Headed back to town as the opening act for The Psychedelic Furs Tuesday and Wednesday at Thalia Hall, I spoke with Bash & Pop frontman Tommy Stinson about the first new Bash & Pop music in almost 25 years, the idea of moving forward and much more...
For the second time, Tommy Stinson has turned to Bash & Pop as his vehicle for delivering new music - first, following the infamous breakup of his band The Replacements (on stage at the 1991 Taste of Chicago) and again recently as the 'Mats once unthinkable reunion came to an end.
The songs that make up Anything Could Happen, the first new Bash & Pop album since 1993, are often characterized by a number of personal endings for Stinson that find him, as always, pressing forward. As the Replacements reunion was getting going, Stinson's marriage was ending, leaving him a full time father, a situation which made it difficult to tour, ultimately bringing to an end his nearly 20 years as a member of Guns N' Roses.
Some of the songs on Anything Could Happen were written with the Replacements in mind. "Just about half the record, I was considering for a ‘Mats record if we were to do one," Stinson said. "We only recorded three times. So by the time we did the last session, nothing really came about that." There's also a pair of new Bash & Pop songs recorded with vocalist Nicole Atkins which will see vinyl release in November.
Tommy Stinson's journey hasn't been an easy one. And while some of the lyrics on Anything Could Happen get a bit dark, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. "There’s a bit of hope in all of them," said Stinson of the dozen songs on the new album. "And that’s kind of how I live my life."
I spoke over the phone with Tommy Stinson about resurrecting Bash & Pop, the full band swagger that informs Anything Could Happen and much more. A lightly edited transcript of that conversation follows below...
Q. Bash & Pop has now come out of the ashes of The Replacements twice. I know you kind of went with that moniker more just to be clear that this was a band record and not a solo record per se but do you think there’s something else to Bash & Pop being the right vehicle for you following two different Replacements runs?
Tommy Stinson: I have always liked the band vibe thing more than doing a solo record vibe. I think the only reason I really did solo records, the last two records prior to that, is that I just didn’t have time to get a band thing together. They were almost like side projects because I was in Guns N’ Roses that whole time.
So this time I was actually able to kind of put some effort into actually making it a band record and that’s why it became a band record I suppose.
Q. You recorded this album live as opposed to having each band member belabor their parts individually. And I think the looseness of the record reflects that. And I know I’ve heard you say it kind of goes back to the way you guys would record Replacements albums. On the other hand, you were also part of the notoriously meticulous recording process behind Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy album. Which method do you prefer?
TS: I definitely prefer the quick vibe of a band learning a song and not toiling too much with it and kind of getting the best out of it in sort of a spontaneous vibe. That’s the way we used to make records and that is completely my sort of way of doing things. It’s rewarding and everyone kind of gets their stamp on it, you know?
Most of the early Replacements records… I mean, even really up to Don’t Tell a Soul, we pretty much did most stuff live. It wasn’t until we started getting into using click tracks and drum machine s--t – that was a holdover from Paul [Westerberg's] demoing and stuff like that – that it actually started changing a little bit.
But most of those Replacements records – right up to Pleased to Meet Me – really just kind of embody that sort of rock and roll, raucousness. It’s sort of loose but you can hear the aggression. You can hear a band actually playing at their peak (as opposed to toiling around and trying to make it something that it is in one person’s head and fighting it).
Q. When it comes to albums recorded in that way – that loose, full band, bang it out in a couple of takes mentality – what are some of your favorites?
TS: A lot of the sort of 70s Rolling Stones records I think have a lot of that. As well as their earlier ones. But when you get to Sticky Fingers, or even Let it Bleed, I mean there’s stuff you can hear in there that they couldn’t possibly never really duplicate live.
But you can tell there’s a feeling about it. And sure, they might’ve done 100 takes of f---ing any one of those songs. But they got the band vibe down. They got the song. I don’t know if it was so much as pointed as trying to get this one sound per se but you can hear a band playing.
I think the Stones probably have the best record for that, for doing it that way.
Q. The songs on Anything Could Happen, somehow, even almost 25 years later with an entirely different group of players, does sound like the perfect followup to 1993's Friday Night is Killing Me. I know that wasn’t a conscious goal for you but do you agree that it kind of worked out that way?
TS: You know, I do. That’s kind of why it all ended up happening that way.
When I was playing the tracks for friends of mine and other colleagues and all that stuff, people were kind of saying, “Well, it kind of reminds me more of that Bash & Pop record than it does your solo records.” And I was like, “Well, that’s because it’s a band record which that was meant to be as well.”
It kind of just goes back to my roots which is as kind of a rock and roll guy: it’s somewhat rootsy, somewhat adventurous. But really, it’s me just doing what I do.
