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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.


2024.04.17 - Scream & Yell (Brazil) - Tommy Stinson talks about new solo album, his years with Guns N' Roses and the legacy of the Replacements

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2024.04.17 - Scream & Yell (Brazil) - Tommy Stinson talks about new solo album, his years with Guns N' Roses and the legacy of the Replacements Empty 2024.04.17 - Scream & Yell (Brazil) - Tommy Stinson talks about new solo album, his years with Guns N' Roses and the legacy of the Replacements

Post by Blackstar Thu Apr 18, 2024 5:11 am

Original article in Portuguese:


Interview: Tommy Stinson talks about new solo album, his years with Guns N' Roses and the legacy of the Replacements

By Luiz Mazetto

Rarely has a re-release of an album made as much noise in the music world as the recently released reissue of “Tim”, an absolute Replacements classic . Originally released in 1985, with production and mixing by Tommy Erdelyi (better known as Tommy Ramone), the album received a new (and necessary) mix in 2023, by the hands of Ed Stasyum, who also worked with the Ramones and was initially chosen to mix the songs, as revealed by Tommy Stinson in the interview below.

Called “Let it Bleed Edition”, this new edition of the band's fourth album (which came out a year after the group's third album, called “Let it Be”), their first on a major label, was not only chosen as the 2023 re-release by Pitchfork , but it has also earned feature articles in publications such as the New Yorker , the New York Times and this Scream & Yell .

In the conversation below, held over the phone at the end of February, a good-natured and extremely friendly Tommy Stinson talks not only about this important re-release and the production process of “Tim”, which initially included Alex Chilton, from Big Star , as a producer, but also about the Replacements' career in general, recalls his long stint with Guns N'Roses and the process of creating “Chinese Democracy”, in addition to talking about his recently released album “Wronger” (2023 ), with the folk project Cowboys in the Campfire, and reveals which records changed his life.

The last time you were in Brazil was about 10 years ago. Are you planning to play here again, either as a solo career or with one of your projects, like Cowboys in the Campfire, who just released an album?

Tommy: Yeah, it's been too long. I'm trying to think about how to do this (return to Brazil). What makes this a little difficult is that part of me wants to come back in any way possible, but lately I've been trying to see if I could count on a local band – a band from Brazil or Argentina, for example. I want to “borrow” a band and play shows with a full band, so I can play everything from my career. I would like to be able to play a little bit of each of my records. And being able to do that would be a lot more fun than a show alone. So I'm seeing this now. I have a friend of mine, who is from Brazil, but lives in Argentina now, and he is looking at how to try to make this happen. We're basically looking for a group of good musicians for me to play my stuff on – and who can go on tour for a week or two. Because I want to play in Brazil, Argentina and some other places. Because if I go there, I already want to go to all the cool places to play. So I'm trying to make that happen, it would be really fun to be able to come down there and see my friends.

And was there anything specific that caught your attention when you came to Brazil with Guns N' Roses between 2001 and 2014?

I hadn't been there yet (in 2001, when I first came with the band, at Rock in Rio III) and it was impressive, the way things got crazy. The fan adoration and all that is okay, but at that level it was a little more than I... I think it was too much for all of us, to be honest with you – except for Axl who was already used to it. The really amazing thing about this is that South America still has people who love rock music. And that's what I love to do, that's my thing. People here in the US are a little tired of it, it's just something different when you go to South America. Another really interesting place is Spain, the people there are really into rock music.

Last year, you released Cowboys in the Campfire's first album, titled “Wronger” (2023). From what I understand, this project started some time ago, initially as a bit of a joke, something fun between you and Chip Roberts. So I wanted to know what it was like to finally be able to go into the studio and, say, immortalize these songs?

The funny thing is… I think I phrased it badly when I said it was kind of like a joke. We started it as something fun because we were both bored one summer and we started playing some sounds and that's kind of how it all started. We've been recording stuff the whole time, whether it's stuff that would go on my solo albums or on Bash & Pop. After we'd been doing it long enough, we finally had enough material of our own for a record and decided it was time to put out an album. It took a long time to come to this conclusion, because Chip and I had to find time, schedules, because we have families and other things going on. But whenever our schedules allowed, we got together to make music and have fun. Now we've come out the other side, we've made an album, we've gone on a small tour in the US and we're already preparing a second album, it's really changed things. Now we are a trio, we have a bass player, Chops LaConte, who is playing with us and it has become something more serious, let's say.

