Now that the Replacements have broken up (again), it makes sense that Tommy Stinson is moving on with Bash & Pop (again).
Stinson, the Minnesota-launched former Replacements/Guns N' Roses bassist, announced last year that his mid-'90s alt-rock outfit would resurface. Bash & Pop has a new album, Anything Could Happen, due out January 20, plus a vinyl reissue of their only other LP -- 1993's Friday Night Is Killing Me.
Bash & Pop originally only lasted from '92, the year after the 'Mats split, until '94, the year they scored some indie-film notoriety for appearing on the Clerks soundtrack. The band featured Stinson on lead vocals, and he was unabashed (and pop?) about striving to recreate a vintage Replacements sound.
Stinson is the lone original member for B&P 2.0. Drummer Steve Foley, who also briefly manned the kit for the 'Mats, died in 2008, and his brother/bassist, Kevin Foley, died in 2011. Guitarist Steve Brantseg is apparently not re-upping. This version of the group consists of Frank Ferrer (Guns N' Roses), Steve Selvidge (Hold Steady), Joe Sirois (Mighty Mighty Bosstones), and others.
The PledgeMusic campaign behind the new B&P full-length offers exclusive goodies, including the opportunity to have Tommy officiate your wedding (that'll set you back $5,000). The website is also the only way to score tickets to Thursday's intimate Bash & Pop show at the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis.
Ahead of that gig, we asked Stinson if he'd share his favorite First Avenue memories, a task that proved somewhat challenging. Not a problem, as we went on to chat about the 'Mats, dream jobs outside of music, and how Tommy might ditch the U.S. because of Trump.
City Pages: Did your manager give you the gist of the kind of interview I wanted to do?
Tommy Stinson: Yeah, kinda. I don’t know if I’ve got five memories about the Entry [laughs].
CP: We can expand to First Ave in general. But let’s start with your first memory, the first time you remember being in either one of the venues.
TS: I think the first time I really recall was Black Flag, and that was a pretty remarkable one. I was too young to actually stay and watch the show because I had school the next day. But it was funny going to the sound check and stuff. My brother [founding Replacements member Bob Stinson] thought it’d be funny to include a can of Raid [insecticide] in our junk box, just to be kind of a goof on ‘em.
When we got there and actually saw what [Black Flag] looked like, in particular the drummer Robo, who was a very menacing-looking Brazilian man with a fuckin’ bald head and tattoos and stuff. It kinda made him recoil on the whole thought, trying to hide that can, you know?
CP: Wait … you guys were going to spray Black Flag with Raid?
TS: No, [Bob] was just gonna be funny about it, pull it out at the start of a solo or something, I don’t know.
CP: [Laughs] That’s great. Do you remember the first time you performed at the Entry?
TS: Ya know, I don’t really. I mean, it was so, so long ago. It might have even been 1980, and man, I’m just telling ya, my memories don’t go that far back anymore. And considering how many times we’ve played there … I mean, it seemed like we played there every week for about five years. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly that much, but it seemed like it. It seemed like we were always there.
CP: Have you watched the YouTube videos of you guys in, I think, 1981 performing there? You’ve gotta be maybe 14 years old.
TS: Yeah, ya know, I haven’t. I don’t really go down those roads. But I was looking at this book, this book called Heyday that’s actually in my hotel room, it’s got a photo collection of Daniel Corrigan’s stuff. As I’m looking back at that, there’s some things going down that were pretty funny that I was a part of, like the Jumbo Shrimp playing in the Entry and stuff.
Ya know, it was just a bunch of us, me and the Suburbs guys, Slim Dunlap and stuff, getting up and playing weird covers and shit. It looks like it was from the Entry. That was a pretty funny time, being a little kid hanging out with guys that were a good seven years older than me and playing goofy covers.
CP: Were you hassled at all by, like, the managers at First Ave when you were that young, for even getting access into either venue?
TS: One of the things I got by with was under a working clause, which is in the law I think. [Laughs] I don’t know how actually tight it was at that [time]. When I liked a show … [longtime First Ave general manager] Steve [McClellan] let me help move the PA gear into the Mainroom so I could see Gang of Four, that must have been like ’84 or ’85, the To Hell With Poverty Tour. I really, really wanted to see that show, and I started to think is there any way I could do it? And it was like, “Well, you stay under the radar, but you can help move the gear.”
