Sparkle Pony: Live Shows From 1984 & 1985

by Derrick Bostrom in

After the release of "Meat Puppets II" in 1984 and "Up On The Sun" in 1985, the Meat Puppets found themselves transformed. No longer mere "local boys made good," we became players on the national stage. As more people began to take us seriously, we began to take stock of what what the band meant to us and what we wanted to do with it. We experienced lots of growing pains as we struggled to assess our goals and ambitions. But back in those days, nobody had a road map. What exactly did success look like for a punk rock band in 1980's America?

We were already painfully aware of our limitations, that the same "straight" critics who praised our album were coming away disappointed from our performances. We all pointed fingers at each other, but at the end of the day, the truth was obvious. For the moment at least, our reach had exceeded our grasp. Our only option was to close our eyes, hold our noses and roll up our sleeves. It would take a couple years and a lot of work before we really began to put it all together and become the band we wanted to be.

But not everyone back then shared this low assessment of our live shows. Plenty of folks dug the way we interspersed breakneck punk rock with long clumsy psychedelic jams and tentative workouts of future Puppets classics. For them, the sloppy sense of discovery found in these shows was the real deal. I happen to hold that opinion myself, which is why I regret not keeping more recordings from back then. I would tape every show I could, but I only kept the highlights for my own personal collection. I left the rest of them with our sound man. Unfortunately, we had a falling out, and I didn't have the presence of mind to get our live tapes out of his house before we fired him. To make matters worse, I lost an entire box of masters when our van was broken into during a trip to Los Angeles.

Happily, every so often an old fan crawls out of the woodwork with a handful of heretofore unheard audience recordings. A new one just came to my attention just this week: witness Peteykins of the Princess Sparkle Pony blog, who shares three shows from 1984-5, and describes his preference for those years. Peteykins is like a lot of Puppethead tapers. For one thing, he's somebody I probably once knew but have now completely forgotten (sorry man; it was a long time ago). Second, he was kind of afraid to post shares for fear of pissing off the band. So, my purpose here is twofold: first, to popularize his recordings (and maybe take down his blog in the process due to heavy traffic -- again: sorry man), and second, to encourage the rest of you. Tapers: if you got shows, by all means rip em and put em up somewhere before the tapes rot!

As far as I can tell, the Sparkle Pony recordings of these shows are the only ones in existence. I'm pretty sure I don't have copies of any of 'em. So, I'm as anxious to hear this stuff as the rest of you are. I'm sure it's terrible!

GET EM HERE, and remember: if you have issues, you'll have to contact Peteykins yourself. I'm not your dad.

The Mutant Sounds of The Los Angeles Free Music Society

by Derrick Bostrom in

Among the many benefits of a reunited Kirkwoood brothers is that they now have an opportunity to get out there and surpass their bothersome status as a mere footnote in the biography of Kurt Cobain. Now, don't get me wrong: it's great when you can find entertainers more popular than yourself to help carry your water. In fact, The Meat Puppets have always counted on the kindness of strangers. Back in the day, some of our very first traction was among the ranks of L.A.s existing avante-guard music scene.

Yep, the Los Angeles Free Music Society was but the first in a long line of organizations that recognized the band's undeniable greatness. And even as much as I love to pull out "Nevermind" or "Purple" every so often, you always tend to remember your first. That's why I was so jazzed to find the Mutant Sounds blog. Among the obscurities to be found there are many works by the LAFMS, including work by Doodooettes, Solid Eye, as well as World Imitation alumnus, the amazing Steve Thomsen. Even folks who like their noise in small doses will enjoy the comparatively poppy Darker Skratcher album and of course the Light Bulb cassette, which contains the first-ever piece of music released by the Meat Puppets themselves.

Though some of the post-Nirvana Puppets fans might not give a shit about the noise contained on these records, I can assure you that it makes Your Truly a little nostalgic to put them on. Click on over to Mutant Sounds and check 'em out. And if your really lucky, maybe one of the album cover scans will feature a legible address that you can send some money to. I'm sure they would appreciate it.

From the blog:

"The Los Angeles Free Music Society, formed around Tom Recchion in 1972, was a collective of underground artists loosely inspired by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (but also all jazz and classical avantgarde movements). Le Forte Four, who released four lunatic electronic-folk albums starting with Bikini Tennis Shoes (1974), Doo-Dooettes (two albums), Smegma (one album) and Airway (one album) were some of the performers devoted to free improvisation, abstract cacophony and demented chanting."

Ventura 1993: "Film The Trolls, Dave"

by Derrick Bostrom in

This just in from Dave Markey:


"Shot prior to the release of their breakthrough "Too High To Die" LP at the Ventura Theater, in beautiful Ventura California in 1993. Contains the super-rare Cris Kirkwood original "David Beware (Film The Trolls)" overture. They also jam out "Attacked By Monsters" & "Sam". Edited in camera, Mannequins and Trolls courtesy of the stores on California Ave."

For a look at some of Dave's more current work, check out his video for "Rotten Shame."