And how was that for you? You've obviously navigated this more folky beach before, but, if I'm not mistaken, this is your first almost entirely acoustic album. Do you believe that this is your most intimate album in a way, because of the difference in the band and the way you think about the arrangements and the final versions of the songs, how will they sound?

For sure, for sure. That's another thing, it's funny because when you get on stage and play these songs live, you play them in their most bare form possible. And it's more intimate. We are also doing more intimate shows, playing in smaller venues. I'm basically playing for my fan base. I'm not trying to become a pop star, reach a new audience, I'm just playing for people who have been buying my records for 20, 30 years. Playing these songs in a more intimate way, with that in mind, is something very different, it's been a lot of fun. It's also been a learning experience, you really need to be sharp if all you have is your guitar, with Chip playing solos. There's not much to hide (laughs). It's been a good thing.

And do you feel more exposed? Why must it be very different to go from a life playing with big, very loud bands, like the Replacements, Guns N' Roses and Soul Asylum, to a calmer environment where, as you said, it's just you and guitars on stage?

Yes yes. On the one hand, it's no different from any other show because I give it my all. But, as I said, when you only have a few instruments, you are much more naked, since you don't have a full band behind which you can “hide” in any way. So you need to be at your best when you're there with just an acoustic guitar (laughs).

I read that John Doe , X's bassist and vocalist, sings and plays on some songs on the album. I know you guys have known each other for a long time, since Recent ones, like “The Westerner” and “ Fables in a Foreign Land ”, which have a very folk sound, have they influenced you in any way?

There are two things. The first recording session Chip and I did for the Cowboys in the Campfire record was when we were traveling through Austin, Texas – I think 7 or 8 years ago. We were on tour and were going through Austin, where John Doe had just moved. So I contacted him to say hi and meet up. And another friend of mine was working in a studio in Austin at the time and Chip and I had five or six songs to record. We went to Austin, talked to John Doe, went to see my friend's studio and recorded there. John came to the studio with an upright bass, which he had never played on any record before, but I think he had learned on his own. So he (John) brought the bass to play on our record and we just had a great time. In addition to playing bass, John also sang. It was a really fun recording. That became the beginning of the record, these five or six songs that were recorded there. We recorded “Karma's Bitch”… Oh, I can't remember the names of all the songs on my album (laughs). But it was a lot of fun.

Regarding John Doe's solo albums, there are a lot of old punks that I know who followed the same path. This is really about playing your punk songs on an acoustic guitar for the most part. It's something different, but it's the same way of composing, just much more bare. If you watch a John Doe show, you might see him playing X songs acoustically and think something like, “Oh, that's how he wrote those songs. It's that simple". And then you add guitars and drums and everything and you can see the path. But it's basically the same thing. I didn't prepare myself to actually make an “Americana” record, because I really hate that term (laughs). Chip and I wanted to keep things simple, because for the most part it would just be me and him at the shows. Then we realized it would be great to have someone do backing vocals and play bass. That's when we added our friend Chops.

At the end of last year, “Tim” (1985), by the Replacements, was re-released with a new mix made by Ed Stasyum (Ramones). So, I wanted to know what you thought of this new version of the album and what was his involvement in this process?

I was very involved in this process. Because, first of all, when they originally talked about remixing the record, I was a little skeptical, asking myself, “Why would you remix a record 30 years later?” But the fact is that there are two Replacements albums that I never liked the sound of. And I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that. I think a lot of people would agree that the original version of “Tim” (1985) didn't sound very good. I also thought “Don't Tell a Soul” (1989) sounded terrible, I think it was mixed too much. For me, these two records needed help and they got it. We remixed “Don't Tell a Soul” (re-released in 2019 in the form of a box set called “Dead Man's Pop”) with the guy we started working with on this record. I think it made these songs sound the right way, it kind of fixed the problem that had always existed with this record in my opinion. We did the same thing with “Tim”. Ed Stasyum was supposed to mix this record when we originally did it – it was a package deal, we were supposed to have Tommy Erdelyi (Tommy Ramone) and Ed Stasyum on this record. But for some reason Ed's schedule didn't work out and Tommy was kind of forced to mix the record. If he were here today, I think Tommy would be the first to say that he's not an engineer who mixes, he's a producer. But he did his best to finish the record, finish the project. Now we've had the opportunity to remix the record with Ed Stasyum, as it should have happened, and the record sounds right, it sounds like it should now.

