Bassist with the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Guns N’ Roses talks to FBPO about his new CD, thoughts on the music business and his relief work in Haiti
Tommy Stinson is a founding member of Minneapolis-based rock group The Replacements and current bass player for Guns N’ Roses and Soul Asylum. Tommy’s new solo album, One Man Mutiny, was recently released on Stinson’s own Done to Death Music label and distributed by Redeye. Having become involved in relief efforts in Haiti after that country suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, Stinson will donate a portion of the net proceeds from the sale of the album to Timkatec Schools in Haiti.
FBPO: Tell me a little bit about your new release, One Man Mutiny. How would you describe that record, compared to your earlier stuff?
TS: It’s probably more upbeat, more rootsy, somewhat less thought out. I kind of let the songs become whatever they were going to become without really interfering a whole lot, trying to make ’em something they ain’t. That might be the difference about that.
FBPO: I thought I heard a touch of country in a couple of the cuts. Am I right?
TS: Yeah, It’s got some of that in there too. It probably comes from my listening to a little bit of Johnny Cash, as of late. [Laughs]
FBPO: And you’ve got Emily Roberts singing on “You Destroy Me.” She sounds great!
TS: Oh cool! And her Uncle Chip (Roberts) playing slide. There you go!
FBPO: There you go! And you’ve even got some of the Guns N’ Roses guys on there, right? Dizzy Reed…
TS: Yep, I got Dizzy and Richard Fortus on “One Man Mutiny.”
FBPO: Was that song actually recorded in a restaurant in Belgium?
TS: Yep! On my computer!
FBPO: It sounds great!
TS: Yeah, thanks! Fun little ditty. Kinda worked out really good!
FBPO: It sure did. How are you going to promote it? Will there be a One Man Mutiny tour?
TS: Yeah, I think probably in the new year I’ll get out and do some stuff. It’s a bit daunting to try to get on tour these days because you gotta find a way to make it cost effective. I can’t really afford to just go out and pay a bunch of guys to come out and be my band unless I make enough money to do it. So I’ll probably be hitting certain markets that warrant it. I’ll probably do regional things in the new year and just see where it goes from there.
FBPO: Tell me about your involvement with the relief efforts in Haiti.
TS: After the earthquake, I reached out to a friend of mine, Lou Klein, who has a charity that he had been running in Africa, in Senegal, called Kids of Kadiogne, and I asked if he knew anyone on the ground in Haiti that could help me help them. I’d had a bad experience giving money to the Red Cross after Katrina and I wanted to get more involved. I figured I’ve got some money and I’ve got some time, so why don’t I figure out what to do that’s gonna get the money to the people who need it the most. Lou suggested a friend of his that actually worked for Timkatec down in Haiti and he hooked me up with the right people to talk to. I ended up taking a trip down there with my manager, saw the school, met some of the people involved and really just fell in love with it and thought this would really be a good place for me to put my efforts.
FBPO: Tell me about the auction you held.
TS: We had an auction two years ago and raised a little over $40,000. And, as you can imagine, $40,000 in an earthquake-ravaged Third World county goes a long way. We did a lot with that. This time around, I didn’t have time to work an auction, but I wanted to raise money still, so I decided to take half the revenue from the CD sales and give it to Timkatec. I’m also doing whatever I can via interviews and playing shows and working my record, trying to keep Timkatec in the public’s eye as much as I can and hopefully inspire people to help out, give money to Timkatec, help them to grow the kids that ultimately are going to be rebuilding that country as time goes by.
FBPO: You made a comment recently about people bemoaning the fact that the music industry climate is just so bad, yet you’re happy to embrace the challenges. What did you mean by that?
TS: Well, everyone’s talking about how the Internet fucking killed the record industry and all this and that bullshit and I just think what really killed the record industry as far as that aspect goes is they never embraced it properly. What is great about right now is that it’s exciting for me because I’m putting out my own record. I don’t have any money behind me but my own and so I’m in charge of my own destiny with it. I can make as much of it as I want in any way I can find that makes sense and that, to me is exciting.
Record companies, traditionally, will borrow you the money to make the record, you’ll make your record, they’ll borrow you the money to market and promote the record and oftentimes not do shit for that money, yet you owe it back. You gotta pay that shit back! I’ve been doing this so long and I’ve seen so many fucking marketing and promotion campaigns that were nonexistent, but I still had to fucking pay for ’em! I’ve seen a lot of that in my career.
This is about so much more than this one record because my goal is to build up my record company, not my record, and provide myself a place to put out my music in the future. I want to make my own musical portal, whether it’s my record or something I produce or a movie score, just kind of make my own place to put it all. It is exciting. And it’s all free! You can go to the Internet and work every idea to the bone and it’s all free. It costs you nothing! And that’s the cool part about that.
FBPO: Tell me about the Guns N’ Roses tour. What can people expect?
TS: Well, we just started. We played our first U.S. dates in Orlando and Miami, Florida. Both shows went really well. We had a really good time playing them. From what I can tell, we’re set up for a pretty good run. It’s a big, loud, live rock show! You’re gonna get a little of the new, the old and, you know, we’re just gonna get up there and fucking play and have fun!
The good thing about his tour, more so than the others, is that it’s been consistent since we just did the European tour last year and this lineup right now is just key on having a blast! There’s a good camaraderie, Axl included, and we’re just having a good time. It’s like a “leave the baggage at the door” kind of thing. You know, just get up and fucking put on a rock show!
FBPO: How about Soul Asylum? What’s happening with that group?
TS: They’re finishing up the record. The record’s being mixed right now. There’s like four songs, last I heard, oh, about a week ago. Probably by the time I get done with this trip, Guns will go into a writing mode and I think I’ll go out on a touring mode with Soul Asylum for a bit and the record will, hopefully, come out in the first quarter next year.
FBPO: What’s the name of the record? Do you know yet?
TS: I don’t know that part yet.
FBPO: What else lies ahead for you and your career? What else would you like to do that you haven’t accomplished yet? I know you’ve been at this since you were, what, about 13 years old?
TS: Yeah, yeah! I’m actually looking forward to finishing up this run – hopefully it will go as well as I think it’s gonna to go – and gettin’ myself home. I just moved to upstate New York in March and set my studio up in my house. It’s the first time I’ve had all my stuff in one place, so I’m excited to get into it and get some more work done on my own and get some more music recorded. I’ve met a lot of great people up there in the upstate New York area that play all kinds of different instruments and we are looking forward to getting in to some different stuff. I mean the same stuff, but with different instrumentation. I’ve got lots of people up there I’m looking forward to playing with and getting in to the mix. I’m thinking as the winter sets in, in January, and it’s just cold and fucked up outside, that’s when my house is gonna be rockin’!
FBPO: You mentioned film scoring. I know you scored a film with Jennifer Garner, Catch and Release. Do you think you’ll do more of that kind of work?
TS: You know, it’s hard work if you can get it, but it’s fucking great work if you do. It’s always out there and I’d love to do another one. The problem was I didn’t get the full credit on it. It was a co-scoring credit with BT, which makes it a little harder to hire me for the majors, but I got it out there and there are plenty of possibilities that lie ahead with that. Certainly, if the right gig came along, I’d love to do it again. It was a lot of fun. Great experience!
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
TS: I would have been a weatherman. Always loved the weathermen and weather and things related to it. Funny thing is Paul Westerberg and I used to joke about being weathermen! [Laughs] That was a long time ago, mind you. He might have advanced to wanting to be a second baseman or something. You just never know.
Tommy’s new CD, One Man Mutiny, is available here: