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GW: A rumor circulated for years that Nigel
was up for the lead guitar seat in the Yardbirds on three different
TUFNEL: That's one of those rumors
that you hear. I think it's just based on jealousy, really. I
was never contacted by any of those people, ever.
ST. HUBBINS: But didn't Keith Relf
call you when he was forming Renaissance'?
TUFNEL: That's different. First
of all, I don't like auditions. Let those boys like Beck and
Clapton fight it out with each other. Let me watch and laugh.
ST. HUBBINS: I would also like
to say because he's too modest to say it himself
that Nigel belongs in that company because he is one of the premier
lead guitarists and stylists. No one plays quite like him. No
one even tries.
TUFNEL: When you get older you
realize that what's important is not the amount of notes that
you play. It's if you're thinking about them after you've played
ST. HUBBINS: A mental resonance.
TUFNEL: Exactly. A mental depository.
Can you remember what you played? If you can't, why did you play
it? It becomes a thinking man's game. You want each note to be
a score or a movie or a novel
SMALLS: A novella.
ST. HUBBINS: Or a novelisation.
I'd say the same thing about rhythm guitar, though the terminology
has changed over the years. They used to talk about the "chunk";
now it's about the "crunch." Basically, it's what feels
right, rather than what sounds right. You are communicating with
your instrument through your hands, and the instrument is communicating
back through your hands to you. It's rather like a ferret
like a hungry ferret running around in a wheel.
TUFNEL: If you put a hungry ferret
in your trousers, he'll run around. You'd be surprised at the
energy. The key, of course, is to always bathe even on
the road or on a bus.
GW: As you were saying, Nigel really
deserves to be in the company of the Claptons and Becks and Pages
SMALLS: He should be in the bloody
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame right now.
GW: Right. But he hasn't gotten
the recognition due him. For example, in a recent article [in
another guitar magazine] entitled "The 25 Players
Who Shook The World," Nigel isn't even mentioned.
TUFNEL: Don't make me laugh. I
read that. It's not even me so much; there are a lot of people
who should have been in that.
ST. HUBBINS: Is Scotty Moore in
it? No? Well, there you go. Chuck Berry? Well, there you go again.
TUFNEL: And Big Daddy Boozer? Pfft.
Great Delta player. I mean, Robert Johnson learned from Big Daddy
Boozer. All that stuff, all those tricks. Blind Lemon Jefferson?
They can't hold a candle to Big Daddy Boozer. And where's he?
He's not in the 25, is he? I just discount that stuff;
I throw it off.
GW: So it doesn't bother you or
eat at you?
TUFNEL: It does, yeah, but I throw
it off after it's eaten me up.
GW: Spinal Tap is such a musical
melting pot there are so many different styles on the
ST. HUBBINS: Do you mean that in
a positive way? Well, we're growing. Petty inconsistency being
the hobgoblin of small minds.
TUFNEL: What you see as "different
styles," is musical growth to us. Derek has a background
in ska and various other things, and there's always something
in his music that rings of that. My background is more in the
ST. HUBBINS: As far as guitar playing
goes, I'd say I'm midway between W.S. Gilbert and
SMALLS: Melissa Gilbert.
ST. HUBBINS: That's where I'd like
to be just midway between Melissa Gilbert. But there's
the influence of the old musical halls and Johnny Kidd &
The Pirates. That great sort of rhythm-lead is what I aspire
to. I also play some solos some of the leads on "Stonehenge,"
TUFNEL: What lead? That's a part.
I do like switching off, though, because I love playing rhythm.
So when I'm singing, that's what we usually do
SMALLS: What you're seeing in the
band is maturity. [Nigel makes farting noises.] It's not
desperation, or thrashing about for a commercial style; it's
maturity, in which we can be all of our different selves.
TUFNEL: That's the other thing:
People say we're playing heavy rock, metal, whatever you want
to call it, so this is what it's got to be. We say there are
no boundaries of any sort.