Cris Interview From 1993

by Derrick Bostrom in

Two years ago, we ran an interview I gave to Matthew Lahrman back in 1993. When he sent it to me, Matt said he also had a long interview with Cris that he'd let me have once he got Cris' permission to publish it. Apparently, they two of them finally met up, because I heard from Matt last week. The two interviews make for an interesting study in contrasts.

The following is a phone interview with Cris Kirkwood, bassist for Meat Puppets, conducted by Matthew Smith-Lahrman who, at the time, was a PhD student in Sociology at Northwestern University. Matt is now a Professor of Sociology at Dixie State College of Utah ( Cris was at his home on February 3, 1993.

Matt: So how's it goin'?

Cris: Fine.

M: Good. I was wondering how. . .

C: How did you get Derrick's number?

M: I wrote you guys a letter.

C: And he sent it back?

M: He sent it back with his number and your number.

C: God. He sent you his number?

M: He sure did? He actually sent me your number as well.

C: Well, I'm in the phone book.

M: He did quite a good interview.

C: He's an intelligent guy. He likes college students. I think he regrets his not having become a college student.

M: What has what you do in the band changed from before you ever recorded anything up until now?

C: Well we started recording stuff fairly quickly, with the band. It wasn't that big of a time from when I wasn't recording to when I was. The only thing that's really changed is that now that we're on a major label, they care more about how many units are sold. For me nothing has changed.

M: But before you were on a major label, as far as the business end of things, did you personally have to take care of more of that kind of stuff?

C: No, not really. I still deal with pretty much as much of it. I used to talk to the agent a little bit more. Our cross-over to the major label hasn't been the big 'now I'm a rock star' thing. Maybe once I achieve rock stardom or something on a major label, if I do, my life will change. Or if I get dropped my life will change drastically. It's changed. The only real change is the real or perceived pressure, whichever, of needing to sell more or else getting dropped. Having to view my things in terms of success or failure on a financial level, which we never really had to do before. We don't have to now. Like I said, perceived pressure. If I want to I can, but I still don't have to, unless I want to give a shit. And I do to a certain degree, I don't want to have to stop recording. I really enjoy making records. But I record at home all the time. That's really where my true interests lie.

M: On your own?

C: Yea. I have my own home studio. I'm not adverse to selling a bunch more records. But it doesn't drive me crazy or anything. It never has. The goal never was to only sell records. It was to have a band and to be able to make music for a long time. It was never something I wanted to get into and cash in on. It's just one of the only things I found that interested me, making music. And that doesn't mean being a rock star. It's playing the music and trying to make the two align. It's an interesting sort of conundrum, trying to make a living out of being a fuckin' total wasterum.

M: Is there a difference between making music on your own at home, without any thought of selling records, than writing songs. . .

C: Yea, definitely. I'll do strictly, satisfy the creative part of myself at home with my studio. In the studio you try to do that while making it pop. I'll do things that aren't considered pop. You're dealing slightly with a . . .We don't take it heavily into consideration. Curt just happens to write pop songs, and I occasionally write a few, whatever. So the band just kind of naturally has a pop angle. But we've tailored that to the audience. We also don't just go in and make records full of our own little sound experiments like I do at home.

M: Because the audience is going to be different?

C: The band doesn't do the kind of shit that I do. The band noise is more playing Curt's songs, and wanting to go in and sculpt, give a little version of each of these new batch of tunes so our friends know what they are when we come to town next time and use them as spring boards to go off on the noise making crap that is more, is a little more similar to the kind of shit that gets done in my home studio. We do that kind of stuff live more than in the records.

M: The experimenting stuff.

C: Umm hmm.

M: You do different kinds of shows. I saw you'I'm in Chicago'at the Metro and then at Lounge Ax. At the Metro you did this ten or fifteen minute kind of spacey thing, with keyboards and stuff and you didn't do it at Lounge Ax.

C: We always do. I mean that's the thing. We always do the different things and what-not. The reason the records usually come out as they do is because, you know, we write a lot of songs. Curt especially writes tons of pop songs. And it just gets down to what do you want to put on a record that's only 'X' amount of time long? And what kind of a slant do you want to put on it. I mean it's one particular art piece. And it just happens to be one that goes out to public consumption as well. So slightly there's a consideration in there as to getting people to buy it. It's like how much pressure do we want to put on people. We're already a hard enough band to get in that sense. And it's never been like we're worried about being gotten, but there's always been a certain awareness of the fact that we didn't want to just. . .that we're making art projects. That we were doing a particular piece and how we wanted the piece to come out. What we were aiming for for the piece. We're not that interested in being that self-indulgent, we're pretty interested in being pretty goddamn self-indulgent. But within the context of pop songs we're trying to say something with the band. It's a fairly clear statement if you read it. It basically says 'fuck off and die.' The whole Meat Puppets' stance is right around in there. The only reason we don't put out records with noise crap is 'cause my big brother is in the band. I always just go, 'Ok. No noise jams? No bass solo?' We're sell-out little weasels. We've been trying to be REM for years. To cash in and get the big clams. Everything I say is a lie.

