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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

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2021.12.22 - - Former Guns N' Roses Bassist Talks GN'R, Solo Tour, The Replacements (Tommy)

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2021.12.22 - - Former Guns N' Roses Bassist Talks GN'R, Solo Tour, The Replacements (Tommy) Empty 2021.12.22 - - Former Guns N' Roses Bassist Talks GN'R, Solo Tour, The Replacements (Tommy)

Post by Blackstar Fri Dec 24, 2021 7:27 pm

Former Guns N’ Roses bassist talks GN’R, solo tour, The Replacements

By Matt Wake

Tommy Stinson just woke up. The time’s a little before noon when Stinson calls me back for this phone interview from his upstate New York apartment. He needed a little more sleep. Not to recover from a night of rock hedonism but from attending to his daughter who recently had finger surgery, he says.

In a couple weeks, Stinson - known for playing bass with ‘80s underground rock heroes The Replacements and later with “Chinese Democracy” era ‘80s mainstream rock kings Guns N’ Roses - will begin a stripped-down solo tour. Recent Stinson gigs have found him performing songs from his solo catalog and his scrappy/excellent post-’Mats band Bash & Pop. His show here in Alabama, where I reside, is Jan. 21 at a place in Birmingham called Lou’s Pub & Package Store. Tickets sold-out quickly.

Stinson’s solo shows are taking place in a variety of untraditional locations, including a Chapel Hill, N.C. record store, Columbia, S.C. bicycle nonprofit and Jacksonville, Fla. music school. Shows in several cities, including Pensacola, Fla., Oxford, Miss. and Charleston, S.C. are being held at private homes. There’s a complete list of tour dates at

For those unfamiliar, The Replacements were a gloriously shambolic rock band from Minneapolis that made the gloriously shambolic rock bands they descended from, like The Stones and Faces, sound like King Crimson by comparison. Besides their train-wreck allure, The ‘Mats had a fantastic look. Stinson, with his spiky hair, impish snarl and low-slung bass, was the coolest of all of them.

Most importantly though, The Replacements made some of the best albums of the ‘80s, particularly their 1981 debut “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash” and the 1984 to 1987 run of “Let It Be,” “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me.” The band’s essential songs include the sublime yearning of “Unsatisfied,” strays anthem “Bastards of Young” and “Left of the Dial,” an ode to the college radio stations that were all-important to groups like The ‘Mats in the ‘80s.

Although The Replacements were critical darlings, unlike their semi-rivals R.E.M., they never truly conquered the mainstream. However the band’s sharp songs and rough edges have been hugely influential on the bands that followed them. For example, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain copy-and-pasted Replacements singer Paul Westerberg’s cathartic rasp. The Black Crowes appropriated The ‘Mats’ haircuts and self-sabotage.

Stinson’s bass playing with The Replacements was nimble and fast, but it could also be nuanced and melodic. After moving on to lead Bash & Pop in the ‘90s, he proved to be charismatic on the mic, on tight-but-loose tunes like “Never Aim To Please” and “Friday Night (Is Killing Me),” the title track to the band’s 1993 debut album. Musically, Bash & Pop saunters between classic ‘Mats and an awesome Keith Richards solo album. Musical contributors to that first B&P LP included keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Released nearly 25 years later, sophomore Bash & Pop album “Anything Could Happen” came out on esteemed indie label Fat Possum Records. Stinson’s livewire talent and real-deal songwriting were still intact, as heard on tracks like “On The Rocks.”

In a masterstroke, Axl Rose brought Stinson into the Guns N’ Roses fold in the late ‘90s to replace Duff McKagan, like Stinson a charismatic bassist with punk roots and wide musicality. Stinson was with GN’R for around 15 years. He played bass on the Slash-less album “Chinese Democracy,” and was an excellent onstage foil for sidewinding frontman Rose. The masses didn’t really give the grandiosely produced “Chinese Democracy” a fair shake, but the material has held up well. And ever since Rose has reunited with McKagan and guitar-god Slash in 2016, GN’R continues to perform several of these songs, including the headbanging title track.

