Q&A: Tommy Stinson

The rock ‘n’ roll survivor settles down in Media and goes to work on his second solo CD.

Tommy Stinson certainly has gotten around in his 43 years—from college bars to concert stadiums, from the frigid streets of his Minneapolis hometown to the celebrity-studded hills of Los Angeles. Delaware County would be the last place you’d expect him to put down roots. Yet here he his, living in Media with his girlfriend, Emily Roberts, and their 2-year-old daughter, Tallulah, not far from the home of Roberts’ aunt, WMGK-FM’s Debbi Calton. Stinson will always be revered by rock scholars for his 12-year stint with critically acclaimed post-punk band the Replacements. These days, when he isn’t playing bass for Guns N’ Roses and Soul Asylum, he’s working on his second solo CD in Calton’s basement studio with her husband, Chip. Stinson hopes to have it out by summer.

MLT: How did you wind up in Media?
TS: It’s a roundabout story. Four years ago, my girlfriend was living in Seattle, and I was living in Los Angeles. We were corresponding on MySpace, we met one time, and we really hit it off. We got pregnant, and then we had the baby and all that. Her family is all from around here. I lived in L.A. for 16 years. I’d done about all I needed to do there.

MLT: And you’re not far from New York City, either.
TS: No, and the kicker is that I have a 20-year-old daughter [Ruby] who’s going to Parsons [The New School for Design] in New York.

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MLT: Do you ever visit Minneapolis?
TS: I have family there that I connect with, obviously. I don’t really know what happens there [musically]; I don’t really know what happens anywhere.

MLT: Back when the Replacements started in 1979, you were barely a teenager. What did your parents think?
TS: My mom was happy because it kept me off the streets. I probably would’ve ended up in jail.

MLT: How did you get involved with Guns N’ Roses?
TS: We did a session together. It was fun. And at that point, mentally, everything was working out. I was like, “You know what? Maybe I do want to play bass for them.”

MLT: Are you going on the road?
TS: We’re going to Taiwan—and Japan for two shows.

MLT: What’s going on with your upcoming solo album?
TS: I play guitar, bass and drums. I sing. When I approach my music now, I can program it; I can play it depending on what the song needs—whatever works. I don’t have to compete with anyone; it sounds like this, so I’m gonna make it like this. To have that luxury is great.

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MLT: Given your recent work with a notorious perfectionist like GN’R’s Axl Rose, how do you feel now about the Replacements’ reputation as a sloppy, hard-partying live band?
TS: I’m really proud of it. I’m not running or hiding from it. The hard part about it is when someone comes up to me and says, “I really loved that one show, and you guys were so f—ed up. It was the best show of my life.” And I think, “Well, what part of that was great? Because, literally, it kind of sucked.” I never get that.

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