GREAT Tommy Stinson interview

Bassist Tommy Stinson 
talks new GNR album, his old band the Replacements and what Axl Rose is really like.

Feb. 22, 2012

Tommy Stinson is asking some questions about the fashionable Paleo diet since he’s hoping for some extra energy. That’s understandable since the Guns N’ Roses bassist is working around the clock. 

When the former member of the seminal 1980s alt-rockers the Replacements isn’t on the road with Guns N’ Roses, Stinson is working on solo material or touring with Soul Asylum. At the moment he is caring for his four-year old, who has walking pneumonia.

“There is so little time for everything,” Stinson tells Atlantic City Weekly while calling from his home in New York’s Hudson Valley. “I need more energy.”

The busy performer talks about Axl Rose, the future of Guns N’ Roses — which just finished off a five-night New York City run and will perform Friday, Feb. 24, at the House of Blues in Atlantic City — and why a Replacements reunion is unlikely.

How difficult is it to juggle all of your musical obligations?

It’s not easy. Guns tends to book a lot of things fairly last minute. I’ll have solo stuff booked and I’ll have to cancel it.

Is there a backup for you with Guns N’ Roses?

I’m not going to miss anything with Guns since it’s been my main gig for the last 14 years, but if I had to miss, the person I could call is [original Guns N’ Roses bassist] Duff [McKagan]. He would do it and the old fans would get a kick out of it. But I’m good with all the Guns dates.

One album in 14 years isn’t much of an output. Any chance that Guns N’ Roses will put out anything since Chinese Democracy finally was released?

I really hope so. I would like to put out more than one album in 14 years. But people don’t know how much trouble we had with Interscope [Records]. They didn’t make it easy on us. But there’s a good chance something will be out. We’re writing and Axl really likes some of the stuff [guitarist] DJ [Ashba] has come up with. Guns has a future and I think it includes an album. I’m fine with playing the old Guns songs I had nothing to do with when they were recorded. I’m all about Chinese Democracy, too, but I want new Guns N’ Roses songs.

What’s Axl Rose really like?

First of all, Axl Rose is part of a dying breed, a real rock star. There just aren’t rock stars anymore. He’s a really good guy, great to work with. If that wasn’t so I wouldn’t be working with him for the last 14 years.

When we last spoke a decade ago, you told me that there was an 80-percent chance that the Replacements would never reunite and if you did, it would be only for the money. Is that still true?

[Laughs] I think it’s less than a 20-percent chance we’ll get back together. I think there is a much better chance that there will be another Guns N’ Roses album than there will ever be a Replacements reunion.

But it’s not as if you had an ugly breakup.

Not at all. We just walked away from it.

What if Coachella offered the Replacements $5 million, which they dangled in front of the Smiths, to reunite?

We would have to consider it. I don’t know if we’d do it. But it’s not like we’re on bad terms. Every couple of years we talk about what it would take for us to come back, but we’re not doing it.

Music culture has chanced a great deal since you were with the Replacements. It appears that most fledgling artists are desperate for wealth and fame and the Replacements were the antithesis of that.

I would agree with that.

It’s all over the Mats lyrics, such as “I Don’t Know.” You could almost see Paul Westerberg sneering as he sings: “one foot in the door/ the other one in the gutter/the sweet smell that you adore/I think I’d rather smother.” If that doesn’t say I’ll pass on the brass ring, I don’t know what does.

Yeah, we didn’t go for the brass ring, but we didn’t think it was reachable anyway. 

I always thought I missed the mythic great Replacements show since the Mats were often a drunken mass, which angrily stopped midway through songs. But I realized years after you called it a day that those were the great shows since each show was different. It was happening in front of everyone.

We were genuine and Paul is like no one else. It was great to be in a band with him.

When Chinese Democracy was just some Flying Dutchman of a project, did your old pal Westerberg ever call you to see what was going on?

He called and joked and said, “Maybe I should produce the album.” He didn’t. He won’t produce the next Guns album either. I’m looking forward to the next album. It’s a good time to be in Guns N’ Roses.

You’re squeezing in a date at Philly’s MilkBoy following the Atlantic City Guns N’ Roses date. [Wednesday, Feb. 29, at MilkBoy, 1100 Chestnut St., Philadelphia. $10; 9pm.] 

Yes. I’m really looking forward to that. I’m only going to be on for about 35 minutes. It’s a Pete Donnelly [NRBQ, Figgs, Soul Asylum, Graham Parker] show and it’ll be fun. I just don’t know exactly what I’ll do yet. I’m just glad I have the chance to do it.



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