Rock Band Gets Tapped! Spinal Tap Hits Rock Band, and Nigel Tufnel Talks

Legendary English rockers Spinal Tap — the band that made eleven a household number, and foil-wrapped cucumbers a fashion statement — are back from the dead and Rock Band’s got ‘em. This week’s DLC features four spankin’ new numbers — each one a future Tap classic including the fractured show tune “Saucy Jack,” an exclusive download-only release.

To celebrate, web editor Brett Milano snagged Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel for this exclusive interview, which sheds light on all things Tap including their forthcoming world tour…all three hours of it.


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Nigel Tufnel: Uh, yeah, hello?

Brett Milano: Hello Nigel. How are you?

NT: Uh, great.

BM: Great. Brett here from Rock Band. I want to say, first of all, that it’s a great pleasure to have Spinal Tap in our game. We’ve wanted that for years. Let me ask, have you ever played a music game? Have you ever tried Rock Band?

NT: I’ve seen people doing it. It looks very difficult. I dunno. I’ve seen it being done, but it’s a bit frightening for me, personally.

BM: We hope to have a nation of kids rocking out in their living rooms to Spinal Tap songs. What did it take to bring the members of the band back together this year? I know you’re back on tour and that doesn’t happen very often.

NT: It doesn’t? Oh, yeah, you mean for us. Yeah. It’s confusing, like most things for me. It’s like a whirlwind of activity and then sort of like a hurricane and then a sleet storm and then a rainbow.

BM: A rainbow?

NT: Yeah. Rainbow is the playing part. The storm is the argument part. The sleet part is actually sleet.

BM: The sleet part is sleet, great. So, your world tour is going to be just one gig – why is that?

NT: That’s true, yeah. Well, it’s efficiency, you know. Most people say, oh we’ll do a hundred gigs or whatever. This is one and done.

BM: The earth will shake…

NT: No, you said that. I didn’t say that. That’s your version of it. We will play a show. And then we will go on to something else, I guess.

BM: You are back from the dead, and that’s not something many people can claim.

NT: Well, you know it’s a metaphor isn’t it. It’s not literal. Although I do have a theory about this. I think most people you see on the street – pedestrians – are actually dead. They’ve actually physically died, but not 100%, but say 86% and they’re still walking around. You know that expression – dead tired – and all that?

BM: Yes.

NT: It’s not just an accident that people say that. People are dead and people are just afraid to admit it because it sounds like a bad thing, obviously. He’s dead, oh no. That’s why people say, “He’s passed away.” What do you mean he’s passed? What does that mean? He’s dead. You’re dead or you’re not dead. But my theory is, when you’re dead, you’re not actually dead. So, back from the dead could be looked at in a number of ways.

BM: Is there a way of spotting these people that you’ve mentioned that are in fact, dead.

NT: Oh, yeah. Yes, you can’t, because you’re not trained. I can. In seconds I can tell. Again, I’d have to put you through the training, but basically you can see something in their eyes. The way their movements don’t seem completely right – like something has gone a little bit off. Maybe they’re dead. But they are functioning. You see people in all walks of life like that. Politicians, many of them. I’d say 95% of politicians are way dead.

BM: Absolutely. And rock bands.

NT: Not all. Some, yeah.

BM: There’s a line in that song, “This time we’re not stopping/We brought some corn for popping/So resurrection is kind of like Christmas,” right?

NT: Yeah. Are you reading that off a piece of paper?

BM: No, I’ve heard the song.

NT: Oh, I see. And what would you like me to say about that?

BM: Well, I think it’s very nice the way you’ve equated rising from the dead with the Christmas season.

NT: You know we’ve always loved the holiday season. You know, St. Nick and all. Father Christmas, we call him. That’s why we wrote “Christmas with the Devil.” It’s a fun time of year to mix a religious occasion and satanic messages as well.

BM: Great. I believe the band recently had a visit from Sir Paul McCartney. I wonder if Spinal Tap might have been an influence on him at some point.

NT: No, we did not actually meet him. But the people that we’re playing with in England, the Folksmen, did. He did not meet us. We’ve heard of him and seen his picture, of course, and heard the music. But one day maybe we will. He could join us on “Big Bottom” for instance – that would be good.

BM: That would be nice. Now, Spinal Tap does have a longtime connection with the Folksmen, I believe.

NT: It’s not longtime, well it’s been a long time, but it’s not longtime in that we appeared with them once before, once they didn’t get to go on, in fact, at Royal Albert Hall. They never got actually on the stage. They were very happy about that. They’re nice chaps. They’re really slow, old, you know. A little corny, but that’s alright. It’s a good opening act – perfect, it sets the table for us perfectly, really.

BM: Do you think a song like “Listen to the Flower People” would have the same resonance now that it would have had in the summer of ’67 or thereabouts?

NT: Well in ’67, you’re probably too young to remember, but it was a lot of people doing experimental drugs and things. Floating away and things like that. It was a different time. Now, I don’t know what people would think of it. But then, it was written under the influence of many different things. Now, it’s different. I don’t know what young kids would think of it today, but then it was very – what we used to say – groovy. People don’t say that anymore, but we used to say it. Groovy.

