by Steve Patrick
– Sr. Columnist —
Whether you look at his time in The Replacements or his 18 years holding down the low end of Guns N’ Roses, Tommy Stinson has had such an amazing career that it probably seems like anything could happen. Following his departure from GNR in 2016, Stinson decided to get back to doing what he was made for: playing fun Rock n’ Roll. This meant reforming his old band Bash & Pop and making one hell of a record.
That album is aptly called Anything Could Happen and, since its release in January, Stinson has been touring the country showing off his baby like a proud parent. Bash & Pop played a series of Midwest and East Coast shows leading up to their triumphant performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Hardrock Haven had the chance to sit down with Stinson prior to his Columbus, Ohio show on January 15th at Big Room Bar. During the chat Stinson talked about resurrecting Bash & Pop, the creation of Anything Could Happen, and the unusual events leading up to the break-up of the Chinese Democracy-era Guns N’ Roses lineup.
HRH: You’ve had a nice little run of dates here lately. Have things been going alright?
TS: Shit, we’ve been going… Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday… 5 days straight.
HRH: Woof, geese.
TS: Yeah, getting a little bit nuts.
HRH: Well you’ve got a great new record to tour on here, Bash & Pop’s Anything Could Happen.
TS: Thank you. Thank you.
HRH: Can you talk about the decision to revive that … the Bash & Pop name and band? It’s been a while.
TS: Yeah, yeah. It was really due to the nature of how the record was made. It was really sort of my intent when we made that first record to make a record as live as possible kinda like the way we made records in the 80’s and, in doing that, it kinda had more of a band feel to it and all that. It just made more sense to call it that rather than a Tommy Stinson solo record like the other ones. So, we played this one for some people and they said it reminded them of that record, so we decided to call it Bash & Pop.
HRH: You’ve got quite a few folks on this new record too. You’ve got Frank (Ferrer, Guns N’ Roses), Cat Popper (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jack White), Luther Dickinson (The Black Crowes, North Mississippi Allstars)…
TS: Yeah we’ve got a whole bunch of them. A gaggle of goofballs, as they were.
HRH: Friends of yours? How did they end up being on the album?
TS: Most of them were either in the neighborhood in New York or came up for just a weekend to kinda just cut some tracks. I did it all up in my studio in Hudson, NY so I’d have people come up Friday and leave on Sunday and just see how much we get done in a weekend. And the vibe was pretty good. Everyone got into it appropriately and had fun with it. That was kinda the whole premise, you know.
HRH: You can really hear that you’re having fun on this record. What is it about that style of music that you enjoy the most? It’s pretty upbeat.
TS: Yeah, I don’t think people are really making fun rock and roll music anymore, so it was kinda my thing so I thought I’d kinda go ahead and give that a shot. (laughs) It’s kinda what I like. Kinda where I come from. Seems to make the most sense to me.
HRH: “Anything Could Happen”. I know it’s the title of the song and the album. What was it about that name that encapsulated the whole record?
TS: Uh, you know…we tossed around a few ideas. One of them wasn’t going to be a good one because they probably wouldn’t carry it at Walmart. (laughs)
HRH: You’ve got my curiosity up now. What was the working title?
TS: Working title was Unfuck You. (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Ah, another one of the songs off the album.
HRH: You’ve been in a lot of different bands. What sets Bash & Pop apart from, say, The Replacements, Guns, or even your solo work…
TS: You know, the whole thing is sort of predicated on the things I like about being in a band. It’s camaraderie, you know, you kinda hang with your buddies. Music is almost secondary in that regard in a lot of ways you’re just hanging with your friends fucking around and shit, whatever. (laughs) It’s kinda more that vibe than a serious band, so to speak. Although we’re serious. We have a lot of fun and stuff, but it’s that initial camaraderie and shit that’s most important to me.
HRH: Well we talked about some of the people that played on the record, but who do you have out on the road with you?
