Tommy Gets His Ya-Ya’s Out

Guns N’ Roses’ Tommy Stinson keeps adding chapters to his storied career

click to enlarge Tommy Stinson
Tommy Stinson


herman, set the Wayback Machine to 1983. We’re visiting Bogart’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, where young publicity manager Brian Baker is witnessing the second area appearance of R.E.M., which he’s vigorously advertised for a net result of just over 300 attendees. Local Art Pop provocateurs Junta have just finished, and the stage is taken by The Replacements, a last-minute addition via R.E.M.’s booking agent.

The Replacements’ alcoholic tendencies are unknown to the club’s general manager when said agent demands payment for the additional act, inspiring the GM to respond, “I don’t see their name on my contract ... they’ll get free beer.” It’s a serious miscalculation; the already hammered band pours their free beer into R.E.M.’s stage monitors.

The Replacements’ 16-year-old bassist Tommy Stinson angrily storms off mid-set. Baker immediately heads backstage, where Stinson has retreated to the production office, ordering band manager Peter Jesperson to have Stinson’s mother wire money for a plane ticket, because he’s quitting. Jesperson persuades him to reconsider. Stinson emerges into the hallway where Baker is standing, the two exchange brief greetings, then Stinson clarifies for anyone within earshot, “I’m still not playing with those fuckers tonight.”

“Holy shit, I met you on that fateful evening?” Stinson says, laughing huskily from a South Carolina tour stop with Guns N’ Roses, his current bass gig. “Oh, dude, it’s all coming back to me now.”

Stinson’s tumultuous Replacements tenure was good combat training for his longtime role as Axl Rose’s bassist in GNR; although personnel shifts regularly, Stinson’s GNR membership has lasted longer than his time with the ’mats. 

Stinson notes the band’s South American circuit went well and seems to be continuing apace for GNR’s first full U.S. tour in five years.

“South America worked out pretty good; it was brutal on the travel side, but it always is because they don’t have it dialed in down there,“ Stinson says. “But Miami and Orlando both went real well, so I think we’re on tour here.”

There’s very little moss on Stinson’s rolled stone. Since The Replacements’ 1991 demise, he’s started two bands (Bash & Pop and Perfect), joined two others (GNR in 1998, Soul Asylum in 2005) and played numerous sessions (including with Cincinnati band Moth). He has also pursued an acclaimed solo career that includes 2004’s Village Gorilla Head and the recently released One Man Mutiny, which he’s currently touring on GNR off nights.

“I’m trying to fill in some gaps,” Stinson says. “The Guns N’ Roses production takes so long to set up and move around, there’s some good days off in there to take advantage of some record store appearances or play a show here or there. It’s going to be a slow-building record no matter what, because I don’t have a record company behind me. I put it out myself.”

One Man Mutiny is raw and elemental Stonesy Rock with twangy overtones, circa Exile on Main Street, combined with the melodic Pop/Punk attitude that informed his band work. One interesting aspect is that Stinson is donating half the proceeds to benefit Timkatec, a Haitian homeless shelter that attempts to house and school the island’s street children, particularly in light of last year’s devastating earthquake.

“I went down and really fell in love with the place and the people,” Stinson says. “We raised money with an auction two years ago, and this year I didn’t have stuff ready, so I decided to give half the proceeds from my CD and see how much influence I can have on the rest of the free world to get them to join in. I can’t help all of Haiti, but I thought if I could help with this basic thing, they can turn out educated kids to help rebuild their own country. It’s something I’ll probably be doing the rest of my life. The kids down there are beautiful. This kid came up to me, he didn’t know why I was there, he handed me his diploma and gave me a big hug because he was so proud. It was awesome, so I’m in.”

Of all the possibilities on Stinson’s horizon currently (rumored new albums from both GNR and Soul Asylum, more solo work), none seems more improbable than a Replacements reunion. With the 1995 death of Stinson’s brother/bandmate Bob and the de facto retirement of drummer Chris Mars, a true reunion is impossible. But Stinson isn’t opposed to reuniting with Paul Westerberg to tribute the band’s history.

“It gets entertained about every two years, and entertainment is about as far as it gets,” Stinson says. “My idea would be we’ve got to have fun with it and put on a great show. We’ve had enough of, ‘Man, I loved that one show I saw you guys play, you couldn’t even stand up.’ I get tired of hearing that. It would be great to celebrate the songs. 

“On the other hand, I think Paul’s got too much baggage wrapped up in it,” Stinson says. “He never quite got past the ’mats. He’s had a lot of success in a lot of different ways, but I think he fights with the legacy of (The Replacements). If Paul and I did it, we’d make a bunch of money because they tell us, ‘We’ll pay you up the eye sockets to play.’ We love those songs, we played them a billion times and we haven’t played together in 20 years. It might be fun to go whack them out a little bit.” ©

Tommy Stinson and

GUNS N’ ROSES perform at U.S. Bank Arena this Saturday with guests D-Generation.

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