Tommy Stinson: 'It feels good to do my own thing'

Tommy Stinson
Tommy Stinson performing at The Current's 11th birthday party at First Avenue (MPR / Nate Ryan)
Tommy Stinson: 'It feels good to do my own thing'
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Tommy Stinson entered the music industry as the bassist for the Replacements. He's gone on to work with Guns 'n Roses and other artists, but now, Stinson is focusing on his own music, with his duo Cowboys in the Campfire and with the rebooted Bash & Pop.

In a recent telephone interview with The Current's Bill DeVille, Stinson describes how Cowboys in the Campfire came to be, and he also describes why he's brought back the Bash & Pop name after a two-decade hiatus.

Interview Transcript

Bill DeVille: I've got Tommy Stinson on the line. His latest project, Cowboys in the Campfire, playing at the Triple Rock Social Club. Let's start with Cowboys in the Campfire — tell us about this project.

Tommy Stinson: What this is is … my buddy Chip and I have been playing together and writing together for years; he even helped pen some of the stuff that's going to be on the new Bash & Pop record coming out in January. Years ago, he made a watercolor of these two cowboys fighting over a campfire. We joked about getting in the van and going out and touring as a duo for fun, just getting out and doing it. He hasn't toured the country before.

This summer, we realized that the Bash & Pop record was going to come out in the new year, so I had some time to do something else. So we decided to get in the van and book some last-minute shows and see what happened. We kind of made a paid vacation out of it; went all over the place, went down to the South, to the Midwest. We had so much fun, we decided to do it again. Just this last month, we started in Texas and worked our way up to Seattle.

And now we're going to go home and we're probably going to put together a 45 with a couple of the new songs we've written. Kind of work it out in the next year. Work up some new material and put it out as that. It's vastly different than the Bash & Pop stuff in that it's just a duo; we break everything down to just two guitars and vocal. We have fun with it; just having a ball out here.

BD: Is it way different — you've played arenas with both the Replacements and Guns 'n Roses, and to take it to more of a street level and play the small clubs again, is it fun for you?

TS: It is fun for me. One, I'm not working for anybody but myself right now, and I'm really liking how that feels. I've spent so much time of my life playing in other people's bands or playing in bands and being this, that or the other thing. So it's fun for me to have my own things going on right now. I've worked really hard at doing those other gigs and all that. And I'm just gonna take this time to not really reinvent myself but have more fun with my own music, my own stuff that's always taken a back seat to everything else. I'm not doing that this time around. The Bash & Pop record's gonna come out, I'm gonna tour behind that with a full band. Chippy and I are making this Cowboys in the Campfire stuff happen, and we're gonna probably tour most of that at the end of the year and then next summer, maybe a little.

It just feels good to be able to do my own thing. I turned 50, and I just figured, I've done enough stuff that I could be doing my own thing now and just focus on that.

BD: You played Duluth last night, you're on the way to the Twin Cities. You used to live here, you lived here for a long time. What's the first thing you do when you get back to the Twin Cities? Is there a certain food or something you do? What do you miss about the Twin Cities?

TS: Funny thing you should ask: I called my mom yesterday — we're flying out of Minneapolis really early in the morning, so we probably won't spend the night, we'll stay up and go right to the airport — I called my mom and asked her if she'd make us a big pot of goulash because she makes the best goulash. All of us are going to Mom's house to have some goulash, get ready for the show over there, come do the show, do our thing, then go stay at Dawn's house for a while. She's going to drive us to the airport in the morning. We've got a whole plan.

My mom told me and Chippy how to make goulash; we do a lot of cooking together, him and I. She told us how to make it, we followed the directions, but it never quite tastes the same. So we're going to Mom's house and check it out — look over her shoulder and find out the secret ingredients she uses.

BD: So a new album under the Bash & Pop handle. Why the name again? You haven't used that name since 1991 when you made that album with Kevin and Steve Foley, and Steve Brantseg. Why are you using that name again? What made you decide to use that?

TS: Here's the thing: The way I cut the tracks for the new record, I cut them live and always intended to make that a live record, but as it turned out, when we got to California and started cutting that record, things were going on, Kevin wasn't doing so well, so basically Steve and I ended up cutting the record, and I ended up overdubbing a lot of things, and I had a few other friends play on it. But this record is live in the studio, in my studio at home. And we cut as much live as we humanly could: bass, guitar, drums, everything, with live vocals to work with.

I wanted to make a record kind of the way we used to make records in the '80s, the way the Replacements did. I mean, we used to do it live, do a couple takes, find the best take and move on. I love that vibe; it's a lot less work to do a band record like that, especially if you've got a good band of guys to play with. And so, after that happened, I started playing it for people and they started saying it reminded them of the Bash & Pop record: it's a bit more rootsy, a little bit more rock 'n' roll, it's definitely more of a rock 'n' roll record than the last two records I've made. So I decided, "It's not a solo-sounding record because it's got this energy to it — I'm gonna call it Bash & Pop." And everyone that I was playing it for thought that was a really good idea, so there you have it.

BD: The album is coming out — is it a January release?

TS: I think the release date for it is January 20.

BD: We get to play a brand new songs from Tommy and Bash & Pop — it's a worldwide debut fur this song, "On the Rocks." Give us an intro for this song.

TS: It's one of the first songs that I penned for this record in the rock department. I've been writing a whole bunch of stuff over the last few years, and this is the one that I decided it was going to be sort of the lead-in kind of song as far as how the record is going to sound. It's a bit of a rock 'n' roll song, it's got some traditional things about it. And it has a lot to do with my surroundings in Hudson, New York, there's lots of references to things in Hudson. There's a line about a caged fountain: we've got this funny little fountain in the park that literally has a sensor on it so the kids can't really play in it. And it's got these lights — you kind of look at this thing and go, "What the heck is that for? Why would you put a fountain in there and put a sensor on it?" And it looks terrible. It's one of the funny quirks about Hudson, New York, and there's references to all that stuff.

BD: Tommy, nice chatting with you.


Tommy Stinson - official site

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