Tommy Stinson with Alien crime syndicate at the Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, September 9). $12. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
For those of us who still care ( and I totally do), according to Tommy Stinson, Chinese Democracy, the lo-o-o-ong-awaited Guns N' Roses record, should be coming out "sooner rather than later.
"By the time I get back from this tour they'll probably have finished it up," says Stinson on the phone from Omaha. "In the new year we'll probably get out and tour behind it, tour the whole world and all that crap."
Woohoo! No, seriously. Because it's totally gotten to the point where this supposed album just seems like a bad shaggy dog story with no ending. The last I heard, it was guitarist Buckethead's departure holding the whole thing up. This is sad, because Buckethead is a kickass guitar player, and even though I have never seen his face, I have kind of a crush on him.
"He's not someone you wanna have a crush on," Stinson warns me. "He's one of the most dysfunctional people I've ever had to deal with."
Still, he sure does put the funk in dysfunctional.
After his many, many years in the business, says Stinson, he just doesn't have the time or patience to deal with pains in the ass.
At the age of 37, Stinson's been in the music business longer than most and can be considered well-travelled (and really cute, too). As a wee lamb of 13, he was playing with his big brother Bob's band the Replacements. After the Mats called it a day in 1991, Stinson went on to form the short-lived Bash & Pop and later Perfect. Plus, he's been playing bass for Axl's latest edition of Guns N' Roses for the past six years.
Just this year, he released his first official solo album, Village Gorilla Head. To create it, he drew inspiration from the likes of Cheap Trick, George Harrison, Squeeze, the Clash, Bob Dylan, the Replacements, of course, and his brother Bob, who died in 1995 and who he says was looking over Tommy's shoulder during the writing and recording process.
"He's always been there. His kind of guitar playing is something I gravitate toward, and have since I was a kid. He was an amazing left-thinking guitar player. There's a song on the record called Couldn't Wait, and for that song I was totally putting myself in his shoes on that guitar part."
Listening to Village Gorilla Head and discovering its distinct lack of late-80s/early-90s metal influence, one might wonder exactly where such albums as Appetite For Destruction fit into Stinson's musical framework.
"I really didn't have any appreciation for 80s metal. It wasn't my bag back then. But Guns isn't just about that. Axl's more of a deep thinking person than, say, the singer of Whitesnake. (That would be David Coverdale.) He's always had fuckin' good lyrics and all that, and what we're doing now is taking it all in a new direction."
Awesome. We still won't hold our breath.
It seems like Guns was a weird place for Stinson to wind up, but when you think about it, he's always been in a weird place, slightly younger than most of his colleagues, left in a legendary cult band after having to throw his own brother out of it, always on the fringe of mainstream cool, with an old-school musical sensibility in a flash-in-the-pan pop world.
"I've always been in a space of never fitting in, and now I'm in Guns N' Roses. It's an odd place to be, but it's fuckin' a lot of fun. Axl and I have a great relationship, and he's supportive of what I do.
"You'll never be able to pinpoint me musically, but I'm kinda likin' that. I've accepted that I'm not gonna be the next Limp Bizkit, cuz we never needed them anyway, or the next Bright Eyes, cuz that's not my thing either.
"I do what I wanna do, and I've made a record that I still like listening to. Having the opportunity to make the record that I wanted to make for a record company that wants to put that out is pretty amazing.
"So, yeah, musically I may be in a weird spot, but at least someone's still fuckin' listening."