The Meat Puppets are an American rock band formed in January 1980, in Phoenix, Arizona. The group's original lineup was Curt Kirkwood (guitar/vocals), his brother Cris Kirkwood (bass guitar), and Derrick Bostrom (drums). The Kirkwood brothers met Bostrom while attending Brophy Prep High School in Phoenix. The three then moved to Tempe, Arizona (a Phoenix suburb and home to Arizona State University) where the Kirkwood brothers purchased two adjacent homes, one of which had a shed in the back where they regularly practiced.
One of the more notable groups on the roster of SST Records (who released most of their albums), the Meat Puppets started as a punk rock band, but like most of their SST peers, the Meat Puppets established their own unique style, blending punk with country and psychedelic rock, and featuring Curt's warbling vocals. The Meat Puppets later gained significant exposure when the Kirkwood brothers served as guest musicians on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. The band's 1994 album Too High to Die subsequently became their most successful release. The band broke up twice, in 1996 and 2002, but reunited again in 2006.
The Meat Puppets have influenced various rock bands such as Nirvana,Soundgarden,Dinosaur Jr,Sebadoh and Pavement.
Early career (1980–1990)
In the late 70's, drummer Derrick Bostrom played with guitarist Jack Knetzger in a band called Atomic Bomb Club, which began as a duo, but would come to include bassist Cris Kirkwood. The band played a few local shows and recorded some demos, but began to dissolve quickly thereafter. Derrick and Cris began rehearsing together with Cris' brother Curt Kirkwood by learning songs from Bostrom's collection of punk rock 45s. After briefly toying with the name The Bastions of Immaturity, they settled on the name Meat Puppets in June, 1980 after a song by Curt of the same name which appears on their first album. Their early works were made up of hardcore punk, and attracted the attention of Joe Carducci as he was starting to work with legendary punk label SST Records. Carducci suggested they sign with the label, and the Meat Puppets released their first album Meat Puppets in 1982, which among several new originals and a pair of heavily skewed Doc Watson and Bob Nolan covers, featured the songs "The Gold Mine" and "Melons Rising", two tunes Derrick and Cris originally had written and performed as Atomic Bomb Club previously.
By the release of 1984's Meat Puppets II, the bandmembers "were so sick of the hardcore thing," according to Bostrom. "We were really into pissing off the crowd." The band experimented with acid rock and country western sounds. While the album had been recorded in early 1983, the album's release was delayed for a year by SST.Meat Puppets II turned the band into one of the leading bands on SST Records, and along with the Violent Femmes, the Gun Club and others, helped establish the genre called "cow punk".
Meat Puppets II was followed by 1985's Up on the Sun. The album's sound resembled the folk-rock of The Byrds more than punk, and some of the group's fans accused Meat Puppets of sounding dangerously like hippies and abandoning their punk roots. In keeping with their unconventional way of doing things, both Cris and Curt purposefully sang the entire album off key.
Over the next decade, Meat Puppets remained on SST and released a series of albums while touring relentlessly. Between tours they would regularly play small shows in bars around the Phoenix area such as "The Mason Jar" and "The Sun Club" in Tempe. After the release of Out My Way in 1986, however, the band was briefly sidelined by an accident when Curt's finger was broken after being slammed in their touring van's door. The accident delayed the band's next album, the psychedelic Mirage, until the next year. The final result was considered their most polished sounding album to date.
Their next album, the heavier Huevos, came out less than six months afterward, in late summer of 1987. In stark contrast to its predecessor, Huevos was recorded in a swift, fiery fashion, with many first takes, and minimal second guessing. These recordings were completed in only a matter of days, and along with a few drawings and one of Curt's paintings taken from the wall to serve as cover art (a dish of three boiled eggs, a green pepper, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce), were all sent to SST shortly before the band returned to the road en route to their next gig. Curt revealed in an interview that one of the reasons for the album being called Huevos (meaning 'eggs' in Spanish) was because of the multitude of first-takers on the record, as similarly eggs can only be used once.
Monsters was released in 1989, featuring a new sound with extended jams such as "Touchdown King" and "Flight of the Fire Weasel".
Major label career (1991–1995)
As numerous bands from the seminal SST label and other kindred punk-oriented indies had before them, Meat Puppets grappled with the decision to switch to a major label. Two years after their final studio recording for SST, 1989's Monsters the trio released its major-label debut, Forbidden Places, on the indie-friendly London Records. Forbidden Places is now out of print.
In late 1993, Meat Puppets achieved mainstream popularity when Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who became a fan after seeing them open for Black Flag, invited Cris and Curt to join him on MTV Unplugged for acoustic performances of "Plateau", "Oh Me" and "Lake of Fire" (all originally from Meat Puppets II). The resulting album, MTV Unplugged in New York, served as a swan song for Nirvana, as Cobain died 138 days after the concert. "Lake of Fire" became a cult favorite for its particularly wrenching vocal performance from Cobain. Subsequently, the Nirvana exposure and the strength of the single "Backwater" (their only charting single) helped lift Meat Puppets to new commercial heights. The band's studio return was 1994's Too High To Die, produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary. The album featured "Backwater", a minor hit on alternative radio, and a hidden-track update of "Lake of Fire." Too High To Die earned the 'Pups a gold record (500,000 sold), outselling their previous records combined. 1995's No Joke! was the final album recorded by the original Meat Puppets lineup. Though the band's drug use included cocaine, heroin, LSD and many others, Cris' use of heroin and crack cocaine became so bad he rarely left his house except to obtain more drugs. At least two people (including his wife and one of his best friends) died of overdoses at his house in Tempe, AZ during this time. The Kirkwood brothers had always had a legendary appetite for illegal substances and during the tour to support Too High To Die with Stone Temple Pilots, the easy availability of drugs was too much for Cris. When it was over, he was severely addicted to cocaine.
