SPINAL TAP bassist Derek Smalls — the metallic alter-ego of comedic actor Harry Shearer ("Saturday Night Live", "The Simpsons") — recently discussed his debut solo album, "Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)", with Meltdown of Detroit, Michigan's WRIF 101.1 FM radio station. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On comparisons of his voice to Leonard Cohen's:
Derek: "I'm about an octave or two above Cohen. It's gruff — it's a gruff voice. It's been pointed out to me before. It started when I was singing with TAP, and I did this song called 'Cash On Delivery'. To get the volume and to get the feeling and all that out, my voice goes gruff when I sing. But I think the thing about it is, it's more joyous than Leonard Cohen. A funeral would be more joyous than Leonard Cohen."
On whether the album proves that he should have taken a more active vocal role in SPINAL TAP:
Derek: "I'm not campaigning or anything like that. It's just, I had to do it. If it's going to be a solo album, you have to do it. I dug deep into myself and I thought, 'What do I know about?' They say write about what you know. I know I'm getting older, so I wrote about that. And you dig deep and you realize you don't have to always dig deep – you can dig shallow too. They both work."
On why his SPINAL TAP bandmates didn't guest on the album:
Derek: "I said to Nigel [Tufnel], 'The door is open if you want to do anything on this record,' but it turns out Nigel has a phobia about doors."
On some of the album's notable moments:
Derek: "There's always been a bit of prog in me, and I think that that's what came out in these songs with the symphony orchestra that played on the record — the five tracks the symphony played on. The title track, 'Smalls Change', explains what it's like to lose your band and then have to come out as a solo artist. There's a sadness and a sense of, 'Where'd they all go?' — and then there's a 'I can do this,' defiant kind of bravado feeling to it. There's a song about our ex-manager, Ian Faith, called 'Faith No More', which is basically a ballad about betrayal. I had to go into what it's like when you discover that somebody you trusted has scuppered off with all your cash."
On the key to his long career:
Derek: "I think it's refusal to learn another trade. Really, it keeps you young."
On what other rock documentaries he'd recommend:
Derek: "I like the one about METALLICA going through psychotherapy. It makes them all look crazy."
On his favorite memories of touring with SPINAL TAP:
Derek: "Arguing with promoters. Seeing the line of women outside the stage door after a show. The hours on the bus arguing over who had the rights to the video machine. Good times."
"Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)" was released April 13 via Twanky Records/BMG. The album was produced by CJ Vanston (SPINAL TAP, Rodney Crowell).
Smalls recently performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra at the Saenger Theater, New Orleans.
Photo credit: Rob Shanahan