"Rare Meat!" - A Fan's Compilation

by Derrick Bostrom in

I still like to keep abreast of what's being said about my old group. And if it floats my boat sufficiently, I'll poach it for inclusion here. Case in point: I've long toyed with the idea of putting together a "lost album" of sorts, all the various promotional tracks and b-sides released during our Polygram days, but never collected anywhere, and for the most part no longer in print.

If there were anyone left at that label with a clue, I wouldn't need to take such a project on myself, it'd get an official release. Now, thanks to Meat Puppets Yahoo Message Board member "nathang78," I don't have to do a damned thing; he's done it for me. His "Rare Meat compilation includes all the tracks from the Polygram days and as many others as he can find, including stuff from the "Classic Meat" album, the "Keats Rides A Harley" comp, and the much-desired "You Love Me" EP, offered as a giveaway back during Curt's first attempt to reform the band eight years ago.

You can download the 180 meg rar file HERE (password=meatpuppets)

From nathang78's included readme.txt:

Except what is missing as listed below, This is meant to be a comprehensive

collection of tracks from various compilation, soundtrack, single, and

promotional CDs.

Missing from this collection:

-"We Don't Exist (Remix)" because it does not sound noticably different from the

album version.

-"Bali Ha'i" and "Goodnight Irene" because they are not available on CD.

These tracks are presented in (more or less) chronological order and original

CD's track order where applicable.

These MP3s are encoded at 192Kbps with LAME 3.97, Except track 18, which is

256Kbps with LAME 3.93. Source CD and other information is located in the

"Comment" tags of the MP3 files.


01 - No Values

02 - The Losing End

03 - Light (Demo)

04 - Meltdown (Live)

05 - Strings On Your Heart (Demo)

06 - Funnel Of Love (Live)

07 - Rock And Roll (Live)

08 - Fuck You

09 - Animal

10 - Up On The Sun

11 - White Sport Coat

12 - El Paso City

13 - Lake Of Fire (Acoustic)

14 - Lake Of Fire (Live)

15 - The House Of Blue Lights

16 - Price Of Paradise

17 - Not All Right

18 - Scum (Vapourspace Remix)

19 - Taste Of The Sun (Radio Version)

20 - The Adventures Of Pee Pee The Sailor

21 - Vampires (Live)

22 - Chemical Garden (Live)

23 - Tenessee Stud

24 - Tast Of The Sun (Mark Trombino Mix)

25 - Taste Of The Sun (Live)

26 - Unexplained

27 - New Leaf (Demo)

28 - Vegetable's Opinion

29 - Monkey Dance

30 - Been Caught Itchin'

31 - God's Holy Angels

32 - Diaper

33 - Oh Me

Thanks to StArSeEd for providing tracks 13, 14, 18, and 33.

First Album Session Outtakes

by Derrick Bostrom in

This post is for all of you who kept your copy of the first album. I know there are a few of you out there for whom the apparent disparities between Meat Puppets records is no mystery, who were able parse the whole tapestry without feeling betrayal every time we released a new album. There may even be a few of you who wish they could hear more from the first album sessions. Well, your patience has finally paid off: here's almost an hour of outtakes.

Like a lot of young bands, we assumed we could get by in the recording studio with nothing but enthusiasm. We discovered that the studio required a very different set of skills than did live performing. For instance, it's hard to flop around and rock out when you have to keep your headphones from falling off. Veering off mike is also not an option. For a band that relied so heavily on its feral group mind, taming the beast long enough to make a recording both authentic and audible was a challenge.

To get a whole album's worth of acceptable performances took three separate sessions (though perhaps only the three of us could have told them apart). The vocals on the first session are actually overdubbed. But after leaning against the wall for an hour, convulsing into a mike while wearing "cans" over his ears, Curt proclaimed the effort to be worthless. The second session went so badly no tape survives from it. We returned the following week determined to emerge with keeper takes. We blew off trying for fidelity: we just shoved all the instruments together and stuck a bunch of mikes around -- separation be damned. We imbibed whatever we could get our hands on until we were good and twisted and just let howl for as long as the instruments would stay in tune. Anxious to get it over with, we proclaimed ourselves to be satisfied and beat it.

Now, you the fans can decide if we were right. Almost every song from the first album is represented here in an alternate version, some of them multiple times. You can also check out our tune-ups, as well as a healthy selection of warm-up covers. Some of them made it onto the Rykodisc reissue of the first album, but royalty restrictions forced us to leave some of them off. Now you can have them for free!

Thanks once again to Jon Boshard for keeping his copies of these tapes long after I lost track of my own, and for sharing.

(Note: In making these recordings available to the public, I've decided to use file sharing services, rather than make my web host take the full brunt of the bandwidth hit. These services can be unpredictable, so I've uploaded to three different ones. Please be advised that these are large files, and some ‘net connections will be unable to handle them. The files have been tested on both Macintosh and Windows platforms and they work fine. Files on this site are presented “as is.” I can’t offer tech support, nor can I mail them to folks unable to download them. (Let the browser beware.) Good luck, and happy listening!

DOWNLOAD PART ONE: MirrorCreator | Mediafire

DOWNLOAD PART TWO: MirrorCreator | Mediafire

Tune in to LuxuriaMusic.com this Saturday for Bostrom's new show

by Derrick Bostrom in

This Saturday, March 31st at 3PM, Pacific Time, internet radio station, LuxuriaMusic.com will debut my new hour-long show, "C'mon! Live A Little." You can find the station at its web site, http://www.luxuriamusic.com/. You can also find it in the iTunes Radio pane under both "Eclectic" and "50s/60s Pop." (1.FM - LuxuriaMusic).

Since I am in Phoenix and the station is in Hollywood, the show is prerecorded. In keeping with Luxuria programming, the show focuses on bubblegum, lounge music, obscure rock, jazz, novelties, pure pop and cheesy listening music.

About Derrick Bostrom

Derrick Bostrom gained notoriety as the drummer and founding member of the legendary U.S. band the Meat Puppets. One of the longest-lasting bands from the indie scene of the 1980's, the Meat Puppets released ten albums, including 1994's certified gold "Too High To Die." That album spawned the hit, "Backwater," which can still be heard on classic rock stations to this day. The band was also featured on Nirvana's best-selling "Unplugged" album, which included three Meat Puppets songs.

Though the original trio disbanded after fifteen years in 1996, Bostrom continues to maintain the group's web site. In the late 90s, his solo group, Today's Sounds, released " Songs Of Spiritual Uplift" featuring versions of such songs as "Pac Man Fever" and "Let's Turkey Trot." He also produced the Meat Puppets reissue series for Rykodisc records.

Though retired from live performing, Bostrom retains a voracious musical appetite. He spends much of his spare time in the dusty corners of second-hand shops, thrift stores and dollar bins, gleefully scooping up the ephemeral leftovers not appropriated by other collectors. Bostrom shares the fruits of his labors on his program for LuxuriaMusic.com, "C'mon! Live A Little!"

In addition to the Meat Puppets web site, where he shares his archives and anecdotes relating to the band's past, Bostrom also maintains Bostworld, a blog devoted to "trash, treasure, oddities, obsessions and obligations."



About LuxuriaMusic

LuxuriaMusic programming is an original mix of music content not found anywhere else. LuxuriaMusic features an intoxicating and often hallucinatory blend of musical genres, featuring Exotica, Lounge, Space Age Bachelor Pad, Bossa, Bollywood, Bubblegum, Soft-Psych, Go-Go, Latin Jazz, Sophisticated Rock and Surf music.

Current programming is a mix of live, taped-for-broadcast and automated shows. Most live programming airs between the hours of 1PM - midnight, Pacific Time (-0800 GMT).

The LuxuriaMusic radio format was developed by Chuck Kelley (music consultant on "Pulp Fiction" and "From Dusk till Dawn") and The Millionaire (from Combustible Edison) in the late 1990's and launched an Internet radio broadcast on February 14, 2000. LuxuriaMusic ranked #73 in the November 2000 Arbitron ratings, and in the Top 30 among "internet only" stations. In December 2000, Clear Channel Communications bought LuxuriaMusic's parent company Enigma Digital. LuxuriaMusic.com ceased operations in May 2001.

The LuxuriaMusic radio stream was relaunched in March 2003 after a 22-month hiatus. The relaunched LuxuriaMusic is owned and operated by LuxuriaMusic, LLC with corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California and broadcast studios in Los Angeles, California. Chuck Kelley and Eric Bonerz (Program Director of the original LuxuriaMusic) are co-program directors. LuxuriaMusic is made possible by a staff of dedicated volunteers from around the world.

Meat Puppets on YouTube : The Dullsville Collection

by Derrick Bostrom in

I know we're all getting pretty tired of the endless debate -- you know the one: "since I have a discriminating ear, I prefer the Nirvana version" versus "you fucking fools can't see the Meat Puppets for the gods they are."  Lately, however, one YouTube denizen who calls himself "Dullsville" has been putting his money where his mouth is, posting whole swatches of classic live performances for the whole world to see.

One show is from Phoenix in February 1985, and features pre-release versions of tracks from "Up On The Sun." The band appears in characteristic dress: Curt in a blue tee-shirt and prescription sunglasses, looking every inch the popular high school preppie gone wrong that he was. Cris is in a suit jacket no doubt foisted upon him by his girlfriend. I'm wearing  my beloved "GOAT" tee shirt, which I got from a fan but lost somewhere along the way. A simple statement of Satanism made properly palatable for the REM generation. Dullsville gets my highest commendation for bravely ignoring the crumbling quality of his video. The tracking errors are so 20th century.

Another from his collection, a show from the early 90s,  is a typical example of the sublime offhand pyrotechnics we could produce when inclined. I'm pretty sure the performance is from McCabe's in October of 1994, though the lack of gratuitously enthusiastic recognition from the audience when we play "Backwater" would seem to peg it from before that single was released. Also included among the standard fodder is our version of Neil Diamond's "Longfellow's Serenade." Always the crowd pleasers, these guys. The footage also offers a very brief glimpse at the red boxer shorts with yellow polka dots I had on that night.

Along with the band footage is Dullsville's own video artistry in the added title sequences, though on occasion he dares to add effects to the live footage itself. But the effects only add to the overall atmosphere of stoney fandom exuded by the collection. Get yourself a grabber and download these files to your video iPod quick, before your next road trip. You won't want to leave home without them.

The Dullsville Collection (This account was deleted.)

The Dullsvillain Collection (Long live The Villain!)





Assorted Magazine Covers

by Derrick Bostrom in

The Meat Puppets did a lot of upgrading in 1987. We bought new equipment, new vehicles, even a new practice space. We also started buying new costumes. Of course, Cris' girlfriend had been dressing up her Puppet as early as 1984. But I resisted for the most part (though even I succumbed to the pressure of a goth girlfriend for a couple of months). But while in London in 1987, I willingly visited the famed tourist traps at Carnaby Street and threw down per diem money on some unfortunate fashion choices.

