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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.

Registering is free and easy.


2023.07.03 - Illinois Entertainer - Hello My Name is Tommy Stinson

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2023.07.03 - Illinois Entertainer - Hello My Name is Tommy Stinson Empty 2023.07.03 - Illinois Entertainer - Hello My Name is Tommy Stinson

Post by Blackstar Mon Jul 03, 2023 9:03 pm

Hello My Name is Tommy Stinson

Some folks just attract trouble magnetically. Take ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, for example — when the coronavirus hit him, post-lockdown, it smacked him upside the scruffy head and just kept knocking him senseless.

“That was horrible, and I’m still reeling from it,” the rasp-throated rock rapscallion recalls from his rustic home in upstate New York. “And I’ve had Covid a couple, three, maybe four times now, and it was brutal every single time. But luckily enough, it didn’t kill me, obviously, and I’ve taken every booster they’ve had to offer, and I’ll take the next one when they offer it to avoid getting it again. And lucky for my kiddo that she was able to live through it, as well.” ‘Kiddo,’ of course, being the operative parental term for his 15-year-old daughter Talulah, or Lulu, whose raising has come to mean more to Stinson than all of his frequent moonlighting obligations combined, including gigs in Guns N’ Roses, Soul Asylum, Perfect, Bash & Pop, and occasionally a newly-rejuvenated ‘Mats whenever Paul Westerberg gets bitten by the tour bug again. He’s also played with The Old 97s, Dinosaur Jr., and recently popped up on Lucinda Williams’s courageous new post-stroke set, “Stories From a Rock N Roll Heart.”

But the only project Stinson is currently pushing — or the only one he has time for — is Cowboys in the Campfire, the folksy duo he formed with Pennsylvania-bred guitarist Chip Roberts, the uncle of his second ex-wife. Their debut disc, “Wronger,” is an acoustic, banjo-buttressed affair that splashes streaks of the pedal-steel country across a few forlorn Nashville schematics (“We Ain’t,” “Here We Go Again,” “Fall Apart Together”) but plugs in prickly punk riffs when you least expect it, on “That’’s It,” alongside Byrdsian jangle (“Karma’s Bitch”) and even lute-delicate folk. X firebrand John Doe played bass and sang on several tracks, but the sheer rickety underpinnings of Stinson and Roberts’ material make touring with it especially easy — no sprawling bus required. “I’m gonna be touring into the next year on this one,” Stinson reckons. “And I’ve got a studio here in New York that I work out of, so I’m either there working on my own stuff or working on producing other records. So I kinda keep myself busy, keep moving around.”

IE: Last time we talked, a few years ago for Bash & Pop, you’d decided to devote your life just to raising Talulah. Everything else — even Guns N’ Roses — excluded.

TS: Yeah. And you know, I had to. That’s kind of where I was at in life at that point, and I’m still pretty much here. I get out and do stuff with Cowboys in the Campfire now and some solo stuff, but I’m basically Dad Guy now. And I got to a point where I had to walk away from that gig with Axl, because I couldn’t be gone for four, five, or six weeks at a time anymore to tour with them. So I had to say I couldn’t do two or three tours, and by then, it got to just be obvious that my position wasn’t going to change, and I had the courts telling me that I couldn’t have my sister look after my daughter — it had to be or it had to be her mother, but then her mother was in and out of trouble, sooo…

IE: Are you allowed to still record with Axl if he needs you?

TS: Oh, yeah. But he’s got Duff now, he’s got, Slash. So my guess is, if he was gonna do anything now, he’d probably do it with those guys.

IE: But how did this project occur to you? You’ve said it was piecemeal, over ten years?

TS: Yeah. Chip and I have been writing for 14 years now, and I was touring with him just doing solo gigs, and this, that, and the other thing, just trying to keep busy and just for fun, but after a while, we just decided to give it a name. And Chip came up with it, and we made these watercolor paintings that were funny and sort of solidified the concept. So from that moment on, we were gonna be Cowboys in the Campfire, and between his schedule and my schedule and stuff like that, we kind of threw a record together. And here we are now, all these years later, with our own record, tour, and everything else.

IE: Obviously, you hang with Paul Westerberg, and you know which way that collaboration is going to go. But what did you imagine for this?

TS: You know, it’s fun, it’s really, really low maintenance, it’s hanging out with my bud. So I can do it on my own terms, which is really the great thing behind it. I can go out and play as little or much as I want, really, in the fashion that works for me, and still take care of my kid and my responsibilities. So it works out good for me, and it’s fun because we always get to play some really wacky places. And Lulu can go stay with her mom now when I split, so things have kind of changed up so that works out well now.

IE: You helped out Lucinda Williams on her new album. Are you available on call as a last-minute fixer-upper for artists’ recording sessions?

TS: Yeah. If I get the call in good enough time ahead, I can usually plan for something like that. And I have done them, have gone on the fly and done certain things. So at the moment, I’m in a good spot for that kind of thing. And they all come with a certain amount of mystery and risk because I never know anything about what I’m getting myself into. So it’s always interesting but somewhat haphazard going in, you know? And Guns was one of those things where it sounded like a great idea, and I was really into where Axl was coming from, kind of an all-for-one, one-for-all kind of vibe on that. And I kind of do that with everything — if it sounds good, I don’t worry about results or what I’m gonna get out of it, or what it’s gonna do for me. I usually just kind of go with my guts on it, and most everything I’ve done, one way or another, has kind of turned out okay. So there was nothing I’ve ever had to really walk away from, per se.

