Tag Archives: the replacements

Interview: Tommy Stinson

As a founding member of legendary alt-rock pioneers the Replacements, Tommy Stinson cemented his place in music history and had a hand in influencing artists as diverse as Green Day, Wilco, the Hold Steady and Lorde.

tommy stinson the replacements

Described as both the “best band of the ’80s” (Musician magazine) and “the greatest band that never was” (Rolling Stone), the Replacements were critical darlings during their lifetime, yet achieved little commercial and mainstream acclaim.

After their 1991 implosion, Minneapolis native Stinson added an 18-year stint as bassist of Guns N’ Roses to his rock and roll résumé, becoming a bonafide rock stalwart in the process, while appreciation of the Replacements’ discography grew steadily.

Following a much-lauded and somewhat tumultuous Replacements reunion in 2013-15, a new line-up of Bash & Pop, a band vehicle for Stinson’s solo work, was formed last year. The group’s first album in 24 years, Anything Could Happen, was released in January, and marked a return to the spontaneous recording methods that were a feature of early Replacements records.

Now 51, the amiable and down-to-earth Stinson is enjoying making music as much as ever.

What’s life been like since the new album came out?

We’ve been touring a lot. We’ve just done a five-week tour with the Psychedelic Furs here in the States and we had a rip of a time. However you would categorise the Psychedelic Furs, their audience was really sweet to us – a rock and roll band – and we had a really good run. I look forward to hopefully doing that again some day.

Is Bash & Pop back for good?

We’re going to keep fuelling it and moving forward. The reason it became Bash & Pop was that we made a band record. On the first Bash & Pop record, I played more instruments than I wanted to play and it ended up being me, the drummer and sometimes the guitar player making that record. This was more of a group effort. We would hash out the songs and do them in five takes, tops. We kind of took the template from how we used to do things in the ’80s.

When we started the Replacements, we would record in a particular way. Paul would show us the basis of a song, either in our basement or in the studio. He would say “Hey, Bob [Stinson, lead guitar], play the melody like this,” and we would record it, getting the best recording we could in as few takes as possible. Back then, tape was expensive for us, so we had to do it quickly. I took that template and applied it to my new record and I think people understand why and I think they can feel that in the record.

Do you prefer being in charge of making your own record, as opposed to being at the whim of a Westerberg or an Axl?

I like all different kinds of things. I like producing and I like playing a role in a band – all of those things I’ve done over the years. With Bash & Pop, the songs we write together end up guiding us instead of us trying to guide the song into being something it’s not. That’s why I like playing with these guys – we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

With the advent of all these computerised recording devices, people can get so bogged down. And I’m not saying I’ve never done that, because I did two solo records on digital devices that I maybe spent too much time thinking about. You can overthink a whole lot of things with them. But when you’ve got a whole band in the room, and they’re there for a weekend only, they’re sleeping in your house with you, and you’re getting all stinky together, you can maybe capture something in one great moment.

Were you generally happy with how the Replacements reunion went, and would you have liked it to be longer?

To be honest with you, I think we could’ve stretched it out a little bit longer. I don’t know if Paul wasn’t having fun with it, you know about that whole T-shirt thing? [Westerberg wore T-shirts with a single letter spray-painted on them over a number of shows, which, in order, spelt “I have always loved you. Now I must whore my past”.] Dude, if you’re so not into it, then why the fuck did we do it? I’ll be super frank with you about that.

When we did the Mats reunion, I thought it would make people happy, it would be super fun, and we’d maybe make some money. We did it, and I thought it was fun, but if it wasn’t fun in [Westerberg’s] head, then why the fuck did we do it? I don’t know if that was directed at me, or who it was directed at, but he kind of made a statement with his shirts that meant the tour finished up with a negative purpose and we should have stopped when we were ahead.

I say this candidly because I think that, at this point in our lives, whatever message you are trying to get across, this is not the best way to do it. The best way to do it would be to play until you don’t want to play, then move on and do something else. That’s what I do – call me kooky for calling it what it is. We only live here once, and when you get in your 50s, why would you do that you feel that you have to do, instead of what you want? Neither one of us had to do any of it, and it was fun for a while, but the T-shirt thing bummed me the fuck out.

Will you play together again?

Not if he pulls out another T-shirt message – fuck that [laughs]. I’m kidding a bit. I never say never, but it would have to happen only if the stars align in the perfect way, where we thought we could have fun with it and not get caught up in the bullshit.

Are you happy with the amount of respect the Replacements got in the band’s lifetime?

I never look back like that. We’re from Minneapolis – the music community in Minneapolis when we were kids in the ’80s rivalled, in my opinion, any music community in that era, or in any other era I’ve even seen. We had Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs, there was us, and lots of art-y bands. We all hung out together, played shows together, travelled together, and it was a real community.