The evidence is obvious on the East Coast Rocker cover. The ridiculous unflattering red pants  display both my package (what there is of it) and that part of me uncrammable into the waistline. (The clashing flowery shirt was a gift from Mrs. Kirkwood, who was so proud that her boys were finally traveling across the ocean). The gold shirt on the Option cover was another London purchase. (Perhaps it will come as no surprise to learn that the timing of our 1987 trip to Europe coincided with the rise to fame of a certain Axel Rose and his ilk).

Soon the word got out among the photographing community that the Meat Puppets were willing to play dress-up. Suddenly, budgets for photo sessions began to balloon ominously as "stylists" appeared, along with racks and racks full of their thrift store trash. Even worse, they began demanding that we pose in the buff. It took years to undo the damage of  the late eighties and early nineties and finally get back into my own threads. Though nothing I ever wore became quite as cool as a "Hi How Are You" tee shirt, I quite fancied my "I Love It When They Boo" sweatshirt, or my "Lutherans 86: In Love With Life" and my "An Appropriate Education For Everyone" tees. Eventually, after a brief flirtation with "Don't Mess With Texas," I settled in for the remainder of my career with a few carefully chosen Superman insignias.



Rejected article from "Car & Travel" Magazine

by Derrick Bostrom in

A couple years back, I struck up an email correspondence with a guy named Chris King, who worked for the AAA Auto Club magazine "Car & Travel." He prodded me to submit a puff piece for publication.  Since I've logged lots of time in a touring vehicle, it wasn't too much of a stretch to think his audience might find a few hastily cobbled-together band anecdotes  mildly diverting. Chris' boss didn't agree, however, and even though the article actually got as far as being formatted for print, the fabled Page 40 wound up with the axe. Chris was decent enough to send me a copy though, along with a modest kill fee. He no longer works for "Car & Travel," so the whole episode is pretty much a dead issue. I leave it to the readers of this website to contemplate the greater wisdom of the powers that be, who noticed that -- in their words -- the article is "not funny enough."

Band on the Run by Derrick Bostrom

One of the best things about being in a rock and roll band is the opportunity for travel. All it takes is a little notoriety, a flexible work schedule and a handful of good phone numbers to set up a national tour. When you're a young musician, the money takes care of itself, as does the lodging. But no matter how undeniably the lure of glamorous adventure presents itself, one fact remains unavoidable: you've gotta spend a lot of time in the car.

You can chart a band's career by its travel arrangements. My old group, the Meat Puppets, started out on a shoestring, and clocked an awful lot of miles before a brief run at the top of the heap. In 1994, we had a hit song, "Backwater," on rock radio, and we appeared on MTV almost daily as guests of Nirvana on their celebrated Unplugged special. Shortly after that, we literally dropped off the map. (That is, we stopped touring.) Along the way, we managed to amass a small junkyard of car parts that tell our story as well as any biography.

Of course, you can't hit the road without a vehicle.  Any old van will do. 

It helps if your bass player's girlfriend can get her father to help you build one of those cool shelf things that every band van needs. You know, a big piece of wood installed about two feet from the ceiling, low enough to fit sleeping bodies up on top, and high enough to stash all the equipment down below. It should also create a dark isolation chamber big enough to hold either the low man on the totem pole, or the one nursing the worst grudge or hangover.

Ideally, someone should know a little something about auto mechanics. Your van will almost certainly break down, and there isn't much of a garage budget when you're traveling 800 hundred miles to play for 25 bucks. At one point during our first tour, we spent all our money on a new U joint, which we installed on a freeway median on the outskirts of Houston. Afterwards, we had only enough money left over for one burger and fries, which went to our t-shirt salesman, since he installed the part.

As our fortunes grew, we developed more complicated strategies. At one point we traveled in an RV, towing a trailer full of gear, carrying three band members, two roadies, two girlfriends and a pit bull. While cumbersome, the extra weight did help keep us stuck to the road.

I remember awaking abruptly one morning near the end of an all-night drive to discover we had left the pavement and were heading for the woods. I shook the driver awake and lurched into the seat beside him as he desperately (and successfully) tried to return us to the highway. After this, we started using rest stops for midnight sleep breaks.

Generally, we had good luck with weather. Only rarely did we find ourselves driving through a blizzard, weeping with terror, driving in pitch blackness with our lights turned off to decrease snow-blindness. The worst storm we ever endured was a hurricane in England. Our rented van had broken down in the middle of a forest, which quickly became a maze of broken trees and downed power lines. Luckily, we managed to find a cemetery, which gave us an open space safe from falling timber.

Weather wasn't the only threat we faced on the road. We also managed to drive rack smack into the Los Angeles riots of 1991 1992. As fires burned all around us and the population seethed, our roadie spent a sleepless night parked out on the street, protecting our van full of equipment from looters.

Spending the night in the van can also be one of the pleasures of life on the road. For a group traveling inside each other's pockets, the solitude of an empty van is a welcome respite from the close quarters afforded by the financial necessity of six people sharing one hotel room.

In time, we became too popular to travel in vans. Our managers rented huge tour busses for us, gilded cages on wheels, manned by professional drivers. Instead of whiling away the hours behind the wheel listening to our own mix tapes, we sat in the back lounge watching videos. Instead of our ticket to open-road freedom, our vehicle became a symbol of the prison our success had become.

Now that it's all over, I don't travel much. When I do, it's in a compact sedan, not a land boat, and I usually know where I'll be sleeping that night. But sometimes I miss the pure twisted strangeness of the 30-hour haul, wired on candy bars and bad coffee at 4 in the morning, and another 300 miles before the next show.           

Instrumental rough mixes from the "Meat Puppets II" sessions

by Derrick Bostrom in

"Meat Puppets II" was completed in three separate stages. The recording was spread over two sessions at Total Access studio in Redondo Beach, California in the Spring of 1983. First, we recorded the instrumental tracks; a few weeks later we laid down the vocals. Six months after that, we finally executed the final mixes at Chaton studio in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Recently, Jon Boshard sent me a copy of the rough mixes from that first session. I have a lot of tapes of the band from the early 80's, but somehow  this one never made it into my collection. In fact, I'd forgotten it even existed until Jon brought it to my attention. Jon probably got the tape from his business partner Joe Carducci, the man responsible for bringing us to SST Records in 1981.

The backing tracks are essentially complete, save for a few effects added during the mixing session. We were very happy with the session, which came off without a hitch --that is, until we started on the vocals. Curt's ambition had grown considerably since our previous record, but at this stage his vision still outstripped his ability. He encounted major problems controlling his voice, especially when he needed to shift back and forth between higher and lower registers. In order to cover all the notes, he was forced to develop a rudimentary if unsatifying strategy, which can be best observed on vocal for "Plateau." On that track, he starts out real low, then suddenly switches to high yelp.  (Years later, we were amused at Kurt Cobain's studious duplication of Curt's limitations on his "Unplugged" version of the song.)

Curt agonized over whether to go back into the studio and attempt to redo the vocals, leave them as they were, or just scrap the whole project. Fortunately, he got comfortable with the takes over time, and we moved on to bigger concerns (like convincing SST to let us actually finish the album). Stripped of their out-of-control vocals, the tracks themselves reveal a great deal of craft. The arrangements are detailed, the tempos are controlled and we're actually listening to each other. The highlights, for me, are "Oh Me" and "The Whistling Song." On these two cuts especially, you can hear just how hard we're trying to move in the opposite direction from our previous album. You can tell that we're really holding things down, keeping the tempo just as slow as possible before the whole song falls apart. This kind of playfullness is evident throughout the recordings.

Unfortunately, there were those who viewed our efforts as a betrayal of "the form." Coincidentally or not, "Meat Puppets II" languished unfinished for six months. SPOT became "unavailable," and no one seemed to be able to locate him or the tapes. We seethed resentment over the delays, and began to imagine conspiracies and ulterior motives at the label, especially after we discovered that Husker Du, the Minutmen and even Black Flag had "post-hardcore" albums in the works. "Meat Puppets II" wasn't released until the spring of 1984. Even after the album got a glowing four-star review in Rolling Stone magazine, our disatisfaction with SST hardened, and the relationship settled into a stifling atmosphere of mutual suspicion.

In making these important outtakes available to the public, I've decided to use file sharing services, rather than make my web host take the full brunt of the bandwidth hit. These services can be unpredictable, so I've uploaded to three different ones. Good luck, and happy listening!

DOWNLOAD: MirrorCreator | Mediafire

Bostrom Dissertation Interview from 1993

by Derrick Bostrom in

In January of 1993, I conducted a unique phone interview. Instead of garnering me column inches or sound bytes, this one provided background for a PHD dissertation by one Matthew Lahrman who was then going to school in Illinois. He was exploring the experiences of young rock bands and the transformation of their idealism as it broke or did not break upon the rocks of music business reality. As a band who had recently signed to a major after ten years of of "independence," we were a natural fit. Plus, we were one of Matt's favorite bands. It took Matt about three years to finish his book-length dissertation, which he titled "Selling Out: Constructing Authenticity And Success In Chicago's Indie Rock Scene." Though little, if any, of the interview made it into the final version, Matt was gracious to send me a copy anyway. Recently, he was also kind enough to send me his transcript of the interview itself. The going is kind of slow, since this is a faithful transcription of the interview. But once you wade through all the ellipses, you're left with a typically cavalier yet fatalistic Yours Truly, well on my way to disillusionment, but still defending the band's direction.

Interview with Derrick Bostrom, drummer for the Meat Puppets.

The interview takes place over the phone. Derrick is at his home in Arizona on January 23, 1993

Derrick: So this is a dissertation about...

Matt: About rock. It’s mainly about local rock bands, in Chicago... authenticity and success.

D: Moving towards acceptance and stuff like that.

M: Right. And there’s this term “selling out” and what young bands think about it, ones that aren’t signed yet. And as far. . .

D: We’re one that has been signed.

M: You’ve been signed but you’re not at the point where you could really be considered selling out.

D: It remains to be seen whether any of our young bands reach the mega level yet. Some people have said that either you start out mega, or you don’t ever really get well incorporated. Bands like us who get into it mostly for music have a harder time breaking through than people who are more oriented toward the business. . . who set out to play by the certain rules. Like “Don’t ever write a song in a certain key because it might not be a hit.” “Oh, we can’t do that song ‘cause it won’t get us where we want to be.”

M: When you write songs do you think about economic success?

D: No so much in the writing. There’s a lot of songs that are written. . . and then once the songs are written. . . in our particular instance the label generally won’t accept the first ten. We like to go in and record. . . we used to, on SST, we’d get ten songs that we liked and then we’d go into the studio and record them and that would be that. London wants to. . . wants us to write three times that many songs so that there can be lots to choose from. And I don’t really know exactly what they do on their end but I’m sure they take. . .now we make demos and send them into the label and then they probably get played around to various people who have a hand in it.

