published: 16 /
Dastardly interviews Replacements and Guns n’ Roses bass legend Tommy Stinson about his storming new album with Bash and Pop, ‘Anything Could Happen’
Tommy Stinson’s new Bash and Pop album 'Anything Could Happpen' is a rollicking Stonesian punk rock tunefest complete with a side order of country dreams. The ex-Replacements and long time serving Guns & Roses bass player has got his own band back together after a 22 year hiatus and staked his claim to be right up there with his previous employers. I caught up with Tommy ahead of some UK dates and asked him how the Bash and Pop resurrection came about?
TS: In a nutshell as I was recording it, I was recording it as live as I could, band in the room...scratch vocals...keeping it live as I could, kind of like the way we did in the 80s you know, kind of doing it quickly and selecting songs without putzing around too much...as I was going along that process people that I started playing those tracks for started saying it reminded them of the (first) Bash and Pop record and after hearing that enough times I thought, "Well, shit, I own the name and it sounds more like a band record than it does a Tommy Stinson solo record," so I thought, "I’ll call it Bash and Pop. Why not?"
PB: The second track on the record ‘On The Rocks’ has a totally addictive hook - do you remember the moment that song came together ?
TS: I’d been toiling with that one for a bit before I finally got to what seemed like the right melody and chord progression...I’d been messing around with the D and E thing for a while and kept coming to a brick wall when the chorus came up...I had a few things that just kind of fell flat on me and then one day I’ll be honest with you I heard my little daughter running around singing some nursery rhyme or something and thought, "Ah...there we go," and it just kind of clicked and I went in and recorded it and bingo!
PB: What’s your personal favourite song on the record?
TS: You know, it kind of switches around a bit but I think the title track ‘Anything Could Happen’ is probably my favourite...I wrote that with my Uncle-in-Law Chip Roberts - he and I have a side project Cowboys in the Campfire - and he brings this song idea to me, the guitar riff and I quickly hijacked it from him and he left town and when he came back I had the song completed and I started playing it for him and he goes, "What the fuck did you do to my song...?" and we had kind of a laugh about it...but it’s got some great textures to it and really breathes well live. It opens up and it’s a lot fun to play...
PB: Yeah, I watched the KEXP session online and you’re playing that song and you suddenly stop it in the middle and go, "Wait, wait, wait" to all the band and then re-start the riff and bring the song back in again. It was a great moment - with the band all going, "Hey what’s he doing...?"
TS: You know that shit happens to me every time they say, "You’re live on air right now," and without fail I will forget something or screw it up and I’ll just have to stop and start again and get my bearings...
PB: Well, you’ve obviously got a good gang with you because they went with it...
TS: Yeah, you can kind of have fun with your mistakes and roll with it or sit there and look really uncomfortable...like you’re going to fall apart. Either way you’re going to fall apart so you might as well have fun with it.
PB: Also on that KEXP session there was the track ‘Not This Time’ - the first one on the record - which I thought sounded like something off the Rolling Stones ‘69 Altamont tour. Do you read that one a bit like that?
TS: Well, you know I don’t really go far away from the Stones I’ll be honest with you. Always been a big influence one way or the other...and other 60's pop rock bands.. as well as you know the Clash and things...I wear all my influences pretty well on my sleeve I think.
PB: Talking of live sessions, there’s an amazing fuzzy clip on YouTube of you playing ‘Fast and Hard’ from the first Bash and Pop album on 'Letterman' back in the 90s and I wondered who were the two guys standing stage right just playing tambourine?
TS: They were Steve Foley and our bass player - they wouldn’t let me play with my whole band you see.. .they had me play with Paul Shaffer’s band and all that...
PB: Was that what they did with everyone back in those days ?
TS: Yeah unless you were like Aerosmith or something. It was a funny thing. It was cool.
PB: Well, there was definitely a lot of energy captured in that performance...
TS: Oh yeah!
PB: You’ve got ex-Senseless Things’ member Mark Keds' new band Dead Cuts on the bill over here in the UK for your upcoming dates and I know you’ve cited British bands like the Stones, the Who, Squeeze and the Clash as influences so I was wondering if there are any UK bands around now that have caught your attention.
TS: I’m trying to think if there is anything I’ve heard lately. I’ve kind of been out of the loop...There is one band. I’m just trying to remember their name...Turin Brakes! I love those guys - I saw them in a record store in Los Angeles years ago and a friend at their label gave me their whole thing and their music always got me - they sing so fucking great and their songs are so pretty and they seemed kind of... kind of damaged in all the right ways.
