Jeff Labrecque
May 12, 2009 AT 08:06 PM EDT

Twenty-five years after This is Spinal Tap made them almost-famous, the band responsible for Smell the Glove and Break Like the Wind is back…from the dead. Not literally, of course, but Back From the Dead, their first album since 1992, is due June 16. In his first interview to promote the album, which includes “improved” versions of classic Spinal Tap songs like “Big Bottom” and “Stonehenge,” guitarist Nigel Tufnel (né Christopher Guest) gets philosophical about life, death, and drummers. We also have an exclusive clip of Tufnel in the studio with lead singer David St. Hubbins and bassist Derek Smalls, embedded below. And be sure to pick up a copy of the new Entertainment Weekly this Friday and check out our exclusive First Look image of the band in the recording studio.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Just a few years ago, you were in the countryside raising miniature horses. Had you given up thinking about Spinal Tap or—

NIGEL TUFNEL: Oh, no. Never. Always playing. Always playing music and writing. Stuff like that. Horses are the diversion. 

So the reunion was always something very much in the front of your mind?

Well, I don’t really have anything in the front, literally, of my mind. Everything’s sort of swilling around in the back area. If there’s stuff in front, you know, it gets all junked up a bit, you know.

What was the impetus for getting the band back together, and what made the three of you think this new album was a good idea?

Well, I don’t know if it is a good idea. It’s fun. We have some new stuff on it which people haven’t heard, which I hope they like. So the impetus was fun dot dot dot.

It’s titled Back From the Dead.

That’s true. It is. Yes. Back from the Dead. Yeah.

As a musician, did you feel dead?

It’s

not literally dead people coming back. My belief, really, is that no

one is really dead. People who you think die are not really dead at

all. You see, if you’re not dead in the first place — even if you are

dead — you’re not dead, so you can’t come back. So this is poetry

really. A form of poetry.

But metaphorically, was there part of you as a musician that felt dead?

No.

No. Never. Just floundering. But that happens to everyone. Even

Einstein said in one of his books: “Where am I?” What he really said in

the translation of the German was: “Where the f— am I?” They don’t

write that because he was a genius and people think they don’t speak

that way. But he did.

It has a totally different meaning when you hear it that way.

Absolutely. Yes. Exactly.

What was it like to go back into the studio with the fellas? Has time changed them?

Well

everyone’s older, you know? You can’t cheat that. People are grayer.

You know, and maybe they don’t sing as high as they used to. All of the

songs we wrote in D are too high, but we still sing them like that

because it’s a challenge. But basically, wisdom is really what I

notice. Not from me. Or them. But just in the world.

So you feel like the rest of the world has gotten a little smarter.

I

don’t know if they’ve gotten smarter. Wise is different than smart.

Smart is a parlor trick. You can do maths or you can…figure a puzzle

or something like that. But wisdom is — you, know, I think maybe

Buddha really said it best when he said: “If we are here…” And then

he just left the rest…blank.

That is wise.

Yes. But it’s not understandable to me. But I’m still on the journey, you see.

How did you feel when you heard the old recordings again? Do they stand up to time?

No.

I like the songs, but we’ve done a much better job in re-doing some of

them. Much, much better. The amplifiers are better. Everything’s

better.

When you say “better,” what exactly is different?

Have you ever seen an advert — what you call commercials — for soap powder and it says “Improved.”

Uh-huh.

Well…it’s like that.

It’s like soap?

It

is and it isn’t. You see, a guitar is not made of soap, but it can be

improved. You would say, “My shirts come out whiter.” The guitars

aren’t whiter, but they’re improved.

I’ve always considered you the heart of the band—

Ohhh,

you don’t really need to kiss ass just because you’re speaking with me

on the telly. There’s no one beating heart in Tap, you know. David and

I do the music so it’s really a conjoined…heart, really. Derek is off

on another plane. I don’t know what he really does at all. He plays the

bass, but I have it turned down so much when we play that it’s as if

he’s not there.

You and David haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but it seems like the two of you made up once and for all?

Never. Say. Ever.

I’m sorry, “Never say ever”?

Yes. Don’t ever say ever.

In

the picture that we’re going to include in the magazine, there’s just

the three of you, but I assume that during the recording of the album,

someone had to be on the drums—

On the drums is not really the correct terminology. It sounds like someone’s on heroin or something. We have a guy, Skippy Scuffleton, who’s playing with us now. He’s been a very lucky chap. He’s not dead.

Not dead. That’s good.

Although, even as I mentioned, even if he was, he wouldn’t really literally be dead.

It’s titled Back From the Dead.

That’s true. It is. Yes. Back from the Dead. Yeah.

As a musician, did you feel dead?

It’snot literally dead people coming back. My belief, really, is that noone is really dead. People who you think die are not really dead atall. You see, if you’re not dead in the first place — even if you aredead — you’re not dead, so you can’t come back. So this is poetryreally. A form of poetry.

But metaphorically, was there part of you as a musician that felt dead?

No.No. Never. Just floundering. But that happens to everyone. EvenEinstein said in one of his books: “Where am I?” What he really said inthe translation of the German was: “Where the f— am I?” They don’twrite that because he was a genius and people think they don’t speakthat way. But he did.

It has a totally different meaning when you hear it that way.

Absolutely. Yes. Exactly.

What was it like to go back into the studio with the fellas? Has time changed them?

Welleveryone’s older, you know? You can’t cheat that. People are grayer.You know, and maybe they don’t sing as high as they used to. All of thesongs we wrote in D are too high, but we still sing them like thatbecause it’s a challenge. But basically, wisdom is really what Inotice. Not from me. Or them. But just in the world.

So you feel like the rest of the world has gotten a little smarter.

Idon’t know if they’ve gotten smarter. Wise is different than smart.Smart is a parlor trick. You can do maths or you can…figure a puzzleor something like that. But wisdom is — you, know, I think maybeBuddha really said it best when he said: “If we are here…” And thenhe just left the rest…blank.

That is wise.

Yes. But it’s not understandable to me. But I’m still on the journey, you see.

How did you feel when you heard the old recordings again? Do they stand up to time?

No.I like the songs, but we’ve done a much better job in re-doing some ofthem. Much, much better. The amplifiers are better. Everything’sbetter.

When you say “better,” what exactly is different?

Have you ever seen an advert — what you call commercials — for soap powder and it says “Improved.”

Uh-huh.

Well…it’s like that.

It’s like soap?

Itis and it isn’t. You see, a guitar is not made of soap, but it can beimproved. You would say, “My shirts come out whiter.” The guitarsaren’t whiter, but they’re improved.

I’ve always considered you the heart of the band—

Ohhh,you don’t really need to kiss ass just because you’re speaking with meon the telly. There’s no one beating heart in Tap, you know. David andI do the music so it’s really a conjoined…heart, really. Derek is offon another plane. I don’t know what he really does at all. He plays thebass, but I have it turned down so much when we play that it’s as ifhe’s not there.

You and David haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but it seems like the two of you made up once and for all?

Never. Say. Ever.

I’m sorry, “Never say ever”?

Yes. Don’t ever say ever.

Inthe picture that we’re going to include in the magazine, there’s justthe three of you, but I assume that during the recording of the album,someone had to be on the drums—

On the drums is not really the correct terminology. It sounds like someone’s on heroin or something. We have a guy, Skippy Scuffleton, who’s playing with us now. He’s been a very lucky chap. He’s not dead.

Not dead. That’s good.

Although, even as I mentioned, even if he was, he wouldn’t really literally be dead.

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