SMALLS: We're not about heavy rock
or metal or hard rock or leather trousers. We're doing what we
stand for. And one of the reasons we got back together was to
make a stand for generic rock and roll. Good old generic rock
GW: Is the songwriting also a democratic
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."
GW: 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
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
TUFNEL: He also played the App
& Twittle. A lot of people started there. Charlie Watts used
to do a bongo solo there, in `62. GW:
How would you describe the relationship you had with your former
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 [Polymer's 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.
GW: What do you think of the new
technology, and the change over to CDs? 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
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-turn was a bit of a hazard.
GW: 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
ST. HUBBINS: With money.
GW: 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.
GW: 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
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
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
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.
GW: I notice that you quote Rodrigo's
"Concierto de Aranjuez" in the classical guitar segment
TUFNEL: I'm not really quoting
it. I'm stealing it but in a modern context. You're used
to hearing Julian Bream play it or that guy Segoveeya, but when
I do it, in the context of a rock and roll song, it's a whole
GW: David, you take the first solo
on "Cash On Delivery" and get what Clapton used to
call the "woman tone."
ST. HUBBINS: Woman tone, yeah.
ZZ Top makes use of that. I just turn the tone to the woman setting.
TUFNEL: It's very fat a
fat woman tone. He does that on his Les Paul. I don't play Gibsons
anymore. I used to use "Goldy," the Flying V and others,
but I've sworn off them because they're too heavy. I wear one
of those neoprene back supports when we play live, even acoustically,
because they warm up your vertebrae and allow you to bend a bit.
That's what happened in the film not that it ever happened
before or after when I fell down and couldn't get up again.
And I wear one knee brace because I've got a trick knee, and
I don't jump off those platforms anymore that's for the
GW:Where does "Just Begin
Again" modulate from and to?
TUFNEL: The thing about modulation
is that it's a composer's trick. We like to modulate as much
as possible. It makes the audience feel as though they're being
taken on a little holiday from the song itself. "Oh, I'm
being picked up and delivered where?" It starts in G, then
we go to A, and it modulates to D, then back to G.
SMALLS: A lot of these bands brag
about how they modulate and change keys. Well, here's four modulations
in one tune. And you really don't even notice a difference.
ST. HUBBINS: We knew we wanted
to do a duet with a female voice, and we thought of Cher immediately
because she's perhaps the primary rock vocalista. Steve Lukather,
who produced that particular track, had just worked with her,
and he said, "Oh, she'd love to do it." She's a gracious
GW: Was the electric sitar solo
on "Clam Caravan" completely spontaneous? It sounds
like you're groping for a certain note at the song's end.
TUFNEL: I should mention that it's
not a real sitar, but a Coral Electric Sitar designed by Mr.
Vinnie Bell. I thought, "I love the sound of the sitar,
but I don't play it who has the fuckin' time?" So
I rented a Coral Sitar, and thought, "Well, it's a guitar;
it just has a bad bridge." But something happened when I
was playing, and I admit there was some confusion as to where
I was going. But in the end, what's better than being realistic
about your emotional state? Which was confusion and some desperation,
I would say. But I do get there, don't I? It's a measure late,
mind you, but I do hit the E.
SMALLS: "Clam Caravan":
people say, "Where's the clams?" There's no clams in
"Clam Caravan" because it was a typographical error.
The name was really "Calm Caravan."
GW: This is the age of safe sex.
Are you going to have to curtail your notorious road lifestyle
on the upcoming tour?
ST. HUBBINS: Well, Jeanine is keeping
my sex real safe keeping it safe from me. But I'm definitely
going to be keeping my eye on these two single gentlemen.
SMALLS: He's going to be our condom
TUFNEL: You can't behave the way
you did in the Sixties or Seventies or Eighties or even
SMALLS: And to the extent that
kids read your magazine and take what we say as a model for their
own behaviour: When you're bedding down with two or three young
ladies after a rock and roll show, be careful.
ST. HUBBINS: You might knock yer