M: So London is a subsidiary of somebody, right?

D: Polygram.

M: It’s considered a major label?

D: Oh yea, definitely. There’s only about five labels out there. And they’re all, everybody is a subsidiary of one or the other. The major labels are attached to corporations. You can assume that the real money is in armaments. So you got to assume that somewhere along the line Polygram probably is involved in communication radar. I haven’t gone so far as to check it out yet, but you can pretty bet that these label people, since they’re involved in communications probably are involved in. . . .rather than making bombs, making communications stuff. In the old days the telephone was, of course, used for communication but it was also used to attach electrodes, to use as a power source for torture out in the field.

M: Excuse me?

D: They used to have a power source to telephones and they used to contact each other when they were out on the front. They would use that electricity to electrocute. . . for electrodes to testicles and things like that. So the history of communications has always been tied into armaments. So I make no bones about being employed by a death merchant, as they call them.

M: Why did you guys make the move from. . . SST is basically an independent.

D: Time will tell whether or not we have. . . we still have outstanding disputes with SST that I’d rather not discuss. But we’ve been doing this band for thirteen years. You get to a certain point where if you don’t move on then you’re stagnating. Standing still is still going backwards. We were getting a reputation of “why haven’t the Meat Puppets signed when everybody else has?” We were going out on . . .out albums. . .we would be touring and our agent would be able to. . .lots and lots of bands that were on major labels were trying to open for us, were contacting our agent. . . and a fairly good bill. But here were all these bands on majors, and major labels thought a good idea would be to get their band to go out and open for the Meat Puppets who are on an independent. Then we’d get into these towns, these major market towns, Boston, New York, etc., and find out that our opening band’s records were completely all over the record stores and the label was stocking the stores and making sure the promotion materials were there. They were dong lots of interviews and lots of people were going to see them. And we had real trouble. Especially with our last release. But always finding records in the store. So we knew that there were advantages to . . .that SST couldn’t have. Then, of course, there were times like when we toured with Black Flag. We opened for them. We both had a new record out at the same time.

M: That was a while ago. . .

D: Yea. I’m talking about ’84. Their records would be in the store and ours wouldn’t be.

M: And you’re on the same label and they own the label.

D: Yea. And this was when we were going out with Meat Puppets II, which was getting great reviews everywhere, in the national press as well as various regionals. And SST was obviously more interested in pushing My War.

M: So your goals when you first started, you said thirteen years ago, were they. . .

D: I think we all had different goals. Mine wee different than Curt’s or Cris’s. But I think we all mostly wanted to blow minds, get weird and prove that we were wild dudes, or whatever.

M: Rather than signing with a label?

D: Yea. We wanted to just. . . we started out within our little Phoenix scene. There was maybe five, six. . . no more than a dozen bands that were there. We wanted to (a) be part of the group and then after that we wanted to stand out from the group. And. . . within a couple years into our existence we suddenly got opportunities to play out of town. We met with people who wanted to do records with us. We did them and began to tour. And we’d come off of a tour and find that most of our old scene bands were broken up, drug abused, married, or dead, or drunk, or whatever. . . just basically moved along in one way or another, and we were surviving. The next step was alienation from the scene that started us.

M: The hardcore scene?

D: Well, yea. Largely due to the. . .It wasn’t really a hardcore scene back then. It was just kind of punk. We never. . . hardcore cam along

after we did.

M: ‘Cause I’m thinking of the early ‘80’s. I grew up in San Diego. Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Bad Religion.

D: The scene we grew up out of, the bands we used to go see were more of what you’d call punk rock than hardcore. Plus your occasional weird Beefheartesque sort of rock and roll that was highly anti-establishment without being macho or jock or anything like that. Which was more hardcore, much more of a muscle bound sort of think than we were.

M: So what would you consider J.F.A?

D: They would be a hardcore band. The whole skating, the whole sports tie in. Whereas our scene was more of an anarchistic. . . more intellectual.

M: What bands do you consider were in your scene?

D: We used to look to the early L.A. bands: The Germs, X before they were old, who else? Devo. Some of the weirder more eclectic sort of bands.

M: The Wierdos?

D: The Wierdos. That kind of thing. Though they kind of were a little more rock and roll than we were into. Then there were some local bands: the Consumers and the Lyres, the Feederz. I think the Feederz made some records that were picked up.

M: So do you think there’s such thing as authentic rock and roll, as far as talking about selling out?

D: No. I think rock and roll started out as a sell out art form. When you consider that music at the time was. . . You can look at it two ways. On one hand you can say well, they cut through a lot of the bullshit and made it more immediate by using bass, guitar and drums and shouting. Rather than a detailed arrangement and a lot of musicians and song writers and stuff like that. Certainly they based a lot of their structure on country music and blues, three chord, 8-bar thing. But also you gotta figure that in terms of the business, rock and roll was largely an offshoot. . . business-wise, one of the reasons it was promoted as it was that it was really easy to market and that the bands that were involved were a lot less experienced in music. And since they weren’t commercial, they didn’t have the clout of established management or legal advice. So they were easy to snap up.

M: Easy to exploit.

D: Easy to exploit. Because there was a . . . there was two publishing companies in the ‘50s: ASCAP and BMI. And BMI started because ASCAP boycotted the radio. Because they felt that the radio was playing records of groups at the time when a lot of groups got their livelihood from playing live on the radio. They felt it was unfair. So ASCAP refused to allow any of their songs to be played on the radio in, like, 1941, 1942. So the radio started their own publishing company, Broadcast Music. And whereas ASCAP was mostly, they started out as a sheet music administrator, working with Broadway people and Tin Pan Alley. They didn’t really want what they considered low quality material like country music or race records. So BMI went and snapped all these people up. Again, these were the people that were easy to exploit. So right off the bat rock and roll kind of fell into a scab situation, as far as a strike was concerned. By the time the ‘50s came around that strike was ended. But still, the lines were drawn between. . .

M: So you think that laid a foundation for. . .

D: Yea. I think rock and roll has always been about money and there’s been. . . since it’s been dealing with that energy thing, it’s always been a commodity from the very beginning. All pop music is. Performing. . .it’s more of an anomaly in rock and roll because you’re dealing with such a volatile thing. It’s so obvious when somebody dresses up in a suit and smiles for the camera and sings with an orchestra, it’s obvious what their intention are. But when you’re. . .when you get people excited and stuff, yet the intent is still to make money, it becomes somewhat more insidious.

M: Do you think that bands that are just starting out at a local level. . .

D: no, I don’t think they have that intention at all. In fact I think that the thin that keeps rock and roll alive is the fact that there is constant groups of bands that aren’t interested in that at all who are trying to subvert that.

But, like I said before, you get some success and you really...that’s the thing about it. You make a living doing this. You can make a living doing what you like.

M: Is this an obvious question? Do you guys make a living by being in the band?

D: Sure. Well, if you want to call it that.

M: You don’t work any other job?

D: No. But at this point there’s all sorts of different levels of money. There’s shows and records and publishing and merchandizing. And then trying to do various others things on the side. There’s plenty of. . . you can, it’s what you make of it. The more deals you can make the more money you can make. We don’t do that well ‘cause our focus has always been getting a rise our of people. Our group feel, so we don’t exploit our band as much as we... That’s one of the things our label wishes that we were a little more business oriented and would exploit our thing more. For instance, our label doesn’t like us to perform “Whistling Song” live ‘cause they feel that it’s an incongruity that our target audience, that they’ve targeted for us, won’t be able to stomach. “Hard rock bands don’t whistle!” And I go “yea, but we’re like a psychedelic neo-jazz southwest country/punk/hard rock band.” but they want us to be a hard rock band.

M: I know that from seeing four or five of your shows that often times the audience wants you to play that song.

D: Yea. But that’s the thing. We can’t be. . . we know it’s not in our interest to just play the same. . . You see Chicago shows?

M: I’ve seen. . .I went to school in Arizona. .. .I’ve seen two in Flagstaff, one in Phoenix.

D: Still we’re talking’ about. . . even the Metro would only hold, say, 500 people maybe. Less than. . .maybe 5 or 600 people. And you can’t be setting your sites that low. You have to be lookin’ to shows for, like, 30,000 or more if you want to be big.

M: Have you found that you’ve changed your goals?

D: No. I don’t like doing “Whistling Song” with or without the incongruency. I don’t care. I’m tired of it. It’s an ancient song. I’d rather not do it anyway.

M: Is there any kind of tension between playing for an authentic rock audience, or. . . for the 500 at Lounge Ax. . .

D: No. We basically feel that what we do, what we’ve always done, people can like. We don’t consider ourselves to be inaccessible. We never thought that our stuff was that far out. Now there are far out aspects to it. The fact that what we sing about is very oblique. And then that’s probably the major problem.

M: The lyrics?

D: Yea. The lyrics are probably the biggest problem as far as trying to sell us; to put us over big. And of course I remember when Stipe and Co. started getting big all you’d ever hear about was how you couldn’t understand the lyrics. Suddenly, “Stipes actually singing so you can understand him!” Like, I couldn’t tell the difference. It didn’t make any difference to me.

M: Do think there was a conscious effort on REM’s part to make it so we could understand the lyrics?

D: Umm. . .sure. It’s such a small concession. It doesn’t. . .makes such a little. . .I mean, what they’re interested in is broad enough within its own limited range so that there’s plenty of things for them to do to keep it interesting.

M: Would you consider REM an authentic rock band?

D: Ummm. . .authentic rock band. But I don’t think they were ever an underground band. I think that they started out. . .they did one single and got signed to IRS. I don’t consider that to be nearly enough time in the underground. Of course they worked. They toured plenty and they made their grass roots connection with people. So they should have their . . .they should get their due. However, I never thought their music was particularly challenging.

M: Would you be comfortable in their position?

D: Umm. . I’d prefer it. I’d prefer to play unchallenging music. I’m lazy. I’d love to just go “boop-bap” the way their drummer does and not have to do shit. Unfortunately I have to. . .our music is largely. . .our music is so uncommercial at its core because all we try to do in to it. We don’t even care about what it sounds like. We just care about how it fits together in the connection to our brain while we’re actually doing it. We don’t rehearse a lot. We prefer to leave it at. . .to leave the live performance to be an avenue of discovery and experiment rather than just something that we could recreate, something that we’ve done in practice. It never. . .no matter how much you practice it when you’re us. It’s been this way since the beginning, it just doesn’t feel the same on stage with all those people there. And the focus on the energy and the performance is just so different.

M: It’s interesting. . .I like you guys quite a bit, you’re one of my favorite bands.

D: Thank you.

M: . . .friends of mine that don’t know abut you, I’ll lend them your discs and they’ll be kind of neutral on it. I get them to go to a show and it’s a much different experience.

