When Tommy Stinson joined Guns N' Roses way back in 1998, there were many people who didn't have a clue who he was. Stinson's career path just hadn't taken the route that one would think might lead to playing on stage with Axl Rose.
Starting out in the Replacements when he was barely a teenager, Stinson learned quite a bit from that band's leader, Paul Westerberg. When the 'Mats decided to call it quits in 1991, Stinson surprised many by forming Bash & Pop, a high quality alternative rock four-piece that seemed to pick up where his old band left off.
Sadly, neither Bash & Pop nor Stinson's next outfit, Perfect, made any commercial inroads, and Stinson found himself a session musician looking for a gig. Luckily, Rose called and the continued concert appeal of Guns N' Roses has allowed Stinson to record two solid solo albums.
Speaking from a tour stop in Mexico City and in anticipation of Guns N' Roses performing on Saturday at Gexa Energy Pavilion, Stinson talked with DC-9 about his current gig and the interesting path that led him into the waiting arms of Axl Rose.
Who is easier to work for, Axl Rose or Paul Westerberg? They are both about the same to work with. There are things about both of them that I admire. They are both very similar. They have their way of doing things. Sometimes, things haven't worked out so good with either of them, and that is part of the deal.
What do you think about all the criticism Axl got for starting Guns N' Roses over with the new lineup? Here's the way it went down. He didn't start over. The other guys just kind of vacated the band. They said, "Fuck it, I don't want to work." Axl just decided to go on. He called me and asked me to do it and got the other guys to do it as well. Axl just wanted to keep working. He didn't want to start completely over after everything the band had been through. I think it was a pretty ballsy move.
When you were in the Replacements, you played in front of some big audiences, but those can't compare with some of the crowds you've seen with Guns N' Roses. Do you sometimes walk out on stage and go, "Oh shit!"? Not really so much. I have gotten used to it. I've been doing this now for 13 years. The cool thing and the amazing thing is that the people still come. After all of these years, there's no Slash, no Duff, they still keep coming.
2008's Chinese Democracy took forever to come out. Does the band have a lot of songs in the can? Is a new album in the works? I'm not going to say a whole lot about that, but I tell you right now that I certainly hope we do another album. I would love to get everyone back into the studio and make some more stuff happen. I think we have a good band, and each of us has something interesting to offer. I hope we get on this project sooner than later.
People might not realize that you still have a solo career going. Where did you find the time to write and record your most recent effort, One Man Mutiny? It's been kind of tough to find the time. I take down time very seriously and I use it to work on my own stuff. It's a slow process and I am into so many things, whether it's Guns or whatever. I'm hoping that next year will help me simplify a few things and play my own music more often. I need to find a way to make more of my music.
Mutiny has a classic-rock vibe. Is that the kind of album you set out to make? Not really, it just came out that way. Whatever comes to me comes to me. I never sat down and though that I was going to make this kind or that kind of record. I let the songs come to me.
Some songs like "Zero to Stupid" and "Match Made in Hell" have quite a bit of twang in them. Is alt-country a genre you might pursue more in the future? You know, I don't know, but I have been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash lately. But it's not like I want to be a country singer or anything. There always seem to be classic country music in the background when we are driving from place to place. Perhaps that influenced me. Even in the Replacements, we listened to a shitload of Merle Haggard, George Jones and a lot of Hank Williams as well.
Your solo debut, 2004's Village Gorilla Head, definitely had a Westerberg feel to it. How much of an influence is he on your writing? You can't help but be influenced when you grow up with the guy. I was a kid and, of course, I learned from him. He taught me a lot. It couldn't be helped. I take everything in. I think you can listen to that album and hear a lot of different influences.
In 2005, the Replacements got back together to add some songs to a compilation album. Any plans to work with those guys again? Not in the immediate future, but I never say never. You never know.
How did you end up doing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" on Californication? You know, that was an interesting thing. My manager at the time had some connections with people who worked with that show. I knew they wanted to use one of my songs and then they ask me to cover "You Can't Always Get What You Want." It was an interesting idea and a fun thing to do.
You are also a full-time member of Soul Asylum. Are you the hardest-working guy in music? No, I just went to school with the guys in Soul Asylum, and I like to play with those guys whenever I get the chance. They are good guys, and we make good music together.
Guns N' Roses perform with The Sword on Saturday, November 5, at Gexa Energy Pavilion.