Source: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]Scott Hudson wrote:Tommy Stinson talks Replacements, Guns N' Roses and his Cowboys venture
In the course of my writing “career,” I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many of my favorite musicians. In the '90s Tempest days, these artists included Graham Parker, Glen Tilbrook, Frank Black and Bob Mould.
In more recent years, my life has been enhanced by the chance to talk to Wreckless Eric, Lydia Loveless, Jason Isbell, Richie Ramone and all of the indie bands that Total Drag has brought to town. Many that I didn’t initially look forward to writing ended up being endearing. David Cassidy called me from rehab. Barry Manilow turned out to be a perfectly open book. Mark Volman of the Turtles would probably still be talking if I hadn’t cut him off after 90 minutes.
You can imagine my excitement when it was announced that former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson was coming to town to play as part of the Cowboys in the Campfire. I had interviewed him way back in the early '90s, but this time was bound to be more intriguing for not only myself but him. I now have a greater knowledge of everything involved with the Replacements, and I also believe I’m a much better interviewer.
The fact that Bob Mehr had recently released “Trouble Boys,” an extremely detailed biography of the band, simplified the process. The thoroughness of that book empowered me to look past the typical fanboy questions and focus on more current aspects of Stinson’s life, including the return of Bash and Pop and the Replacements’ reunion tour of 2013-14.
The Rush stays open for late-night hunger
Question: I want to start with “Satellite.” I know it’s not the first song you ever wrote, but it was the first one ever released. With the band close to breaking up, when writing this were you kind of thinking that maybe you needed to start writing more songs?
Answer: I had always been kind of doing it (songwriting) on my own. It was more that I had this song that I played for Paul (Westerberg), and we figured it’d make a good B-side. So we kind of just went for it, you know?
Q: Although you’d been playing and recording for over a decade, you were just under 25 when the Replacements broke up. Was there kind of a “what am I going to do now” feeling?
A: Not really because Paul and I had already been kind of talking about it on that last tour. Honestly, we had been talking about it even before when it was just getting ready to start making “All Shook Down.” He felt that maybe he wanted to produce things more on his own rather than let someone else do the thing. He had a lot of ideas he wanted to get out. By the time we got done touring that record, it was clear to both of us that maybe it was time to put this to bed for awhile, if not for good, and move on and get into other things. I was already playing demos of that Bash and Pop record for Warner Brothers. Paul had basically been doing the same thing for the last few years, so it was a good thing.
Q: How did the original Bash and Pop lineup come together?
A: It came together as the sheer necessity of people around town. I kind of found the best that I could find in Minneapolis. It’s kind of why I also ended up moving to L.A. Part of the reason I moved to Minneapolis is that the best I could find that was really cutting it for me was (drummer) Steve (Foley). I wasn’t getting enough out of the other two guys (bassist Steve Brantseg and guitarist Kevin Foley) to really kind of keep it going so I upped and moved. I had to do it. I kept it going as long as I could out there, but really the lineup was just Steve and I. We made that record pretty much with the two of us, with other people coming in. My friend (Wire Train’s) Jeff Trott came in and played guitar, and there was other people from “the days.”
Q: You did get to make a “Letterman” appearance, which included an introduction by Kathy Lee Gifford. Outside of Husker Du being interviewed by Joan Rivers, that was one of the more surreal moments involving artists I like.
A: It was funny (and) kind of weird all at once. We had a fun time doing it, but we were kind of a last-minute add-on because someone had canceled. What was really cool about it was David was really, really sweet, and he mentioned our name so many times on the show before I got up to play. It was kind of like he threw me a bone. If you watched the whole show, you could see that, and it felt like that. He hung out a little bit. I watched him, while we were changing strings on the guitars, get up behind the drumkit and start beating the (crap) out of the drums. Then he got down and straightened his tie and says, “How you doing today?” It was like he let some demons out, and then everything was cool. It was a very funny experience.
Q: Why did Bash and Pop break up?
