Mock-rockers Spinal Tap return

A Spinal Tap reunion means more to Harry Shearer than getting reacquainted with long raven wigs, ridiculous moustaches, zucchinis wrapped in tin foil, leather cuffs or his trusty double bass.

From the left

From the left

TORONTO — A Spinal Tap reunion means more to Harry Shearer than getting reacquainted with long raven wigs, ridiculous moustaches, zucchinis wrapped in tin foil, leather cuffs or his trusty double bass.

No, as Spinal Tap prepares to release their first album in 17 years, Back From the Dead, Shearer has had the chance to catch up with his alter ego, bassist Derek Smalls.

So what has the ponderous, pipe-huffing rocker been doing all these years?

“Derek was in therapy for Internet addiction at a small therapy centre in rural England,” Shearer said.

“He has kicked that, that was very successful therapy.”

“He did, in the late ’90s, open what was supposed to be the first in a series of hamburger joints in London, called Big Bottom Burgers. I don’t think it’s gone beyond one and it may have gone beneath one by this point.”

Shearer possesses a rapid-fire wit, yes, but he’s also grown used to effortlessly jumping back into Smalls’ headspace.

Spinal Tap, which also features Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel and Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins, is celebrating 25 years since the release of the beloved 1984 heavy-metal satire mockumentary This is Spinal Tap.

They’re in the midst of an Unwigged and Unplugged tour that finds the comic actors performing as themselves, free of absurd wigs or faux British accents.

Shearer said they got the idea for the tour, which has one remaining Canadian date at Toronto’s Massey Hall on May 21, after an impromptu show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The group performs an acoustic setlist with tunes culled from Spinal Tap and other Guest-directed movies they’ve collaborated on, including A Mighty Wind (a folk satire in which Guest, McKean and Shearer perform as the Folksmen) and Waiting for Guffman.

Shearer said the group wanted to do something to honour the 25th anniversary of Spinal Tap, but felt a smaller tour was the way to go.

“It did not seem like a good idea to do a full-on, big-ass rock and roll show this time around,” he said.

“This is something we’ve never done before, we won’t be repeating ourselves, it’ll be interesting for us and interesting for the fans as well.”

And taking the songs out of their original context has given Shearer new insight into the group’s songwriting.

“We didn’t set out to write bad songs,” he said. “We set out to write songs that either in their conception or their lyrical pretension, were funny. It’s no fun playing bad music, so we tried to write credible music for each of these acts.”

“It’s almost like we’re covering another act’s tune except we wrote it.”

“But we have different hats on, if not different heads, and so we have a different musical take on it.”

Back From the Dead, meanwhile, features a mixture of new material, tracks that have been floating around but have never been properly released, and older songs that Tap decided to revisit.

Fans will finally be able to own Jazz Odyssey — the “free-form jazz exploration” that Tap was forced to perform after Tufnel quit the group, rendering most of their hits unplayable — and Short and Sweet, which, of course, Shearer describes as an “endless jam number” with some major-league guests soloing on it.

Other tracks only appeared in the movie in concert versions — “these are the studio versions of the songs, so they sound a lot louder,” Shearer notes with a laugh.

The 65-year-old Shearer has been involved with more than one pillar of recent American pop culture.

He voices a plethora of characters on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders and Kent Brockman, and was once a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

But he still relishes the enduring fascination with Spinal Tap.

“It’s one of the great satisfactions of having done that project, that it’s lived this long and still continues to,” he said. “I’m always running into people who either are kids or have kids who are discovering it for the first time, and are still really enjoying it and finding it funny.”

“I’m always running into musicians of course, not just rock musicians, but country and even classical, who say: ‘That’s what we watch on the bus.”’

“To use a terribly cliche metaphor, I think we struck a chord.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trial of man accused of killing Red Deer doctor going ahead

Deng Mabiour is fit for four-week trial that is set to begin Nov. 22

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Select Alberta physicians to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine next week

Some Alberta physicians will now be offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In an… Continue reading

An example of zero lot line properties. Red Deer County council approved rezoning to allow zero lot line properties on three streets in Springbrook.
Photo from Red Deer County
Narrower house lots being tested in Springbrook to improve affordability

Zero lot line homes will be built on three streets in Springbrook

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair listens to a speaker during a news conference Tuesday June 9, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Red Deer part of project to support victims of human trafficking

Federal government sends $500k over next four to Alberta-based project

Mayzie the Canada goose is back nesting in a flower pot on a backyard balcony in Anders on the Lake. (Contributed)
Canada goose is back nesting on Red Deer balcony

Third year in a row geese return

FILE - Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 246 mixed martial arts bout in Las Vegas, in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, file photo. The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021, when Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor fight for the third time. UFC President Dana White announced his plan Wednesday, April 14, 2021, for the promotion's first sellout show in its hometown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/John Locher, File)
UFC plans full Vegas crowd in July at Poirier-McGregor fight

The UFC intends to welcome a capacity crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile… Continue reading

Juno Awards signage hangs in downtown Saskatoon on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Organizers of the Juno Awards say they've postponed this year's 50th-anniversary celebration until June 6 "out of an abundance of caution in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Matt Smith
Juno Awards postpone 50th anniversary show date to June 6 amid COVID-19 pandemic

TORONTO — Organizers of the Juno Awards say they’re postponing this year’s… Continue reading

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna rises in the House of Commons following Question Period Monday March 22, 2021 in Ottawa. McKenna is announcing a $1.5-billion program designed to spur green building through retrofits, upgrades and new construction. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal government unveils $1.5-billion plan to boost green building

OTTAWA — Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna has announced a $1.5-billion program designed… Continue reading

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured in a pharmacy in Boulogne Billancourt, outside Paris.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Christophe Ena, File
AstraZeneca very safe, effective, with extremely rare risk of clots: Health Canada

OTTAWA — There is enough evidence to say the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may… Continue reading

Demonstrators take cover from crowd-dispersal munitions from police outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department while protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright, late Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Minnesota cop will be charged in shooting of Black motorist

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A prosecutor said Wednesday that he will charge… Continue reading

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen listens to a question during a news conference Tuesday April 21, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Housing advocates eye federal budget for aid to urban Indigenous providers

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals have told stakeholders in the affordable-housing sector… Continue reading

Two women lay flowers outside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Britain's Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died Friday April 9 aged 99. His funeral service will take place on Saturday at Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days… Continue reading

The mobile phone icon for the Coinbase app is shown in this photo, in New York, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Coinbase is going public at a time when chatter about cryptocurrencies is everywhere, even at the United States Federal Reserve. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Coinbase soars in market debut, valued near $100 billion

Coinbase made a rousing debut on Wall Street Wednesday, with the digital… Continue reading

Most Read