TS: The guys that made the last third of the record are out with me. It’s Joe Kid (Sirois) from the Mighty Bosstones (drums), Steve Selvidge the guitar player for The Hold Steady, Justin Perkins (bass)…he’s our guy. He also mixed and mastered the record and some other stuff of mine that he’s done in the past. And he’s the only guy I know that plays bass similar to me. And then Tony Kieraldo, he’s my neighbor up in Hudson that plays keyboards on it.
HRH: Is it a nice switch to play guitar for a change?
TS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I like playing everything, but it’s fun to switch it up. And it’s been awhile since I’ve actually had the time to sit back and actually do my own record, tour cycle, and stuff.
HRH: Does that require extra work or practice to get back your guitar chops since that’s not your typical everyday instrument?
TS: A little bit because it’s different on your fingers, your fingertips, and callouses. All that stuff. It’s a little bit different thing, but yeah it works out.
HRH: How have the Bash & Pop shows been going so far? I know we’re just a few dates in on this particular Midwest/East Coast jaunt…
TS: The reason we hooked this whole first little trip up is we wanted some warm-up gigs going into playing the Colbert Show on the 19th. So, all of this was just, “Well, if we’re going to do the show, then we should do a little club tour and get everyone kinda properly ready.”
HRH: When you looking out into the Bash & Pop crowds, are you seeing fans of all ages?
TS: Seems to be. Seems to be a pretty good amount of people across the board, yeah.
HRH: So people there ever since The Replacements days…
TS: Yeah, there’s plenty of gray hair in there if that’s what you’re asking. (laughs)
HRH: Hey you said it, not me. (laughs) Obviously, you’ve played pretty much any size venue out there. What is the most enjoyable thing about playing an intimate gig like tonight at The Big Room Bar?
TS: You get to connect with people a little better. You’re not so far away from them. You can kinda smell them. It’s better when you can smell them a little bit. Kinda helps the vibe of the whole show.
HRH: Do you see Bash & Pop continuing on to do another record?
TS: I do. I like playing with these guys a whole lot, so it gives me a good band to start from to build on. I’d rather build a band than do a solo career. It’s a lot more work doing a solo record because you’re wearing too many hats. The way this has worked out, I’ve gotten to wear less hats and spend less time tinkering. Yeah, I think it’s likely. I’ve got a bunch of songs that didn’t actually get done or completed on this last record sitting there already still. So it wouldn’t take much for me to get another one together.
HRH: So the songs on Anything Could Happen have been in the works for a while?
TS: Yeah, yeah, some of them have been. I guess I started working in earnest on those songs probably halfway through that Replacements tour. Then from there, from there I kinda completed it. There’s one song that’s actually about 25 years old, the last song on the record. I’ve had it for a while but haven’t had a place to put it. Song called “Shortcut”.
HRH: Is there one on the record that means more to you than the others?
TS: Um, not really. I do think it’s a nice little collection of songs that work well with each other.
HRH: You do interviews all year long. What’s the one question that people ask you all the time that you wish would stop?
TS: Oh shit, I don’t think there really is one. On any given day they could all be annoying. (laughs)
HRH: (laughs) Well hopefully I’m not registering like that today.
TS: No, no, it’s a fine day. (laughs)
HRH: Growing up did you have a favorite band or concert shirt that you really were proud of?
TS: A shirt? Not really. (laughs) I didn’t have any favorite clothes. Well, we’re wearing some suits right now that are pretty nice.
HRH: Well that’s a very nice hat. It’s perfect for this kind of weather. (Stinson was wearing a Russian Cossack-style hat)
TS: Oh geez. I bought this in Russia. I mean, it’s total fake fur. It’s not a real thing, but I bought it in Russia. It’s cheap. (laughs) Thought if I was gonna be in Russia I needed a good winter hat.
HRH: Obviously writing for a hard rock website, it would be remiss of me to not ask any Guns questions. Did you ever see this happening…Axl reuniting with Slash and Duff?
