Our Cranked-to-11 Interview With Spinal Tap

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Earlier this year, Spinal Tap’s three original members (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) appeared at the Ohio Theatre just to prove they’re still funny after all these years. Calling the show “Unwigged and Unplugged,” they revisited many of their best-known Spinal Tap tunes, including “Stonehenge,” “Bitch School” and “Hell Hole.” But the unplugged format also included “Corn Wine,” “Old Joe’s Place” and “Loco Man,” all of which are by the Folksmen, the fictitious group the actors portrayed in the 2003 movie A Mighty Wind. “Unwigged and Unplugged” allowed the guys to include music from their entire repertoire (including tunes by the Thamesmen, the fake British band that preceded Spinal Tap). A DVD of a concert from that tour has just been released, and Harry Shearer talked to us about it. —Jeff Niesel

What is more difficult? Performing as Spinal Tap or performing as yourselves?
Probably when we started out, performing Spinal Tap was more difficult. But performing as ourselves was a new first. It was more challenging in terms of how to perform the songs and what choices to make musically.

How difficult was it to adapt the Spinal Tap songs to an “unplugged” format?
It depended on the song. Some of them we threw out. Obviously, the Folksmen songs were easier to adapt. Some we ended up doing roughly the same way, like “Heavy Duty.” And some we did drastically differently, like “Big Bottom.” We spent six weeks rehearsing.

What made you want to do the tour? Was it the 25th anniversary of Spinal Tap?
It was the anniversary. It was the fact that we wanted to do something different. We had done this once or twice in isolated circumstances and always had a good time.

The DVD captures a show at the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee. Was this the best show of the tour?
It was the very last show on the show. I think it was in fact one of the best. I think we had it down by that point.

I half-expected to see some bonus footage of you guys in your Spinal Tap outfits. Was that ever discussed?
The director said he wanted to shoot us backstage or on the bus. And we said, “No. We make fun of that stuff. We don’t do it for real.” My focus was just to get a really good document of the show itself. There’s plenty of other places where you can get us acting like Spinal Tap. This was a unique event and I wanted to present it as such.

Will that Wembley Spinal Tap show end up on DVD?
I don’t know. I don’t know if it was shot. I heard there was a camera crew there but I have yet to see any of their footage. I don’t really know.

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