By Michael Allshouse | Published September 19, 2017 on theswervemagazine.com
Anything could happen.
Not only is it the very aptly titled sophomore record by Bash & Pop, but it is also fitting for the glorious absurdity of 24 years passing between releases.
“Anything Could Happen” released in January of this year nearly matched its predecessor to the date as “Friday Night is Killing Me” was released in January 1993. Anything could happen.
“Funny shit, right?” Tommy Stinson laughed. “That is completely coincidental. I hadn’t even realized that one. I forgot that came out in January of ’93. I didn’t realize any of that. It is a co-winky-dink.”
Stinson, himself, is proof that anything could happen. In the 1980s he was the bassist for the highly influential, vastly under appreciated The Replacements. When the Minnesota four-piece eventually burned out rather than fading away, Stinson formed Bash & Pop.
The band recorded one album. Going through two lineups in its very short lifespan, Bash & Pop ended a year after “Friday Night is Killing Me’ was released.
Stinson went on to the form Perfect which was gobbled up by the late 90s/dawn of the internet turmoil that engulfed the music industry.
In 1998, Stinson joined the reformatted Guns N’ Roses. There he would stay for nearly 20 years. During the tremendous downtimes from the sporadic touring G N’ R, Stinson filled in for fellow Minnesota-born Soul Asylum after the band lost its original bassist Karl Mueller to cancer in 2005.
Having to give up his spot in Soul Asylum due to his commitment, Stinson left that band in 2012.
The unthinkable for many happened in 2013 as Stinson reunited with his former Replacements bandmate Paul Westerberg for a reunion tour that lasted nearly two years.
With The Replacements reunion winding down and his time in Guns N’ Roses coming to an end, Stinson became focused on recording another band album as he had grown tired of the process of piecing together his two solo records released in 2004 and 2011.
So he invited musicians to his New York home studio to work on what would eventually come to be “Anything Could Happen.”
The Swerve Magazine recently caught up with Stinson as he and Bash & Pop prepare to launch their official tour to support the new album in Pittsburgh on September 19 at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls.
The Swerve Magazine: The tour officially starts in Pittsburgh.
Tommy Stinson: The 19th is the first day of the tour, right there in Pittsburgh. It is the start of the official tour. We do Pittsburgh on our own and, then we turn up with the Psychedelic Furs after that. It’s kind of nutty.
SM: So what is it like to go back and revisit Bash & Pop over 20 years later?
TS: It is interesting. A lot of hoopla has been made about it. It being so long between. The simple reality for me is that this is the first chance I’ve actually had since the 90s to do a band record again.
My last two solo records, I had to piecemeal together on my own. I had to get people to play when I could find them. This is the first actual band record since Perfect, to be honest. I think that is why (people) are making such a thing about it, I suppose.
It is a band record, so that is why I decided to call it Bash & Pop. I figure I own the name still, I might as well, right?
SM: Exactly. You have been busy since the 90s.
TS: I’m thankful for that every day. Lucky me. Not a lot of musicians I know have been as fortunate as me in that regard.
SM: You have been on both sides of the spectrum (the well-regarded yet commercially-capped The Replacements and one of the best bands of the last 40 years, Guns N’ Roses). You have seen it all.
TS: Or it has seen me anyway (laughs).
SM: This is true (laughs).
TS: It has been an interesting run. I’ve gotten to do all kinds of different shit in this short lifetime of mine. It is some pretty cool stuff.
SM: Yes, pretty cool stuff, like the new album. You’ve said it is a band record. You had a revolving door of musicians come to your home studio and play for the record.
TS: Exactly. What happened was towards the end of that Replacements reunion run that we did, I started to have friends just meet me at the studio in my house for a week. Come on up for the weekend; we’ll record some songs. I got an engineer friend of mine to help out with that so that I could just play guitar, sing and just do my thing.
I started it right around the end of The Replacements run, around February 2015 or so. By the time The Replacements reunion was done, I did it in earnest. I got the guys together, who are basically the full touring band now, to finish the record up. There were about another half or two-thirds left to finish up. I recut a couple of things, but for the most part, I put it together in the spring of last year.
SM: What was it this time that led you to want it to be a band album instead of a solo project?
TS: After piecing together the two solo records, while I was in the midst of touring with Guns N’ Roses, I really wanted to do a band record and not wear all the hats. I wanted to just get some guys together, hack out the songs kind of like the way we did in the 80s. Here is a new song, let’s play it a few times. Record it while it is hot and see where it goes. It is, kind of, how I grew up. I always liked and appreciated that process. I was fortunate enough to have guys close by and that could come up for the weekend and do that in my studio that way.