The material on Stinson’s two solo albums so far, 2011′s “One Man Mutiny” and 2004′s “Village Gorilla Head,” has been rootsy and tuneful, with contributions from GN’R musicians including keyboardist Dizzy Reed and drummer Frank Ferrer. In 2015, he released a double-sided single, “Breathing Room,” which evoked Tom Petty (who The Replacements infamously toured with in the ‘80s as openers), and “Exile on Main St”-y rocker “Not This Time.”

In conversation, Stinson is calm, collected, thoughtful and, as any ‘Mats fan would want, a bit rascally. We spoke for 25 minutes. Below are edited excerpts.

Tommy, do you get more nervous playing smaller solo shows than a big festival with The Replacements or an arena/stadium gig with Guns N’ Roses?

To be honest with you, I have gotten used to playing so many different places over the years that I don’t actually get nervous about it at all. These particular shows, they work better for me, especially because, one, trying to try to stay above the COVID line here. We’re trying to get the people to show their vax cards and social distance the best we can. But they work better for me than clubs. A lot of clubs have shuttered and it gets a little wonky, getting people in the clubs and all that, right now. It’s a lot less stressful for me to do these smaller shows than to worry about all the other things that go along with the regular club show.

What’s your most vivid memory from the first time The Replacements ever played together?

It might have been opening up for (punk band) The Plasmatics at a place called the Longhorn. It was a really goofy night. I mean, it wasn’t really anything remarkable about our set, I don’t think, but the trouble I got into that night was kind of funny. Because they let me stay and watch the show and someone threw like a cigarette butt at her (Plastmatics singer Wendy O. Williams) and it bounced off the stage, and I picked it up and threw it onstage after that. I thought that was what people were doing. And then I had to have the waitress, Lori Barbero (later, drummer for the band Babes in Toyland), kind of come up and shield me from some of the wrath that I was about to get once she (Williams) figured out who threw it back up there. It was pretty funny. I skirted that one. She probably would have had my head in a vise and killed me but she didn’t know it was me.

How old were you back then?

F---. Thirteen.

Holy s---. Wow, what a life.


Since we’re doing this interview for a media outlet based in The South, how much of a role has Southern music been in your life? The song “It’s A Drag” from your last solo album, “One Man Mutiny,” has a Southern-tinge to it, even if it’s via The Rolling Stones.

You know, growing up on ‘70s music, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to The Stones, I guess I picked up a lot of that stuff from just listening to old radio. And so it’s kind of in there, I suppose, in a way, but really more of the country aspect of it than anything. Funny enough. I mean, there’s bits and bobs of Southern music that I’d have liked it, and I’d be hard pressed to kind of bring it up right now, but it’s been part of it because of listening to top 40 rock in the ‘70s and ‘80s when I was a kid.

Your 2011 solo track “Match Made In Hell” has some Hank Williams vibe in there, I thought.

I grew up with so much f---ing Hank Williams in the van that it’s almost even a hard one to even go for these days. [Laughs] Paul (Westerberg, The Replacements singer/guitarist) and Slim (Dunlap, Replacements guitarist), man, they used to just wear me out with Hank. But that’s just because we were traveling pretty close back then. But yeah, there’s a little bit of all that in there.

You mentioned Paul and Slim, I was curious when was the last time you talked to Paul Westerberg and what did you guys chat about?

You know, I haven’t actually spoken to Paul since we did our last reunion show together (in 2015). We kind of parted company at that last show, and both went on our own merry way to do whatever we’re going to deal with life and all that. And it really doesn’t mean anything. We’ve gone major periods of time where we haven’t spoken each other, just doing our own different s---, you know?

Well, we sure like the s--- you guys did together.

Oh, thank you.

Is it safe to say future Replacements activity would be more reissues, like the recent “Sorry Ma” reissue?

Uh huh, right, right.

Are you aware of anything that’s coming out next along those lines?

You know, I don’t, and I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of extra stuff to come out, except for maybe live stuff that we had done that we never put out. And that’s about it. I mean, we’ve already kind of gone through all that there was to go through with the reissue stuff. There may be a thing here or there, but for the most part, we’ve kind of put most of that stuff, all the extra bits out.