M: So I imagine there's. . .

C: We played at Northwestern before.

M: Somebody was telling me that.

C: I met a guy from that band Urge Overkill. He told me that the show we did at Northwestern was the show that inspired him to start Urge Overkill. I think it was the guitar player that told me that. They're nice guys. We played at a dorm, at a frat house.

M: Yea. They have things at Northwestern where they don't advertise it in the city. They just advertise it on campus.

C: We might of played there another time.

M: Somebody told me you played at Norris Center, which is a student center.

C: Yea, that's it. We played there too. Oh, God. I could tell you some stories about that, but I won't while you're still going there. I could tell you some funny stories about it.

M: How does a record label, especially now that you're on a major label, do they come forward overtly telling you to make more poppier songs, more accessible type songs?

C: Yea. They want to try to tell us that. They want to deal with us in the way they deal with their other artists, who all are just on their knees trying to become stars. So they try to deal with us that way. They tell you, and if you don't do it to their satisfaction, even if you try to and you still don't manage to get it, what they think are hits. They control you more by denial rather than trying to make you do shit.

M: So you write a song that they don't like. . .

C: . . .and they just don't let you record it. Basically all they are is loaning you money. You don't want to loan money to somebody that's invented the toilet again that's not as good as the original toilet. That's how they see it. Their lookin' at it as. . .especially if the new thing is shitting in your pants, and invented a toilet that actually whisks the doo-doo away or something. 'Pants pooping is in this year, so bring us a fuckin'. . .a whatchamacallit.'

M: A diaper.

C: It's a silly game.

M: So what kinds of specific things do they ever. . .

C: They go 'write hit songs.' They ask you, 'Why do you do art? What is it? Are you just trying to satisfy your ego? Are you trying to make money? Are you trying to say something?' It puts the question to you, 'What the fuck are you about as an artist?' Because they're not into the art business. They're into the music business. Selling music. They support the arts to the degree that they can as long as it's gonna sell a bunch of copies. They don't mind. You can be as fuckin' arty as you want. And recently, like Nirvana, or. . .Those guys are definitely art students from the look on them. And by their song content and shit. It's huge, they don't mind. They can get as arty as they want as long as they sell all those records. But they're gonna poo poo something like if our next video is our guitar player's butthole mouthing the words. They're gonna try to talk him out of that. And if they can't talk him out of that, then another link in the chain will halt the process. It won't get played or whatever. It all depends on how many units you've sold. It's not like you can go in and go 'we're brilliant art. We have a really cool idea that is a classical idea that men have been about all through the ages and yada yada yada.' They're just like 'Isn't that nice. You've never sold over 100,000 records with any single release. So what you are in our books is what we call a failure.'

'Cris gets a call on another line'

C: So specifically you're asking what do they ask?

M: Do they say something like 'we're looking for this kind of tune?'

C: It depends on which particular record company you signed with, what the record company's intents are, and that kind of shit. And it depends on what you're A&R guy, your boss at the record company, sees for you. What do you see for yourselves? Basically what you're trying to do is reach an agreement with the businessmen who are gonna sell your crap. And if you can all agree 'we're self-indulgent little pigs, and all we want to do is record our fart sounds on record,' and if they agree with it, do that and live with the sales that are gonna be generated by something like that. Or if they believe that fart sounds are gonna sell a gajillion records. It all depends on basically everybody agreeing on the goals of the project.

M: And sometimes they don't know what's gonna sell, right?

C: They like to think that they do, and a lot of times they know that certain things are definitely a trend. So what they do is basically like any investment. You try a bunch of things, and whichever one goes is the one you run with.

M: So, say, with Nirvana, they can pay for a lot of other experimental kind of stuff from the profits from Nirvana.

C: Right. And then Nirvana started out as a fairly experimental thing. It gets all into levels of, they were fairly experimental but they still had quite a bit of money put into them 'cause there was already the Seattle scene. It had a big buzz. Things like plastic beads and shit just sets off bells. They know what teenagers are into. Teenagers are into this rebellion sort of a trip. And especially rebellion that everybody else is doing. 'Be an individual along with all the rest of 'em.' So they see something like that, and Nirvana. . they pushed the shit out of that on a certain level. But they didn't push the livin' shit out of it. They didn't give it the fuckin' Shaneese treatment. But it still got the livin' crap pushed out of it. And once it starts to run, then they unload the coffers onto it. And they'd do that on anything. And the degree to which they push it initially gets back to that agreement that you have with the company. 'Ok. I believe that this is gonna be huge, so I'm gonna push it. I believe that this might be huge, so I'm gonna push it to this degree.' Initially when you're dealing with them, where we're at with them now, is trying to figure out, 'What do you want to do with the thing?' Our record company thinks we could be big stars, and wants us to be. They didn't sign us to be, to continue to be the heroes of musicians. And musicians love us.

M: And the critics love you, too.