Yeah, when I heard this re-release a few months ago, I was struck by how bigger everything sounds, thinking “Wow, how huge this thing sounds.”

Yeah, there were a lot of different things that Tommy Erdelyi tried to do to make the record work. He tried his best, but, like I said, he wasn't really a mixing sound engineer, he was a producer. He did the best he could, but now that we have the record mixed by Ed, I think this is how the album should sound.

By the way, what was it like for you to work with Tommy on this opportunity – I know you were all big Ramones fans. And I think you were one of the first bands he produced after the Ramones (note: also in the 1980s, Tommy produced Redd Kross ). So I imagine it was also a very interesting experience for him.

Of course we were Ramones fans to begin with, but we actually started working on this record with Alex Chilton (Big Star) as producer. And it was quickly realized that Alex wasn't the right guy for the project, even though we also loved Alex Chilton and everything. But we felt like we needed someone who was more of a producer than a songwriter. So Tommy Erdelyi made sense at the time. And I think it was a gamble both on our side and on Sire's side (the band's record label). I think it made sense for Seymour (Stein, owner of Sire, the record company that released the Ramones in the 1970s) because he made all those records with Tommy for the Ramones. So I think Seymour was also involved in this decision, it was something that made sense.

You mentioned that Alex Chilton should have been the producer of the record, but I wanted to know how much you were able to work with him.

We started the album with him, recorded several things. Well, not many things, but we recorded some with him (Note: these recordings are available in the “Tim” re-release box set). But the record company kind of said “Yeah, that’s not quite it”. So we reached an impasse, because, as the record company was basically investing a lot of money for us to make a record, they wanted something more. So they brought Tommy. Or we agree to bring Tommy. Because we also knew that Alex wasn't exactly the best match. We knew we needed something more than Alex. That's how it was decided. And just thinking about it now, I think we were looking for help and direction to make a record. But I don't think we knew what that would be. When you're young and you think something along the lines of, “Okay, a producer is going to come here and help us, he's going to add something to this equation so we can make the best record possible.” At the time, we thought someone would arrive bringing a lot to the table. You thought, first of all, you're a musician. Then, secondly, it's someone who knows how to make records, who has already made several records. So you would expect to have a collaboration with someone when you're doing this. Especially at that time, we really wanted to collaborate and have someone take us to another place with those songs. When we understood that Alex Chilton wouldn't do this, the next decision was made by Tommy. I'll be honest, I think what ended up coming out of this is that we understand that it all comes down to what we have. I think maybe we were thinking that a producer would bring something. But we quickly understood that the producer wouldn't bring it and that we needed to bring it. You need to understand what this song needs, what this recording needs. And you kind of have to understand that as things happen. And we kind of got used to that once we signed with Warner.

2024 marks 40 years since “Let it Be” (1984), another very important Replacements album. How do you see the album today, so much time later?

I really appreciate the fact that we are still relevant musically in some unique way. I don't know how it happened, but we managed to connect with a lot of people with the music we made. We can say that we left our mark on the 1980s music scene. And not many people did that. So I respect that, we try to keep in mind that this is something special, a special moment, but we try not to go overboard with these re-releases. I think that, so far, Warner is doing a great job with these box set reissues, so that people are really getting something different than what they would normally get, than what they would get just by having the original versions of these records. I think they did a great job with these reissues, we worked with them to make these reissues come out in the best possible way, without ruining the band's name.

The year 1984, in fact, marked a wave of incredible albums in US punk/hardcore, especially from bands that were beginning to look for alternatives to leave the already established sound of 1970s punk and early 1980s hardcore, with you with “ Let it Be”, Hüsker Dü with “Zen Arcade”, Black Flag with “My War”, Meat Puppets with “II”, Minutemen with “Double Nickels on the Dime”. Why do you think so many important releases culminated in this specific year?

I think a lot of things from that time became very anti-pop, if you want to call it that. It was more of a statement against what pop music was becoming. The exaggerated hype, things that weren't very believable, that weren't very cool, for us at least. A lot of people, a lot of those bands you mentioned were against the ethos of pop music and everything. The punks at that time had a lot of skinheads and were also against fashion, but this anti-fashion vibe made them start to look like Hitler Youth in many ways. It's funny that this “anti” statement ended up becoming a trend in itself (laughs). We weren't really part of any of that, we traveled and played with all these bands you just mentioned. We were kind of the outsiders, the illegitimate adopted child in the room. We weren't “anti” anything in particular, we just loved music and also didn't like all the pop music bullshit that was going on at the time. But we didn't have the need or the desire to be against something, just to be ourselves. We were already problematic enough the way we were, to the point that people still talk about it today (laughs).