Back in the day, Minneapolis was like the World Series for bands. Whatever bands we played with, we wondered who was going to win the game tonight – it was very competitive, but in a healthy way. I haven’t seen it yet. I lived in L.A. for over 20 years and only saw it in some ways, but completely different. It was a very special scene and I would love to converse with anyone who thinks they lived in a similar kind of music community.

What’s your favourite Replacements album?

I can’t listen to any of them, but if I were going to be straight-up honest with you, the one I can listen to the most is All Shook Down. It didn’t sell as much as Don’t Tell a Soul, but I think that’s when the Replacements were appreciated in a greater realm because of the songwriting. Paul wrote some great songs on that record.

If you listen to that record, and it was hard enough for me to listen to it to even remember the parts I played, that’s a great record. He did what Paul is best at – he basically produced that. Some of is is perhaps a little over-thought, but that whole record stands up completely, from top to bottom. It’s dark as fuck, though. You don’t know want to throw on your headphones on a sunny day and go for a walk in the park with that one on, because you’ll want to fucking slit your throat. But whatever.

Will you play with Guns ‘N’ Roses again?

I never say never about that either. I’d say it’s about as likely as doing the Replacements again. I think they don’t need me – they’ve got Duff and Slash and they’re doing their thing. They’re all my friends and I’m glad they’re all out there, working their butts off and having a good time. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them. Unless Duff quits, and he was the last man standing the last time, there’s a pretty good chance they’re not going to need my fucking bass-playing skills any time soon [laughs]. Just sayin’.

You’ve been in bands since you were 12, 13. How do you stay grounded and stop yourself going crazy?

I’m still working that out [laughs]. It isn’t easy. A lot of people think that because you’re on stage, everything is great, but a lot of hard work goes into that at every level, whether you’re playing a club, theatre or stadium. It is a hard thing, and I’m not going to boo-hoo about my woes or anything like that, but it’s hard to balance that life and have some semblance of normality for yourself.

Any chance of a trip Down Under?

I’ve been talking to [You Am I guitarist] Davey Lane about it a lot, and trying to get You Am I to be my backing band [laughs]. We’ve been talking for years about it. Maybe I can go over go myself, although I hate doing the solo acoustic thing by myself – I like to have someone I can spitball with, and make shit up or whatever. I’ve always had a good time in Australia, so never say never. I can do a whole bunch of things that’ll either be fun or completely fucking disastrous [laughs].

Anything Could Happen by Bash & Pop is out now.

Check out all things Tommy Stinson here.

For The Brag

Record review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs at Bay (2015, LP)

bad dreems dogs at bay album cover

Ahh; take a deep breath and suck in the smell of stale beer, man sweat and fetid urinals: pub rock is back and it’s as welcome as an icy stubby to a parched throat in the summertime. Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems are perfectly placed to provide Aussie rock with a shot in the arm with this debut album, having put in the hard yards touring at home and overseas and recently soaked the Splendour stage in much of the contents of their rider. The result is their music is no longer left of the dial, as their songwriting hero Paul Westerberg would say, but easily accessible to anyone with a penchant for heart-on-sleeve rock and wonderfully raw live shows. An early highlight is ‘Bogan Pride’, on which frontman Ben Marwe announces “Friday night and I’m five pills deep, I can’t think straight,” before questioning the motives of those overly-muscular boneheads every festival-goer loves to hate. Gutsy singles ‘Cuffed and Collared’ and ‘Dumb Ideas’ provide the rockier moments, but the real magic is to be found among the nostalgic ‘Hume’ and ‘Ghost Gums’; moments of sunburnt Australiana which mark this album as a guitar-rock classic. In true Westerberg style, though, the quartet know a record isn’t complete without at least three minutes of devastating loneliness; provided in the form of ‘My Only Friend’. Top-drawer production by the legendary Mark Opitz helps their honest and often bleak Australian world view come to the fore, on an album that will sound just as good at home as it will down the pub. Tip: best served with a refreshing pint of West End.

For The Brag

Record review: Howler – World Of Joy (2014, LP)

howler world of joy

Howler frontman Jordan Gatesmith is clearly and openly obsessed with ’80s college-rock legends and fellow Minneapolis natives The Replacements. Their 2012 debut America Give Up was littered with references to Paul Westerberg’s lyrics and sound, and while the eclecticism and snideness evident on that album compared to Westerberg’s 1987 mixed bag Pleased To Meet Me, this follow up has devolved into something more like the scratchy and patchy Hootenanny of 1983; with even the cover being almost identical. Fifty percent of the personnel has changed since their debut, and while there’s some good stuff here, much of the album feels contrived and lacklustre; and perhaps missing an ingredient or two that would inject a little excitement. The cascading guitars during the first few seconds of opener ‘Al’s Corral’ sound promising before some unimaginative vocal phrasing render it underwhelming. There’s thrashy punk rock brashness on ‘Drip’, ‘Louise’ and ‘In The Red’, while the title track is a fairly forgettable spurt of downbeat lo-fi post-punk. There’s a distinct tail-off towards the end too, with the pop-tinged ‘Indictment’ and folky ‘Aphorismic Wasteland Blues’. ‘Here’s The Itch That Creeps Through My Skull’ is interesting as it veers into lovelorn ballad territory, while single ‘Don’t Wanna’ is the most Replacements-esque track here and benefits as a result. “You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to,” Gatesmith sings, which is pretty reassuring by this stage in proceedings; proving that as a songwriter, he has a long way to go before matching his hero’s standards. (Rough Trade)