C: The critics have loved us. But we've abandoned. . .We've never stayed good little critical guys like REM or something who, not to slag them, I think they're great, but who still, they just kind of mine that one thing. We could've stayed critical faves, and we still are with some records. But we've made records that weren't. Which I like. I like not just being a critical little weasel. I like getting out on the limb where nobody likes it.

M: Which albums didn't they like?

C: They've said bad things about all of them. All of them have had good things said about them. Some have had ridiculous amounts of good things said about them where we're suddenly like a big band to the critics. And then some of them have been slagged like shit. Some records have gotten both extremes. Most of them have. The record company isn't interested in keeping it at that level. They want us to push it over. They saw all that alternative shit getting popular and they were like 'Alternative!' A name had arisen for it. Once it got to that we got signed. We're pretty, fairly pro-rock in a way. We've been around for a long time. We can play fairly well, and if we want to we can do noise jams and be good little rock spuds. And they see that in there. And that's what they want out of us. 'Be good little boys.' To not make it harder on them. But they're idea is that they want us to be huge.

M: And what do you think about that?

C: That just makes them say, 'Write hit songs. Make it easy on us.' And we just go, 'That's fine.' I'd love to be huge. The gear that would come with it. All the little toys that you could get. My real love, deep down, is making the noise. Being huge to me means unlimited supply of tape. I could really fuckin' lose myself to what I really love. It's my discipline. It's my soul, man! And what I think about them asking us to write hit songs is that I know my brother, who's our main song writer, is a really unique and strong artist. But I don't know how good he's gonna be at taking his talent and imitating Bon Jovi with it. And the critics have been on us to do it for years. That's kind of why some of the critics stopped liking us, is 'cause we didn't do what REM did, which is solidify our vision to the degree that we can be consumed on a popular level. We can either experiment and break new ground within our own little thing, and that's not what they want you to do. They want you to condense, and get to the core of it. And that's where they're at. 'Well what are you doing this for? What are you about here?' That's where they'll try to lead you in that direction. And, you know, the idea of a producer is take the artists vision and clarify it and blah blah blah. And years ago we went into Geffen and talked to the guy, Gary Gersh, who sat there and told us how he signed Gene Loves Gezabel without even hearing them play. He just met the brothers. Just by the way they looked. And this is in like '86. And we're goin', 'That's really nice Gary.' He's sittin' in his socks and his gajillion dollar office on Sunset and the Geffen Company which is just so exciting. He tells us he doesn't sign us then 'cause he says we're unfocused. To us. He calls us unfocused. Well, we don't have a costume. No, we don't. We have a costume but it's a real broad based costume called music. Called fuckin' whatever we want to do. 'We were inventing something new here Gary. We're rediscovering something that's always been around. And that when it comes to the fore, it's considered. . .It's part of a renaissance period and everyone looks back on it lovingly, and there are high points in musical history and artistic history and the history of the, you know, the human chimp.' He didn't give a shit. He was lookin' to be there when the timing comes up. He wants to be a part of it. He's the guy who signed Nirvana, who are basically the realization of what we were talking about. But they do a real good careful pop. . . a good job of being real. . . condensing it down and making it that pop thing. That's what pop is, is an art idea that can be sold to tons of people. It doesn't have to. . .they don't have to get it. They don't have to be smarter than a shoe to get it.

M: So has your next release been slowed up by this?

C: Yea. That's what has happened. We almost got dropped and shit. We just got sick of them. We almost dropped ourselves. Just like, 'You guys don't get it. You don't want to try to get it. Go die. We don't care. We'll find somebody that does.' Cause we stomp! We fuckin' play circles around other people. If anybody gave a crap about fuckin' bass solos than we'd be huge. So they've kind of slowed it up a little bit. But all that slowing up stuff also gets down to how much the artist wants to get into being a businessman. How much we want to get up and say, 'No, you can't slow us down because I'm a visionary, man, and I've got this fuckin' thing I gotta put across.' We've never had that. We've never been, you know, 'Baby we were born to run!' We never had this, you know, from the streets to the. . .you gotta make it. That's where the fuckin' passion comes from. 'And I said, 'Daddy, I want it all!'' That's not where our whole egis has been. Whatever 'egis' might mean. I doubt if it means what I'm using it as. That has never been a big part of our thing, chest pounding. We've always been willing to make music without anybody getting it. We didn't really give a fuck. We've been absorbed into all these different little scenes, and they've come and gone around us.

M: How old are you?

C: 32

M: And Curt's older than you?

C: Yea. Two years.

M: So you started out when you were, what, around. . .

C: 19. I was 19.

M: So with that in mind, you guys aren't teenagers anymore. Rock is sold to teenagers, basically. They're the ones who buy most of the records. Who do you see as your audience?

C: Whoever listens to it. I don't think about that that much. I know I could, but I never gave a fuck about rock and roll. I've just never been into it to be a rock star. I always thought it was fuckin' stupid. I never gave a shit about it. It's only been in the last few years, in the last decade that I've realized what rock and roll meant. I always dug music, but I never gave a crap about rock, 'cause I always thought it was pandering twaddle aimed at being baby food for teenagers. I just never gave a shit. It was all about this fuckin' moronic teen stance that is the same thing as fuckin' racism to me. It's, what, play down? You play down and empires collapse. I think we're undergoing systematized institutionalism of which I'll play no part. Because of that I've been forced to watch all my friends who greedily slurped up teenage butthole oil become millionaires.

