Derek Smalls: ‘I Kept Thinking That Spinal Tap Was Going to Un-Dissolve’
In 2018, we've seen System of a Down's Daron Malakian finally decide to release another Scars on Broadway album after seeing that System's hiatus from issuing new music wasn't ending anytime soon. The same can be said for another notable artist, as Spinal Tap's bassist Derek Smalls decided to issue his first solo album this year. Smalls Change was released back in April and the bassist spoke with United Rock Nations [heard in the player below] about why now was the right time.
"I kept thinking that Spinal Tap was going to un-dissolve," admitted Smalls. "We don't break up, but we dissolve a lot, much like a fast-acting pain tablet."
The musician, whose alter-ego is comedian Harry Shearer, stated, "After 2009, we played Glastonbury festival outside London and Wembley Arena in London, and I thought, 'Right, here we go,' and I waited for the phone to ring. It didn't ring, so naturally, the first thing I did was call the telephone company and go, 'Is there a problem?' They said no, and I realized, no, it was the band dissolving again. I did a few other things, and I ended up in Albania hanging with a friend, Eddie Drake, who has a near-death metal band called Chainsaw Vermin. I would sit in with them every once in a while, and I thought, 'This is not the way it's going to end, being a sit-in bass player [with] Chainsaw Vermin.'"
Smalls, with tongue in cheek, recalls, "I saw this advert from a U.K. outfit called the British Fund for Aging Rockers, and they're giving grants. Apparently, this is the money left over from austerity. I applied for it, and that's how this record came to be made. I didn't want to wait any longer."
As for the new disc, Smalls says all but one track was penned specifically for his solo project, with "It Don't Get Old" initially being a song he wrote with David St. Hubbins for Spinal Tap that was meant for their tour.
He explains of the inspiration, "When the Fund for Aging Rockers was interviewing me, they said, 'Well, what's your idea?' I said, 'My idea is that you give me money and I make a record.' They said, 'No, no, no — what's your idea, idea?' — they said it twice, as if that meant something — and I thought, 'They say write about what you know. What do I know about? I know I'm getting older.' So that became the theme of the record. They said, 'Well, don't you think you're narrowing your target audience a bit doing that?' I said, 'There are only two types of people in the world — people who are getting older, and dead people.' So we're aiming at the active part of the market."
The Smalls Change album is out now.
Hear Derek Smalls' Interview With United Rock Nations
See Spinal Tap in the Top 80 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 1980s