PB: Right and I think the more acoustic last track on your album ‘Shortcut’ which is a bit Dylany and also the country-ish ‘Anytime Soon’ work really well as counterpoints to some of the more rocking songs. Presumably acoustic stuff is as important to you as anything else?
TS: Yeah totally, whether it’s Bob Dylan or...Turin Brakes I listen to a lot of different things...you know two of my favourite artists I’ve gotten into the last couple of years are both really great female singers and songwriters - Lydia Loveless and Nicole Atkins...
PB: Another thing I wanted to ask was I saw the Replacements show at the Roundhouse a couple of years back and watching you perform you seemed to be possessed in equal parts by Keith Richards and Sid Vicious! Do you feel either or both or neither of their spirits with you on stage ?
TS: Ha ha ha.. I fucking definitely feel both of them. You know I kind of grew up with the attitude of all that (punk) stuff - and the er, the sort of nonchalance of Keith Richards.
PB: And if you hadn’t ended up in rock ‘n’ roll what do you think you would have been? What qualities do you have that would have made you good at this?
TS: Sadly...sadly if I hadn’t found music I probably would have been in jail incarcerated! Much more...I went down a really bad road at about eleven years old. I’d gotten arrested three times by the time I was eleven.
PB: That’s pretty early! So the Replacements saved you - they gave you a job in a way.
TS: Well yeah, totally, my brother (Bob Stinson) did. My brother did that...before the Replacements he took me by the hand and tried to drag me out of that place and show me how to play bass.
PB: Good Bob! Okay, was Elvis the first ‘punk’? If not, who for you was the originator of this invisible thing we can all smell?
TS: Hmm, that’s a good one...I’d tend to concur with you, only that would, er, be a dig to people like Big Joe Turner or Wynonie Harris that were doing you know...crazy like blues, reckless abandon kind of wild music before any of that. For my thinking of what punk rock is I think the mindset of that was a little earlier than Elvis...he grabbed on to it, made it popular but I think you have to go back a little bit to find where the original attitude kinda comes from and also the great sense of humour that comes with it - as well as the attitude.
PB: So that one is ‘to be confirmed’ then !
TS: Ha, ha, yeah, there you go.
PB: Bit of trivia.. bizarrely progrock legends Yes seemed to play a part in the formation of the Replacements...is that correct you were playing ‘Roundabout’ and Paul Westerberg heard it?
TS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, my brother was way into that stuff - so I was by proxy and Paul heard us wailing that shit before he was even in the band...I saw them play when I was ten or eleven years old.
PB: Shooting forward a bit I wondered if you’ve ever played poker with Axl Rose? And if so is he any good?
TS: We’ve been to a few casinos together...I taught him how to play crap once and we won a bunch of money...and he quickly got himself out! That was fun.
PB: The reason I was asking was because there’s something about the aura of people like him, the ‘Rock Star’ and I know a lot of people like to diss him or whatever, but you can’t deny the guy has a pretty magnetic central focus...some kind of core that is spinning things around him so that’s why I was wondering if that extended to card playing?
TS: Ha, ha, that’s actually a pretty fucking funny thought...I gotta commend you for that. That’s a good one. You know I will say he is a fucking genius and I love him to death. What I’ve experienced with him...you know playing a bunch of music, making a record together, all that stuff was that for the most part he’s a very fucking normal regular guy. He’s passionate...you know... playing with AC/DC, he rocks ! The guy’s got a thing...If Angus Young could have his way he’d make a record with him. I’ve told Axl’s manager if he goes over there to make a record with those guys I’ll play bass!
PB: Wow ! You’ve got to do that. Next question: rock ‘n’ roll. Has rock ’n’ roll eaten itself and is now just skidding around in the puke?
TS: Ha, ha...Quite a bit actually! Sadly. You know, I’m trying to stay curious about it. I kind of grew up this way. I’ve always been a fan of rock music so, you know, where I am at in life right now it’s important to be you know, honest. I think a lot of things that people are doing up there right now that’s passing as popular music is not very honest. I think there’s got to be checks and balances...(between) what’s really quality and, you know, crap.
PB: Yeah, I think that’s why I really liked that KEXP performance is because it’s got fucking bum notes. You’re doing stupid endings and you’re just having fun with it. It’s not academic.
TS: Yeah, that’s the deal right there...if it becomes academic it becomes trite.
PB: Two quick questions to finish up: Beavis or Butthead?
PB: Neither! Whoa...and Keith Richards or Little Richard?
TS: That’s a hard one.. If I had to choose I guess it would probably be Keith.
PB: Thank you.