M: Such as?

C: You know, all the obvious ones. I'm not gonna name any names about my pals who it'll get back to, and who are now rich and can fuck with my career.

M: Bands from that L.A. punk scene?

C: Like the Chili Peppers. Not to take anything away from them at all, but they've always been way more about. . .they got a lead singer who's willing to do this whole lead singer shtick. And that's just a difference. It's not a bad thing. But they took, and had punk ideas, and the same with Nirvana, any of these people, they had a punker idea. . . not like I'm punk or whatever. . . but they took elements of that, and elements of funk and this and that and that, along with elements of straight rock and roll such as packaging, and your look. . . and those guys are always careful to wear goofy shit, and keep in really good shape. And to play with their shirts off, and have that macho swagger. All those things that are aimed at pleasing teenagers. I've never even given it consideration beyond, you know, 'who wants to get hit in the face with the blunt end of my guitar?' I just never cared. I never could relate to my teen chimps. It's not against my fellow man or anything, it's just that rock itself. . .I only started to give a crap about it once I realized that. . .the idea of rock as a soul music. That I started to get. I only heard cheeseball rock, mostly. And never really gave a crap about the '60s bands and all that. And then I started to see that some of them, some of those older bands have got some cool shit goin' on. I started to understand rock as. . .I just came down off of my alienated high horse. I was driven into snooty music more as I had (A) something that had a little more substance and (B) I hated everything. I hated Boston and I hated all my fellow high school assholes. I thought they were a bunch of fuckin' small minded versions of their parents. They looked like the next step down in the rotting of American, to the sound track of 'More than a Feeling.' It made me want to barf, I couldn't relate. Then I started to see that punk. . . Derrick was into punk, and I checked that shit out. He's the guy who turned me onto rock. I started to see that there's a certain thing about rock that's this Jim Morrisony kind of fuckin' burn-out fast explode type of thing. Or just an attitude thing that you can express your feelings. There is an art angle to it that can be stroked. And not even an art. It can be an expression of your being. I'd never seen rock as anything but a product. Then I got turned onto a few things.

M: So you're at least willing to do the product thing?

C: Oh yea. We always have. We've always made records. I was never against that. I was always just not interested in concerning myself about it. I think that the fact that we sell the records is the product. They're not for free. But I've never been interested in having that play any part in what the product was. I strictly wanted to make it an art piece. And then if it sold, fine. But if it didn't, fine also. I never expected it to sell, 'cause of what people have been into. Once I became aware of rock as art, I saw why it stopped being art. That's where I developed. . .I realized all along that my thoughts on the way that people as. . .are analogous to countries, to the world in general, and the way entropy works and why fuckin' good ideas get used by assholes to turn the fuckin' environment to shit. So no wonder rock turned to crap. Cause like any other groovy new thing, becomes. . .goes from Christ to Tammy Faye Baker. From the land of the free and the home of the brave to fuckin' Pat Buchanon. Why do these things happen? What causes people to have to strive for freedom, and then let that freedom become just another cage? These kinds of things.

M: But, again, being on a major label. . .

C: That's where we're at still. How do you sell a lot of records? I don't know if it was a good idea for us to sign. But we're finding, we've been around long enough so that now we can still make music that we like and want to make, and people will like it. We've got our quirks. We're not trying as hard to do them, 'cause we can play better. So it's not as much trying as doing now. We've always tried shit. That's something that you don't do if you're a successful pop artist. You do what you know you can do. There's REM. Those guys don't get up on stage and try to fuckin' thrill everybody by making noise jams, much. They'll have their projects for that. For REM they're very careful to recreate the record. With Stipe up front jumping, you know, goading the crowd on really carefully. It's a good idea. It's just only showing your strengths. But we've always fucked that off. Not being big rock. Like Pet Buck, a rock aficionado. Part of his art trip was to get popular. Which was never was one of ours. Curt and I were never rock gearheads. He'd probably say that he was, but you won't be able to talk to him.


M: It's interesting that both you and Derrick used REM as an example.

C: They're a good one. They're our old, you know, they go back a long ways and shit. They're our parallels, you know, in a way. They embody a lot of the same ideals and stuff, but they were just more careful about it. They got a lead singer. They got a little creep up there that, what's he gonna do when the bass player goes over and starts noodling on his fucking Casio? He's got to take out his butthole, you know. What else is he gonna do? They just are a different kind of band. We purposely never got a lead singer. 'Cause we weren't about that. We weren't about relating to the audience. That's what the singer does, you know, up there fuckin', you know, cheerleading essentially. And, you know, that wasn't part of the trip. It was for those guys, definitely. They've always been, you know, years ago they wore those little vests and their long sleeved shirts and all that. Everybody's been a lot more careful about being good little pop stars than we have, that's for god damn sure.

