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We remember the sadness we felt when we heard Ian Faith had died. But the incredible, shocking and completely undeniable truth is that the legendary manager of such rock groups as Spinal Tap, Salt In Their Wounds and Crusty Panties is alive. And not only is he alive, but he's talking, exclusively, to Spy contributor Chick Hadrian.


Ian FaithThe phone rang, and I answered, and I heard that familiar "Chickie! Hal-lo, man!" Never had I felt such terror, as would anybody who thought he was talking to a dead man. Particularly a dead man named Ian Faith.
The memories came flooding back: learning that Faith had overdosed in the Chelsea Hotel; hearing Scott Muni's show on WNEW-FM with Pete Townshend and Ian Anderson reminiscing about the legendary manager. I also remembered Ian's funeral in Woodlawn, New York. His most famous proteges, David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, had come, as St. Hubbins recently admitted to Rolling Stone, "because he owed us a great deal of money." Before long they were literally dancing on his grave and, in their celebration, laying plans for their reunion, the one that is engaging the nation today.
As soon as the call came, I knew I had to see him. I found him in his little bungalow in the Caymans. After the usual finding-someone-alive-whom-you thought-dead pleasantries, we got down to business.

How — and why — did you pull of this incredible hoax?
Well, my motivation was really the band. Several years ago the affairs of the band had become ...let's say tangled, and I felt it best to devise some strategy whereby I could take upon myself, uh, the responsibility for these various...well, indiscretions, really. They weren't crimes or anything like that.

Indiscretions on your part?
Let's put it this way: They were collective indiscretions that I had individually undertaken. I mean, I had individually undertaken the indiscretions and in some cases committed outright fraud as a representative of the band. And it was as a representative of the band. A vote had been taken — at various times, to the best of my recollection — electing me to act as an officer for the band's business.

Let me get this straight. You were defrauding people on the band's behalf?
No, not in the main. I had received advances from interests in Europe and elsewhere for albums that were yet to be recorded. Such sums get eaten up when you're dealing with a band that has the artistic sweep of a Spinal Tap. You really can't skimp on the money. You've got to give them what they need to fulfill their vision.

I'm not sure I understand.
Fulfilling their vision involved going to certain secluded places so they could work in peace — or, more precisely, my going to certain secluded places so they could work in peace. Anyway, to make a long story short, this situation was, well, in a way desperate. And that was when I quite openly — well, not openly as far as everyone was concerned; I was being open with myself — let's say I quite consciously embezzled money. I actually committed a crime in order to draw attention away form the potentially damaging indiscretions that had been committed by the band collectively, without their knowledge, by me.

Not a lot of managers would make that kind of sacrifice.
No, no — I don't think many would. My strategy was to put myself in the position where the authorities would blame only me for those apparent crimes, and then kill myself.

And the members of the band could plausibly play dumb.
Exactly. Still, I do think the band has been very ungrateful. As it says in the Bible, "Greater love hath no manager than that he lay down his life of his band."

I guess it takes a certain subtlety of mind to grasp that you would be stealing from someone for their own benefit.
Exactly. Precisely. It was beyond them, frankly. I've always said the band's skills and talents are intuitive, they're not cerebral. They don't have minds, in the usual sense of the word.

Tell me how you actually pulled off this hoax.
Well, it's remarkably easy to die in New York City. It did take the cooperation of a good friend and sympathetic ally — a very good friend called Hassan, a gentleman I met in Beirut some years ago.

Let's go back to that day and review it, step-by-step. We're talking about November 12, 1990. You were in the Chelsea Hotel, and you'd just completed a three-week binge involving alcohol, drugs of various kinds, sort of setting up—
No, not that many kinds. I mean, I wanted to make it appear that I was overdosing, but really it was only one or two kinds, maybe three.

The point being that you set everybody up to believe you had been indulging by having the appearance of indulging.
Exactly, Chick, exactly. Finally, after a few weeks, I went to my room and stuck a syringe in my arm. But I didn't push the plunger. I then assumed a dead position. I had taken this Japanese blowfish stuff, which lays you out so that if you're examined in a rudimentary fashion, like by policemen, you can appear to be dead.

