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2004.08.08 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Stinson Makes Most Of Guns N' Roses Breaks

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2004.08.08 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Stinson Makes Most Of Guns N' Roses Breaks Empty 2004.08.08 - The Philadelphia Inquirer - Stinson Makes Most Of Guns N' Roses Breaks

Post by Blackstar on Wed Aug 26, 2020 11:05 am

Stinson makes most of Guns N Roses breaks

By Tom Moon

Tommy Stinson, rock-and-roll survivor, is talking guardedly about his primary employer, the once-legendary hard-rock band Guns N' Roses.

For much of the last six years, singer and headline magnet Axl Rose, Stinson, and a large crew of musicians on retainer have hunkered down in the studio, building the ultimate rock beast under a cloak of extreme secrecy. The sessions are long and uncommonly collaborative, Stinson says, and after many false starts may finally yield an album this year.

"Axl's idea is to take eight guys and make them write a song together," Stinson says. "He'll like an idea of mine, say, and then want to see what the others put on it. ... He wants it so that everyone owns the song."

The Rose creative method has been so protracted that each of the Gunners has found time for other projects: Stinson, who plays bass in GnR, recorded his just-issued solo album, the trippy Village Gorilla Head (Sanctuary, three out of four stars), during stretches when his services weren't needed.

"I'd work for a few months putting down bass parts, and then I'd be off for a month," Stinson, 37, explained recently, the morning after a rare solo show in New York. "And because the idea was for us all to write, I'd put together ideas at home, not thinking about my own record really, just trying stuff out."

Stinson -- whose career began in Minneapolis at 13, when he and his brother, Bob (now deceased), formed the Replacements with Paul Westerberg and Chris Mars -- wrote things he thought would be perfect for Guns. But there were things he knew were too spooky, or introspective, to fit the GnR paradigm.

He listened to Bob Dylan every morning, he says, to "keep my mind open to different ways of setting a scene." He tried his hand at string orchestration and reggae, and sought styles far from the riff-rock that has been his calling card. Pretty soon he had a batch of songs and fragments he was excited about.

"It's not like I was doing Guns and the whole time thinking about making a Tommy Stinson record," he says. "It was much more accidental. I'd get an idea, and if I didn't come up with a guitar part, it was no big deal, I'd wait until next week. The songs came out very organically ... in part because I wasn't under the gun of a label or a budget."

Village Gorilla Head is a work of outsized ambition. Unlike Stinson's other post-Replacements bands, Bash & Pop, with its Faces-style swagger, and Perfect, his attempt at more polished pop-rock, the set lunges in wildly disparate directions. It's got strutting Stones-style three-chord anthems ("Motivation") and poppy, beautifully cresting refrains ("Not a Moment Too Soon"), Beatles-inspired, cello-studded introspections ("Without a View," which asks the question "Do you trust yourself at night, do you trust yourself at all?"), and languid downtempo atmospheres (the title track, one of several that utilize a drum machine).

But while there's abundant evidence of growth in the music, it's the lyrics that will surprise Stinson devotees: They're brutally frank commentaries on the self-absorption and myopia that run rampant in rock culture. Some exhibit flashes of Dylanesque bitterness. Some express guarded hope. Some turn on the kind of withering self-criticism that Stinson's old bandmate, Westerberg, made a specialty.

"After a long time of just worrying about rocking, I wanted to make songs that had some substance," Stinson says. "A lot of songs were written on acoustic guitar, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking that if nothing works out with them, I can go around solo and play coffeeshops."

That won't be immediately necessary: Stinson has planned a tour with Seattle rockers Alien Crime Syndicate that he expects to run through November, about the time he resumes his Guns N' Roses duties.

It's a "get in the van and go until our eyeballs pop out" situation, Stinson says. "I'm moving my own gear, doing everything myself. Number one, that keeps your ego in check. And number two ... having a change of pace is good for you musically."

He says he doesn't care that conditions will be more spartan than on the last Guns tour, which ended abruptly when Rose failed to show at a December 2002 gig at what was then the First Union Center, causing a near riot.

Because of ongoing litigation, Stinson can't say much about that evening. "All I can say is that Axl had the flu, and that show could easily have been postponed." But he adds that he and the others have no illusions about what they face in bringing Guns N' Roses back to respectability.

"You can't think about the enormousness of Guns being accepted again in a global way. ... If I've learned anything from rock-and-roll, it's that you can't worry about what people are going to think."
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