You're from Minneapolis, a city that, in addition to you and Hüsker Dü, also featured other important alternative rock and punk bands, such as Soul Asylum and Babes in Toyland. In your opinion, what was different about the city, how important was the city itself for the bands? Do you think it would be possible for Replacements to exist the way it did in another US city?

I think one thing that was really important to all of these bands is that Minneapolis had a very diverse music community. Everyone “fed” off each other in a certain way. We all hung out together, enjoyed it together, all these bands. And we all knew that we were different, that we had different aspirations, in one way or another. But at the time Minneapolis was very… I mean, I've never seen a scene like that, that was so diverse and where everyone was kind of in one centralized scene, even though everyone played and had aspirations outside of it. I think Prince had a lot to do with it. We never really met or hung out with Prince, but everyone fed off of Prince – and Hüsker Dü, of us (Replacements). And everyone kind of listened to each other and we went on with different things. It really was a very special place at that time.

After the Replacements disbanded, you went from being the band's bassist to being the leader and lead vocalist in Bash & Pop. What was it like for you to find your voice as a vocalist at that time? Of course you also sang in the Replacements, but mostly backing vocals. What was that change like for you, of literally finding your voice?

It was big, it was big. But it was a natural progression for me because I really felt like I wanted to do something different. I was already writing my own songs at the time, so it felt like a natural progression to do my own thing. When we went to make “All Shook Down” (1990, the last Replacements album), Paul, Chris and I knew that Paul would produce this album and that it could be our last album. We didn't really talk about it, like, “Oh, this is going to be the last record of our career.” But we kind of knew at that point that it might be the last, I think it was also our last album under the Warner deal – not that we really cared about that necessarily. But we knew that the three of us were growing and changing in a way that we would eventually move on to at some point. So we knew that when this record was made.

When you saw Nirvana blow up a few months after the Replacements' last show in 1991, did you feel like it was something that was about to happen at any moment? Because you were involved in this underground independent scene since the early 1980s. What did you feel when that happened, when a band from Seattle took the number one spot on the charts from Michael Jackson? Was that something you kind of expected or was it a shock in a way?

When all this happened, everyone started to relate it to a kind of continuation of what the Replacements or Hüsker Dü had kind of built in a certain way, in terms of alternative music or something like that. But I don't know if I looked at it that way. I don't know if I thought it was necessarily an extension of something we did – or that we started. I'll be honest with you, I wasn't a huge fan of Nirvana when they first became known. I didn't like them until someone introduced me to “Bleach” (1989), long after it was released. I liked “Bleach” and I also really liked “Nevermind” (1991). In my mind, it was like stripped-down heavy metal. And that's just my opinion on this, I think everyone has their opinion on the matter. I didn't think all of this had anything to do with us, necessarily.

2024 marks 10 years since your departure from Guns'N Roses. How do you see your time in the band after this time? Is there anything in particular that marked you the most? And what is your opinion about the album you recorded with the band, “Chinese Democracy” (2008), do you think people will look at it differently in the future?

I think so. I think they're already (looking), actually. I think we made a great album under the circumstances. And there were many circumstances during the creation of this record that were not in our hands (laughs). The record label battles with Axl, he just wanted to make a fucking record and it felt like every step along the way was like a nightmare process. But we managed to make the record, in the end. And I think people will look at it as a great record over time, because it is a great record. I learned a lot, making this album was huge for everyone involved. I don't know if anyone talks about this aspect, but I learned a lot making this album, things that helped me a lot as a musician and artist. Just in terms of being able to bring together between 6 and 8 guys from different musical backgrounds to make a record. That was an incredible thing in itself. We were all very different in the band, regardless of which tour, which time you saw the band, we were all from totally different backgrounds. I think that me, Frank (Ferrer, drummer) and Richard Fortus (guitarist) had perhaps the most similar backgrounds, because we had more of a punk and alternative rock vibe. But it was a great experience making this record.

And do you have a favorite song on the album?

Jesus… I'm trying to remember the names of the songs. Yes I do, give me a minute. I'll look here on my cell phone. I'm cheating, man, I'm cheating (laughs). Give me one more minute. Hmm, I think “There Was a Time” is one of my favorites. “Catcher in a Rye” had very interesting lyrics. I think these would be my favorites right away. Wow, these songs are long (laughs).