BM: You did the Unplugged tour recently, and I wonder if revisiting the songs in that way you heard a lot of subtleties in them?

NT: Well, no, that was not a Tap tour. No, that wasn’t.

BM: That was those other guys, who are quite fond of Tap, I believe.

NT: That’s their problem.

BM: [laughs] When Spinal Tap first played Boston, I was around here then, and you played a tiny club called The Channel.

NT: That’s true. I remember that, yeah. How old were you then, fourteen or something?

BM: Around. I was old enough to get into the place.

NT: Well it was raining.

BM: Yep.

NT: And it was a dingy little affair. But it was a good audience. We like playing Boston. It’s a good town, basically. It was raining and it was scary, because we thought we’d be electrocuted. It was raining on the stage, right where we were playing. It was leaking into the club.

BM: That happened a lot at The Channel.

NT: Well, it’s fine if you’re playing a harmonica or a banjo or something. But if you’re plugged in, you’ve gotta watch out then, don’t you? You don’t want to be dead, as we were saying before.

BM: Which, that would have been one of the smaller places that Tap have ever played.

NT: Oh yeah, that was about full. We did CBGB’s, tiny little place. But that’s just because it was cool.

BM: And around that time the movie hadn’t come out so a lot of the crowd might not have known the whole legend of Spinal Tap.

NT: Well you know the film, which is what we call a hatchet job, obviously, showing the worse side. People don’t want to promote the things that happen correctly, because then who’s interested? They found the stage…you don’t make a movie about that. If you’re going to exploit something, you go for the darker side, obviously. Anyway, we played a bunch of places and I remember Boston.

BM: Clearly in that movie it didn’t put the brightest side of the band forward, and a lot of the misadventures have been touchstones for a lot of bands. Whenever anything happens that goes wrong they say, “It’s like Spinal Tap.”

NT: We’ve heard this enough, oh boy. Twenty-five years of hearing this.

BM: Do you think you ever might be able to set the record fully straight?

NT: Well the record’s straight for us, because we do shows where things don’t happen are a disaster. It’s set for us. It’s the other people’s perception of what they saw then in the film. No one says, again, if you go to work and nothing happens, no one talks about it. If you say, oh bloody hell, I left my money at home, then people talk – “Oh, he left his money at home.” You know what I mean? But they wouldn’t make a movie about that because they don’t know who you are, all due respect. But if they did, then you’d make a movie about leaving the money at home, not, oh, everything’s fine. He showed up at work and did his job. There’s no movie in that, see? Make a movie on the one night where people f&*# up, sure. It’s a cheap shot, is what I’m saying.

BM: Another thing you’ve probably heard about, there was a tribute at the Berklee College of Music for Spinal Tap. You weren’t there but…

NT: There was no actual tribute for Spinal Tap, no. You need to read the actual info. It’s not really Spinal Tap tribute, not.

BM: But Tap music was played that night.

NT: That’s what I hear. But it’s not a Tap tribute, per se, no.

BM: But there’s clearly some fanship for Tap there.

NT: I’d hope so, yeah.

BM: So I’m hoping that would show that a lot of serious music people are realizing the influence of your band.

NT: You’d have to ask them, yeah? Not me. I hope so. I hope they understand it. Some of it’s quite complicated but if you’ve been trained, you might be able to glean something. Especially for the new record.

BM: Are you finding that a lot of young kids will say, “Oh, I listened to ‘Sex Farm’ when I was seven and that set me on my path?

NT: No. If you’re listening to “Sex Farm” when you’re seven, then your parents aren’t really doing a great job. Your parents have f*%&in’ blown it then. You’ve gotta wait a bit. Let’s say, for instance, a kid’s a teenager, you say, “Alright then, [you can] play ‘Sex Farm.’” But a seven-year-old? No. They’re watching cartoons and things. SpongeBob, they call it. Things like that. Not “Sex Farm.” “Working on the Sex Farm/Trying to raise some hard love.” I don’t think so, not for a seven-year-old.

BM: That song’s sorta wholesome. It’s about getting back to the land, kind of.

NT: Yeah, but you know what I’m saying. You probably don’t have kids, right?

BM: No, I don’t.

NT: Okay, so you see.

BM: So, “poking your hay” may be a little…

NT: Yeah, you’ll figure it out.

BM: Well, last question. When Spinal Tap started, there weren’t music games or even home computers.

NT: Oh no, there were home computers. They just weren’t at home and they weren’t really computers. They were pocket computers. Calculators, they were called. They were thin things. You could add up a number, divide it. Multiplication was great. Not as we know them today, correct, and no games at all. And so what was your point? I’m sorry, I lost it.

BM: Would it have changed the history of the band?

NT: Well that’s like saying if they had hair product, would Albert Einstein still be alive? That would be my question to you.

BM: I actually am not sure of the answer of that.

NT: See? It’s something that needs to be pondered.

BM: It has been a pleasure talking to you.

NT: Thanks so much.

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