Especially in New York, they have so many corpses.
Hassan then pretended to find my body and reported it to the hotel manager, who of course was distraught. Well, he wasn't that distraught — this kind of thing happens fairly frequently in the Chelsea — but I had been a good tipper. Anyway, things became a little bit more complicated. We couldn't have me taken off to the morgue, so the body — that is, me — had to be replaced by another body.

Whose body did you get, Ian?
Well, in fact. it was that of a friend I had met during the binge, and he was actually dead. And that was just a lovely bit of good luck, because this person — Jose? Julio? I can't remember — hadn't been dead when we met.

But what about the open casket at the funeral?
Oh, well, that was me. At the undertaker's I was put into a coffin in which Hassan had hidden six scuba tanks, so that when the coffin was closed and I was lowered into the grave, I would be able to survive for several hours. So that was me, with a rapt smile upon my face, being paid my last respects, which very few people bothered to do.

It must have been difficult for you to hear such derogatory comments from former associates.
Yes, that was depressing. I mean, obviously I expected some form of anger — you know, it's a classic survivor thing — but also...

Grief?
Well, something like grief, at least. Certainly what I did not expect was the vituperation. I remember, as the first shovelful of dirt hit the coffin, Tufnel yelling, "Bye, Ian, come back as something I can eat!"

Really?
Which seems to me a bit rough. I thought they were just stamping down the dirt, but later, of course, it was reported that they were actually dancing. Dancing, whooping, high-fiving, the works.

Let's talk about what you had been doing after splitting with Spinal Tap before your death.
The one significant undertaking was in Europe. I was in touch with a friend of mine, a fellow named Danzig. He's one of those very interesting chaps who deal with six or seven countries at once — you know. he's doing a feature film in Paris financed with Arab money, and the rock score is being done by some Nazi psycho-metal band he's booking into Sweden — he's one of these postmodern Renaissance men. Anyway, he was in contact with some moderate Iranians inside Iran who wanted to improve the image of their country. One scheme was to start up a record company with Iranian money, Moderate Records, and Danzig offered me a chance to join in.

You were going to the A&R guy?
Precisely. My plan was to assemble an Iranian band that I wanted to call the Mullahs of Invention. In the end, we did find some Turkish kids in Bremen who looked Iranian, and we bought them a Marshall stack and some Gibson SGs to get them started, but then I found out to my horror that the money that was coming in from Iran wasn't staying in the company. It was moving right out again in cash, usually in the equipment of Israeli rock bands, to Tel Aviv. And some days later there would be a new F-14 on a runway in Teheran. The whole company was a conduit for getting arms into Iran.

Amazing.
Although for a while there, we were in clover, because here we were, with tens of millions of dollars going through the accounts, the richest record company in Europe — and no product! We didn't have to go out and push anything. We just had to sit there, basically, picking our noses and getting laid. I actually thought of it as the pinnacle of my career, because it was sex, drugs, but no rock 'n roll. I didn't have to spend half my time trying to get some pumped-up little wanker onstage, you know, just to play a set. But then the American Congress got their knickers in a twist, and the whole thing ground to a crashing halt.

Is this how Spinal Tap's back catalog ended up in Teheran?
Well, this is one of the bones of contention between me and the band. The thing is, we had this group, the Mullahs, but they didn't have any songs. But, you see, I was sitting on this huge catalog of songs by this group called Spinal Tap, which for all intents and purposes didn't exist anymore. So I slipped the songs into Moderate's catalog.

You sold them?
Well, no, not exactly — I more or less actually contributed the catalog in return for my salary. But that's why there's been contentiousness about where the Spinal Tap catalog is. I guess you could technically say it's owned by —

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Technically. But so what? Let him sue! You know — what's he going to do? Cut off Nigel's hand?

Tell me, Ian — what did you do while you were underground?
Well, it's extremely difficult to trade on one's reputation when one is reputedly dead. So I kind of had to take what I could get. And one thing that turned out to be quite lucrative was rights to concessions at skinhead rallies in Europe.