M: So have you been careful not to be the good little pop artists?

C: No. We haven't tried. It just comes naturally to us. That's what I'm saying. We're not like anti-pop, you know. I'm not fuckin' Trent Rezner or whatever. I'm not trying to appease to a radically different crowd either. We're radical as fuck but not in a traditionally radical. . I'm not gonna get into, you know, techno-whatever and cut my hair sideways or whatever. I don't need to. I'm fuckin' radical in my ideas. And also not sucking up to the notion of radicalism because I don't believe in normalism. I just do exclusively what I want to do. And that's as radical as you can get these days. It's not like weird for weird's sake. It's fuckin' freedom because that's what my mind needs.

Music to me is really broad based. I like all sorts of different kinds of music a lot. Some kinds that aren't considered cool at all. I like classical. I listen to it all the time. It just fuckin' fucks my brain up. All different types. Some really old shit, you know, newer composers. Plus a ton of other stuff. I like, you know, fuckin', the 'Ritual de Bobo' by the Pigmies of Ghana or whatever. I'm into all sorts of crap. And I like to play all sorts of crap. It's a question of me and my big. . .rather than me and my tenure as a rock star. The Meat Puppets have always been a live project and that's what all great art is. Somebody can't help it. We are what we are, period. We're not what we're trying to be.

M: So is it possible to sell a lot of records, to have a platinum album, with that attitude?

C: At points it's been possible. And like I said before, when those points have arisen, you know, those are considered golden ages. And very rarely has it been that the artists with the most radical and outward considerations and, you know, the most advanced and considered playing and whatnot have been on the top of the charts. In the '60s they were. In the bebop era they kinda were; the big band/bebop era. Those guys were definitely the furthest out and coolest shit around and it was what everybody was into. They're considered golden ages.

M: What about this whole Seattle thing?

C: I don't think they're that.. .the guys are just a bunch of heavy metal posers. Suckin' up big time to.. .I just saw the Seattle scene developing and it was just, you know, little junior hippy rock, with their little beads, and their little abdomen muscles. And the little combination with each of the bands that are kind of getting popular now, and they all sound like Ozzy Osbourne to me, they all sound like Black Sabbath. You know, it's trendy fuckin' suck up shit and it's gotten a lot more popular. I mean, I like it better than I like most rock, there's some of it I do. I think Nirvana are pretty cool. Some of the other shit I think is just flat out fuckin', you know, the same thing to me as Poison, basically, no difference at all. 'Oh is this bitchin' with the teenagers? Get me my funny little hat and my love of sports.' To me that stuff is fine. But I don't think they did that. I don't think they took extreme radicalism in any way and made it popular. I don't think Nirvana did either, just 'cause they smash their crap. The fuckin' Who did that years ago. I've been smashing my shit for years. It hasn't got me anywhere. I saw that band about a year ago. They played real safe. They play all their songs like they are on their record. And then at the end they smash all their crap. It's real predictable. I wasn't that impressed. I think it's just like what's kind of existed for awhile. These bands. . .Seattle. . you, know, real solemn, seriously heavy batch of fuckin' artists purveying this wondrous new vision.

There's very few artists in rock that I think are worth half a shit at all.

M: Which ones are worth half a shit?

C: To me, people that have done interesting things in rock and roll are, you know, a lot of the sixties people made fairly far-out shit. It was one of those periods where the best and the brightest were actually looking to go the furthest.

M: Can you name specific bands?

C: Like the Dead, who are still around. I think something like that is bitchin' But bands that were around and were fuckin' making interesting shit, like Pink Floyd, any of that old crap. The Beatles. The Beatles are the ultimate example of someone that were really pushin' it, and their audience was keepin' up with them. That's all it is. It can exist at any time, but it's circumstantial to the way that systems unravel themselves. You can study it a lot if you want to, and become the next Tony Robbins. You can go out there and bilk cajillions of dollars just by manipulating the group psyche which is on display. It's obvious it's fucked to me. I'm the next Maurice Starr. It's so obvious, you know. Sit there and crank out this pure pabulum. Just occasionally the circumstances will come together. It always takes something really radical, like a war or something, to motivate people into a higher conscious. They have to get used to that degree. Extreme oppression seems to finally do it. The level of oppression that we're at now is just not oppressive. This is how empires fall. They get soft around the middle. They get used to their cereal in the morning. And they get used to their fuckin' Kenny G.

M: Or their Nirvana.

C: Yea. Or their Nirvana. Then it's down to.. .it's down to Lettermen rock. 'Ooh. Can you say 'poop' on t.v.?' Which is, 'Ooh. How scary! Ooh, God, he really smashed that drum up! Yike!' That coupled with Geffen having put a million dollars into it at the beginning really made them sell a lot of records. And punk rock, you know, finally coming to the surface. It'll be gone in a couple years. And what will be next? Booger rock. It's social dynamics once again. Some bands I just like. I like the Dead. I think there's a band that just fucked everybody off and didn't give a crap and plays fuckin' goofy ass shit and stays together all these years. I like them. I like the Chicago Art Ensemble, speaking of Chicago. Modern Jazz Quartet. They're classical musicians. People that fuckin' devote themselves to something within themselves. That's why I like found musics. I really dig local musics, you know, or indigenous musics. Stuff like that. I don't give a crap about hearing these little fuckin' guys trying to get their rocks off.

