"It was a crazy, beautiful mess": ex-Guns N' Roses bassist Tommy Stinson on Axl Rose, Chinese Democracy and why keeping GN'R alive without Slash, Duff and Izzy was pure "punk rock"

Axl Rose and Tommy Stinson
(Image credit: Larry Marano/WireImage/Getty Images)

Former Guns N' Roses bassist Tommy Stinson, also a founding member of cult indie/punk heroes The Replacements, has spoken about his 16-year stint in the Los Angeles-based hard rock group , and his respect and admiration for the band's frontman, Axl Rose.

Stinson joined the band in 1998, after being encouraged to audition by his friend Josh Freese, then drumming for GN'R, now playing with Foo Fighters. As he explains to writer/podcaster/DJ Matt Stocks, he initially only auditioned "for a lark", but ending up accepted Axl Rose's invitation to join the band after learning of the singer's motives for keeping Guns alive. 

"What happened with it, which is why I chose to do it really, was, in terms of what his goal was, he still had the name, he owned the name, and he kinda looked at it, like, 'Well, all those fucking guys abandoned me, so I'm fucking going to still do it, I'm still fucking going to be Guns N' Roses.' The way he presented it seemed more punk rock than anything I'd heard, and I thought, Alright, I'm in, let's do it."

You had to respect that tenacity, Stocks suggests.

"Fuck yeah I did," says Stinson. "And I did, totally."

"I have nothing but good things to say about it," Stinson adds. "I mean, sure, we butted heads on things, and it was't the easiest gig at all times, but it was a good experience, I got a lot out of it."

When talk turns to the atmosphere around the band around the 2008 release of Chinese Democracy, which emerged some 17 years on from the band's last original albums, 1991's Use Your Illusion I and II, Stinson tells Stocks that he looks on the period fondly, describing it as "a crazy, beautiful mess."

"That Jimmy Iovine pulled that record out of Axl's hands at the fucking 11.30th hour is the only disappointing part of that," he adds. "I don't know if it would have changed anything about the public's view of it, the only thing it would have changed was Axl's view of it. He was this close to being able to sign off on that fucking thing, and they pulled it just before he was completely ready to be going 'I'm done with it', it was just a little too quick on that. That's unfortunate. But all things considered, we made a great record."

"It was a lot of work getting that many people from different backgrounds to make something that ultimately Axl produced. He took all of us... sort of... retarded kittens and kinda corralled us in a way that made us write together and work together, and it's to his credit that he was able to navigate that... it was a huge nod to his talent."

The full interview with Stinson can be heard below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.