Tommy Stinson of Guns N' Roses and The Replacements: "A [Replacements] Reunion Is About As Likely as an Original Guns Reunion."
Tommy Stinson can't slow down. The guy stays busy -- playing bass in Guns N' Roses (clocking nearly 14 years in the band, only Axl Rose and keyboardist Dizzy Reed have been in the band longer), releasing solo records (like this year's excellent One Man Mutiny), and playing in Soul Asylum. It's what you would expect from a guy who was freaking 11 years old when he started playing in The Replacements, one of the most celebrated "left of the dial" rock bands of the '80s.
I called Stinson (just before Guns N' Roses was announced as 2012 inductees to the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame) to discuss the current Guns N' Roses tour (which winds its way to Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, December 27), whether or not Guns will follow up Chinese Democracy, and the ever-nagging question of a Replacements reunion.
Tommy Stinson [answering the phone]: Wow, hi.
Up on the Sun: Is this Tommy?
What was the wow for? Was I too timely?
Yeah, they fucking book me at 2:15, 2:30, 3 o'clock . . . it's like, 15 minutes almost isn't quite enough time to talk to somebody. Invariably, they want to talk about everything I've done in some capacity or another. So you've got 15 minutes [laughs]. Make 'em good.
You've been singing The Who's "My Generation" and The Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" in GNR's live sets. Curious, why those tunes?
They both came about as equally and accidentally as anything. We happened to be in Japan, and Axl introduced me as doing a "bass solo." The guys and I have been doing "My Generation" at rehearsal, just for laughs. It sparked that I had to fucking do something. I wasn't going to sit there and twiddle my thumbs and play a bass solo. I've never done that, that's kind of stupid. So we just busted into it. After that it was like, 'Eh, that's getting kind of boring.' He introduced me that way for a while, and then we did "Sonic Reducer," a couple times.
Then he stopped introducing me in that way, so I felt like it was time for that to go away, that whole element of the set had run its course. He asked me recently, "Why did you stop doing the songs?" and I was like, "I kind of thought you wanted me to because you stopped introducing me to do them." He was like, "No, you gotta do that." We'll probably work something new up. I'm getting a little bored of them.
What about throwing in a song from your last solo record, One Man Mutiny?
You know, maybe. "It's a Drag" might, but eh...I just think that would be kind of weird. The guys [in the band] want me to do one or two off my last record, "Motivation" or "Moment Too Soon." They keep pushing. But I could just hear him [Rose] getting a breather while we're doing that saying "Real cute, guys." Not really appropriate. Or is it? I just don't know.
You generally seem to keep that stuff separate. You have your thing and the Guns N' Roses thing, and they seem be two different worlds.
Totally. That's how I've been doing it for so long.
You're a busy guy -- GN'R, solo, and Soul Asylum.
Yeah, [Soul Asylum] did a whole new record, and I think it's probably going to come out soon. Hopefully first or second quarter.
You've been playing music since an incredibly young age. Does it just make sense to do it all the time?
It does. Until you get burned out, which is kind of where I am right now. I think I've made myself a little crispy here in the past few years. I think I might take a little vacation.
Sounds necessary. You've been in Guns N' Roses 13 years.
Shit, I think it will be 14 by the time fuckin' May rolls around.
What's the secret? Not a lot of people have stayed in the band like that.
You know, it's been a good gig for me. it's been fun, and you know, it's served me well in a lot of ways. Axl and I get along pretty good, and now is kind of the time to stick it out if we're going to make another record. The lineup is working, and the camaraderie is good; it's a good fit.
I thought about asking if GN'R was going to do another record, but I thought that might be the worst question in the word considering how long people asked about Chinese Democracy.
You know, I just see us making a record much quicker, because, in hindsight, a lot of what happened with Chinese Democracy, we could get around now. Mostly what happened with that record, why it took so long, was we just had no help from the record company whatsoever. [Axl] got zero fucking help from anyone outside the band to fucking do it. You know, it just got stupider and stupider as the record company kept throwing bad A&R guys [at us], or producers like Roy Thomas Baker who, you know, he made things sound better, but that wasn't' what we needed. We needed someone to help us fucking sow it up, and he came in fucking re-recorded everything five fucking times with every amp in the country. I just don't think that was something that was really important to making a record, that could have been taken care of in the mix.