While the future of Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy seems no more certain today than it did when it was first mentioned more than five years ago, Tommy Stinson isn't waiting on fate.
The ex-Replacements bassist, who replaced Duff McKagan in the GN'R lineup, is shopping around songs and looking for a label deal. Though if you think Stinson's solo stuff will resemble "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Paradise City," you're as off-base as the folks banking on using the long-awaited GN'R album as this year's stocking stuffers.
The tunes were closer to the Replacements' more somber moments — even Stinson's voice was fondly reminiscent of 'Mats singer Paul Westerberg — when they were first played acoustically on tour in June. Reserved as they were, their dynamic pop structures were expectedly fitting for a member of one of the most influential rock bands of the pre-"alternative" era.
When he hits the road backed by the pop-punkers the Figgs for three weeks beginning Sunday in Albany, New York, the songs will no doubt be treated to a fuller rock sound.
Some of the 16 songs Stinson's been touting have been works in progress for the past decade. One of them was the last song he wrote before the Replacements broke up in 1991.
"They're all loosely based on people and places I've been," he said. "Most of them are composites of various characters kind of meshed together. There's only one song on the whole thing that I actually wrote about a friend of mine."
Given that he joined the Replacements, who were noted for their often-inebriated rock and roll lifestyle, when he was 14, Stinson, now 36, has seen and done more on the road than most musicians his age.
Being a member of the volatile Guns N' Roses lineup, with its sporadic work schedule, afforded Stinson the time to plug away at his song cache, though he kept them mostly closeted. It was former D Generation singer and solo artist Jesse Malin who encouraged Stinson to perform the songs live when Malin asked Stinson to play with him in Los Angeles.
Don't expect to hear any Replacements songs on Stinson's current trek, however. Although a mere glimpse of the dapper rocker onstage resurrects memories of "Bastards of Young," "Can't Hardly Wait" and "I'll Be You," the band's biggest commercial hit, Stinson's reason for not succumbing to fans' misappropriated desires is simple.
"I didn't sing them," he said dryly. "So what would be the point in that?"
The only previously released material that makes it into the set are selections from his post-'Mats bands Bash & Pop and Perfect, who released the EP When Squirrels Play Chickens in 1996. A full-length LP was supposed to follow but was shelved. Restless Records is expected to finally release it later this year.
The ultimate goal of Stinson's tour is to land him a record deal, but that doesn't mean he's willing to compromise his integrity over it.
"I'm not about to go whoring it out," he explained. "I made a record that I'm pretty close to. I like all the music. I'm going to go with the right arrangement; I'm not going to go door-to-door trying to sell it. I'm just going to find someone to put it out who seems right and who's on the same page."
Tommy Stinson and the Figgs tour dates:
- 8/24 - Albany, NY @ Valentines
- 8/25 - Buffalo, NY @ The Continental Club
- 8/26 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
- 8/27 Hamtramck, MI @ Smalls
- 8/28 - Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
- 8/29 - Green Bay, WI @ Riverside Ballroom
- 8/30 - Minneapolis, MN @ Uptown Bar
- 8/31 - Minneapolis, MN @ Uptown Bar
- 9/2 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
- 9/3 - Columbus, OH @ Little Brother's
- 9/5 - New York, NY @ Knitting Factory
- 9/6 - Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
- 9/7 - Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
- 9/8 - Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
- 9/9 - New Haven, CT @ Toad's Place
- 9/12 - Providence, RI @ Met Café
- 9/13 - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Club