Derek Smalls on Spinal Tap's Hilarious Secret History - Rolling Stone
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Hear Derek Smalls Tell All: Spinal Tap’s Hilarious Secret History

New episode of Rolling Stone Music Now features an in-depth interview with a Spinal Tap legend


In a recent episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls sat down with host Brian Hiatt for a no-holds-barred, unforgettable interview. Smalls – who is about to release his first solo album, Smalls Change, and is embarking on a tour backed by various orchestras – told all about going solo, his band’s drummer curse, that airport incident, and much, much more. Click play below to hear the entire interview, recorded in glorious hi-fi “Dobly,” or download and subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Some highlights of the conversation:

On Spinal Tap’s drummer problem:  “It was a curse, and a curses are not to be sneezed at, or even burped at, for that matter. But the interesting thing to me is we had half a dozen or more drummers on Smalls Change. And all of them are fine!  For me, I guess it’s almost a reverse curse, because a couple of drummers said they’d never felt better. But they all wanted a nice insurance policy for the wives and kiddies just to be on the safe side. Some waivers were signed, some incantations were laid, I’ll admit it. You want to propitiate the supreme evil one before you take on another drummer.

On composing the music for “Big Bottom”: “It was pretty obvious, mate. In a song about big bottoms, you had to have a big bottom.”

Comparing Nigel Tufnel with Smalls Change guest guitarist Joe Satriani: I’d say Joe is less random in his approach. And Nigel is, probably, in his own way, more spiritual. I’d say.  As he was doing his solos. I don’t think Nigel saw people in the audience. I think he saw imaginary animals and was playing to enchant them. I don’t think Joe does that. But If you’re asking me to rate guitarists on the basis of their speed, dexterity, fondness for certain notes? Joe’s clearly the better technician. Nigel, I think, is the more imaginative artist. I don’t think Joe’s ever done a solo where he played the guitar with a violin and Nigel has. I don’t think anyone else has even thought that was a good idea, let alone tried it.

On being caught with a zucchini in his pants at airport security in This Is Spinal Tap: I think it was, in fact, an amazing look forward into the future. We could never have anticipated where everyone was going to be embarrassed and humiliated at airport security. You know, everyone is Derek Smalls now. I would say to young people listening, don’t try to go to airport security with anything wrapped in aluminum foil. That was my mistake. If you’ve ever put a zucchini down your trousers without foil wrapping and you sweat, you’ve got a bit of a mess on your hands at the end.  

On Brexit: “It’s my favorite meal of the day.”

Listen and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now on iTunes or Spotify (where you can hear over 100 episodes so far) and tune in Fridays at 1 p.m. ET to hear the show live on Sirius XM’s Volume Channel.

In This Article: This Is Spinal Tap


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