A: Like I said, when I moved to L.A., there wasn’t much of a lineup left to tour and keep the record going. The record wasn’t going, and by that time I had already begun playing with some other guys. I was still kind of calling it that, but when I started playing with them, it became Perfect. It just became clear it was a whole different thing happening. That record was pretty rootsy; kind of rock and roll-ish. With the direction I was going after that, it was a whole other thing.
Q: It’s almost a requirement that I ask a question about your years in Guns N' Roses. It was a time where there were a lot of rumors circulating about Axl Rose. The public portrayal of him was somewhat similar to Howard Hughes, or latter-day Elvis. What would you say is the most misunderstood aspect of him?
A: He’s definitely very much misunderstood. You know, he’s an emotional guy. He’s gotten a bad rap for it, and letting his emotions get the better of him at times. A lot of what his bad rap is about is a lot of phooey. I’ve know the guy for 20 years now. We’ve had our issues back and forth, but he’s always had a heart of gold. I don’t think anybody knows that part of him. When he’s your friend, it’s a kind of lifer sort of thing. I think when him and Slash split up, it was such a painful thing, like your brother leaving you or your family breaking up. I saw those guys, and they’re having a ball. I am glad for all of them.
Q: We’re now two years removed from the Replacements reunion tour. Are you glad you guys did it?
A: Yeah. Totally. For the most part, we had fun with it. It may have lasted just a little bit too long. I would have liked to have left it on a little higher note, but whatever.
Q: When I interviewed Bob Mehr, he said you and Paul were really touched by the response at the St. Paul show. What did that show mean to you?
A: Oh, yeah. That was great. We played in front of a lot of people. That whole tour we played in front of more people than we ever did before. It was really exciting.
Q: There were a couple of attempts at recording that didn’t work out. Do you wish that had you had managed to release something?
A: You know, I do. That was kind of the bummer part for me. We had set up to do that and tour. The idea was to have something new to go along with playing all the old hits that everyone wants to hear that we’ve played a billion times. It was fun to do it, but the idea was, “If we’re going to do it, let’s make a record, too. Let’s do the whole thing.” It didn’t work out. I know why it didn’t work out, and that’s cool. We tried. We tried three times. I think ultimately it became that the idea of trying to make a Replacements record now was far too daunting of a task when you sit and compare it to old Replacements records. I didn’t really have that thought. I think Paul has too much baggage for it. If it wasn’t going to be all four from the original band, then it wouldn’t be a Replacements record. It would be a Paul solo record with these guys playing on it, and he couldn’t really get into the right mindset for it. Again, there were four people there trying to record it, and we all have a good stake in why it didn’t work.
Q: Back to Bash and Pop. What made you decide to revive the band?
A: It’s just simply that I kind of went back to square one in how to make a record. I recorded a bunch of stuff live with a band in the studio at my house the way I wanted to do that Bash and Pop record originally. As it was coming together, and the tunes had more of a rootsy vibe to them, as I was playing it for people, they were saying it reminds them of a Bash and Pop record. It kind of sounds like the stuff (I) used to do. It had similar qualities to it, so I figured what the (hell). I already had a band name, and it seemed like a band record instead of a Tommy Stinson solo record. I’ve made those, and kind of piecemealed them together in a certain way. I really didn’t want to do that again. I was lucky enough to put together a group of people that could record in a real live atmosphere where you’re not wearing out the material.
Q: When is it coming out?
A: I think Jan. 20. I think that’s the final number on that.
Q: Let’s talk about this tour a bit. What inspired this “Cowboys in the Campfire” title?
A: It started as a watercolor drawing that Chip (Roberts) did. We joked about going out one day as “Cowboys in the Campfire.” We finally did it this year because we were both going, “What are you going to do this summer?” “I don’t know. What are you going to do?” “I don’t know.” “OK, let’s go out and play some shows.” It was a bit of a dare more than anything. Here we are. It turned out pretty good. People seem to like it, and we’re having a ball. It’s just the two of us goofing around.
Q: What can you tell me about Chip Roberts?
A: He was a local kind of guitar hero guy in the Philly area. He had a band called One-400’s back in the day. He tells a story about how his band played the same night the Replacements played in Philadelphia, and nobody came to the show because they were all at our show. He always wanted to punch us.
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