Paul noted that you and Chris Mars probably got a lot more emotional than he did while listening to these reissues, and going over potential bonus tracks. His point being that he never really left it behind, whereas you guys moved on to new bands and careers. I wonder, do find yourself going through something of a Replacements renaissance at the moment?
I guess to a degree. And, boy, he hit it on the head. He’s been playing all that stuff live since we broke up. I haven’t played any of it since then. I mean, I played a couple of songs with Paul when we got together once about two years ago, and played a couple songs together when he was doing that “Open Season” soundtrack. I haven’t listened to it, thought about it or played it since we broke up, whereas he was playing those songs during that whole period. It makes perfect sense, but, no, I’m not really going through a renaissance [laughs]. That’s a bit heavy handed. But, I have to say, it was really great to listen to that stuff, hearing my brother and I laughing in the background. That stuff, particularly, was kind of emotional to listen to.
Of the bonus tracks on the new CDs, are there any that you’re particularly happy to see being unearthed?
You know, a lot of those outtakes that are on the first four [reissues] are things that I haven’t heard in forever, and a lot of it was a lot of fun to go through. Peter [Jesperson, former manager, producer of the original four albums and the new reissues] had the arduous task of whittling it down and figuring out what was worth listening to and checking out. Because once we got all the scraps together, and once we got it all up, there was a lot of unlistenable stuff. But a lot of it was stuff that was really fun to listen to and go back to.
Any one track stand out?
Geez, probably more than one. “You’re Getting Married,” some of the rockabilly stuff. I had forgotten about “Oh Baby.” It sort of shows that weird contrast that we sort of grew into, as things went on. There’s some where Paul is wanting to be solo guy [laughs], to the rockabilly underpinnings of a lot of that stuff.
What does the Replacements — that name — mean to you? It is sort of a loaded thing for you?
No, not really, not at all. I’m proud of what we did, I respect what we did. It’s kind of weird to think that it’s gonna be 20 years since we broke up. It’s so far back in the recesses of my mind — except for this year, because we’re going through all those outtakes and stuff — that it kind of makes you go, “Oh, that’s right. I was in that band.” It makes you pause and go, “Oh, yeah, we did something back then.” But I don’t sit down and ponder it and I certainly don’t get all giggly about it.
It seems like the myth of the Replacements has eclipsed the band itself. Do you sometimes get lost in that myth?
Certainly. Here’s my whole problem with the whole mythology of it all — when I get people coming up to me saying, “I saw this show back when, and you guys were so f*cked up. You didn’t even play any of your songs. It was the greatest show I ever saw” [laughs]. It’s like, “Well, dude, that just sounds bleak. How could that possibly have been the greatest show you ever saw? You must be really living a small life.” Seeing that, thinking that was the greatest thing ever, as opposed to somebody coming up and saying they liked a certain record or song — that they mean something to them. To me, that’s the mythology that we actually lived up to. I think we actually were a really good band at times. I think the songwriting speaks for itself. I think that side would be accurate. I think people have built up the other side to be something way more than it was.
You were so young when you were in the band. Give me an example of a moment when you found yourself as an underage kid in a situation that you probably shouldn’t have been in for a kid your age.
Sittin’ on the trailer hitch of our van, as we pulled up to CBGBs, smoking a joint with some fuckin homeless guy named Cleveland. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have been talking to him — because I didn’t know him — and, secondly, I probably shouldn’t have been smoking anything with him either. It was kind of a strange, but awesome situation, because he was a very sweet homeless guy that wasn’t like you’d think a homeless guy would be. That was my first real foray into what the streets of New York had to offer and it gave me culture shock at the same time.
What role did Peter play in the history and formation of the band?
I think he was our mentor. I think he was our manager. He was our friend. Obviously he saw something in us very early on that no one would probably have ever seen, and I think for all intents and purposes, we probably couldn’t have grown without him. Because what I think he brought to the table was a musical mentoring as much as anything to all of us, turning us on to stuff — musically speaking — that I know Paul stole from. And, myself, as well — all of us, to a degree. I think he was very, very important to us in the widening of the palette, so to speak.
When you listen to these reissues as a block, what do they say about you guys as a band, as four young guys?