Interview: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys

Bed Wettin Bad Boys

This Labour Day weekend is not only a three-day affair, but Goodgod Small Club is celebrating turning three with a birthday bash filled with more musical talent than you can shake a stick at. On the bill are Sydney’s brilliantly shambolic punks Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys. We chat to Nic and Ben about their plans for the gig and life as a ‘Bad Boy.

I have to start by asking you about the band name. How did you settle on Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys?

Nic: The same way all good bands get their name, a ouiji board ceremony with celebrity magician David Bowie.

Shortly you’ll be playing the Goodgod’s third birthday party. What can BWBB fans expect from the show?

Nic: A pretty similar set to most BWBB sets: eight or so loud rock songs, with one or two mishaps and maybe a bit of jive-talk. As Adam Lewis and the Goodgod team have taken care of promotion and organisation very well we don’t have to worry about back line, parking, figuring out the door split etc., so we may even be a little more relaxed than usual. When your band is called Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys you’ve pretty much got to create most the shows you play. So thanks Adam for asking! I’m looking forward to plugging in and playing for once in my friggin’ life and having very few other responsibilities.

Ben: Today some people at work said they’re going to come to the show. I have a distinct professional, as opposed to social, way of dealing with things. Expect accountability, micromanagement, responsibility, outcome measures.

You’ve just played the BIGSOUND festival in Brisbane, and got pretty great reviews. How was the show for you? What other bands stood out for you?

B: BIGSOUND was the one time as a band we got a few perks. They put on a free barbecue during the day after we played. We got to watch cable TV. A guy let us borrow a drum key. It was a great few days. We played an all ages show at Tym’s Guitar Store with Songs, and it was good to see a bunch of young people at the show having fun, in a place like Fortitude Valley, which can be really draining in every way.

N: I don’t want to talk about it, ’twas a strange few days. Glad we did it though as it showed the industry you don’t have to be a caricature of a human to be in a band.

It’s practically impossible to find a written description of your music – including Pitchfork’s – that doesn’t mention The Replacements. How much of an influence were they on your musical development? What other bands have shaped how you write and play music?

B: Sometimes I feel as that The Replacements comparison is warranted, but other times it’s just lazy writing, an easy way out. ‘This band is gonna rock you like this band,’ rather than working at writing actually how a band makes you feel.

N: We all agree The Replacements are a great band but I actually don’t think they were that important on our development musically, as in I don’t think any of us use them as a template for our song writing or playing. I do think there’s an underlying philosophy or approach to playing rock ‘n’ roll that we share though, essentially being liberated by punk then drawing from the history of guitar music until it forms into something that feels familiar but isn’t some awful retro-rock revival. I think the huge scope of music I’ve listened to has indirectly shaped how I write and play music as opposed to any specific artist. From (Australian) X to Brian Eno, the behemoths of classic rock to your humble basement rockers.

Moving to Sydney from Cairns must have been an experience. How did you find the move at first, and in what ways did you discover music when you got there?

B: This is a really complex question to answer and I just wrote down a huge answer but didn’t cover anything significant. I’ve been in Sydney for six years now. A quarter of my life. I was back in Cairns a couple of months back and it was the first time since moving to Sydney that I realised what an unbelievably beautiful place it is, visually.

BWBB have a reputation for performing while less-than-sober. What would be included in your ultimate tour rider?

N: Collectively I don’t think we’re ever that drunk playing any more, I mean at least not most of the time. It’s nice to have a few drinks before, while and after playing cause we’re all busy people and it may well be the only time we get to let loose that week. I think people confuse less-than-sober with not being a bunch of timid, top-button-on-shirt-done-up, beige, flaccid indie band. Ya know; being a little bit primal, rock ‘n’ roll as a release, not a fashion show.