First hiatus and reunion (1996–2001)
Derrick recorded a solo EP under the moniker Today's Sounds in 1996, and later on in 1999 took charge of re-issuing the Puppets' original seven records on Rykodisc as well as putting out their first live album, Live in Montana. Curt formed a new band in Austin, TX called the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra, but they changed their name to Meat Puppets for legal reasons and released a promotional EP entitled You Love Me in 1999, Golden Lies in 2000 and Live in 2002. The line-up was Curt (voc/git), Kyle Ellison (voc/git), Andrew Duplantis (voc/bass) and Shandon Sahm (drums). Sahm's father was the legendary fiddler-singer-songwriter Doug Sahm of The Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados. The concluding track to Classic Puppets entitled "New Leaf" also dates from this incarnation of the band.
Break up (2002–2005)
Around 2002, the Meat Puppets dissolved as Curt had gone on to release albums with the groups Eyes Adrift and Volcano. In 2005, he released his first solo album entitled Snow.
Bassist Cris was arrested in December 2003 for attacking a security guard at the main post office in downtown Phoenix, AZ with the guard's baton. The guard shot Kirkwood in the stomach at least twice during the melee, causing serious gunshot injuries requiring major surgery. Kirkwood was subsequently denied bail, the judge citing Kirkwood's previous drug arrests and probation violations. He eventually went to prison at the Arizona state prison in Florence, Arizona for felony assault. He was released in July 2005.
Derrick Bostrom began a web site for the band about six months before the original trio stopped working together. The site went through many different permutations before it was essentially mothballed in 2003. In late 2005, Bostrom revamped it once again, this time as a "blog" for his recollections and as a place to share pieces of Meat Puppets history.
Second reunion (2006–present)
On March 24, 2006, Curt Kirkwood polled fans at his MySpace page with a bulletin that asked: "Question for all ! Would the original line up of the Meat Puppets interest anyone ? Feedback is good — do you want a reunion!?" The response from fans was overwhelmingly positive within a couple of hours, leading to speculation of a full-blown Meat Puppets reunion in the near future. However, a post made by Derrick Bostrom on the official Meat Puppets site dismissed the notion.
In April 2006 Billboard reported that the Kirkwood brothers would reunite as the Meat Puppets without original drummer Derrick Bostrom. Although Primus drummer Tim Alexander was announced as Bostrom's replacement, the position was later filled by Ted Marcus. The new lineup recorded a new full-length album, Rise to Your Knees, in mid-to-late 2006. The album was released by Anodyne Records on July 17, 2007.
On January 20, 2007, The Meat Puppets brothers performed two songs during an Army of Anyone concert, at La Zona Rosa in Austin, Texas. The first song was played with Curt Kirkwood and Cris Kirkwood along with Army of Anyone's Ray Luzier and Dean DeLeo. Then the second song was played with original members Curt and Cris Kirkwood and new Meat Puppets drummer Ted Marcus. This was in the middle of Army of Anyone's set, which they listed as Meat Puppet Theatre on the evening's set list. The band performed several new songs in March at the South by Southwest festival. On March 28, 2007, the band announced a West Coast tour through their MySpace page. This is the first tour with original bassist Cris in eleven years. The tour continued into the east coast and midwest later in 2007.
In 2008 they performed their classic second album live in its entirety at the ATP New York festival.
The band parted ways with Anodyne, signed to Megaforce and began recording new material in the winter of 2008. The resulting album, entitled Sewn Together, was released on May 12, 2009. In the summer of 2009 the band continued to tour across America. They appeared in Rochester Minnesota outside in front of over 5,000 fans, after playing Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the night prior. The Meat Puppets performed at the 2009 Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans over the Halloween weekend.
As of November 2009, Shandon Sahm is back as the drummer in the Meat Puppets, replacing Ted Marcus. The band was chosen by Animal Collective to perform the album 'Up on the Sun' live in its entirety at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that they curated in May 2011.
The band's thirteenth studio album, entitled Lollipop, was released on April 12, 2011.The Dandies supported the Meat Puppets on all European dates in 2011.
The Meat Puppets have played several gigs in their hometown since 2009, such as the Marquee show in June 2011 with Dead Confederate.
As of early 2011 Elmo Kirkwood, son of Curt Kirkwood and nephew of Cris Kirkwood, was touring regularly with the band playing rhythm guitar.
The Meat Puppets also contributed to Spin Magazine's exclusive album Newermind: A Tribute to Nirvana, playing Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.
In June 2012, a book titled Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets by author Greg Prato was released, which featured all-new interviews with band members past and present and friends of the band, and covered the band's entire career.
In October 2012, it was announced that the group had just completed recording new songs. Rat Farm, the band's 14th album, was released in April 2013.
In March 2013 the Meat Puppets played arguably their biggest gig since reunion, opening for Dave Grohl's Sound City Players at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX
In April 2014 the Meat Puppets completed a tour with The Moistboyz.
- Meat Puppets (1982)
- Meat Puppets II (1984)
- Up on the Sun (1985)
- Out My Way (1986)
- Mirage (1987)
- Huevos (1987)
- Monsters (1989)
- Forbidden Places (1991)
- Too High to Die (1994)
- No Joke! (1995)
- Golden Lies (2000)
- Rise to Your Knees (2007)
- Sewn Together (2009)
- Lollipop (2011)
- Rat Farm (2013)
- List of alternative rock artists
- List of musicians in the second wave of punk music
Notes and references
- , maintained by the band and Anodyne Records
- - Meat Puppets interview from 1982
- Article on band from Phoenix New Times
- - a music blog primarily focusing on live Meat Puppets.
- The Second Supper
- on YouTube
- at the Internet Archive's live music archive