Paul is one of the old ones. It’s now apparently quite valuable. On the road, Music Man guitars are my main thing. They make special ones for me. I’m going to be using the new 25th Anniversary model on the upcoming shows. And I’m messing around with some different amplifiers, just testing out different ones. I’m not sure where I’m going to land yet. The Bogner is a nice amplifier. I have a VHT as well. I even might go back to Marshall. I don’t know yet.
GW You’ve been notorious for your unique amp modifications in the past. Have you been toying with any new modifications?
TUFNEL Yeah. I don’t know how much you know about the technical aspects of amplifiers, so I may be saying things you don’t understand.
GW I’ve built a few small amplifiers myself.
TUFNEL Okay, good. The problem with a modern amplifier is not so much the circuitry. They sell things and say that this is hand-wired. Big deal, that’s what I say. It’s more the cabinetry. Really, you can’t have shit wood and have it sound good. You go into a shop, like a big one, and it’s all crap anyway. There’s a chap named Dumble, and he makes amps that are in these beautiful cabinets. I think it’s a very important part of tone that people have forgotten about, so I’ve been working with a combination of woods and vegetables. Because wood, whether it’s maple or plywood or whatever, has its own resonance, but organic fruit has a very interesting overtone.
Imagine a guy bought, say, maple, for the sake of argument, and builds a cabinet. Let’s say you’ve got two 12s in it, right? Once again this is just an example. You make room for what you need and all the tubes. For the tubes, you can use EL whatever, it doesn’t matter; it’s just for the sake of argument. But imagine this: fruits and nuts on the side. And what they’ve done is they’ve allowed some breathing room—I call them “ports”—so it’s not cramped in there. And I can’t explain it. I’ve done the physics of it, and you can’t really explain it. You know those nuts that come in a little shell and sometimes they paint them red?
TUFNEL Oh no. You’re very wrong. They’re patchouli nuts.
GW Oh, pistachios.
TUFNEL Yeah. The shell is very hard, right? It’s also convex. A convex shape will bounce a sound. A concave shape will keep it inward and warm. So a combination of both will project and be warm. I was very surprised. It was an accident really. I was repairing an amplifier. One side had been damaged in shipping and I thought, Well this is weird. I was eating lunch and I had some nuts. I just started putting them on there as a joke, and when I plugged in, it was the best sound I had ever heard.
GW It’s amazing how we find these things by accident sometimes.
TUFNEL First of all it’s not “we.” You weren’t there. It was amazing how I found it. But it is true how someone, an inventor or not, would stumble upon something like that. And that’s part of the technical thing I’m doin’. I’ve got some new effects. I have a TC Electronic unit. They don’t pay me to do any of this. I’m not saying that because I get any paid things from these people.
GW Our readers do want to know what you use. It’s a crucial part of any guitar magazine interview.
TUFNEL It could be.
GW Spinal Tap keep coming back. What do you see ahead for the next 25 years?
TUFNEL The next 25 years? That’s a bit of time, isn’t it? I really take it one day at a time. I don’t mean that in the way that you think, guessing by the way you’ve been speaking. I would say that every day is a new day. Have you read Shakespeare at all?
GW Yes, a bit.
TUFNEL Do you know Cymbeline?
TUFNEL It’s a minor play. It’s not Henry V or Hamlet. I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare reading, and there are some codes in there. You don’t even have to read the whole thing, because the language really is just a jerk off, to be honest. I think he was making a joke on us. They really didn’t speak like that then. Not in Shakespeare’s time. They spoke the way we speak now. He wrote that to make it seem really posh—“doth thou” and all that crap. In Cymbeline there are some codes that affect the way I look at my life. Basically what they say in Cymbeline is, “Move ahead slowly, but turn and look back occasionally.” What he’s saying is exactly that. And so what I’ve done is look at that and the characters in that play. It might as well have been written yesterday. It really shook me up quite a bit. I would say to you read it, or have somebody read it to you, and then you’d understand that concept of what that is. And that’s my philosophy at this point.