Tommy Stinson has been around the world countless times, tearing the roof off clubs and concert halls for most of his life – most famously as an original member of the Replacements and, for the past 14 years, as the bass guitarist for Guns N’ Roses. Stinson is also fresh off the release of his latest solo album, and he’s kicking off a brief tour at Club Helsinki in Hudson next week as a benefit concert for children in Haiti.
Stinson, who grew up in Minneapolis before finding his way to Hudson later in life, joked that he has been playing music for so long that “It’s pretty much all I’ve known and all I’ve got, besides my family and friends.” That’s an oversimplification, of course. He has also got Timkatec, a trade school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Timkatec was founded in 1994 with the goal of teaching young orphaned and destitute children a trade so that they have a chance to go out and make a difference in their communities. Like much of Haiti, Timkatec was devastated by the massive earthquake that hit in January 2010.
Like many people around the world, Stinson was moved to do something to help in the wake of the earthquake. He had previously donated money to the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina, but was disappointed by stories of mismanagement of monies. This time around, Stinson said, he wanted to make a more profound difference.
“I had to try to find a way to help both financially and emotionally to do something of real value,” Stinson said. “I got hold of a friend of mine who knew a guy who knew a guy who ran a school in Haiti. Through making those contacts, I went down to Haiti two summers ago and went to the school and met Father Simon, saw a class graduate and hung out and decided that it was something I was into and got involved.”
Stinson raised over $40,000 through an online auction, with the proceeds going toward building a third floor on one of the school’s buildings and helping to house an additional 50 students. But now those same kids and others are nearing graduation, and Stinson is hoping to raise between $15,000 and $20,000 for toolkits.
“We’re looking to get toolkits for the graduating class, so they can go out in their communities and help in the rebuilding process,” Stinson said. “What we figured out is two things: that they need tools and they need job placement. We’re also trying to get companies to take some of these kids on so they can get in the trenches. We’re not being myopic about this. It’s something we have to look in the long term for.”
Stinson said that the education that the kids are receiving at Timkatec is invaluable to their future. “As a high school dropout myself, I know one thing: Education is the key,” he said. “If you have the education and you have tools, you’re that much better to help in any capacity. These kids come out of the school, they’re very proud and very grateful to Father Simon for the work he’s done for them. And I’m not Catholic and I’m not religious in any way.”
“This is the only time I’ve got between now and the next Guns N’ Roses tour, which starts in the beginning of May in Moscow,” Stinson said of his short tour: five straight dates that go from Hudson to Boston before stopping off in Brooklyn, Vienna, Virginia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I decided to start my tour with this particular date because it’s going to make me happy to do something in service.”
Stinson said that moving centerstage after playing bass for so many years isn’t as different as it might seem on the surface. “Obviously with me singing and playing guitar, I’ve got to do a little more work at 45 years old to get myself in gear,” he said. “But as far as working with people and getting the job done, it hasn’t really changed much.”
But while Stinson enjoys fronting his own band, don’t expect it to become a full-time gig anytime soon. “It’s cool to get out and play my own material, and I would like to do more of it,” Stinson said. “It’s just that, you know what they say: If you have a good job, why change? I don’t know how long Guns N’ Roses will be in the picture for me, necessarily. But as long as they’ll have me and we’re all having fun and making music we want to make, I think it will probably be a staple for me for a while.”
Stinson’s five-date jaunt officially kicks off with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Benefit for the Tools for Timkatec Program at Club Helsinki in Hudson this Tuesday, April 10 at 9 p.m. The show will also feature Elvis Perkins, Trapper Schoepp and “surprise special guests,” and will include a silent auction. Stinson, who is also a current member of Soul Asylum, will showcase songs from his terrific solo album, One Man Mutiny, released on his own Done to Death label in 2011. For more information, visit www.tommystinson.com and www.helsinkihudson.com.