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Playing with himself 

Tommy Stinson of the Replacements and Guns N' Roses goes solo

Tommy Stinson is calling from a van cruising down the freeway, somewhere between Fargo and Minneapolis. It's 2 degrees below zero outside, but inside the heater is crankin' and Stinson is eager to talk: about his first solo album Village Gorilla Head, bass-playing duties with Guns N' Roses, and the state of music in general. The affable musician - who co-founded the legendary Minneapolis-based band the Replacements as a teenager in '79, and later went on to form the highly lauded pop groups Bash & Pop and Perfect in the '90s - was in a good mood after the first show of the tour that will soon bring him to Atlanta.

Creative Loafing: You've been in bands for most of your life, how does it feel to finally have an album out with your name on it?

Stinson: You know, it doesn't feel that much different than any of 'em. I never really set out to make solo records or band records. I just try to make what's in front of me. My influences never change, so I'm always gonna move in a general direction. I'm pretty much etched in stone at this point.

When the Replacements ended, you uprooted, moved to California and started a whole new life doing your own thing.

Yeah, at the end of the 'Mats, I was kinda like, 'OK, so now who am I? What am I? What am I doing?' So I pretty much grew up in California.

Did you find any resistance to your past when you moved from the Minneapolis scene to the L.A. scene in the '90s?

Oh, total and utter. People are always lookin' for the next new thing, even if they are lookin' in the rearview mirror half the time. I definitely came across a lot of adversity there. Probably due to the 'Mats' legacy to some degree, but also just people thinking, 'OK, that was then and that's done. What's today? What's the new hip thing?'

What is the new hip thing, anyway? I don't know of anything.

Yeah, now there is no new hip thing. There hasn't been a rock star in fuckin' 10 years, as far as I can tell. And I'm kinda missin' that pomp and circumstance of the 'rock star.'

Well, you work with an iconic rock star in Gun N' Roses.

Yeah, that's the kinda rock star I'm thinking of. There's Axl Rose, but there's no one else out there. This guy can walk in the middle of a fuckin' cornfield and draw a crowd.

I think a lot of people were surprised when you joined Guns N' Roses.

Yeah, I was surprised, too. But Axl has some good reasons for what he's doing and what we're doin,' and I thought, 'You know, that's a ballsy fuckin' dude, I gotta check this out.'

So what's the status of the Guns project right now?

They're finishing up the mixing right now. Sorting out what songs are going on it and artwork and shit. And hopefully sooner than later, it'll come out. I understand there's probably some European dates booked in the summer. Hopefully, that'll happen and we'll get over there and do it. Once it gets going, it's a lot of fun. There's a lot of fuckin' work involved with getting it going, but once it is going, it's a lot of fun.

What's your take on the state of pop music right now?

I'm just starting to hear bands I like again. There was a while there in the '90s, that I couldn't deal. It was horseshit. Now people are gettin' kinda creative and stepping out of the whole major record company grasp and doing more interesting things and mixin' it up a bit. I didn't hear much of that in the '90s at all.

lee.smith@creativeloafing.com

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