Punk pioneer Tommy Stinson back on home turf
The Replacements bassist and ex-righthand to Axl Rose is bringing his solo show to the Turf Club Friday before hitting the dusty trail with Cowboys in the Campfire.
Tommy Stinson has seen a lot over the last 40-odd years.
“I've been all over the world; I've lived in different places.”
But when Stinson gets on stage Friday at St. Paul’s Turf Club, a room full of old friends will be ready to welcome him home.
“That place will be full of probably half the people I know intimately — one way or the other — from, you know, 40 years of doing this stuff. It's always fun; it’s always good to catch up.”
Stinson, who was first thrust on stage at the tender age of 12 with legendary local punk-rock outfit the Replacements, quickly moved on from the comfort of Minnesota to spend the next three decades performing around the world in and out of bands, including 80s icons Guns N’ Roses and fellow Minneapolis misfits, Soul Asylum.
Now 56, Stinson's upcoming solo gig at the Turf – followed by an albeit vague, but definitely in the making run of shows as one-half of the rockabilly-Americana-esque duo, Cowboys in the Campfire – will simply be business as usual.
“You know, I know no other life,” Stinson said. “It's funny, everything that I've done since I was a kid, I'm still doing now.”
Well, not everything.
Stinson, a child of the late 70s and early 80s, says he'd already had at least three run-ins with law enforcement by the time he reached 10 years old. That's why, he says, he credits Replacements co-founder and guitarist Bob Stinson, his big brother, for turning him on to music and helping him avoid what could have been a long journey down a darker path.
“My brother showed me how to play bass, which got me out of the trouble I was getting into,” he said. “I was really not going down a good path before Bobby showed me how to play bass.
“[I’m] eternally grateful to my brother for that. It was a fun way to grow up, but I also grew up a little early — a little bit too young — to be on your own in a lot of ways, as I look back now.”
But ready or not, the star power radiating from the Replacements would eventually be enough to propel Stinson on the adventure of a lifetime. In the same generation that new wave and innovators of the Minneapolis Sound dominated the radio, a scrappy group of fledgling, Midwestern punks called the Replacements would, too, find their way.
“I've never witnessed anything like it again, or since. When I reflect on it, it was a super special time,” he said. “It's magical that I've been able to do all this stuff.”
While the Replacements undoubtedly achieved great heights during their decade together in various forms, the last configuration of the band dissolved in 1991. With a passion for performing and an urge to keep the music in his life alive, Stinson forged ahead with new projects of his own (Bash & Pop, Perfect), while also getting the opportunity to hit the road with friends — both new and old.
Cowboys in the campfire:
It's now been over 40 years since Stinson's debut album with Bobby and the Replacements. Since then, the music — along with the people making up his inner circle — has only continued to evolve. But despite the potential uncertainty of a life lived on the road, Stinson's new album, created in conjunction with longtime friend and trusted collaborator Chip Roberts, is proof of his ability to still make hay while the sun shines.
“With Guns N’ Roses in particular, it was a lot of work. It was a fun gig, but that was a lot of work,” he said. “I'm to the point now where I can kind of tour and do what I want and have fun. I just kind of do it on my own terms.”
WATCH: COWBOYS IN THE CAMPFIRE, "DREAM"
The product of a years-long partnership and their self-described "kindred souls," Stinson and Roberts finally announced in March that their first official Cowboys album, “WRONGER,” will be released on June 2.
“We've been working together for 14 years now – kind of touring, playing shows – and finally decided, ‘Well, let's make a record with it,'” he said. “It's a duo, for the most part, so we could just kind of get in the van or a car, go play some shows whenever we wanted … the kind of thing that was very low maintenance and a lot of fun. We've been doing it for seven years now, so we decided we’d make a record; do the same thing.”
While Stinson has solo gigs on the calendar through the first few weeks of April, he said a tour with Roberts is also in the works — the dates of which haven't yet been released.
"I think, the real honest truth about it is, I don't drive yet," he said. "I made it all the way through my life without ever having a license. I'm gonna learn how to drive this summer/spring, but that's not going to help us in the immediate future."
A steadfast advocate for public transit, Stinson said that in an attempt to amplify the impending tour — and his belated driver's education — we shouldn't be surprised to see a third person join the circuit, both on stage and behind the wheel.
"I think we might bring out someone with us to help out with stuff — probably a bass player of some sort — to kind of, you know, accomplish two goals."
'Go where the songs take me':
Although Stinson alluded to loose plans for a "small amount of touring every month" through the rest of the year, those plans are subject to change as the punk-rocker-at-heart refuses to be pigeonholed into art, nor agenda.
"I kind of always go where the songs take me," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do from here to there, but I know that I'm open to anything; whatever happens, happens, in my world. Wherever the inspiration takes me, is how I roll with it."
But if you think Stinson's slightly ambiguous strategy this time around means he's all hat and no cowboy, all you have to do is turn to the enduring model of his near-half-century, storied career.
"I like still like performing in front of people," he said. "I'm having fun with whatever it is — doesn't matter if I'm playing a stadium or a backyard."
The Turf's doors open Friday, April 7, at 7 p.m. for a special performance by Ruby Stinson, Tommy's daughter and pop/R&B artist, beginning at 8 p.m.
For information about the show and details about snagging tickets, click here.
For more information about Tommy Stinson and Cowboys in the Campfire, click here.
For more information about Ruby Stinson, click here.
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