|Tommy Stinson takes a moment from the GNR tour to talk about his current band - and his old one
By Sarah Rodman Globe Staff November 25, 2011
Tommy Stinson released a terrific new solo album, “One Man Mutiny,’’ earlier this year full of loose-limbed, Stones-y rave-ups (with a portion of its proceeds benefiting the Timkatec Schools in Haiti). But the former bassist for the seminal Minneapolis alt-rock band the Replacements hasn’t had much time to promote it. Stinson has been busy touring with the current lineup of Guns N’ Roses, in which he is now one of the longest-serving members, and with whom he finally made his recorded debut on the long-awaited 2008 album, “Chinese Democracy.’’ (Stinson also plays with fellow Twin Cities rockers Soul Asylum when he’s got time.)
This past Sunday night we saw Stinson roar through two-and-a-half hours with GNR in Pennsylvania, and even with only frontman Axl Rose as the sole surviving original member and a typically tedious between set wait, the band gave its all - see for yourself when the band plays the DCU Center tonight. We caught up with Stinson by phone from a Houston tour stop to talk Guns, ’Mats, and what’s up with those late start times.
Q. GNR is playing for nearly three hours. Are you just exhausted at the end of the night?
A. I’m still burnt from last night’s show. (Laughs.) It’s a marathon. But there’s a lot of music that the people want to hear from the old stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff we want to promote from “Chinese Democracy.’’ We never really promoted that record and neither did the record company.
Q. I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but I was doing the math and I just realized you’ve been a replacement longer than you were a Replacement. How does that feel?
A. And longer than [original GNR members] were in the [expletive] band. (Laughs.) That’s [expletive] funny.
Q. It’s your life, so I’m sure it seems normal to you.
A. Well, it doesn’t seem normal to me but it’s what I do. (Laughs.) There ain’t nothing about this that seems normal. I’ve lived a pretty kooky existence.
Q. And speaking of kooky, is there any way to sit down with Axl and say there’s no reason that fans should have to wait up to three hours between the opening act and GNR?
A. There is no reason ever for that to be.
Q. So why does it happen? What is happening during the time that people are waiting?
A. You know what? I don’t even know. I just know that some days my boy gets [expletive] derailed. I know he does his best to get out there on time. He doesn’t want to make people wait and bum out on him but, again, he can’t play before he’s ready either.
Q. Maybe he should start getting ready earlier then, because he must be paying all kinds of overtime and fines at these arenas which must be eating into the tour profits.
A. You’ve got a good point there. You know, that’s never been something he’s ever given a [expletive] about. When he’s ready to put on his best show that’s when he’s going to put it on, and if it’s on the late side so be it. He’ll gladly pay the extra money.
Q. What’s happening during the breaks for you? Napping? Warming up?
A. I’m usually sitting on the bus playing my guitar trying to remember my own songs. (Laughs).
Q. Speaking of your songs, I heard the title track to “One Man Mutiny’’ came out of a GNR bus dispute, is that right?
A. Yeah. I was inadvertently dragged into an inner-bus dispute about some travel plans that someone was going to make a big stink about and include me. And I came out and said, “Hey man, you have your own mutiny, I’m a one man mutiny,’’ and from there we had a laugh about it and by the time we’d gone from Ireland to Belgium, I had the whole song written. I included [GNR keyboardist] Dizzy [Reed] and [guitarist] Richard Fortus on it because it was our dispute. (Laughs.)
Q. It’s been three years since “Chinese Democracy’’; is GNR working on a new record?
A. I’ve been hearing about us going into “writing mode’’ after this run, so if that’s the case, I look forward to it.
Q. After all this time, do you feel insulated from the whole “It’s not Guns N’ Roses’’ complaint? Does it bother you that some fans don’t consider it a “real’’ band?
A. I couldn’t really give a [expletive]. I’ve always just played and done my bit, whatever that is, playing in the ’Mats or Guns or Soul Asylum. I just show up and have a good time, that’s my role. . . . The whole idea of joining this band was a [expletive] crapshoot to begin with. And you know what? It was a good idea then, it’s a good idea now. I have fun with him. We have a blast playing together.
Q. Since Axl does press so infrequently people must ask you all the time how he is. Sometimes when people are reclusive, their fans assume they’re unhappy or worse.
A. I think his silence has worked for him. I think that over all the years you’ve had [former band members] going on about Axl this and Axl that, and he’s kept his mouth shut and is waiting for when he’s ready to spill the beans, according to him. That day is coming I think. I think he’s feeling more comfortable with the idea of talking publicly about some of this [stuff] and setting the record straight from his point of view.
Q. As someone who writes about music I am contractually obligated to ask if there is ever going to be a Replacements reunion.
A. That’s probably about as likely as a Guns reunion, I suppose. No possibility. (Laughs.)
Interview was edited and condensed