M: Do you listen to much rock?

C: No. Not a whole lot. I have artists that I respect. Zappa I think is a fuckin' hilarious guy, flat out. Really wide ranging and funny.

M: What bands from the scene you guys started with?

C: I have my pals who I dig. My best pals. They're old friends. Like the fIREHOSE guys. Mike and George are really sweet guys, and Ed is a nice guy, too. But the Minutemen were great! That's a band I thought was great. I think the Butthole Surfers are great.

M: And they're about to come out with a major label record.

C: Oh. What it gets down to is all these bands, you know, giving their ass for art, and who now get to go and be fuckin' failures. So what do they do? They have to sell-out. God, please let the Buttholes imitate Nirvana enough on this new record to sell a cajillion copies. 'Cause they're sweet people and I'd love to see them make a lot of money, 'cause all of them have more talent, and more fuckin' open-mindedness which, to me, equals talent to a degree, and more fuckin' humor and a broader consideration of everything than 99% of the shit that's on MTV. And all these undeserving butt sucking little fuckin'. . .play into the hands of the people who have fuckin' put a nice big hole in the ozone and are making Somalians starve and letting the war in Bosnia happen and turning the east coast into a garbage pit, and America into one big giant Las Vegas. And being their little good boys. It's disgusting. I'd just like to see my friends get in with these scum and make a bunch of money and move the fuck away to some nice little part of the world that doesn't exist anymore call 'Suicideville.' There's a lot of shit that gets me off. I'm way more interested in my life than I am in fuckin' rock and roll. It's stupid. That's why the Meat Puppets have never done very good. But why we're worshipped by musicians on a certain level. And by critics and stuff. 'Cause we're into these kinds of ideas. But these aren't applicable ideas. These are the kinds of ideas that inspire men to fuckin' rise up from their chains when they're in bondage. These are the kind of things that get people nailed to a cross and worshipped for it. But the poor fucker who thought it up had to cut off his ear and eventually shoot himself. 'Cause nobody would buy his crap. Or he had to get tacked to a cross or whatever. But years later, 'don't worry buddy, be bummed now, but in 100 years your butt farts, your last bag of semen is gonna be worth 100 million bucks!' Yea, and me and a lot of my pals from the days, that are still around, it's all they. . .it's obviously the people that had the better idea than just 'I'm punk rock!' And they're still failing because of it. In the same way that the country is going to shit. But suddenly Nirvana is huge and there's a new president. But Nirvana is huge with their really careful record. It's all these cool little pop songs that are all just the right song and they're catchy and really carefully constructed and sell cajillions. And the new president is a professional politician scum sucker who immediately hires all these other old guard. And it's just yet another fuckin' snooze bag piece of shit politician. And basically America has gone to hell. Human kind has gone to hell. We're all fuckin' doomed! So what!

M: Which is strange. Another band like Bad Religion who sold out the Metro, with 13 year olds. These kids were maybe 2 years old when Bad Religion first began. But that's who their music appeals to.

C: Because, you know, that's what REM did too. But with something that's a bit less moronic than Bad Religion. And carefully kept making the same record over and over. That's fine. Eventually your market will grow up, or it will catch up. If any of that punk rock shit came out now it would be huge. Wait until Black Flag gets back together. It'll be like mania for a couple years. They'll be able to pack anywhere too.

M: Or Social Distortion.

C: Or Social D is a perfect example. And Nirvana is just the realization of it. They're students of punk rock. You just distill out all the best elements of it, and it's already getting more and more popular anyways, and you put on some cute little beads and some torn jeans and a jacket and you make it obvious how to get to it. And I'm not against any of that. I always sound bitter, but I'm not. I don't give a fuck. People can do whatever, they're all doomed. I consider humans the walking dead. I don't even think of them as walking dead people. I think of them as walking dead plant life. Dirt, animated mud. Electromud. That's a good song title. It's too late, we already used it on our first album. That's what Meat Puppets means. 'Yea, go ahead and yammer, you little fuckin' monkey. You little constructed bag of space born vacuum resistant nothingness.' We're not like punk standard bearers. We're not gonna pack the Metro with 13 year olds, because we weren't punk. Nor are we gonna fill it up with dudes wearing cowboy hats, 'cause we're not cowpunk. Nor are we gonna fill it up with Prince clones, 'cause we're not, you know, Prince or any of that shit. But we do fill the Metro up fairly good with people that can dig our trip. We're not that far out or anything. But we're definitely not one of those bands that have been around forever and are still bloody but unbowed. We just never have been. Those are some funny days, when punk rock was really punk. We had all these nasty little fuckers'all of 'em are for sure in jail by now'comin' to the gigs. It was like 'Punk or Die!' It was just so stupid. 'Yea right, man! Punk out!' And some of those bands are still together. I don't give a crap. I've just gotten so used to it, gotten so used to shit selling. What I consider to be pure unadulterated fuckin' garbage. And that's helped me to be the really self-satisfied person that I am. I've always thought this. I've never felt anything different. If I had felt different I would've bought into America. I'd be a good little fuckin' controller pig, 'cause I'm more than smart enough to be able to. Nobody comes anywhere near me in manipulability. In being me. I'm the only person I know who's me. And I could do whatever I wanted. I'm white. I'm a white young male. I have the chance to take over the reins of Coke-Negro-Slovakia, whatever this country is called. No. I chose not to. 'Cause I'm not into that. I'm on a different trip. I don't give a fuck about Bad Religion or REM or rock 'n' roll or making money or any of that shit. But I do. I mean I have to 'cause I have to feed my little self. So I'm an idealistic non-purist.

