Spinal Chord: 'Spinal Tap' Interview
Two of the band members from Rob Reiner's 1984 mockumentary discuss the film's rerelease
You’d probably expect a Spinal Tap interview to take place in a mammoth swimming pool behind a Beverly Hills mansion, with bikini babes sipping champagne while ”Big Bottom” blasts out of massive speakers. Not today. Singer-guitarist David St. Hubbins and bassist Derek Smalls (who bear striking resemblances to actors Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) are living the low life in a windowless Santa Monica dive called Big John’s Bar, drinking nonalcoholic beer. Thankfully, they’ll put up with such suffering in order to promote the Sept. 8 theatrical rerelease of This Is Spinal Tap (the 1984 concert documentary that was so over-the-top some people actually thought it was fictional), and a new special-edition DVD featuring nearly two hours of extras, which hits shelves Sept. 12.
First of all, why isn’t your lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel — who could pass for Christopher Guest — here today?
David St. Hubbins: He’s got some sort of legal problem. I think he’s one of those blokes who, when they ask at the airport if anybody’s given you anything, he says, ”Yes.”
Derek Smalls: We keep trying to explain to him they’re not trying to find out if your friends are generous.
What have you been up to these past few years?
St. Hubbins: I’ve been living in Pomona running a small farm and working for the parks department.
Smalls: I’ve been working with children at a school here [in L.A.]. I’m a substitute crossing guard.
What about Nigel?
St. Hubbins: He’s been inventing. His folding wineglass is selling beautifully in Iran, for some reason.
They don’t drink wine in Iran.
Smalls: That’s the beauty part, because the glass leaks when you open it. It’s really not much of a wineglass. But it folds excellently. He’s a brilliant, brilliant lad.
How are you all getting along these days?
Smalls: We’re getting along great.
St. Hubbins: We did give up the group for good many times. Even in our really golden years, we’d still break up every couple of weeks.
Smalls: The longest bridge is the one the most people jump from.
St. Hubbins: That’s right. And you know the perforated part in the toilet paper? That never tears first, does it. Right in the middle is where it tears. So it’s the perforation that makes it stronger.
So who is the perforation in the toilet paper?
Smalls: We all are. I think Nigel supplies most of the stains, if you want to stay with that analogy.
I went to Tower Records and I couldn’t find Shark Sandwich or, for that matter, any of your 18 albums.
Smalls: Those albums were never rereleased on CD, and a lot of those stores are a bit totty-nosed about that.
Why weren’t they?
St. Hubbins: There’s too much raw energy to be captured on the cold surface of a CD.
Smalls: These weren’t digital sounds, they were big, fat analog sounds, and the digital machines try to interpret them and they go, ”Wait a minute, that’s a one and it’s a zero,” and the whole thing breaks down.
St. Hubbins: The machines are too stupid to process our music.