What’s next for you as a solo artist?

Yeah, the next thing I got coming out’s gonna be this Cowboys in the Campfire record that I’ve been working for a while. And that’s my writing partner friend, Chip Roberts, and I. We’re a duo. The record’s got a little bass and drums on it. John Doe from X played a little on it and did a little background vocal on it. We just kind of called a lot of our friends to help us fill out the songs, but a lot of it’s just, you know, him and I kind of playing rock & roll as a duo. Some of it comes off probably sounding a little country-ish. But the next thing that I put out will be that. And then who knows. I think somewhere down the road, I’ll probably make another Bash & Pop record, because I like playing with all those guys too, when I did the band thing.

I like the Bash & Pop stuff. And interesting enough, I was working on a Guns N’ Roses story for Guitar World a while back and as I was talking to (early ‘90s GN’R guitarist) Gilby Clarke and he said when he first joined GN’R he was listening to that first Bash & Pop record a lot.

Oh, nice!

Your brother (original Replacements guitarist) Bob Stinson’s birthday was last week. He was such a unique and interesting guitar player. Is there a particular Replacements song, album or moment you think best captures Bob’s essence as a guitar player?

I think pretty much the first record really captures a lot of what Bob was about. Certainly the song “Customer,” that would be one of the one of the biggies, I would think. We was a pretty wild-handed “guit-bucket” player, and that first record I think really kind of captures his spirit and everything.

I read (in a 1999 SPIN cover story) that before you joined GN’R you bought a used CD copy of “Appetite for Destruction” to learn the basslines. Is that true? And if so, do you remember what record store that was and how much you paid for that used “Appetite” CD?

I don’t remember even doing that. I think I got a record from them to learn from, and it wasn’t quite clear right out of the gate what was gonna happen with it. I learned a few songs and went and auditioned and it seemed like they kind of fell for me right there. And then I get some stuff from them to learn and stuff like that, but I don’t ever recall going out and actually buying the record.

I’ve also read Duff McKagan was a fan of The Replacements and your playing with The ‘Mats. As you were learning Duff’s parts on the classic GN’R stuff, what did you find interesting about his basslines? Because I think you’re one of his influences, which is kind of funny.

Yeah, I found that exactly – that we came from kind of came from this similar background, bass player-wise basically, in a lot of ways. Not in every way but in a lot of ways it was, I found, very familiar and similar to where I’d come from. And then, you know, of course then I met him and we kind of became pals about it at all. But yeah, we come from the same background in that regard, especially in the punk rock way.

What’s a track or two from “Chinese Democracy” you’re proudest of? Or maybe enjoyed playing live from that record the most?

Boy, that’s a tough one. Because I haven’t seen or heard that record for ages. But I mean, the title track was always fun to play and we never did “Riad” (“Riad N’ the Bedouins”) live …

“I.R.S.” is a cool one.

That one’s alright. What’s it, “Street of Dreams”? That had a nice bit to it. But without seeing the song titles, it’s a little hard to pull out. But a lot of the stuff we never got around to playing live, which is kind of unfortunate. But we did play enough of it to make it make sense, at the end of the day. Actually, I think they’re still playing the same songs that we played back when we were playing that record. [Laughs]

It was an interesting chapter of the band. I’m glad GN’R’s still playing those songs and they still sound good live. It’s like, The Stones have had different people in the band over the years and I like it when now they play different songs from different eras.


Before we move on, what’s something you appreciate more now about Axl Rose as a singer and bandmate and a person that that you weren’t cognizant of or aware of from working with him?

You know, without having really spoken to him in a while, I only know anecdotally from others around that it really did a world of good for him to go out and do the AC/DC thing. (Rose filled-in as singer on a 2016 AC/DC tour.) I think for him to get out and be a member of someone else’s band for a minute really had a positive effect on him. I’ve only heard this from people I know that have either been on the road with him or ... I actually went and saw them a couple times and heard exactly that. That it did really have a positive effect on him in a way.