I was reviewing the band's show at Rock in Rio III, in 2001, and there is a moment when Axl refers to you as “General Tommy Stinson”, pointing out you as the person responsible for leading the rehearsals. Do you think that the fact that you played in a band like the Replacements, with four very different personalities, helped you deal with all these different personalities in Guns 'N Roses, as you just said?

Yes, period (laughs). The thing with Guns N' Roses is that we all came from different places and had different temperaments. Axl was a little gratuitous when he called me General and stuff like that. But he had something that I brought to the table, which was helping to untangle the recording sessions, helping to get people there. You had a lot of personalities involved. I kind of took on the role of being the peacemaker, to try to get the best out of people when I was around. And that was a lot, you had a lot of really different personalities in that group of people. And at times I really needed to step away, remove myself from the equation to make things work. But it was great. It was a great learning experience. Probably my biggest learning from all of this was making music with a group of people with very different personalities. And that was it, trying to make a song come out from eight different personalities.

You started playing bass when you were quite young, because of your brother. From what I read, in interviews and in the band's biography, since you started playing you said that you would like to pursue a career in the world of music. Do you believe that, if it weren't for your brother, you would have ended up working with music all your life, as happened?

I would never have done any of this if it weren't for him (Bob Stinson, Replacements guitarist) teaching me how to play bass. I was not a musically inclined person at that time. And I was really in a really bad way when he came home. He had stayed away, in some kind of shelter. They sent him away because he was getting into a lot of trouble when he was a child. So when he finally came back, he wanted to take care of me a little and put a bass in my hand. At 10 years old, I had already been arrested three times, I was really on a dangerous path. And that helped me. If it weren't for my brother, I probably would have died or been in prison today.

And do you remember the first song he taught you on bass?

Yes, I think the first song he taught me was “Bony Moronie”, basically the blues scale (at this point Tommy starts humming the lines of the song). It was a simple finger exercise, but it applied to a lot of what we were playing at the time, so much so that I kind of played the same thing most of the time (laughs).

A few months ago, Peter Jesperson, who was the Replacements' first manager, released an autobiography, entitled “Euphoric Recall”. I wanted to know if you still talk to each other and how you see his importance for you and the band in general.

Man, this is a big one. We are still best friends. I just did a tour with him, for his book. We've been doing some promotional stuff together for the book, because I support him like he supported us all those years. He is the reason we are here. He signed our first recording contract, made us feel that what we did was something that mattered. And you can't underestimate that, it's what made it all possible.

I always like to ask this one. Please tell me three albums that changed your life and why they did that.

Three albums that changed my life? Well, one of them would be Terry Reid. I didn't know it was called anything other than “Terry Reid”, I think he made the record in 1969 (note: the record came out as “Terry Reid” in the UK, but was titled “Move Over for Terry Reid " In the USA). Peter Jesperson introduced me to this album during the Replacements era. And he (Terry) made me want to be a vocalist, even though I couldn't sing anything like him. He just has this fucking amazing voice. He wrote a song called “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace,” which was a bit of a hit with Cheap Trick.

What else? Let me think. Probably Big Star. I think Big Star made me want to be a songwriter in a lot of ways when I met them. And also The Clash. Oh, and also Slade. Slade was huge to me. They are a little less well known than other names of the time. But they were kind of the quintessential glam rock band from England in the 1970s. They weren't as successful in the US, but they were a fantastic rock band, really, really good. I was really crazy about them.

That's the last question. You founded and played in one of the most important rock bands of the last 40 years, the Replacements, later you founded your own band, when you also became a vocalist, Bash & Pop, you were present for more than 10 years in the second phase of one of the most important bands of the 1980s and 1990s, Guns N' Roses, also played in Soul Asylum, and still has a consistent solo career for some time. So I wanted to know what you are most proud of in your career?

What am I most proud of? You know, what I'm most proud of is that I can still do this – and that I still feel inspired to do it. When you think about what I've done, or when I think about what I've done, I don't look back and think, “Wow, I need to somehow compete with what I've done before.” I'm happy just for the fact that I can still do this, I'm proud that I can continue playing. I'm very lucky in the fact that there are still people who want to buy my music, at a certain point. It's not an audience like Guns'N Roses, but I can still make records and do my thing. I feel inspired by the process: I like playing, composing, everything. So that's it, it works for me.

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