D: That’s a problem for us career wise. It’s kind of a shame. It would be nice if we could do a show that was more. . . that had more of that. I mean had a record that had more the energy. . . or if we could have a show that would have a little less of that and be more like the record. The label would like us to do shows that were more like the record, and we’d rather do a record that was more like our shows. I think most of our small core of 60,000 people that bought our last record would agree. But we need to sell between one and three hundred thousand or our records or else we’re gonna have to be considered failure in this particular realm of the industry.

M: You sold 60,000 of Forbidden Places?

D: Probably in the neighborhood. But we sold them all at once. Which is still the best we’d ever done. We’d sold, over the years, with our SST products, not that many. With something like Up on the Sun, our best success at the time, we probably have sold around that in seven years. But we were able to do that much business right away given the distribution network. But that does not satisfy our label. Whereas fIREHOSE sold about that many, maybe a little more, and their label was very happy with it.

M: Of Flyin’ the Flannel?

D: Yea. Their first Sony record. It depends on who you are. On our label we have a specific sort of inter-office politics in which the person that goes to bat for us happens to have to be accountable in a certain way. It has so much to do with it outside of the music or the record. It has a lot to do with maybe the person. . . maybe there’s somebody in you label that’s looking, that want the job of the person who’s your advocate. So they’re looking to make that person look bad. So they try to paint your band in a bad light to make this person look bad. So you get dragged down in the process. There’s all sorts of. . .that’s one of the problems with working with a corporation. there’s so much out of your control.

M: And these are things that unsigned bands have no idea about.

D: It depends on who the unsigned band is, I think. It depends on who it is. Unsigned bands meaning bands that are into it for the music, like us, rather than say a band that is trying to copy Guns ‘n’ Roses.

M: Or just a young band. . .eighteen or nineteen year old kids. ..

D: Yea. Kids are just getting together out of their love. .. .yea. That’s something that they don’t. . .I mean, I essentially rebel against that. I just go “Great. Let them drop us. Who gives a shit. If that’s what it’s all about, fuck ‘em.” I don’t give a damn. I know the other guys. .We all work at it because it’s a challenge, and to a certain extent we believe we’re up to it, and we aren’t that intimidated by it. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it.

M: You’re not worried about losing your job?

D: I’m not so sure that we’re on the right label. As far as that goes there may be labels that could do a lot better job with us. It all boils down to who you’re working for and where they’re at in their careers and stuff like that. Obviously one of the first things a label is gonna say is, “Alright, these guys have been around for thirteen years. They’re not gonna go. . . they’re one of the seminal bands of this scene. . how come it’s taken these guys so long to get as far as they have?” Who cares! They’re not impressed by what we’ve done so far. and as far as they’re concerned what it boils down to is the right song, the right video, and the right opening slot on the right tour, the right producer and the right video director, and the right live show which means the right lights, the right back drop, the right songs, the right links with the right tempos. ‘Cause we like to play fast and sloppy and shit. A good show for us, one which we come out feeling really satisfied with, might not be what Mr. Big thinks is the one.

M: So you don’t do much rehearsing for your shows?

D: We do. But it’s not useful rehearsing in the sense that once we get on stage it’s a totally different experience. We obviously know what the songs are going to be, but we don’t go, “Alright, we’re gonna do this and this and nothing but this.” Keep it really, really basic.

M: You like to talk, don’t you?

D: No. I gave you my phone number.

M: Yes you did. That was nice of you.

D: Yea. You’d get a lot of crap from either me or Cris.

M: Does Curt not do interviews?

D: He’s more fanciful in his answers. I don’t know if he’d particularly want to address himself to your particular topic. I had something to say about your topic so I thought I’d give you my number.

M: I appreciate it. Pearl Jam hasn’t responded.

D: Well, I can’t speak for others. For me it’s like it’s an important issue at this time and I have a specific sort of attitude toward it. I think it’s not necessarily a wonderful thing.

M: What’s not a wonderful thing?

D: This whole music business bullshit.

M: The music is still a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

D: Yea. The music is still fun and stuff, but. . .I’ll tell ya. I’ve been doing it for thirteen years and . . .

M: How old are you?

D: Thirty-two. Nobody likes living out of a suitcase. We did a three month tour last year. And I still. . .Looking back on it still frightens me to think that I have to do it again. I just don’t have much of a life. The kind of people that you are able to connect with are. . .you always are wondering what other people are doing. I just read a book, which depending on how much research you have to do for your paper, you might want to look for it, because it has a lot of good quotes about how full of whit the music industry is. It’s Artie Shaw. He’s one of the great big band leaders in the thirties and forties in the swing era. His big hits were “Begin the Beguine” in ’38, and “Frenesi” from ’42.

M: What’s the name of the book?

D: "The Trouble with Cinderella: An Outline of Identity." It was written in, like, ’52 and it’s kind of an autobiography. He quit the music business a lot of times. He kept saying, “Man, if I could only get a lot of money I would just quit.” And he finally realized that he was in the weird vicious circle. So he got psychiatric help and realized. . .

M: He realized that it was set up so that he couldn’t get enough money to quit.

D: He realized that he was working at cross purposes with himself. He had to. . . what he wanted to do was write. So he gave up music and began to write.

M: If you made enough money would you quit?

D: Oh sure. I’d rather not have to work at all for a living.

M: So you consider it working?

D: Yea! I wouldn’t mind playing music whenever I feel like it, and only when I feel like it. But living in hotels, living with my partners. Having to go hassle over money and worry about whether or not people are gonna show up and stuff. And that’s just our level. I can only dream, from hearing about it, about the problems you’re gonna have once you’re popular. If we got a popular record we’d have to work constantly. We’d be on the road for two or three years.

M: That doesn’t sound...

D: Well, I’m a contemplative person. Other people, most people in music really enjoy the attention and the distraction. What I prefer a lot of time is to sit and contemplate things. And read books like Mr. Shaw’s. And he too was looking to be a writer. He had other interests. And he wanted time to do some of the other things he wanted to do.

M: You mean you actually have other interests?

D: Yea. I do specifically. Cris definitely is into his music. And Curt is kind of a. . .he’s got his own thing too. He’s into his guitar, but he’s also into. . .he’s kind of more into being a celebrity than he is being a straight musician. He’s into being a personality. Somebody who has a unique outlook on life that people find interesting rather than somebody who they just. . .He’s not like a guitar hero. He’s not just interested in being liked because of his. . .

M: Although many people consider him to be. . .

D: Sure. He has a unique guitar style. But he believes that the electric guitar is one of the most sublime sort of things. It practically plays itself. If you got him talking about it. .. it’s like, you can’t lose with an electric guitar. I mean, even I could go up there and blow people away with an electric guitar. That is if they were listening rather than just watching my fingers. Music is not his whole life. He’s also a contemplative sort. Cris is more of a musical sort. We all get tired on tour and you start to get on sort of a thin rope. And you start to lose your cool. Or sleep through the gigs. Whereas we don’t sleep through the gigs, our gigs are kind of like an extremely strong jolt of coffee. We use our gigs to wake ourselves up. It’s a drag. You drive all day and eat shitty food and take weird hours and have people in your face and you don’t have. . . your home and stuff like that. It’s a different schedule. It gets wearing. Which is another reason why we wanted to sign with a major label so that we could get help doing these things. And not have to do it on such a shoe string. And also because, like any band. . .any business that starts out from nothing knowing nothing. We’ve needed to get a lot of our business practices straightened out. So we hired professional management and accounting and stuff like that to make sure that we weren’t wasting our time trying to plug whatever holes or waste of money or waste of time so that we could be a more efficient organization. That gets important when you get old. Curt has a couple of kids that are almost ten. And you have to start thinking about that. When you’re a kid it’s like “Pile in the van, let’s go to the next gig. How much you wanna pay me? $10? Great!” But you start to get older and you get more responsibilities and you have to think about it. Anybody who has been in this business. . ..I mean, the mere fact that we’ve stayed together for thirteen years gives us a awful lot of credibility in the band world. ‘Cause we have stuck it out. We have something to say to people that only the survivors can tell you. Sometimes the survivors tell you things that you might not want to hear when you’re nineteen. You’ll learn them sooner or later.

M: If you’re around for thirteen years.

D: That’s right. We plan to be around for another thirteen.

M: You do?

D: Sure. We're not...

(tape ends)

Pot Comics, Part Four

by Derrick Bostrom in

The following story is another excerpt from my piece in "Tales from the Rock N Roll Highway" by Marley Brant.

Unfortunately, this was not our only run-in with international authorities. Since my passport was not revoked, my band mates and I managed to get ourselves to another border: the gateway from Switzerland into Italy. I was no longer using controlled substances to enhance either my performances or any other aspect of my life. But on our little tour bus, I was definitely in the minority. We’d had no problems previously in any other part of the European Community, so our border preparations had grown somewhat lax. The designated smugglers just kept their stashes in their hands, figuring they’d just fake-cough their way out of any trouble. But the Italians were on to our tricks, and they were quick about it. They had the cuffs on before anyone got their hands anywhere near their mouths.

The stash was discovered. And this time we were at a greater disadvantage than with the Canadians, with whom, for the most part, we still share a common language. Here, on the edge of the Italian Alps, we could barely communicate with our captors. We were searched, of course, as was our vehicle, but no other drugs were found. However, when our merchandise woman was discovered in possession of several thousand dollars worth of tee shirt sales, she was suddenly separated from the rest of our party. Later, she told us she had been taken back on our tour bus where she was not only relieved of all the cash, but crudely propositioned as well.

Our entourage was herded into a small hallway off the main border kiosk, where we waited for the better part of an hour. Then three teenaged girls entered the room. They carried on a brief conversation in Italian with the highest-ranking guard, and then they left. We were released shortly thereafter, without our tee shirt money, and without the necessary stamps on our passports. (Because of this, we had to bribe our way out of the country a week later.)

Luckily, the guards had left our equipment intact, but just the same, we were way behind schedule. Or so we thought. We sped the rest of the way into town, arriving at the club in a panic, but the promoter just shrugged. “You’re early,” he said. “They must have actually found something on you at the border.” It turns out, the guards would routinely detain bands for as long is it took to shake them down.  If they discovered something quick, you could be on your way in an hour or so. If not, you could be there for a lot longer. And if you were foolish enough to arrive with no contraband at all, it was so much the worse. You would then have no control over what they “found.”

But I always wondered about those three girls. The best I can figure is that they were daughters of the highest-ranking guard. At first, I decided he had been making an example of us, of what can happen to those who choose the path of the illicit drug abuser. But later, it occurred to me that these guards saw bands come through all the time. Maybe they had called the girls in to see if perhaps we were a group they’d heard of. Who knows? Maybe if we were cuter, or could play better, or could write hit songs, the girls would have taken pity on us, and we might have been allowed to keep some of our tee shirt money.

