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Appetite for a residency: Chatting with Guns N’ Roses’ Tommy Stinson

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Bassist Tommy Stinson says maybe Guns N’ Roses will play half its set on kazoos. He’s probably kidding.
TommyStinson.com
Chris Bitonti

Will you prepare for a 12-show residency any differently than you prepare for a tour? Probably a little bit, because I think we’re going to have to alternate sets and do different things. Whereas when we tour we kind of tweak the set as we go and then kind of get in a mode of it being a certain way, with a few audible changes as we go along. I think with the Vegas sets, we’re going to try and make some different things happen to kind of keep each show a little bit different.

Like, keep a basic set and mix in a few songs? Or will you have multiple setlists? I think we’re really going to have to think about that. And as you just say that … (pauses) … an idea came into my mind … to really, drastically change the set. I can’t share it with you, but I think would be really good. I think there’s a couple different ways we could go about all this, and I think we should.

Is there you’ll be able to do, production-wise, to make these shows special since you won’t have to tear it all down every night? I’ve got a couple of ideas, and I think everyone is going to have to use their noggin to try to figure it out. I know Axl [Rose] is going to try and make every show different from one to the next. I think that would be the way he thinks.

The Details

GUNS N’ ROSES
October 31, November 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 21, 23 & 24; Wednesdays 9 p.m., Fridays-Sundays, 10 p.m.; $41-$111.
The Joint, 693-5000.

Sounds like there’s still a lot up in the air. Do you think it will mostly happen spontaneously? Ya know, I don’t know. I think that we’re probably going to have to talk about how different we want to make the shows, then once we do that and we all get on the same page it’ll be easy to say, “Hey, how ’bout tonight we do it this way?” That way, people aren’t gonna go, “Wow, I saw them last week, and I saw that set.” It would be good to have them see a different set each time. To make people go, “Wow, that was totally different.” It might be totally acoustic for half the set tonight. Or maybe we’ll do half the set on f*cking kazoos! (laughs)

The residency is called Appetite for Democracy. Does that mean it will mostly draw from Appetite for Destruction and Chinese Democracy? I just think somebody came up with a cute term (laughs). I don’t really know where that came from, but it is definitely going to be more than just Appetite and Chinese Democracy. It’s going to be a lot of things—as much as we can throw out there.

You’ve been in Guns N’ Roses almost 15 years, right? Yeah, ’98! F*ckin A!

I know you played on Chinese Democracy, but were you involved in the writing process or was the album already written by the time you joined the band? I came in sort of … in the middle of the record, but there was a lot to write and a lot to put together still. So I was pretty much involved in helping put all that stuff that you hear on Chinese Democracy together in one aspect or another.

When you took over GNR bass duties, did you try to play like Duff McKagan? Or did you try to make it your own? I think, other than him being more riff oriented than I am, we’re not all that different players. We both kind of came from a punk-rock background, and it wasn’t all that much of a stretch. I did, however, tweak my sound a little bit so that it would fit sonically with what was going on. I didn’t really try to sound like Duff necessarily, but to make it sound as powerful as I could while still fitting in to what’s going on.

Did you switch amps or basses? I tried all sorts of stuff, but eventually I went back to what I know. And that’s Ampegs and P and J basses.

I read that you and Paul Westerberg are working on new Replacements material. Yeah, we recorded some songs live in the studio a couple weekends ago to benefit Slim Dunlap, the guitar player that took my brother’s place. He had a massive series of strokes this last spring, and he’s pretty laid up, so we’re trying to raise some money for his recovery. We did, like, four songs. [Ex-Replacements drummer] Chris Mars did a song to throw on there, and we’re going to release a Replacements EP at some point. The proceeds will all go to Slim.

That will surely feed Replacements reunion tour rumor mill … You never know. We certainly had a f*cking ball doing it, and it was fun to get in the f*cking mud and just kind of sling around until it kind of warps into something and you’re just like, “Wow, we can actually still f*cking do that.” I think some time, maybe end of December or early January, we might try to just record some songs together, not for any purpose for The Replacements necessarily but just do some recording just to have that vibe, whether it’s for his record, my record, whatever. That’s just something we talked about. It could fall apart at any point. We both had enough fun with it that it seemed like it would be a good thing to try and do.

During the ’80s, The Replacements exemplified anti-mainstream music. Now, you play in Guns N’ Roses, one of the most popular bands from that period. Was that a strange transition, mentally? Ya know, they’re totally different things, but they’re both totally the same in a lot of ways, in that its rock ’n’ roll. It’s what I’ve always done. Axl is about as anti-corporate-rock as anyone I know, Paul [Westerberg] included. It just so happens that their model of anti-corporate-rock got through and people liked it. People bought it. I can’t speak for the whole band, but I can speak for me getting down with Axl, and he comes from the same place as all of us.

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