I think a lot of the stuff on my two last solo records was me getting adventurous and having to basically wear all the hats. I played a lot of the instruments on it and I didn’t really have a whole band to do stuff with. So I’d toil with things and get adventurous, stuff like that.
I like them both. Some of the songs are good and all that but it’s just a whole different vibe.
Q. Where do you kind of see things going now looking ahead? Is Bash & Pop something you hope to keep going or was it more resurrected because it kind of fit the full band idea you had for this album?
TS: You know, I see it continuing on. All of us guys in the band like playing together a whole lot and I think, time allowing, we will continue on. Everyone’s got their other bands and stuff like that between [drummer] Joe [Sirois] and [guitarist] Steve Selvidge and all that. But I think it could work out good.
It’s one of those things where it’s kind of a building process. The building process for me with this kind of thing is not something where I’m going to tour the whole world for twelve or eighteen months and then come back and make another record. I want to keep building on it as we go and I see it kind of working out that way.
Q. With Steve and Joe, with them working on the new album and now touring it too - you didn’t really have that on the first Bash & Pop album. With this particular lineup, does it feel like you’ve kind of settled into more of a solid band thing than you have in a long time outside The Replacements?
TS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
A lot of the first Bash & Pop record was a lot of me playing a lot of things. I had some help and different people playing on it and stuff like that but this record definitely, hands down, has more of a band vibe than that record did, I think, in a lot of ways.
Q. “Anytime Soon,” “Shortcut” and “Anybody Else” began as possible Replacements tracks until those sessions went south, right? What was it about those particular tracks that would’ve made them work in that setting?
TS: You know, we cut those in Minneapolis right at the beginning of us trying to do the reunion tour. And we were trying to take a stab at making a record too and do the whole thing. And those were just the first few songs that I had that I tried out with that. And that was… nuts.
Q. The Replacements reunion did yield some new music in the Songs for Slim covers EP. But you’ve been pretty candid about the ways in which the multiple studio attempts you and Paul made during the reunion following that went south quick. I’ve heard you say Songs For Slim was a fun experience. Was it the circumstances alone, it being a benefit for Slim Dunlap, that allowed that project to succeed where subsequent attempts failed?
TS: I think so. We had a reason to do what we did for Slim and we kind of rose to the occasion for that in a particular way. And I think that worked.
I think that after that, then it became about, “Ok, so let’s make a Replacements record.” And as soon as we got to that idea, we were already sort of shooting off our feet by going to the wrong studios. None of the studios we tried to use were going to work.
And I kind of smelt it going in. But this was not completely my call. It was like, “Ok, let’s try here. Let’s try it here. Paul likes this place. Paul likes that place there.” Or whatever.
And I think… I’ll be honest with you, I ain’t just saying it, “Oh, let’s try and make a Replacements record. Let’s go record and see what happens…” I think just the idea of that, I think, probably wasn’t going to work for Paul. I just think that. That’s too much baggage, too much to compete with. I think he has more of a problem with that than I would ever have a problem. But that’s because he was the main songwriter.
I think the idea of putting something out that, I think, ultimately people would compare to his other Replacements records or whatever? I don’t think he could even fathom the idea of that to be honest with you. Even though we tried it – we kind of thought we might be able to do that – I don’t think he really, really came for it to be honest with you.
Q. You’ve had your hands in a lot here over the course of the past year with Cowboys in the Campfire and producing the new Yawpers album. What else have you been working on?
TS: Just makin’ stuff.
I’ve got a couple new Bash & Pop songs [out]. New ones that we worked on and Nicole Atkins produced. I did a duet with Nicole on one of them. I’m pretty excited about those.
Other than that, I think I’m going to find some time to start writing more Bash & Pop stuff. I’ll put a Cowboys in the Campfire record out. I’m gonna produce a band called Waiting For Henry coming up at the end of October.
I just keep moving. Try to keep it interesting.
Q. You just alluded to this with that idea of moving forward. And whether it’s the breakup of a band or the breakup of a marriage or whatever it’s been, you kind of have this uncanny ability to keep moving forward. And I think you can kind of hear that a bit as a theme on Anything Could Happen. Is that kind of an idea you think fans can take away from the new record?
TS: I think so. As downer as some of the lyrics are, there’s a bit of hope in all of them. And that’s kind of how I live my life. Life throws some f---ing gnarly s--t at you. And you got really two options: Let it take you down or move on.
And I do my best at that. I ain’t great at it, mind you, but that’s kind of how I live.
- Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )
(Details on this week's Bash & Pop shows at Thalia Hall below)
Bash & Pop
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Doors open at 7PM
Each show begins at 8PM
Also performing: The Psychedelic Furs
Tickets: $38.50 - $60
Click HERE to purchase tickets