TS: If you asked me if it would happen I would have said, “Definitely wouldn’t be happening.” But I think that…I think that due to some of the things that happened towards the end when I was in the band…from my part in it, I wasn’t able to tour for a while because of my family situation at home was very unstable. I had to take care of some shit. So I had basically had to turn down I think it might have been as many as 5 different tours that they wanted to do. And this that and the other thing, I just couldn’t do it. And then DJ (Ashba) quit…when DJ made it official he was “quitting Guns N’ Roses” or whatever. I think that was pretty, “Okay, well, guess we’ll move on from this chapter and get back with the old guys.” I mean, seems to me there might have been some other weird stuff going on in there that I wasn’t party to, but I’m glad they did it. I think it was important that they did. They’re having a ball and fucking killing it. I’ve seen 2 shows, they’re great. They’re all really happy and it seems to be drama free.
HRH: I’m envious, I haven’t made it to any of the reunion shows yet. You mentioned DJ quitting…was that an unusual situation to be in. Were you privy to that at all at the time or did you find out with the rest of us?
TS: (laughs) You know, he called me up on the phone and told me that he was gonna quit, you know, and this that and the other thing. I just kinda got to thinking … it was funny that he made such a big deal about it because there wasn’t really anything going on. He seemed like it was kind of inevitable that there was going to be a reunion happening, so I think he…I don’t know if he (laughs) tried to get in front of the curve to, you know, drum up some extra fucking press for himself. I don’t really know what the deal was, but I thought it odd. I thought it an odd time to make a big stink about quitting, you know?
HRH: Honestly, I didn’t find it anywhere near as odd as Bumblefoot’s whole “not talking about it” thing that went on for a while in his interviews. That time had to have been an unusual situation for everyone in the band.
TS: It was. It was comical actually. (laughs) I was laughing about it. You know, I mean I felt bad for Axl because I think he kinda got side-swiped a bit by some of the stuff that was going on. He knew…they all knew…what was going on with me and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t have any backup plan to help me with my 8-year-old kid or any of that, so it got to be pretty rough quick. But you know, whatever led to them doing this reunion, I think a lot of people are really happy about it. Like I said, I saw 2 of the shows. They were great. Looked like they were having fun. The only one out of them I don’t really know is Slash and all those guys are my buddies. I’ve talked to them and they’re all having a good time as long as they keep doing it.
HRH: Obviously during your tenure in Guns there was only one album released. Does that bother you at all? Do you wish there was more of an output during your time in the band or do you know of something that you wanted to put out?
TS: Well we recorded a lot of stuff. We recorded a shit ton of music. Whether it ever sees the light of day I couldn’t even guess, but we recorded a lot of stuff with the intent that it would be kinda staggered out, I think, you know to keep it rolling in a way. I’m not sure if it was Jimmy Iovine’s fuck up or someone’s fuck up that, you know, made a lot of that just…shut Axl down is what it did, but I’m not really sure where that stuff’s going to end up or what it’s gonna be. Who knows if it’ll be anything ever, you know?
HRH: Well I’m one of those out there that loves Chinese Democracy so hats off to you for your part in it.
TS: Thank you.
HRH: So what is next for Bash & Pop in 2017?
TS: Yeah, we’ve got a West Coast leg starting in late February. February 28th.
HRH: Better weather over there for you.
TS: (laughs) God, I hope.
HRH: Anything you’d like to say to Tommy Stinson and Bash & Pop fans out there reading this?
TS: Fucking listen for the fucking next song. “Anything Can Happen” is gonna go for a radio campaign, so call and request the goddamn thing if you like it.
HRH: As well they should. This whole record was a crowd funded effort, correct?
TS: Yep, there was a PledgeMusic campaign for it which was cool. What it helps me do is offset the cost of the record because I had to pay the musicians to come up and make it, do it in my studio, the cost for an engineer and all these things. A lot of the work that went into making it just comes out of your pocket, so PledgeMusic campaign really helps offset those costs so that you don’t have to go to a record company and say, “Hey, you know, I need a couple hundred thousand dollars for this record.” (laughs) You know, that’s kind of a non-starter for a record company these days. That’s a lot of money for what’s going on now.
HRH: That’s really great. Well, thank you so much for doing this.
TS: You’re welcome.
For more information on Tommy Stinson and Bash & Pop, please visit: www.tommystinson.com
Check out the recent Colbert performance here: