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As he told us, dealing with the outsize egos of Paul Westerberg and Axl Rose hasn't been easy. But it's certainly had its rewards. Stinson has now been a member of GNR longer than Duff McKagan and seems to be a calming, steadying influence on his redheaded boss.
Stinson chatted with New Times about the two mercurial frontmen, life on the road with Axl, and boozing backstage.
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New Times: What do you think drives Axl nowadays?
Tommy Stinson: I think he wants to go out and put on a good show and have a good time. It's what you're supposed to do in the first place. Trying to compete with the old band — fucking Slash, all that stuff — is extraneous. Thousands of people will come see him every night because he's Axl Rose.
Which Guns N' Roses album do you most enjoy playing?
All of 'em have good bits. I put a lot of time and effort into Chinese Democracy. But I like playing stuff off Use Your Illusion and Appetite [for Destruction] as well. The [title] track to Chinese Democracy is one of my favorites; also "You Could Be Mine." You can't help getting into watching people go bonkers for "Paradise City." That's always a kick in the pants.
Do you ever get tired of trying to explain why Axl is the way he is?
Yeah, because there's really nothing to explain. He's been doing the same thing his whole career. Going on late... What's new about that? It's sort of rote at this point. He does his thing, and he works really hard to put on a good show every night. He prepares a lot to be the best he can be, and I think that's commendable. This guy can still fucking wail.
What would you say Axl and Paul Westerberg have in common?
Jeez, there are a lot of similarities. One is they're both the real deal, both without a doubt the real thing. Axl is the great singer, sold tons of fucking records, and Paul is one of the great writers of the era. They're both somewhat hard to deal with. They have definite ways they see things, and that's the way it's going to be. Not that it's a bad thing. They both stick to their guns — maybe sometimes to a fault. It's gotta be hard on both of them to be so immovable at times.
Do you and the other guys in GNR drink a lot? Are there substances like in the old days?
Most of us have all calmed our shit way down, aside from some cocktails here and there. None of those kind of shenanigans. Certainly no one shooting up dope.