When he was just 13 years old, Tommy Stinson joined his older brother Bob and singer Paul Westerberg in the punk-influenced rock band The Replacements. Over the next dozen years, Stinson would make a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent bass players in the music industry and helped the band reach millions of fans.
“My brother taught me to play bass when I was 11 and at the time, I didn’t think I would be doing this for life. Maybe the only thing I thought I would be doing back then was stealing things,” Stinson said. “But it’s been 33 years and I’m still playing, but you never know if it’s going to last.”
Although The Replacements would eventually disband in 1991, the younger Stinson has never been without a stage to play on. He formed Bash & Pop the following year, getting his first crack at singing, and followed that up by playing bass with the band Perfect in 1994.
Soon after, the big guns came calling. Stinson was asked to replace Duff McKagan in Guns n’ Roses back in 1998, and he has been one of the few consistent members of the lineup over constant comebacks the past 14 years.
But that wasn’t all. In 2005, Stinson also joined Soul Asylum, replacing the late Karl Mueller at the request of Mueller’s wife. Today, he continues to play in both legendary groups when each decides to hit the road.
“I’ve been in bands all my life, so I’ve been very fortunate,” Stinson said. “I can go from a totally collaborative thing like Guns to my own record to Soul Asylum, which is pretty much a Dave (Pirner) and Danny (Murphy) show. It doesn’t get boring.”
Speaking of his “own record,” Stinson recently released his second solo album, “One Man Mutiny,” on his own Done To Death Music label, and will play many of the tunes when he hits Jammin’ Java on Friday.
“I enjoy being out in front; everything I do fulfills a need for me,” he said. “When I play my stuff, it’s a blast because I don’t get much opportunity to do that normally. It’s not that cost effective for me to tour with a band because I only have about 40 songs and it’s still daunting to make it all work as a solo artist. Let’s put it this way: I’m not crowd surfing at any point.”
That wouldn’t be a problem if he was playing in front of the sold-out arenas that Guns n’ Roses or Soul Asylum regularly play, but he understands that the same audience is not going to always come see just him.
“I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I love being on stage and I wouldn’t do this unless it looked like I was having fun,” said Stinson, who is slated to perform at Jammin’ Java at 8 p.m. Friday. “I’ve never played Jammin’ Java before, but I have heard it’s one of the top 40 clubs in the nation to play and I am looking forward to coming down.”
Those coming will have the chance to buy “One Man Mutiny,” and a portion of the proceeds from the album is being set aside for the Timkatec Schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Stinson so far has raised more than $50,000 for the school through an online auction.
“I came across the school after the big earthquake they had. My only view on what had happened up to that point was whatever I saw on CNN and stuff,” he said. “When I was down there and met the people, it took on a whole other meaning for me. It’s one of those things where you want to help and then decide ‘I’m not just going to send a check.’ I’ve gotten very emotionally involved with this thing. It’s probably something I’ll be doing every year, trying to raise money for them.”
Plans for another solo album are in the works and he will once again donate money from sales. Having just come from last year’s successful Guns n’ Roses tour, Stinson believes it won’t be long until that band is back on the road together, though no definitive plans are in place. Meanwhile, Soul Asylum is at work on a new album, expected to be released in 2012.
“Lately, it’s become a real test of my will to keep them all going and do my own stuff as well,” Stinson said. “There’s only so much time in a day and there’s so much stuff I want to do.”
One of those things is providing music for sculptor friend Kris Perry in a performance art project built around machines, which will be performed on Aug. 10 at Basilica Hudson for the 2012 Hudson Music Festival in New York.
“I’m really excited about that,” Stinson said. “I stay busy. But like I said earlier, you never know how long it will last.”