We did record everything as live as we could without completely losing the fidelity. There is some double vocals and background vocals here and there, but those tracks are pretty much a live band in the studio playing together all at once.
It was on purpose. I got tired of piecing shit together, playing everything and producing stuff. I wanted to just sit back and play and sing and do my bit.
SM: In having people to the studio to play, did you have the structure of the songs done? Did you bring those to the group?
TS: Pretty much. I had basically written out lyrics and melodies. I really tried to have the band leave their stamp on it so that it would sound fresh as a band learning a new song and that kind of vibe.
SM: One thing I’ve read is that with Bash & Pop’s original lineup and its second in 1994, you were looking to find the camaraderie, or the chemistry, of a band. And it just wasn’t there. Do you think you found it this time?
TS: I do think so. I definitely feel that.
I was looking for that in the first round of Bash & Pop; I kept hitting a wall with it for some reason. I don’t know exactly why. I think a lot of it may have been I had a lot of ideas in my head that I couldn’t tell someone to play. So, I had to end up playing more than I wanted to on that first record.
This time around, I was much more basic about it. I let the rest of the band put their two cents in. The camaraderie came into play. I found guys that know where I’m coming from and can know how and where to play. They can feed into it. I didn’t have that on the first record. I was telling guys to play this or that. This time around, I got real lucky with these guys in that they knew where I was coming from and what I was thinking about and how to approach it. The approach is where it is at.
SM: Now in doing that, were there some songs that turned out different than what you had first imagined?
TS: Not so much in the structure of the songs, but the approach of how we did the songs.
Some of the songs we did quieter or louder or more rocking or more country. Some of these songs wrote themselves. These guys put their stamp on it. They didn’t have to try too hard to come up with their part; it just came out of them too. With that, you get egg roll (laughs).
SM: Awesome (laughs). The whole album is, indeed, awesome and there isn’t one song that I don’t want to pick your brain about, but time is limited, so just a few. “Never Wanted to Know.” The phrasing, word play and lyrics of that song stick out. Can you talk a little about how that came about?
TS: Well, I don’t even know. I had an idea for that which was basically the verse of that song for awhile. Something, there was some part of a Shangri-Las’ song in the back of my head as I was going along. Not that I stole the part from a Shangri-Las’ song, it just did something. With that and the band in the room, I was able to achieve that whole thing. I cut that song with Frank Ferrer, the drummer for Guns N’ Roses, originally. Just him and I.
When I finally finished writing the song, I recut it with the band. I figured out what other parts were needed by that time.
SM: “Unfuck You” is another song. The title alone is so clever and undone.
TS: I couldn’t believe it. No one had written a song called “Unfuck You” yet. I was surprised, to be honest (laughs).
SM: So true. It has been there all along, and no one has touched it.
TS: Well, there you go. I get to step in it.
SM: And “Shortcut,” which is the perfect way to close out the album.
TS: That is actually the oldest song on the record, I’ve had that song for, fuck, close to 20 years. I wrote that right around the time I joined Guns N’ Roses.
It actually started off as a duet with a really good friend of mine from LA, Juliette Beavan, her and her husband have a band called 8mm. I did it originally as a duet with her. At some point, I will probably put it out as it is a cool other version of that song. It has got all kinds of strange musicality going on it that is interesting and cool. The original version, at some point, will have to come out as it is cool and has a different vibe to it.
SM: You had the time to focus and not be distracted by things going on, did it help the writing?
TS: Absolutely. Once I dipped my toe in the pool, so to speak, with how I wanted to make it, it was easier to finish up the songwriting and write some other things to bring to the table because now I had a direction in mind.
SM: Well, now that the album is out and the tour is about to begin, are you going to keep Bash & Pop going?
TS: Probably so.
We got a new single coming out in a couple of weeks that Nicole Atkins produced. It is a duet called “Too Late.” She produced it. We did it in Nashville when Bash & Pop were down there this last spring. It is cool. I’ve had the song for, like, 12 years or so. She came and arranged it a bit and produced it, because, once again, I didn’t want to produce it and wear all these other hats. I wanted someone else to go, “Why don’t you guys do this or try it that way.”
We finally got a take I liked of it after 12 years of it sitting on the shelf. She fucking sings her balls off on it. It is really great. It’s great. I like her a whole lot. A good pal that one.