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Live at City Gardens - Trenton, New Jersey - May 9, 1987

by Derrick Bostrom in

This is a tape of a show from about midway through our first tour for the Mirage album.

We rehearsed costantly in preparation for this tour. We bought lots of new gear, followed a regimen of diet and exercise, and even took herbal "performance enhancers" like ma huong and ginseng before the shows. (These probably bolstered our confidence more than our stamina.)

We were determined to put on a "professional show." You can hear it in the rather subdued, almost polite stage patter in between songs. You can tell we're concentrating, trying hard to "recreate" the "Mirage" material. Even such elusive live rarities as "Beauty'" "The Mighty Zero" and "A Hundred Miles" are still in the set list. They would be dropped by the end of the year.

As you can tell from the recording, we're comporting ourselves reasonably well, valiantly attempting all the difficult parts and tricky time changes from both "Mirage" and "Out My Way." Attention is paid to pacing, and though it never actually happens, an effort is made to offer up  solid vocal performances. We're still pretty sloppy, but consistantly so. You can even hear us attempt three part harmony on "Mirage," The Wind And The Rain" and "I Am A Machine." Yours Truly even has a solo lead vocal on "Bad Boy."

It was also our first tour with Dave Claassen behind the sound desk. From this point on, we managed to record just about every show, either getting board tapes, air tapes or both. Unfortunately, on this tour, we had not yet seen the wisdom of procuring decent media, so the recordings are a little murky.

By the end of the tour, however, we pretty much decided that doing this sort of material night after night was a drag. We jettisoned the stuff we didn't enjoy playing, and began woodshedding a set of comparative "barn burners," which became the "Huevos" album. We focused on creating more energy on stage, got looser still, and started breaking our songs open into extended jams and medleys. The party was just beginning.



Not Swimming Ground

Lake Of Fire

Quit It


Get On Down



Love Our Children Forever

Out My Way


Swimming Ground

A Hundred Miles

The Mighty Zero

The Wind & The Rain

I Am A Machine

She’s Hot


Bad Boy

Lost/See See Rider

Burn The Honky Tonk Down

Baby What Do You Want Me to Do

Up On The Sun

I’m Bad I’m Nationwide

White Lightning

Maidens Milk

Interview from Flipside, 1982

by Derrick Bostrom in


I Met The Meat Puppets And Lived To Tell About It by Helen

Early December, the Meat Puppets drove in from Phoenix in order to record some tracks at SST Records and perform around town. Chris, Scott, Kelly and I spoke to the M.P.s after a rousing set at Al's bar. Our talk was very disjointed and extremely entertaining, but don't count on the interview to help figure out their perplexing and rather demanding form of music/noise.

F.S. : What's your biggest influence in music.

Curt : Mommy. My mommy made me what i am.

Derrick : My mommy's heart beat.

F.S .: What gives you more satisfaction, live performance or studio recording?

Curt : I like live performance, except I want to be able to hit people with my guitar. I like it ALL a lot. Most of the time in interviews people deal with "like" and "dislike" and recently I've been thinking of things more in terms of "up" or "down." Today when I was driving here I couldn't figure out if I was right side up or up side down and i couldn't figure out how to pull the car over. i lost all my will. My will to drive. My will to steer. Only my motor reflexes were working.

F.S. : How do you feel about your recent recording session on SST?

Derrick : It was wonderful. SPOT's a real nice guy.

Curt : I like this picture i saw today in this book. It was picture of Charles Manson. It was the only picture I ever saw of him when he wasn't staring real mean at the camera. They got a picture of him with this guy he went out in the desert to collect lizards and stuff with. You can tell he respected the guy because he was older and he's got a western belt.

F.S. : How do you like Gary Gilmore?

Curt : He's dead.

F.S. : Do you think SST is aligned with Manson?

Curt : No way. The recording session was super.

F.S. : And so was the Manson picture. Did you see the interview with Tom Snyder?

Curt : Yeah. i thought it was an accident. It was the only accident that ever happened.

F.S. : I there some deep basis for your music or is it just for fun?

Curt : It's deeper than we can figure. We hear it the same as you do.

F.S. : What are your vocal influences?

Curt : Almost 23 years.

Derrick : Our main influence is the desert.

Curt : The main influence on my vocals is smoke. I have a natural ability to sing. I was born with that talent.

F.S. : Do you believe there is a God?

Curt : I believe there are many gods.

F.S. : Do cowboys hassle you in Arizona?

Curt : There's no cowboys there. I am a cowboy.

F.S. : What do you do when you're not doing music in Phoenix?

Curt : Well - we smoke pot, trade pornographic magazines.

Derrick : Draw pictures, read comics.

Curt : My uncle Jack says that any kind of reaching out is good because there's no handbook on communication.

F.S. : Thus far, you have played at the smaller clubs like Cathey de Grande, Al's Bar, and the L.A. Press Club. Is this a choice?

Curt : No. We even get invited to play at notoriously small places like Whiskey A Go Go too. They begged us. They sent us different colored yarns to try and entice us over. They were refused a lot of times. Until they send us enough yarn.

F.S. : ?????????????????

F.S. : What constitutes a good performance for you?

Derrick : Our liking it.

Cris (finally): We came here to play the freeways. With regards to audience, we play it with all our hearts.

F.S. : What is your favorite local L.A. band?

Curt : I can take just about anything. It just depends on what I've eaten.

F.S. : Your favorite movie actor?

Curt : Clint Eastwood.

Derrick : Robert Reed.

F.S. : Do you have a fan following?

Curt : Just flies.

F.S. : What's your favorite food?

Curt : Bee pollen.

F.S. : Who don't you like?

Curt : It's too much of a pain in the butt to think about things I don't like.

(from FLIPSIDE No. 29, 1982)

A Couple Of Links

by Derrick Bostrom in

A couple of sites containing cool Puppets content came to my attention this week:

The first is Adam Hartmann's new podcast, The Bottom 40 Rock Show. Half of the the current episode is devoted to You Know Who. Adam is just starting out, and he's still getting his chops down (the volume balance between his voice and the music is WAY off, and he needs to watch is "P" popping), so check him out and give him lots of encouragement!

Geoff Cordner on the other hand is a professional photographer with a slew of great pix up on his Austin Punk Vignettes pages.  There are three live photos of us from the legendary Black Flag/Nig Heist 84 tour, which has been so extensively covered on a previous post.

I don't remember much about this gig. I do remember hitting my head hard on a low beam the next night. I remember haggling with Flag about money in Texas, and I remember Flag experiencing vehicular trouble which would vex them for the entire first half of the tour. Mostly what I remember about this leg of the tour was being hassled by the cops in Louisiana, both in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. One was  simple posession beef, but the other was a full-blown harrassment, complete with physical abuse.

As I recall, Cris had been trying with no luck to find parking around the New Orleans club. Everything was "reserved" for the restaurant across the street. In fact, the local police were keeping punks out. Finally, Cris rolled down the window in exasperation and said to a policeman, "where the fuck do you expect me to park??" The next thing he knew, the cop was running towards him, weapon drawn.

Cris did what any fool would do: he tried to floor it out of there. But this gave the cop all the excuse he needed. Accusing Cris of trying to "assault" him with the car, he forced Cris at gunpoint into an adjascent alley and began kicking the shit out of him. Curt and our soundman ran up at that moment and made like to help him, but Cris screamed, "stay back!" Sure enough, the cop warned them off with his gun.

Needless to say, we did not play that night. Whatever arguing we'd done with Flag over money the few nights previously became somewhat moot, since it took a couple grand to get Cris out of jail. I don't remember how it all got resolved, but I think it took another couple grand in lawyer's fees to make it all go away. Once Cris was safe and sound the next day, we fled to Baton Rouge. There, we replayed the scene, this time with our soundman, who was hauled off to jail for posession of a small pot pipe and a pocket knife.

By this time, Rollins and the boys were good and fed up with the Meat Puppets. And we were barely a week into the tour.

Brendan DeVallance's Phoenix Punk Page

by Derrick Bostrom in

As I get older, the fog of the passing years decends more and more rapidly, further enshrouding from view everything it touches. So it is always a delight when someone or something comes along to fan the fog away, if only for a moment. Such is the case with one Brendan DeVallance, a fellow traveller from the early Phoenix punk rock scene.

Recently, Mr. DeVallance notified me of his intention of opening a wing on his site devoted to the old days. He asked for a glowing remembrance of his group the Junior Chemists, and I was happy to comply. You'll find it here, along with plenty of photos and audio clips. If -- like me -- you're one of the six or seven folks still alive from back then, Brendan's pages are sure to take you back.

Along with his other group the Advo-Cats, Brendan started the Junior Chemists in the summer of 1980, around the same time as the Kirkwoods and I debuted the Meat Puppets. (I still have a tape of their very first gig.) And though I can find evidence that our two groups only ever played together once, that show remains clear in my memory.

Happily, Brendan had the presence of mind to bring his camera on that occasion, and took one of the few photos in existance of the Meat Puppets performing during their first year. It's a cute one too. Since it was a Christmas show, you can see streamers and decorations against the walls. All three of us are babies -- there's just no other way to describe us. We're just barely out of short pants.

Staged in Phoenix's premiere dive of the day, the gig brought together not only the cream of punk revellers, but also some guys from our neighborhood. Though some of them were no strangers to the scene, one of two had yet to get their feet wet. Just the same, they were game to come along for the novelty. It made for an interesting contrast to have Curt's geeky high school chums calling out for Yes and King Crimson covers admid the baleful stares of such local stalwarts as Marcy Murder and Charlie Monoxide.

The photo also captures us using our original gear -- with one exception. Absent from the scene is Curt's beautiful black Les Paul. Not long before this gig, he left it in the back of his truck one night while visiting friends. It didn't stay back there for long. Its replacement, the Gibson you see in the picture, was flat piece of plank with little sustain and a brittle, unpleasant sound. It afforded Curt none of the majesty and mystery of the Les Paul, and proved to be a thorn in our side for as long as it remained in service.

Henceforth, we learned how important our instruments were to our sound, and to take good care of them. Well, some of us did.

Visit Brendan DeVallance's Phoenix Punk Scene page

Pot Comics, Part Three

by Derrick Bostrom in

The following story is an excerpt from my piece in "Tales from the Rock N Roll Highway" by Marley Brant.

For even the most seasoned touring band, the long cross-country drives can get pretty monotonous. All you see is mile after mile of the same countryside, the same restaurant chains and the same crappy coffee to keep you awake. Not to mention the same smelly, crabby, hung-over companions. But things pick up a bit when you have to cross an international border.  Life takes on a heretofore unfelt urgency. Lethargy gives way to desperate scurrying, futile cleaning and furtive inserting. Even waiting in long lines takes on a feverish intensity.