IE: What was the most challenging?

TS: Well, it’s hard to say. It’s all been a bit of a challenge. Finishing this record “Wronger” was a challenge because we had COVID in the middle of that, and I had to walk away from a record deal we had with it because Fat Possum had one idea what that record should be, and I had another. Fat Possum, they thought it should be a solo record, and I had to tell ‘em, “It’s not a solo record — it’s a Cowboys in the Campfire record to me and Chip Roberts and I together made this record and that needs to be represented. And I don’t think they knew what to do with that, or knew what to with it, or any of the above. And they said, “Well if we can’t do that, what do you want to do?” And I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll look for another way to put it out.” So that’s kind of how that went down.

IE: “Mr. Wrong” sounds like a blanket apology to all your exes.

TS: Ha! There’s a lot of that going on in there, and lots of looking at things, looking at mistakes, things that I probably should’ve changed sooner rather than later, or just observation about things that maybe aren’t so great, and trying to put a spin on bad decision making.

IE: Regrets…I’ve had a few, too. If only I’d never wasted all that money on the latest T-shirts, Pumas, Adidas, Converse, and Vans. Holy crap — if I’d saved? I’d have a mansion or two by now.

TS: Yeah, but that was not part of the deal. That wasn’t what we were doing back then, right? And you know, I didn’t necessarily pick rock and roll — it picked me. And I’ve kind of been a willing participant ever since, no matter how I look at it. And I’m pretty grateful. I’ve had a pretty good run so far, and I’m nowhere near done. You know, I’ve got a lot of inspiration still left in me, and I like what I do, so I consider myself really lucky in that.

IE: What’s the surreal story behind “Karma’s Bitch”?

TS: It’s a true story! Told to me by Chip about this neighbor he had down in Maryland, and it was a pretty dark tale. It’s about one of his neighbors — as we were driving by him on a golf cart, he pointed him out to me and said, “See that guy right there? He dropped his woman, started dating her daughter, and then she drank herself to death.” It was a troubling story, but I wrote a song about it with him.

IE: In “Hey Man” you sing “Save your bullets for the range.” Do you own any guns and go out to a range to fire them?

TS: No, not at all. I’m not even a gun owner. That’s more of an observation about how it’s a bit troubling to me that we don’t really take care of our veterans very well, in my opinion. And in a lot of places in rural U.S.A., the best job going is to get in the military and get your G.I. Bill and the other things they say that they offer, that’s like the best gig you can get. And it’s kind of unfortunate sometimes to look at that scenario and realize that these people are making it possible to maintain a democratic society by fighting these wars and taking care of business for the American people, because we’re just not taking good care of ‘em, in my opinion. So that song is kind of my loose observation of that. But I pull from all kinds of inspirations like that, and it’s all fodder for something new.

IE: The Replacements were one of those totally unique outfits that effortlessly jumped from style to style, a trick few bands have managed to master. But “Wronger” fits neatly beneath that eclectic umbrella.

TS: I appreciate that. And that’s kind of how I feel about it, too. We all grew up with eclectic musical taste, and a lot of that had to do with (Twin Tone Records mastermind) Peter Jesperson. Especially on my part — he’s been my total musical guru since I was a kid and still is now. And he and his son actually executive produced this album — I’d send them stuff and say, “What do you think about this?” And “What do you think about that?” And they’d put in their two cents on it, and I’d address it accordingly and work it out, one way or the other. But it was super, super important, and super, super helpful. And I’ve pretty much made every record that way with Peter, although the only time I really didn’t might have been the first Bash & Pop record (1993’s **Friday Night is Killing Me). But I think after that and before that, he’s been a part of everything.

IE: And John Doe from X got involved, too, right?

TS: Yeah. John Doe had moved down to Austin, Texas, and we had some time to kill. And my friend Christine Smith had a studio that she was working at and doing stuff out of, so it just kind of worked out as the perfect storm. And that’s where we started the recording process of this record — that was the first five songs on the record, which would have been “Karma’s Bitch,” “Hey Man,” “Fall Apart Together,” “Mr. Wrong,” and “We Ain’t.” Those five songs are the first things we recorded down there with him, and that was the start of the album.

IE: Has Talulah shown any curiosity about writing or recording music? Or does she steer in the opposite direction?

TS: She’s doing her own thing. She sees her older sister Ruby getting into it, but I think she just kind of prefers to do something different, a whole different trajectory, and I’m not even sure what that is as of yet. But not at this time, anyway. She’s not really showing any signs of being musically inclined.

IE: It’s kind of cool that now, after roughly 45 years in showbiz, you can suddenly turn left or right, artistically, and your audience will happily go along.

TS: Yeah. And lucky me, that I can do that, and that I get to do that and WANT to do that. I like to challenge myself, and I like to push the envelope, one way or the other, on my own self, and on my own background and past, and just see what comes of it. Always. I’ve always been that way.

– Tom Lanham

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