What?
We started out with obvious items, simulated Nazi memorabilia and so forth, but we eventually added pint bottles of gasoline, brass knuckles, T-shirts—

T-shirts?
Black Hanes Beefy-T's, no shrinking, good stuff. I mean, it's not good, in the moral sense. I mean it moves. But I must say I didn't feel very proud of myself for getting involved with the neo-Nazi business, so I did try to offset it with some benefits.

Benefits?
Yes. One was an international rock concert for tennis players who've been held hostage by terrorists. It was — well, it was actually a video more than a — well, it was actually held in a television studio and beamed to many, many places via satellite.

Are there many tennis players held hostage?
More than you'd think. And when they are released, there'll be some money for them. A bit.

What plans do you have now?
Well, it's like the end of a fallow period. I'm proposing to some of my fellow veterans that we set up a Traveling Wilburys-type outfit, a sort of Managing Wilburys, that would go around the country orchestrating the careers of groups on the road. Each band would stay in one place, but we'd be traveling around.

So, who's involved with that?
Um, Andrew Loog Oldham, Allen Klein, Malcolm McLaren, perhaps Bill Graham —

Bill Graham's dead!
Look, believe what you want, but I've at least been talking to someone calling himself Bill Graham who's an angry sort of fellow who does seem to have some experience in promoting music, and that's good enough for me. We're thinking of setting up a new Fillmore, the Fillmore South, in Tampa. Get a very, very big empty place, get a big parking lot, make it the centerpiece of a theme park devoted to the mythos of rock 'n roll. That's the vision , anyway.

Are you working with any new groups?
Yes, I'm quite into the world beat. I've been to South Africa, and I've lined up quite a few interesting musicians.

Like Paul Simon.
Like Paul Simon, but very much unlike him as well. Most of my fellows are white.

Really?
Yes, Afrikaners. They incorporate a lot of elements not usually found in black African music. Drums for example.

What kind of music do they play?
Sort of military, but with an oompah flavor. It can be very moving.

Anything else?
I'm working on a big tribute concert.

A tribute? To whom?
That's just it — a tribute to whichever giant of our business is next to pass. The great people, let's face it, are hitting 50 and more, which means in days to come they will tend to be dying more frequently. And what's needed is the ability to organize tributes instantly for rock superstars.

I see what you mean. If you look at this Freddie Mercury thing at Wembley, it took months to get that together.
Precisely! Imagine how much more could have been raised if they could have saluted Freddie while fans were still in the throes of grief! With my plan we have everything in place, so that as soon as somebody dies, it's all there — the arena, the international hookups, the equipment, the celebrities — so that if, say, Paul McCartney dies tomorrow, I can have a tribute going for him in 24 hours. I can't mention names at this point, but believe me, the participants are all top-flight people, and the animal-rights people or whoever it is that has Paul's ear — or more appropriately, I suppose, Linda's ear — will be very happy that we'd be there, all organized, before the bloom's off the rose.

Any chance of your getting back with Spinal Tap?
That would be a dream, Chick, to be back with the boys. I think they could use me — it doesn't seem their album has taken off like the B-1 bomber exactly, now has it? Topped out at No. 61, off the chart in five weeks. Not that it would be easy, but I am the fifth member of Spinal Tap, after all, their Pete Best, Brian Epstein, George Martin and Murray the K all wrapped up in one. And there are so many memories, so many difficult memories. Nigel tried to poison me at one point. Typical Tufnel—he used a bright-blue crystalline rat poison and put it on my salad. I mean, it shows up, blue does! It shows up on a salad.

So there's a lot of history there.
Yes, but the point I want to make is that everything I did — the embezzlement, the fraud, the illegal transfers, the skimming — was really my way of saying, "I love you, Tap." I'm very fond of our body of work together, our oeuvre, even though logging 24-hour days for years on end for a band is not the easiest way to lead a life that could have been very creative in its own right. I mean, I had my own dreams, you know, that I put on hold. But that's all bygones. All I want to say is that if they want to make the first move, then I'm here to serve, as I always have been.

And if not?
Then we'll have to take the appropriate legal action.

reprinted from Spy, July/August 1992

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