And you’re basically working. OK, I’m working! Here I am, 15 or 16 years old, trying to push fuckin’ 500-pound speaker bins up and down ramps. Someone actually caught me as I was about to fly backwards on this ramp. It was such a fucking great show, and it was so awesome to be able to go do that. I think in a lot of ways back then, if you did the working clause, or there was a thing where if they served food, I could get in. I think I got into Duffy’s and the Longhorn because they served food.
CP: Do you remember the first time the ‘Mats graduated from the Entry to the Mainroom?
TS: I don’t really remember that. I don’t at all, actually. I can’t remember what record it would have come out … probably Let It Be I would think, but I’m not certain about that. Again, we played those two clubs so many times, it’s hard to remember exactly what moment was great and what moment wasn’t.
[Replacements frontman] Paul [Westerberg] and I were actually watching all this footage a couple years ago, and there was this short clip of us playing First Avenue and we’re just full of fucking piss and vinegar. It might have been the first time we started playing with Slim [Dunlap], and it was kind of mayhem – people throwing beers and shit. Kind of a crazy punk-rock moment for us. We had so many good, bad, and ugly shows at those two venues, it’s surprising we got to play there as many times as we did.
CP: To use that piss and vinegar line to pivot, in reading about Bash & Pop, it seems like the impetus of that project was to recapture that early ‘Mats raw, live, rock ‘n’ roll energy – right?
TS: In general, I remember when it was fun to make records. And basically, it was fun to make those early Replacements records because we didn’t do a whole lotta screwing around. We kinda got in, got our best bits out -- bad notes, good notes, all of it, kinda came out. There was very little overdubbing, other than doing maybe a vocal here and there. It was a lot of fun to play. For us, young and sort of unprofessional, we really had to get our best bits, and get it down on tape quickly, because we didn’t really have the bread to sit and screw around.
I remember that moment, I remember that being the fun times. I set out to do that with [Anything Could Happen]. I had my friends come up to my studio on weekends, ya know, crack out five songs this weekend, hang out, kinda get our camaraderie on. And I’ll be honest with ya: I think we had a lot more time just sitting around and bullshitting, just being friends, than we actually did recording. Over the course of a handful of weekends, I had a record.
CP: Obviously you lost a couple of your bandmates from Bash & Pop, unfortunately. This is kind of a recreated version – have you been able to hit on that same feeling you had in the early ‘90s?
TS: Yeah, like I said, when I set out to make the Bash & Pop record [1993's Friday Night Is Killing Me], I set out to make a band record. I didn’t really envision myself kind of doing it the way it ended up getting done. I really thought I had a band, that I could go and knock it out.
As it turned out, and I say this with all due respect because Kevin Foley was such a great guy, turned out he just wasn’t cutting the mustard on bass, so I ended up having to do all the bass on that. And as good a guitarist as Steve Brantseg is and was, he wasn’t able to get in my head and understand what the hell it was I wanted out of him. So it became more of a thing where I kinda had to do it myself.
Luckily [that record] turned out as good as it did, and people like it, whatever. On [the new album], I’m playing very little of it other than guitar, singing, and a little bass here and there. I got to keep it as live as I could, and capture all that, not overthink or any of that kind of crap. Left to your devices, as a musician, you can overthink fucking every goddamn note there is – imagine how long that would take you, ya know?
CP: We’ve talked about the Replacements, we’ve talked about Bash & Pop – two kind of indie-rock, critical darling bands. How has arena touring with Guns N’ Roses for a decade changed you as a person, you as a musician, the way you approach music – has it worked its way in?
TS: Of course, of course. I learned a shit-ton from that whole gig. One of the things you have to figure out how to do is manage your time well, your time when you’re not onstage. With Guns N’ Roses, we’d be in town two to three days before playing a gig, because the production was so big.
You really have to mind your P's and Q's when you tour like that, because you can really fall apart quick. Idle hands for a musician like myself can always be a recipe for disaster, so I’ve kind of had to manage that a bit. I’m not saying I’ve been perfect with it, but I’ve definitely had to turn into my older life here. That and, ya know, I really don’t look at any gig any different than any other gig. If it’s playing a fucking club or a stadium, it doesn’t matter to me – I play, give my all, either way.