B: I feel there’s a real boredom during the three hours between loading in gear to a venue and playing. Don’t drink out of boredom, but sometimes there’s nothing else to do. Drink to celebrate. Hey, we’re a group of friends playing rock ‘n’ roll and at the end of the day there’s no pressure to do any more, any less. I’ll drink to that! (note I’m not a very good guitar player just to clear up reasons why I mess up at times)

N: Tour rider: I’d prefer some type of stout or dark ale opposed to the watery beer usually provided. If we’re talking big dumb music festival that breeds inflated egos: Gin and tonic water. DVD of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some Lebanese bread and dips. Picture book of baby animals. Music device that plays rap music like Kool Keith, Big L, Tommy Wight III, UGK, Clipse to get me PUMPED UPPPP.

B: For the tour rider, I’m a sweet vermouth man.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

N: Being a Bed Wettin’ Bad Boy feels real easy at the moment. For the first time since Doug joined which was 2 to 3 years ago we don’t really have any set goals or deadlines. We literally have no plans and will just continue to do what we do. Earlier this year we wrote a list of half-song, riffs, home demos and unreleased songs we’d like to re-work or re-visit. Hopefully through the summer we’ll have the time to “work” on them. I say “work” cause I don’t think it’ll feel like work. Playing together has started to feel like second nature and although we’ve been taking it easy post-album launch and tour I think we’ve unknowingly been pretty creatively productive. Once we have a big old list of songs ready to go we’ll think about working towards another record.

B: I was away for four months this year and I guess it’s a bit of catch up still after that. We’re all busy people outside of this band, so we just try do what we can when we can.

TICKETS FOR GOODGOD BIRTHDAY NIGHTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE: http://www.dashtickets.com.au/?/tour/26

Flashback: The Replacements – Tim (1985, LP)

replacements tim

There’s something magical about hearing a song for the first time, looking up the album it came from, and finding the other songs to be just as good, or better. But, have you ever loved a band on first listen, only to discover they split up years ago, leaving you wondering just how the hell you’ve never heard of them and lamenting the fact they’ll probably never record again? Let me tell you about how I discovered the Replacements.

A few years ago I spent a freezing January evening in a dingy bar with an old friend, downing beer and shots and discussing plans to better ourselves in all sorts of fantastical ways. After we parted I stumbled home through the cold night air, turned on the electric heater and slumped in front of the TV with a beer. By dumb luck the set was tuned to some long-forgotten channel showing a documentary about lesser-known college rock bands of an unspecified era. It was at that glorious moment, through my numbing alcohol fuzz, I heard a throaty voice singing the words “Sweet Georgia breezes, safe cool and warm…” I reached for a piece of paper and scrawled the name of the song: ‘Left of the Dial’.

It could be argued it was a very Replacements-esque way of discovering something: being a bit worse-for-wear, alone, and dreaming of better times. The band had taken self-sabotage and hard-living to ever-increasing heights since their 1979 formation, in between releasing albums containing a mixture of bonehead punk, sloppy adolescent thrash, and occasionally, heartfelt pop; all done in a way that would make you think they were the only band to ever truly understand loneliness and alienation.

By 1984, Minneapolis label Twin Tone could no longer contain them, and they signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire. With this in mind, the production quality on 1985 release Tim could be expected to be a step above previous recordings, when the opposite is true. Produced by former Ramone Tommy Erdelyi (allegedly through a set of headphones as he was near-deaf from his touring days), the sound is blunt and distant, especially Chris Mars’ drumming.

Nevertheless, Paul Westerberg’s song-writing and worldview make Tim great. ‘Left of the Dial’, ‘Hold My Life’, and ‘Bastards of Young’ are anthems for fringe-dwelling outsiders everywhere. ‘Kiss Me on the Bus’ – originally titled ‘Kiss Me on the Butt’ – is a brilliantly jangly, rockabilly-tinged, pop tune that you never want to end. Dumb rocker ‘Dose of Thunder’ is followed by quite possibly the only song ever recorded about being at the mercy of prima donna air hostesses: ‘Waitress in the Sky’. “Strutting up the aisle, big deal you get to fly, you ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky,” is Westerberg at his most cutting.

‘Swinging Party’ and ‘Little Mascara’ tell more tales of wasted opportunity and loneliness, with Westerberg admitting “If bein’ wrong’s a crime, I’m serving forever, if bein’ strong’s your kind, then I need help here with this feather.” Such honest inadequacy probably wasn’t heard since ‘Teenage Kicks’. Closer ‘Here Comes a Regular’ is a melancholy ode to the pathetic booze hound; something Westerberg could see himself becoming, and what Stinson had been for some time, bringing about his sacking from the band before Tim’s release (he died of alcohol and drug related causes in 1995.) Gut-wrenching and arresting, it’s a fitting end to a fantastic album.

After Tim, the Replacements were never the same; seemingly floundering between punk ethics and Westerberg’s desire to crash the top-20. While they took several more years to fade away rather than burn out, Tim stands as testimony to the power of the Replacements, and tells the story of a time in the fakest of decades when four young punks from Minneapolis were the real deal. Grab a beer and give it a spin.