I recall one such crossing into Canada. It was my turn to hold that night’s worth of marijuana (which we refused to forgo for even a single show). Things went smoothly at first. We pulled up to the border, waited our turn, presented our identification, endured the standard snide comments about our band name, and submitted to the customary search of our vehicle.  But something suspicious turned up in a suitcase, a sticky leaf, a green crumb, something. We were informed that we were to be strip-searched. The border guards said it would go much easier for us if we just gave up whatever we had, but I was damned if I was going to help them incriminate me. Besides, how much help did they really need? The weed was right there in my jacket pocket. They had no trouble finding it all by themselves.

For the first time in my life, I found myself in a room locked from the outside. As I sat there, deprived of my physical freedom, I suddenly found myself in the grip of primal urges. The door to my room had a window that looked out on to the hallway, and I began leering with uncharacteristic brazenness at any female officer or government employee that happened past. Finally, some guy came in and told me to sit down and get away from the window. Meanwhile,  the authorities conducted a thorough search of our vehicle and belongings. They hadn’t yet found enough contraband to make a proper arrest. But they had more than enough to allow them to terrorize me. I’d never again be allowed into their country; I’d have my passport revoked altogether.  I would henceforth be unable to make a living.  This was okay with me, for I was sick of touring anyway.

But after their search turned up nothing else illegal, the guards were obliged to let us go. But there were consequences nonetheless. We arrived at the club far too late for a sound check; we had barely enough time to set up our equipment before we were scheduled to go on. There, in front of a packed house at one of Toronto’s most fashionable showcase lounges, we learned that the frustrated border guards had stolen the tubes out of our amplifiers. After a long delay and much yelling and stumbling around, we used the opening band’s equipment and played a decidedly inferior set.

We never got another shot at a club in Toronto of that size. Most of the people who’d shown up that night elected never to do so again, and henceforth we were relegated to smaller bars on the other side of town. Of course, it’s always possible that audience might not have liked us even at our best, but I guess we’ll never know.

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Interview From "Notes From Underground" (1983)

by Derrick Bostrom in

The following is an interview transcribed almost in it's entirety. The group is the Meat Puppets. The time Is March 1983. The place is the Meat Puppets dining room, somewhere In Glendale Ariz. READ AND ENJOY!

NFU - Tony Victor

Derrick Bostrom - Drums

Curt Kirkwood Guitar, vocals

Cris Kirkwood Bass, vocals

NFU: Describe, if any, the effect drugs have on your music

Curt: They don't have any effect on my music. They effect my ability to play it. The music is always at a certain point at a certain time with me, so if I take drugs, it just distorts the way I perceive or translate at that time. But it's always at a certain point, more or less.

Derrick: All lies, all lies! Well, I have all these pet theories, and, of course, theories are are things that haven't been proven yet, so you should take my theories with a grain of salt...The pot helps keep us...It makes the weakest link in any arguement seem, ah...If I'm going to do something...No, if I have the choice of doing eight different things, I can get stoned and some of the things will seem out of the question and others I'll be able to do. Drugs never kept me from making music. They have kept me from doing other things. For instance, if we get ripped off by a promoter, and we're really stoned, we won't even care; at least for the moment. Drugs help me focus or the music -- in theory.

NFU: Do you think music can have an effect on change?

Curt: I think that as I watch, I know that it does because everything that is in society has an effect on social change because everything changes. I think that say like if you were to explode a nuclear device somewhere downtown, it would have a bigger effect on society. I think that, society is vanishing and at this point I'd like to reach out and touch each and every one of the readers.

NFU: Can I use that lighter for a second?

Derrick: Sure.

NFU: What direction do you think the human race Is heading in?

C: I think it's disappearing.

NFU: Can it be stopped?

C: I don't see why anyone would want to stop it. I mean, what good has it ever been?

NFU: So you don't worry about political issues?

C: I don't think I'm accurately informed on any of that stuff. All I get to read is the newspaper. All you ever get is second-hand information.

D: I'm very opinionated about the press but I don't know anything about the facts.

C: I mean,let's all get worked up about a little note that somebody drops by; and that's all it amounts to.

NFU: Do you think there's an absolute good and evil?

D: Yeah, and your looking at him. No, I think there's an "absolute" but not a good and evil.

C: I don't know, that sounds pretty abstract. To me, it sounds abstract because I can only feel so good before I'm reminded of how bad I can feel. I relate good and bad just to my own personal feelings.

D: Do you think good and evil can be defined? That's almost the same question.In thinking that there is a good and evil -- that might be evil.

K: I specifically say no,there is no good or evil. That's a totally absurd, primitive, pagan concept.Every form of life is only Reality Documentation. There reality,and then there's the documentation of it. There's no such thing as true experieince. It's all separated from real life as far as I'm concerned. The mind, being the way it is, won't allow us to have the experience of life. Life is the truth and this is the documentation of it. And we take our document with us into the truth and match wits with the worms. I'm just being funny, that's all.

NFU: What is a Meat Puppet?

D: Generally, most people who ask what it is already know.The song,"Meat Puppets" goes, "Meat Puppets can do this, this, this, this and this; Meat Puppets can do anything; Meat Puppets can also do this, this,this, this and this; and this is what I think about that".

C: Our subtitle is,"Reality Documentationalists". It means, try as you will to do anyhing in a graceful way...the truth is always way different than the way you percieve it, and so your at odds with nature literally. What art would be is basically an outcry and a protest against nature; that gives it no boundary. That would make nature the string puller; and Meat Puppets is just a way of saying "Reality Documentationalizer


D: To me, the best may to control your life would be to not control your life. By taking control of your life in the common respect would be to merely react to circumstances under which you have no control so you're not really in control of your life. But,if you ignore the things that affect you...In a sense, not to take control is the only way to take control.

NFU: So thoughtlessness is something to be achieved?

C: Oh,we already have utter thoughtlessness.

D: The band,when we first played together,we played so good that we were able to make the music our foundation.We started with good music, so that leaves us an awful lot of time to spend on other efforts; to really experiment with what happens on earth and document it. I don't really understand Documentar Realization.

C: It's everythingl It's like there's a truth,but....

D: But what about people like Nixon who don't think that way. They never find that out and they confound me.

C: Their lives are exactly the same as ours because there's no way you can hit upon a documentation that is original in any way. It's all just cleverness; and walking is a ploy; thinking is a ploy; living is a ploy; it's all a ploy.

(Conversation quickly changes to the relationship between Derrick and audience)

D: I wanted to stay in touch with the humans, but I realize that, just like in real life, I can't like members of the audience if I don't know them. I can't remain accessible to the audience because there is no audience, there's just people I don't know as opposed to people I'm intimate with. It's like I realize that the concept of accessibility is not real and that all it really comes down to is letting people walk all

over you.

NFU: Can art be prostituted?

C: No, it can't; the concept of life itself is a prostitution.

D: No,we don't prostitute our music,we date our music, we go Dutch Treat with our music.

NFU: How often are you happy?

D: That's a very relative question. In some respects I'm happy all the time; in some respects I'm happy none of the time. Uh,most of the time I'm happy.

C: I'm sick of being just happy. I wanna be...

D: King?

C: No, I'm sick of being just happy. I think the government should set up a program that would keep me ecstatic continually.

NFU: What would keep you ecstatic continually?

C: I don't know. I think they should figure it out.

D: I'm not happy that pot is against the law; that I can't get more pot; that smoking pot hurts my health; that smoking pot costs a lot of money; that people...

C: That they hated the man and that he was a robot?

D: I'm not happy that people who don't smoke pot are difficult to comprehend. I know that I have explored my alternatives, so I'm happy enough.

C: Don't you think our lives lend us pitifully little conclusive evidence to deal with?

NFU: Does that mean we are all in a constant state of confusion?

C: Yes. Confusion envelopes that question....

(Subject changes)

C: He's (Tony) not gonna be able to transcribe this interview...

NFU: No, I'll do it alright.

D: If he can make up the questions he can edit it, too.

C: Alright then, I'd like to kill everyone; and walk on the little guy, stomp, mutilate....

NFU: What's your favorite pastime, aside from music and drugs?

D: Well, I personally had always put more of my eggs into the writing and drawing area than in the music area....Living....Reading....

NFU: Do you have any goals and ambitions?

D: Well, Curt talked about how held like to step on the little guy already.

NFU: I'm prettly little!

C: No, come on now, I didn't mean it that way. I meant all little people. That was just figurative, it's a media term.

Chris: Oh,are you doing the interview?

NFU: Yes.

Ch: I've got to go to the store.

NFU: Do you like living in Phoenix?

D: Yes.

C: I like to think in terms of Phoenix living off me.

NFU: Tell me some things about your national tour.

D: Well,there was a lot of these hateful things about the Bad Brains while we were on tour and when we got back and it's nobody's business what I do!

NFU: So you don't want to talk about the tour.

D: No, I do. One of the things I want to talk about is how fucked everybody is (who said) "Well,the Bad Brains don't like homosexuals and the Bad Brains are thieves" and it's just racism. People who don't like the Bad Brains are racists.

NFU: You think that people who don't like them shouldn't say so?

D: They should but if they do then they run the risk of being thought stupid by me. I can see right through their petty, stupid little argumerts and they are wrong.

(conversation returns to pop music)

C: I think the stuff on the radio today is top notch. I don't care what anybody says. I think anyone that comes up with a negative reality documentation must have a brain tumor.

NFU: Oh yeah?

C: Sure,it's obvious.

D: I don't even like records that much.

C: See,Derrirk has got a really big brain tumor; it's the size of a basketball.

D: He doesn't know what he's taking about. I'm just trying to answer the questions. I don't give a shit if people understand me. And I don't have a brain tumor; I'm healthy.

C: Wait! Here's the thing that I just realized that I have to say. Besides the bullshit we've spewed out, ,the Meat Puppets are indeed the greatest band that you'd hope for, the band that will stay out of your way and produce the great music...

D: Yeah, what do I have to say? If anybody wants to read this and pay attention to the words, please feel free to. If anybody wants to ignore what I've said, please feel free to as well because that is equally valid.

C: Oh wow! He's giving the audience the opportunity of freedom.

NFU: What a swell guy.

D: No, I'm trying to make a point. What I'm. trying to say is it's not historical....

C: Well, I don't know about you, Tony, but I don't think I want to give the audience that choice. Do you?

NFU: I don't think thay have any choice whether Derrick gives it to them or not. I think we are all devoid of choice.

C: I tend to agree with that. I'll go along with anything that will keep me from disagreeing.

D: Well, any of the readers that could get pissed at me, had better.T hat's the way I feel.

C: Derrick swallows jism and doesn't spit it out.

D: 1 don't see how you can say that about me. That would be misconstrued immediately. These....These people who don't like me....

C: Hey! If the Bad Brains are listening, I'd like to say that was a joke!

D: Look, these people who don't like me

C: You denied having a tumor, right? Derrick denied the tumor, right?(To Tony)

D: I don't have a tumor! I don't have a brain tumor!

