Two Interviews From the Early 80s

by Derrick Bostrom in

Now that they've been out working in the limelight for a couple years, our old pals the Kirkwood brothers are once again delivering the goods on the interview circuit. This has been a welcome development for Meat Puppets fans of all stripe. Even if you no longer care for the music, the Kirkwood ink can still hold the power to inspire, enthrall and sometime even frighten -- especially if you're the interviewer. One thing's certain about these two, when they go on tour, they like to leave their internal editor at home. You never know what they might say. The most important job of the journalist in attendance is to keep his head down and try to stay out of the way.

When I put together the "Classic Puppets" retrospective for Rykodisk, I excerpted extensively from my collection of print interviews, creating in effect a chronological collage of quixotic quotes (sorry), but I've barely begun to delve into those interviews in my collection taped from the radio. With this post, I attempt to work on this imbalance with a couple of recordings from the early 80s.

The first one is from Corvalis, Oregon, during our tour with Black Flag in the summer of 1983. Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski and I do most of the talking. Chuck slides comfortably into the alpha chair at first, not realizing that the Puppets don't ever willingly relinquish the spotlight. It doesn't take long before both Kirkwoods work to challenge the Black Flag dominance. For my part, I'm content to just hang out with Chuck and enjoy his rap (if you've ever witnessed it, you know what I mean). But almost immediately Curt steps in: "I'd just like to say that I'm not happy to be here and I think you're all fucked."

This was Curt's only on-mike contribution, but it sets the tone for the rest of the session: it prompted an angry call from the station manager who got Curt on the phone (off the air) and bawled him out personally. Cris takes a more effective approach, going out to the pay phone in the parking lot and placing a prank call to the station. At first, the Flag guys think it's one of their own crew. But when they fail to recognize the voice, they assume it's a legitimate caller. Cris leaves both Chuck and drummer Bill speechless.

The second interview takes place in NYC during the fall of 1984. Curt had tried to find something to eat before the interview, but there hadn't been time. The deejay takes it lightly, saying we have "more important business" to attend to. But as we were to learn in later years, to ignore Curt's ectomorphic calls for food was to risk sending him into a blind torrent of abusive rage. But he manages to hold it together here long enough to offer one memorable quip. When the deejay prods him to admit that he drops acid on stage, Curt replies, "the only liberties we take with our freedom is to occasionally inflate our tires with milk."

In both interviews, it's clear that Bostrom is a poor comedian. He seems content to believe that people actually want to hear about the band's history, and he goes about trying to pass on the correct details. The Kirkwoods obviously find this approach tiresome, and actively work to keep the facts succinctly soundbytable, so as to leave more room for zaniness. And the zaniness continues right up to this day.


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