CP: I interviewed Bob Mehr when his book Trouble Boys came out, and just really, really loved the work he put into that Replacements biography. Have you read it, and what’s the reaction been like from people you know who have?
TS: You know, I haven’t read it. And I never intended to read it, to be honest with you, because once you tell the story, you know what’s in it, you feel like you’ve lived it – what’s the point? That’s no disrespect to Bob at all, it’s just I already know what’s in it.
To be more frank, for me to go back and start reading that is going to throw me back a day, because it’s some emotional shit in there. I don’t really have time in the day right now, with all the things going on, to throw my head in a tailspin, if you know what I mean? It’s not like I’ll never read it, I just don’t really have a need to go back in the wayback machine right now.
CP: That makes sense. And this was kind of gleaned from the book: You’ve only had a life in rock ‘n’ roll, like the moment you were a distinct individual, you’ve been immersed in it. Do you ever think if you could or would want to do anything else?
TS: Yeah, a lot, frankly. Anything from being a weatherman to a real estate agent, to be honest with ya. The latter might become a reality at some point, actually. I’m interested in it, it’s something I look at and follow. On the weather front thing, Paul had actually always joked about, “I’d rather been a weatherman than fucking doing this shit anymore.” Honestly, back in the day, the weather was an exciting thing around here, because you never knew if a tornado was gonna hit Minneapolis in the summer or not. I just always had a thing for it, I guess.
CP: Do you still love rock ‘n’ roll? Do you still get the same feeling in your gut?
TS: Well, if I don’t, I’m fucking wasting my time right now. Yeah, I still do. It’s ingrained; it ain’t going away. If I became a real estate developer in a future life, I’d still be doing this shit because this is what I know and love. Good or bad, ugly, all of it – it’s just part of what I am, it’s here. I make the best of it, and accept it for its lifelong intrusion into my life.
CP: Tell me what it’s like being back in Minneapolis. You don’t live here, right?
TS: No, I live in upstate New York. I like it up there a lot. It’s always fun to come visit, to come see my family and friends.
CP: What are your go-to spots?
TS: I don’t really have any go-to spots anymore, a lot of those places I used to go to have closed down. Like, I’ll stop in the CC bar if I’ve got time, just to kind of smell it again. Ya know, oddly enough, one of my other spots is the Loon Café. Because I’d always find myself hanging out downtown, and I used to know a lot of the people, so I’d go over there and say hey, and, ya know, their food’s pretty decent.
CP: Other than potentially being a weatherman or a real estate agent, do you think about the future?
TS: No, and I’m a little afraid to do that, considering the president-elect at the moment. I’m still trying to weigh whether or not I want to leave the country.
CP: Yeah, and I’m assuming you’ve heard the reports from last night?
TS: I’m hearing all kinds of crap today – the whole reports of what they might have on him on the Russian side? Ya know it’s funny, because as he’s now being forced to say, “Oh, I think the Russian hacks were probably real,” now he’s gonna get pushback from Putin who’s gonna have this info. He’s gonna leak it, you know he’s gonna do it.
The whole thing is playing out in this really great way, and I bet within the next six to eight hours there is going to be something major coming out that is on him, that is some kinda stink, that some hacker is gonna fuckin’ send to Wikileaks or something, to fuck with them. Because I think Putin thought, “All right, now we’re gonna get some deals done with this guy, because he’s a fucking moron.” It’s entertaining, it’s entertaining to watch, but it doesn’t make me want to live here.
CP: Yeah, when you elect a reality TV star it’s gonna be entertaining, but it’s also gonna burn the fucking country down.
TS: Yeah, it’s like I fucking kinda wanna move to fucking Montevideo [Uruguay, not Minnesota] just to be away from the fucking bombs that are gonna fall soon, ya know?
CP: Real quick, before I forget to ask, your daughter has got a music career, right?
TS: Yeah, Ruby is always writing good stuff. She’s working on some music with another producer guy in New York who she knows. Working on what she works on, she’s got all kinds of stuff up her sleeve.
Bash & Pop
With: The So So Glos
When: 8 p.m. Thu., Jan. 12
Where: 7th St. Entry
Tickets: $75; more info here