MEAT PUPPETS: Strange Days

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

With the shelf life of a jerky Pinocchio, Meat Puppets came, then left, and now they’re back. These three Meatheads in question, Cris and Curt Kirkwood and drummer Ted Marcus, are well rested and returning to the rock biz with double digit albums (19 maybe?) on their lengthy resume.

With the shelf life of a jerky Pinocchio, Meat Puppets came, then left, and now they’re back. These three Meatheads in question, Cris and Curt Kirkwood and drummer Ted Marcus, are well rested and returning to the rock biz with double digit albums (19 maybe?) on their lengthy resume.

Many of their early famously noisy efforts were on SST Records, that Lawndale label in SoCal that featured Black Flag, The Minutemen and the like. The tight trio later had their flirtatious fling with the majors and now are back where they started, doing the DIY thing. In between, Cris took a lengthy heroin trip and jail vacation for a decade or so, and Curt did the solo thing. Not surprisingly, the band has a new one (which would account for their presence here), Rise to Your Knees; it’s more Jack Johnson mellow than mosh pit maniacal, or just the next step-according to Curt, the guitarist.

“I think it kind of seems logical to me to a certain degree,” Curt says. “We approached it more like we did with albums in the ‘80s…we didn’t want to spend too much time messing with stuff or have anybody involved outside the band. That was always kind of a big thing. We totally did it ourselves-produced it ourselves. We’re not releasing it ourselves; we’ve never done that, but we definitely drive ourselves around.”

Years of road dog adventures have increased the band’s fan base far beyond the angry bald people from the early days. Even important people in management, as well as their musical peers, became fans. The Pups were a huge influence on Nirvana before Kurt Cobain made a bad career move, appearing with the N-band in a 1994 MTV Unplugged special. There weren’t too many show biz bands on SST, just a lot of loud, fast, mom-scaring bands. And the Meat Puppets played with all those bands back in the day.

“That’s how we got on with all those punk bands-being on SST Records. We did our first shows in L.A. with like, .45 Grave and Fear, and there were TSOL gigs,

Black Flag, Flipper, The Dead Kennedys…all kinds of crap. You name it. We liked to make good records, a wide range of them, and we put on a wide range of shows. The thing is, we rehearsed some stuff but then we’d play stuff we hadn’t rehearsed. We played a lot, so we could almost pull that kind of stuff off. We also didn’t care if we knew a song or not. We’d fake it. Whatever.”

About 30 years ago punk rock was a bunch of young musicians in a beat up van lurching along, belching smoke for hundreds of miles each night to play a gig for 50 bald kids dressed in black, drinking cheap beer in the alley behind the club. These days punk rock has gone corporate and is fully as dangerous as whistling in the backyard where everyone sounds like The Buzzcocks or The Jesus & Mary Chain.

“The punk rock I knew was way more a cottage industry, but now, it’s an image. There’s this heavy rock that’s kind of cool, and there’s all this stuff that sounds like the Buzzcocks, but whatever…I mean, this whole thing is strange. There’s nothing real about it. Every time I get on stage, I think it’s one of the strangest things in the world. I feel like a mannequin on another planet with a bunch of drooling moths in front of me. It’s totally space age to me, man. I used to do this as an excuse to drop acid, but now I feel like I’m on acid all the time.”

And finally, to the young folks with MTV dreams, “Practice and play a lot, and just play and play until you become a master and think about it a lot,” Kirkwood advises. “Think about it more than you think you can. It’s a business, and you get out of it as much as you put into it in a lot of ways-regardless of who you are. That’s my optimistic point of view. Now would you like another take on it? Take the strings off your guitar and hang yourself with them.”


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