From your years with Guns N’ Roses, what’s something cool about Axl most people don’t realize, about him musically or personally?

He’s got a pretty f---ing serious set of pipes. [Laughs] I mean, he’s a one-of-a-kind singer, no doubt about it.

There have been some reports about a Replacements biopic. Would you rather have someone famous, like say Timothee Chalamet, play you in a film or someone that’s unknown?

I wouldn’t really have an opinion on that. I don’t know … I’ve heard all kinds of different things about it and prefer to not even give that a thought until it’s actually happening. [Laughs] It’s just one of those things that gets unnecessarily wound up for us and then you go, “Oh, that’s not happening now.” But yeah, I don’t really have a preference to be honest with you.

I enjoyed Bob Mehr’s book (about The Replacements, titled “Trouble Boys”).

Oh yeah. I think he did a good job on that, totally.

Do you have a good Prince story from back in the day in Minneapolis?

I walked by him once and he said hello … I mean, that was really the extent of that meeting. But also for what it’s worth, I don’t think he said a whole lot to many people. He was very, very private and very, very quiet. And I don’t know if it was just because he was Prince or if he was just a very soft spoken quiet gentleman.

Tommy, is there anything you haven’t done in music yet, that you’d like to get around to? Whether it’s collaborating with a certain person or just something you haven’t done musically in general.

I’ve pretty much had my way with all of it, and it’s had its way with me as well. [Laughs] And I really can’t think of anyone that I would want to, you know, get back in the hot seat with here. I kind of like doing my own thing. I like doing it the way I do it, when I feel like it and when the inspiration hits me and so I kind of stick to that little program.

You literally grew up in The Replacements and later with Guns N’ Roses you were in someone else’s band. When you’re putting your own projects together, like with Bash & Pop, how do you go about putting together a band? What are your auditions like?

I’ve always put my bands together according to who, one, plays well, but who I get along with the best. When you’re undertaking that kind of a thing, camaraderie and all those things become hugely important. And my last Bash & Pop experience I had a really great band, we were very close dudes, all got along famously, and all f---ing great players.

For you, what’s the ultimate Replacements song, the one that best sums up what the band was about? Is it something like “Unsatisfied” or “Left of the Dial” or “Bastards of the Young”?

It would be probably any of those three. But, you know, you’ve also got to have “Can’t Hardly Wait” in there as well.

It’s not a signature track or anything, but one of my favorite songs by The Replacements is “Nightclub Jitters.” What do you remember about playing on that song?

It was different than anything we had done. It was a little jazzy, and I played upright bass on it. And we always rose to the occasion of trying to get out of ourselves what Paul was leaning towards. I mean, Paul, was pretty diverse in his thinking, so we had to kind of work hard to kind of keep up with him in a way, as far as song textures and things of that nature. We did our best to try to keep up with all that.

Earlier we were talking about the music of The South. And of course The Replacements recorded some in Memphis with (music producer) Jim Dickinson (for the “Pleased To Meet Me” album). What sticks out most about that experience?

[Laughs] Boy, that’s a whole story in itself right there. You know, he was a funny cat. I don’t know why he took to me so much but he did and in doing so the dynamic was pretty interesting. He could be a pretty cantankerous old dude. If he got pissed-off enough about one thing or other, he might not show up at the studio for a couple days. And I made two different records with him before he passed, but I always found him to be really musical. He really kind of knew how to push your buttons and get the s--- done. I always appreciated that.

I’m looking at my copy of the first ‘Mats record right now. Do you still have either of the two basses you’re shown with on the cover? Looks like maybe a Tele bass on the back cover photo and I can’t tell what bass it is you’re playing on the front cover.

I do not. I’ve gone through basses left and right, from either breaking them or from them falling apart, including my Rickenbackers. Yeah, what I have now, I’ve got a Hofner Beatle Bass, I’ve got a Fender P (Precision) Bass and a French metal bass that’s pretty f---ing cool, and that’s pretty much it. I’ve donated all the other basses to charity for different causes here and there, including all the ones that I played with Guns N’ Roses. So I’m sitting on very few basses right now, but that’s because I only need one. [Laughs]

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