Spinal Tap: The Unpublished Nigel Tufnel Interview!
GW A few years ago Music Man made you a really wonderful global warming-themed instrument for the Live Earth concert.
TUFNEL Yes they did. We auctioned it off later for a charity event. It was an amazing guitar. It had the Taj Mahal, the Washington Monument, and various different things on it. It had a window on it and it was snowing inside the window. It had a thermometer going up the neck. And it was a great playing guitar as well.
GW Speaking of the Live Earth concert, Spinal Tap performed a very interesting version of “Big Bottom” there. I heard you had 19 bass players on stage.
TUFNEL That’s true — 19 of them. We had masses of people on stage and I didn’t know half of them. I know Rob Trujillo was there. Some of them I didn’t recognize. It was very powerful.
GW By contrast, the new version on Back from the Dead is rather stripped down.
TUFNEL It’s a quite simple song. We’re playing three basses, and I’m playing mostly up the neck. In some sense the drummer really is the bottom of the piece. Derek plays an octave device. It’s one of the most fun songs for us to play, really. It rumbles through your whole body.
GW It definitely does, especially through the bowels.
TUFNEL I think that’s more your issue. For me it’s mostly up in the chest. If it helps you be regular, great. That’s your thing.
GW What picks do you use?
TUFNEL I’m using new picks, which are absolutely unbelievable. They’re called BlueChip. Have you heard of them?
GW No, I haven’t.
TUFNEL You’re going to have to look them up. They’re called BlueChip (bluechippick.net). They’re made by this guy in Tennessee or someplace, Knoxville, or something like that. He makes these custom-made plectrums, and they’re custom beveled. Unbelievable. They’re quite expensive, but they’re the best picks I’ve ever used.
GW Players have really underestimated just how much effect the pick you use has on your tone.
TUFNEL Oh, there’s no question. You should really look those BlueChip picks up. They’re ridiculously expensive. One pick is about 30 bucks, but it’s worth it if you find the right pick. It makes the guitar sound—especially the acoustic guitar . . . it changes the entire tone of the thing. I’m also using a Monteleone mandolin.
GW As a pick?
TUFNEL No, as a mandolin, of course. He’s a guitar builder. He makes custom-made jazz guitars, but he makes mandolins as well. And that’s part of the technical thing I’m doin’.
GW You played some killer mandolin on “Stonehenge.”
TUFNEL Yeah. That’s me. That’s me.
GW Tell me about your acoustic dabbling.
TUFNEL It’s not really dabbling. It’s actually playing. Dabbling would be not playing. I like playing acoustic guitar. We’ve done that on “America,” the song on the new record. I begin it with acoustic guitar then it goes into another thing. It’s a setup. Acoustic instruments should be an appetizer for the loud. I play these Collings guitars, which I love. I do like playing acoustic guitar and the mandolin as well. Once in a while your head starts ringing and you say, “Uh oh.” You don’t want permanent ringing so you go and play acoustic guitars because it’s easier.