C: A basketball-sized brain tumor.

D: My head's not even the size of a basketball. I don't know what you're talking about. If you're gonna get semantic on me, I'm gonna tell you that all my answers are conceived around the interview. My conceptual brain may or nay not be tumored, but my actual brain

certainly is not.

NFU: (To Curt) So I guess he does deny it.

C: Yep.

D: Of course I deny it!

C: That's the classic sign of someone that has sorething wrong with their head, is that they won't admit it.

D: What if I said that I admitted having something wrong with my head?

C: Why would you want to go around spouting it off like that? Why would you want, to make it a public announcement? I wouldn't, myself.

D: You brang up the concept of a brain tumor because you said that anybody who would come up with anything but positive reality projection must have a brain tumor. Well, obviously I don't have a brain tumor: what have I said that's negative? You're just projecting your own negativity off on me. I'm taking all this in good faith.

C: Wait a second.I'm the one who said you had a brain tumor; I'm the one with the credibility at stake!

D: Yeah,well, I know what you mean, but I can't see why you would want to appear to discredit me regardless of what your true intentions were. The people who read this mag are animals.

C: No! Don't tell them that!

D: I could give a shit!

C: Now what if there is some girl out there reading this that might want to take your stiff,moss covered, elastic penis up her?

D: I can't take time for beauty, Curt, I'm trying to rush through my life as quickly as possible.

C: I know, but what if she has a vagina the size of a life preserver? People are trained not to think about filthy stuff.

D: I do all the time.

C: They're not trained to deal with too open knowledge of everyone knowing that, ah...

D: Well, I'd like everyone to know that my penis is covered with moss.

C: Right! They're not trained to deal with everyone hearing the word penis at one time.

D: Not penis, but other words are ok. We're just working up to penis.We're just slow.

C: Well, penis is just too rubberry a word.

D: I have faith in the human race. I think they'll oneday be able to approach the word penis.

C: I don't know about faith but I think that as the human beings fade off into the distance, I'd like to call out to them: PENIS!

D: I don't see why people like us.

C: Because for a quarter (50 cents),they get to hear another chapter of your faulty, tumor-affected documentation.

D: My words are worth a million dollars and I am seriously giving them to Mr.Victor for free.And, if in the course of our relationship I ever feel the need to remind Mr. Victor that I gave him these words for free,I will.

C: Hi.This is Curt Kirkwood and under orders from Derrick Bostrom I am physically forcing Tony to beg Derrick for his advice. Thank you Tony.

D: It's like all these bands that don't think there is any business involved are just getting ripped off really badly; like me, for instance.

NFU: You don't think there's any business involved?

D: I do,but I'm getting ripped off anyway. No, we're all getting ripped off in one way or another.

K: Right. It's a big fight against nature.

D: I'm preaching the line of non-acceptance to the way things are. That's why I have a brain tumor. Curt doesn't have to worry, though,because I accept him the way he is.

C: Yeah,we have decided that my tumor is to remain a secret.

D: I love it, because the people who don't like me will attack me whether there is a reason or not, so why should I be consistant? The people who like me are gonna be able to see through that anyway. The people who like me for the wrong reasons are gonna get the worst of it in the long run anyway,one way or another.

NFU: Do you dislike anybody?

D: Not for very long.

NFU: Is anything important?

D: Yeah.What I think is important.

C: Our fans are important. Our record-buying audience is important. They are among the most important people in the world. They cherish our munitions and put bread on our table. Relatively important.

NFU: Would you like to say anything in closing?

D: I'm still looking for an angel with a broken wing.

C: I'm still looking for an angel that can give head and cook at the same time.

D: That's not fair, you should have asked us in seperate rooms.

The Tom Troccoli My War Tour Collection

by Derrick Bostrom in

In response to last month's post about Tom Troccoli, Tom himself has added a Meat Puppets page to his site. There, he describes his first encounter with this odd group of desert punks. He also alludes to the strong feelings those memories still hold for him. Tom's sharp memory, good eye for detail and quirky use of the occasional all-caps makes for entertaining reading.

Even better, he passed along his collection of Meat Puppets photos and his permission for me to share them. These smudged, aging poloroids document the ten weeks we spent on tour with Black Flag and the Nig Heist back in 1984. I hadn't seen these pix in two decades, and they really take me back. I don't recall ever being that young.

These days, I work with a lot of young people. I always encourage them to think hard about their future and not to take it for granted.  But there's not a one of them who wouldn't quit their jobs in a heartbeat if they had the chance to go on the road for two and a half months. These pix bear out that dream pretty well.

We had only two days off, we slept on the floors of strangers and we were making twenty-five bucks a night. We endured arrests, snowstorms and those annoying huge pots of spagetti the promoters would make to feed us all. (You haven't lived until you try to serve yourself a plate of overcooked pasta while Rollins glowers over you, making sure you don't take more than he feels you deserve.) But what 23-year-old could pass up the opportunity to drive across the country, put on eye-liner and pose in front of a Detroit tenement?

Tom offered a selection of descriptive comments to go with some of his favorites from this collection:


Photo #2: "Check the expressions on the folks BEHIND you! This is at a McDonald's at Niagra Falls New York a few hours before crossing the border and we have ingested anything possibly contraband. Clearly, the effects are taking hold."

Photo #3: "You MADE me shoot this one AS Bostrom being Elvis circa 1972 Madison Square Garden post-gig. This is maybe my all-time favorite picture of you. It PERFECTLY captures the humor and spirit I best remember in you." 

Photo #6 : "We made a gag out of claiming you were Raymond's model for the My War cover, and here Davo is NOT trying to knife you (yet), but emulating the sleeve. This was the same Denny's the three of you tipped the waitress by dumping your half filled plates on the rug under the table."

#7: "I'm overhead. Cris has tossed himself backwards into the crowd and is being supported by the fans. Somewhere I have a photocopy of a contact sheet from ANOTHER photog. He snapped one at the EXACT moment I snapped mine, and you can see me hovering over the crowd with Polaroid. This one's D.C."

Photo #14: "This is the exact moment I came running out to the van in Atlanta with the latest ish of Rolling Stone awarding you (and The Minutemen) 4 Stars for MP II. YOU may have snapped this one."

Photo #15: "Right outside Birmingham Alabama. I had just that moment heard the news that Marvin Gaye Sr. had murdered Marvin Gaye Jr., rolled down the window, shouted the news, and clicked the shot."

Photo #16: "We each took one of each other being blasted in the head full on by the Surfer. I can't find the one you took of me. That one's Atlanta."

bandinvan    bostromandcrisplay

bostromaselvis    bostromcrisairport

bostromfirehead    bostrommywar

criscrowd    crisinvan

crisposes    crisscowl

curtrocksout    curtsbellyandbostrom

curtstillrockin    curttomcris

curtvan    kirbybostrom

punkereverlybrothers    tickledbostrom


A Few Syndicated Radio Show Appearances

by Derrick Bostrom in

My collection of band memorabilia contains a staggering amount of press. The Meat Puppets released quite a few albums, but all the interviews that appeared over the years could fill twice as many thick tomes.

We did a lot of radio interviews over the years as well, including a sweet handful of live-in-the-studio performaces. But once we got involved with Polygram, these became fairly regular occurances. After we mastered the "unplugged" approach, we were able to do even more of them. "Radio Meat," which can be found at the Wohlers archive is the best example of these. Originally broadcast on WBAI-FM in New York City, Polygram released the entire show on a promotional cassette.

I recently found a small cache of nationally syndicated shows on CD, some of which revealed some real treasures. They vary in length in quality; some of them are funny, some of them are grumpy, but some of them are as good as anything we released. One thing that strikes me about these shows is how odd "alternative" content sounds in such a mainstream format. While I hesitate to question the sincerity of anyone invovled (Yours Truly excepted, of course), to my ears the entire effort comes off as craven, clueless and condescending.

Whatever; it's still cool stuff. Special thanks to Tom Quitasol for sending me the disk with "It's A Small World," which I don't remember at all.

(Note: Please be advised that this is a large file, and some ‘net connections will be unable to handle it. The file has been tested on both Macintosh and Windows platforms and it work fine. Files on this site are presented “as is.” I can’t offer tech support, nor can I mail them to folks unable to download them. Let the browser beware.)

DOWNLOAD (68 mg)

Best Of College Radio - 1991: "It's A Small World"

TDK New Music Report - 1991: "Charles In Charge," guest deejays, interview, "That's How It Goes"

Brave New Radio - July 1994: Why," "Oh Me," "Confusion Fog," interview

Spin Radio - 1994: Interview w/ Cris & Curt

Concrete - Oct 1995: Tour anecdote by Curt

Static - Fall 1995: "Predator," interview

Photos In The Links: Athens, GA - 40 Watt Club

by Derrick Bostrom in

Our previous post about the rigors of major label life garnered a lively and lengthy discussion. One of the highlights was this anecdote by Kevin, which he has been good enough to augment with some Flickr photos (taken by either Ken Kelly or Patti Torno; he wasn't sure which).

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The stories of end of gig mayhem reminded me of one of my favorite Puppet shows. It was the “Forbidden Places” tour in Athens Ga at the new big 40 Watt Club. This may have even been the first big show there. They came out blazing, absolutely tearing it up. Everyone in the place seemed to be knocked back by the force of the music, literally. I’d already seen them many times before and this was shaping up to be the best show I’d ever seen.

Unfortunately the new PA could not handle it and it cut out completely. As the soundmen worked frantically to fix the problem the Puppets tried to soldier on, playing instrumentals with their amps turned up. Maybe “Six Gallon Pie” or “Flight of the Fire Weasel,” those kinds of guitar solo pieces. After a few minutes they realized it wasn’t working (no drums!) and completely devolved into noise. Curt threw his Les Paul into the crowd, turned up his amp and went to work on his Morely echo pedal. You know the sound. Cris, of course, went crazy throwing his bass around and eventually smashing it on the ceiling, shattering the flourescent lights above the stage. At that point he gave up on the bass and shakily climbed his amps, ending up swinging from the stage lighting truss directly above our hero Derrick. Derrick had been pounding out a nice beat behind the noise, but at this point he saw Cris dangling above him and ran out front. Smart considering what happened to Curtis Mayfield. If I remember correctly Derrick then grabbed the guitar or operated the pedals, he continued to make a contribution at any rate. At some point a couple of streakers ran out, hugged the band and then dashed off. The crowd was screaming the whole time, completely caught up in the chaos.

Finally the club workers ushered the band off stage to deal with the problem. Cris came back out with a cooler from backstage and started to hand out the contents. Eventually the PA was restored to a semi functional state and the band came back out, playing a more standard set ending with an “I Wanna Be Your Dog” jam with the openers Scrawl onstage.

Not a bad way to usher in the start of the major label Puppets, at least for fans like us.