I think it really shows — especially those four records, and maybe even the first one more than the other three in the first batch — where it all came from for us. Some of the stuff that caught me off guard, which I hadn’t f*ckin’ listened to in for-f*ckin’-ever, was the sort of Stones-y guitar interplay between Bob and Paul. As beat to sh*t as it was, it was a part of it that I never caught. I never really thought about it. But there were subtleties in that. There were subtleties in the sort of rockabilly underpinnings of that stuff that we didn’t go into a whole lot, but went into enough, because that was sort of part of the musical background to some degree.
I think it really tells the story of what The Replacements were about. We weren’t really afraid to do anything in particular, and that was that was the beauty of it. And I think the outtakes kind of show that. I think the sh*t that’s gonna kind of bum Paul out — having the solo cassette demos officially out there — I think they really tell a part of the story. It really shows where he comes from, and what he might have been thinking on his own, but was too scared to do, or too scared to do try with the band, because it was just too naked or whatever.
Jesperson has said he has enough Replacements leftovers to compile a boxed set. After the next wave of reissues, how much will be left?
It’s a question of whether it’s worthy to put out or not. I think the best of what we’ve got right on these four I are suiting the purposes of right now. Whether there’s more stuff worth listening to we’ll find out down the road, but I think it wasn’t about any one thing. It was about getting a collection of sort of the best stuff for each of those periods. So there’s definitely stuff left over.
What can people expect on the second batch of reissues?
We’re going through it right now. Some of it’s already been out there on “All for Nothing, Nothing for All.” Some of it’s pretty bleak, but we found some good stuff. And hopefully it’ll be out sometime in the fall.
A lot of fans bellyache about the latter records, which have a fanbase of their own.
You know, to each his own. Some of the people who like the latter stuff can’t even stand the earlier stuff, because it didn’t sound very good. That’s the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of the whole catalog. We kind of grew and changed and for all intents and purposes we were actually able to grow and change and go through all that sh*t without cutting our legs cut off, like happens now. I heard Bono say in an interview that the music industry should take a long, hard look at itself and see what it’s done, because if U2 had come out right now, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. You know, we didn’t get very far, but we did our thing. However much we left on the plate or left people to go through years later remains to be seen, but I think we had a good little run.
Is there a sense that you left things a little unfinished?
Nah. I think we left it before it left us, and I think that was the way to do it.
Between “Open Season” the two new tracks on “Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was?,” you and Paul have reunited twice in the studio in recent years. And I’m guessing that you’ve surely received a sizeable offer or two from the producers of Coachella, so…
Yeah. We actually talked about it again this year, and I think there was a consensus that, you know, maybe it wasn’t the right time [to reunite], or maybe it is the right time. Paul and I were kind of in cahoots talking to them, talking to [his manager] Darren [Hill], and there were some things thrown out, and there were other festivals that wanted it too if we were gonna do it. At the last minute, it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do, so we didn’t do it.
According to Paul, there’s pretty much zero chance that Chris Mars will be a part of any reunion. There’s no chance of convincing him to return to the drum stool?
Nah. I think Chris is perfectly happy being an artist, and I don’t think that he really likes playing drums. I think he’s done with that, and that’s kind of what he said to me when I talked to him about it. Originally, we were just talking about doing some songs together, and going into the studio, and he didn’t even want to do that. He didn’t even want to come play. He goes, “Look, man, I got my drum set in the basement, and I hate ’em, I don’t even like to look at ’em. I haven’t played ’em in three years. I’ve moved on from that.” And it’s like, “Fair enough.” Honestly, for me, Paul and I finished out the thing as the only two guys left of the four, and I don’t really think it’s that kind of thing where I make a big deal about it if Chris didn’t want to play. If we wanted to go and play some shows and call it the Replacements or whatever we choose, then we should do that anyway. And that’s kind of what it’s about. I don’t think it really matters. I think Paul and I have something to offer each other still. I think that’s pretty obvious when we get together.
Your brother died in 1995, years after being ejected from the band. For all of those fans who never had the opportunity to see your brother play live, what did they miss out on?
They missed out on the element of craziness that he brought. And he was probably the most musical element of those first four records, aside from the writing. We were a meat-and-potatoes rock band, in terms of our playing. And I think he was really the standout in all that in those early years. He really was an exceptionally good guitar player.
Click here to read Billboard’s Q&A with Paul Westerberg.