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2011.11.30 - Interview with Tommy - 60 Memphis

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Post by Soulmonster on Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:17 am

Tommy Stinson is coming back to the Mid-South in a big way.

Stinson, a revered rock and roll cult figure who helped co-found Minneapolis alt-rock legends the Replacements at the tender age of 12, has made Memphis a kind of second home over the years.

He recorded the Replacements’ classic 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me and his subsequent band Perfect’s 1997’s debut at Midtown’s Ardent Studios, both with the late producer Jim Dickinson.

Still, it’s been more than a decade since the 45-year-old Stinson performed in town. On Monday he’ll return to the area in rather grand fashion: taking the stage of the DeSoto Civic Center as the bassist for hard rock titans Guns N’ Roses.

Stinson seemed an unlikely candidate for the job when he was recruited to help singer Axl Rose rebuild the band in 1998. Surprisingly, he’s proven to be the perfect foil, becoming Rose’s musical lieutenant and right hand, both through the arduous process of making the band’s Chinese Democracy LP and for the years of, mostly international, touring that’s followed.

The group’s current U.S. tour marks its first proper pass through the States since a series of dates in 2006.

“For this run, we rehearsed for a few weeks, then started touring in South America and we’ve been at in the U.S. for a while now,” says Stinson, calling from a stop in Detroit. “All things considered, the shows have been going really well. We haven’t had any major malfunctions or anything.”

Part of the band’s stability seems to come from the current eight-man lineup. In addition to Rose, longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed and Stinson, the group has been bolstered with addition of lead guitarist Dj Ashba, who joined in 2009.

“I think he fits in really well,” says Stinson. “Not to diss (former guitarist) Robin Finck or anything, but DJ’s a better fit because Axl and him really get along really well. The stage vibe is a lot lighter and more festive. It’s not like we’re grinding out a set. It’s more fun.”

Although heavy on Guns N’ Roses’ classic hits, the band’s set list on the tour has varied somewhat. “Some nights we’ll get to certain songs, some nights you won’t. We’ve got about 40 songs in the deck — 40 songs we can play at any point, and Axl likes to shuffle the deck a little bit as we go along,” says Stinson. “See what works and what doesn’t, kinda mess around with stuff.”

Stinson adds that he’s been pleasantly surprised at the response given to material off the band’s decade-plus-in-the-making Chinese Democracy, which was finally released in 2008.

“Some of the newer stuff people actually know now that the record has been out for a while. Like, last night (in Toronto), we played a bunch of the stuff off that record and the crowd seemed to know it and respond to it. It makes it more fun to play that stuff when the audience wants to hear it.”

Although the group is playing arenas on the current tour, the stage show spectacle remains an over-the-top affair, similar to what stadium audiences in South America witnessed recently.

“We have the same production, oddly enough, that we had down there. It’s a pretty massive show for the size places we’re playing,” says Stinson. “There’s a lot more moving parts, a lot more stuff in general. More lights, more concussion bombs, flames, all the rock shenanigans you wanna see if you go to a show like this.”

Stinson’s job does have its occupational hazards. “There’s been some hair singed here and there,” he says, chuckling. “But that’s part of the gig.”

As has been the case in recent years, Stinson has been getting his own spotlight during the concerts, frequently singing a cover of the Who’s “My Generation” or the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer.” A favorite among the hardcore GN’R contingent, Stinson adds that he’s actually encountered plenty of fans of his former band, the Replacements, on the road.

“There’s a surprising amount of crossover. It’s stunning, actually,” he says. “Whenever we get in contact with the fans it’s pretty interesting to see how many people have Replacements and Guns records. I’ve signed autographs for both records at any given point all over the world. Which is really funny to me; I never would’ve thought the two paths would’ve ever crossed.”

As to his path, Stinson — who released a fine solo album, One Man Mutiny, earlier this year — says he’ll continue to work on his own projects while looking towards the future with GN’R, one that may include a follow up to Chinese Democracy.

“There’s nothing etched in stone, but I can see us go into a writing mode in the new year,” says Stinson. “If there’s gonna be a new record, we’re going to have to start working some stuff out. But it’s just talk right now.”

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