Attending that particular Athens show was famous actress, local celebrity and girlfriend of Batman, Kim Bassinger. She was also friends with one of the owners of the club, REM’s Pete Buck. I introduced myself to her before the gig and thanked her for coming. However, she was forced to flee the premisis in the ensuing mele. As Kevin remembers it, "She took off in a hurry. I was at the side of the stage (stage left) and saw her being ushered out like it was a terrorist attack."

Alive In The Nineties?

by Derrick Bostrom in

I wrote this in 2003 for the "Alive In The 90s" DVD. But I decided it was too much of a downer, and besides, it hardly talked about the DVD at all. So I shelved it and started again from scratch. But I still like this piece. It's got lots of good info and offers a reasonable perceptive persective on our major label days, dark though it may be.

January 1990 found the Meat Puppets in a definite career slump. Though our long deteriorating relationship with SST Records had finally collapsed under the weight of mutual acrimony, we had no clear path to the next level. We’d had no luck in landing a deal with a major record label, despite years of trying. In fact, only one company, Atlantic Records, had shown any real interest in signing us. Those talks had stalled, however, when our contact at the label quit to move back home to Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We couldn’t help be feel discouraged and a little desperate. We’d just celebrated our tenth anniversary and we had no money, few prospects, and the gnawing fear that we just might have reached the end of the line.

But a couple weeks later, we got a call from another executive at Atlantic who invited Curt to meet with him in New York. There, over a shared piece of chocolate cake, he revealed his plans to head up the newly activated US division of London Records for the Polygram Label Group. While he assured Curt of a contract, he also warned that it would be at least six months before his plans were in place. We spent that spring and summer playing locally, borrowing money from friends, anything to keep from going broke. Finally, we finally got a massive stack of legal documents in the mail. The contract was the kind of standard agreement new bands always get. That is to say, it was grossly inequitable.

Nevertheless, we signed it in good faith, and in equally good faith we began sending the label 8-track demos of our newest material. Soon enough, we learned just how hard our devil-may-care D.I.Y. ethic would break upon the rocks of real-world corporate practice. It quickly became apparent that to get taken seriously, and to garner any kind of meaningful promotional budget, we needed not only a hit single but also a hit producer. Abortive attempts to produce ourselves had been received with something somewhat less than enthusiasm. We finally agreed upon Pete Anderson, a country producer who’d seen success with Michelle Shocked and Dwight Yokum.

The sessions with Pete took place in Los Angeles, and went quite smoothly enough, for me anyway. I recorded my basic tracks, click-track accompanied of course, in two days. Afterwards, fishing for permission to return back home, Pete told me that it was case of mind over matter. He didn’t mind, because I no longer mattered. We all had a good laugh over that one, then it was Curt’s turn to get the “producer” treatment. He was induced to sing his parts over and over and over again. Pete then used a sampler to stitch together complete vocal tracks from the various takes, modulating the pitch of each syllable to attain an in-tune performance. For Curt, the whole experience was humiliating.

The finished project, “Forbidden Places,” was as clean and professional a record as we’d ever made, even sterile to some, reflecting Pete Anderson’s tastes as much as our own. The album displayed a marked “country” flavor, which Polygram calculated was the best way to market us. Ironically, just down the street, Geffen Records and Nirvana were all set to usher in the “grunge” era, thus rendering our “country” approach commercially obsolete. In the process, they created a juggernaut that would eventually pull us, and practically every one of our “indie” counterparts, along in its wake.

But that was still in the future. For the time being, we had more mundane details to contend with. The time had come, we were informed, to discard a decade of self-management and hire outside representation. We quickly met with a half dozen different management firms, spending in the process more on plane fare and power dinners than we’d earned in our entire career up to that point. And when we finally chose one, we received another “standard issue” contract in the mail.

We spent the rest of 1991 and the spring of 1992 doing all the things bands are supposed to do: we made a video, bought touring vehicles, hired a tour manager and toured our butts off. But all this did little to dampen an opinion that we became painfully aware of: our record label thought we were shit as a live act. Not that we helped matters any. While “Forbidden Places” was a not unpleasant showcase of our various styles of writing and playing – a little hardcore, a little classic rock, a little funk, a little country, a little fusion, you know the drill – we made no attempt to duplicate it on stage. We refused to stick to what we’d rehearsed, playing songs we didn’t actually know and driving audiences away with interminable encores of earsplitting noise. We played too many notes, too fast, too loud and too long. In other words, we rocked out as hard as we could.

We had always thought this was the best way to go; apparently, we were mistaken. As far as our label and our manager were concerned, this was not a party; this was business.  And before we knew it, plans for our next album became hopelessly bogged down. We were told we couldn’t sing, we couldn’t play, we weren’t pretty enough, our songs weren’t “radio ready” and we didn’t know what was best for our own careers. In an act of good faith desperation, Curt enrolled in a series of sessions with a vocal coach and I signed up for some drum lessons. (Both actually helped us, but that’s beside the point.)

Eventually, we arrived at a compromise. We would enlist our old friend Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers to a produce a session in Memphis with an eye towards releasing an “unplugged” EP on one of London’s smaller affiliate labels. We accepted this galling solution, calculating that if the label liked the recordings, they’d agree to scrap the EP idea and green light us for a full-length Leary-produced album. In the end, this is exactly what happened, thanks not only to the delightful sessions we had with Paul, but also to the appearance of a little song called “Backwater.” Curt didn’t consider it one of his better efforts, but the label grudgingly anointed it as an acceptable single.

Thusly, in the summer of 1993,“Too High To Die” was granted life. And all of a sudden, people were talking about us, “Backwater” was on everybody’s buzz list and independent promoters were working on our behalf. It was almost as if somebody somewhere had called in a favor. Then we lucked into a guest appearance on Nirvana’s “Unplugged” special for MTV.  We were on tour with Nirvana the week prior to the taping of the special, and Kurt Cobain had asked the Kirkwoods to teach him a couple of tunes from our 1984 album “Meat Puppets II.” But Cobain was under a great deal of pressure and there had never been enough time to sit down and learn the songs, so Cris and Curt offered to come on the show to provide the accompaniment themselves. Always a great booster of his favorite bands, as well as a great believer in safety in numbers, Cobain agreed (much to the chagrin of MTV, by the way).

Armed with this little coup, we were nearly unstoppable. When “Too High To Die” was released in January of 1994, we were already out of the gate. We traveled non-stop, opening concerts for Blind Melon, Cracker and Soul Asylum and appearing at as many radio promotions and industry shindigs as we could. That summer, we spent ten weeks on tour with Stone Temple Pilots and Redd Kross. Meanwhile, “Backwater” continued its ascent, reaching the number two position on the alternative charts (beat out for number one by Collective Soul’s “Shine”) and even climbing as high as number 43 on the pop charts. Around this time, we also learned that “Too High To Die” was to be awarded a gold record, commemorating sales of more than half a million units.

The spring and summer of 1994 was the high watermark of our career. We played to massive crowds, achieved new heights as a live band, appeared on national television and rubbed shoulders with our fellow celebrities. We were in demand. By my calculation, we averaged at least one airplane ride a week for the entire year. Then Kurt Cobain died, and we had the distinctly dubious honor of appearing almost hourly on MTV, as they played and played and replayed the “Unplugged” special.

And in the end, of course, all the success took its toll on us. As the weeks went by and demand for us increased, we found ourselves continually whisked this way and that, back and forth across the country, constantly busy, constantly tired. And all the while, we piled up recoupable expenses for promotion and tour support at a rate of around fifty grand a month. When the dust settled, we were into Polygram for nearly a half a million dollars. That may not be a lot of money by any real measure of how the game is played, but it was enough to grease within us a growing feeling of uneasy unreality and an almost profound attitude of undeserved entitlement.

When work began on our next album early in 1995, it was plain how much the terrain had changed. We rehearsed perfunctorily, if at all, putting in as little face time with each other as possible. Recordings were conducted lackadaisically, and were received equally so by Polygram. Whereas previously they had micromanaged us incessantly, now their strategy seemed to be one of giving us as much rope as we needed in order to hang ourselves. Paul Leary was back in the producer’s chair for this go round, but for both Paul and us, the stakes had changed. We weren’t hungry this time out; no longer feeling we needed to prove ourselves, we acted instead like we deserved everything we’d gotten. Previous recording sessions always had their share of creative tension, but the “No Joke” sessions were marked by uneasy silences, no shows, sudden eruptions of rage and locked bathroom doors.

In the meantime, the “alternative” trend had pretty much played itself out. Many of the movement’s key players had burned out, died, or broken up their bands. Along the way, rebellious groups were replaced with more career-minded artists who could embrace aspects of the form while still ceding proper respect to their masters. When “No Joke” was finally released in the fall of 1995, it was almost a foregone conclusion that it would not do well.  While there was plenty of great stuff on it, the album struck people as bloated, downbeat and self-conscious.  Our previous records had been so lighthearted; this one seemed to take itself too seriously.  Pronouncing our earlier success a fluke and citing poor sales, Polygram pulled the plug on their promotion plans. Curt in turn cancelled our tour plans and moved out of town. Cris and I found other things to do.

In the ensuing years, we made of show of having “not broken up.” Curt managed to convince Polygram to do another Meat Puppets album, albeit with him as the only remaining original member. But the label reverted to previous form, and in the end they rejected Curt’s album, forcing him to release it on an independent label. He did one tour with the new lineup before calling it quits. I concentrated on the band’s place in history, maintaining a Meat Puppets web site and working with Rykodisc to reissue the seven albums we recorded in the 80s for SST Records, along with a live album culled from my collection of board tapes. Then last year, when Cornerstone offered to a compilation of live video footage, I decided to use the opportunity to tell the next chapter of the story. Whereas the Rykodisc project was devoted to our work in the 80s, the live video would focus on the 90s.

I hit upon the idea of making the project a fan driven one. I enlisted the help of some die-hard Meathead tapers whom had followed us around with their cameras over the years, and they came through with flying colors. One of them sent us terrific footage I had never seen before of a concert broadcast on Italian television. Another had a copy of what turned out to be the very first acoustic show we ever did. Another had all this great backstage footage from the summer ‘94 tour. Since it was impossible for me to be objective about the material, I let the filmmakers at Cornerstone choose what tracks to include. I figured this would fit in well with the concept of it being a fan-based project and it would free me from the kind of second-guessing criticism that I received over the live Rykodisc album!

Watching this old footage, I’m struck by how many conflicting feelings I have about those years. On the one hand, we never actually reached the goals we set for ourselves, both professionally or artistically. We were cavalier in our approach to business as well as music, and let too much slip between the cracks. On the other hand, as cockeyed and off-balance as we were, we still had something special, a unique perspective as impossible to duplicate as it is to describe. Under different circumstances, we might have gotten a better chance to find the balance we were looking for. But in the end, we did what we did, and despite the disappointments, we had a great time doing it.