M: That's what the Meat Puppets are all about.

C: Only! That's what anybody is about. But pretty much they don't want to admit it. Most people express it through their love of football. You can see what the Meat Puppets are about. If you talked to Derrick and you talked to me, and you see what kind of people we're about. You can kind of get an idea.

M: When can I expect an album?

C: Soon. The record company has gotten on it. We're getting on it more and more. We've got all the songs together. And there are all these bitchin' new songs. But is it the next 'I'm Going Hungry' or whatever? Is it the next 'Jeremy'? Fuck no! 'Have you written the next teen angst song about a teenager who's just misunderstood'? Fuckin' no, we haven't. Maybe we have, but I don't think so. We don't deal with those issues. We never have. We kind of did on our last album. That song 'Sam.' In there somewhere it talks about how someone who wasn't related to anyone, picked up a dollop of the doobiest doo doo, sparkled like something folks scramble to swallow. That's funny.

M: But you did it in a way that nobody could understand what you were singing anyway.

C: 'Cause we're not fuckin' retarded enough to, you know, 'War is bad!' 'Really? We hadn't noticed that.' We're not interested in manipulating the indigenous market groups as they're able to be manipulated. Sell fuckin' titties and beer to the twenty-somethings. Rebellion against your parents for teenagers. Titties and beer to the twenty- and thirty-somethings. Oppulance and cars to the forty-somethings. Power and fuckin' misogyny to the fifty-somethings. And fuckin' adult diapers beyond that. I don't know if we're gonna be huge or not. I doubt it. I highly doubt it.

M: Do you hope to be popular? Do you care?

C: For my brother's kids, I would like us to be more popular. For all the other people around me who aren't as strong as me, and who can't take what we can take. We don't have any money at all, ever.

M: But you've got a studio.

C: Yea, I have a few things. And at points we've done fairly good. We get little tiny piles of money. But then I gotta go right back out on tour again to support everything and we haven't been out for a while. And now we're in this other land. That's something independents offered us, is the ability to connect with the people that are out there. 'Cause people are into anything, anything you can think of as a human, you can find other people who are into it. There's billions of us, and even if you're into killing people and cutting them open and taking out their doo doo and making a lovely little brisket out of it, you can find at least another ten thousand people that are into it. So the Meat Puppets have found hundreds of thousands of people that dig our shit. And that's been enough for years to roll with it. But then this major label thing came along, and we're not anti-it, it's just too fun to resist. So we're in with them and they're a challenge, you know. Can we make this thing, this really fairly interesting thing, that's been noticed as interesting, and billed as such by the rock intelligence, can we make that something that is widely received? And that's what the critics all came at us with years ago. 'Can you do what Hendrix did? Can you do what the Beatles did?' That's what all the old sixties critics said to us. 'Can you make it a movement and change to face of the world?' And we're like, 'No. As a matter of fact we can't. 'Cause we're not gonna dress up like fuckin' Hendrix did, or like the Beatles did. Nor is there a war for us to exploit. 'Stop the war, man!' Oh, groovy!'

M: Well, I think I've got an interview.

C: Groovy. You have the startings of a book there.

M: I sure do.

C: This is a stock standard 'Interview to College Guy: Brand Q.' A PhD, though, in something as frivolous as that. Silly little waster of your own life and your parents money.

M: And everything you say is a lie, correct?

C: Yea. I like to preface my statements with a little bit of fuckin' boiled yak lard.

Two Interviews From the Early 80s

by Derrick Bostrom in

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Note: These files are presented "as is." does not offer tech support, nor can we mail them to folks unable to download them. Please be advised that this is a large file, and slower 'net connections may be unable to handle it. The files have been tested on both Macintosh and Windows platforms and they work fine. Good luck, and happy listening!)

A Sidebar Full Of Props

by Derrick Bostrom in

When the Arizona Republic ran their feature on the Kirkwood reunion last summer, they asked a handful of Phoenix luminaries for a list of their favorite local "influences," to be printed alongside the feature. I was included in the cattle-call, which included business entrepreneurs and broadcast celebrities as well as my fellow musicians. Naturally, I submitted a little more than just a list -- it was a perfect opportunity to add a little historic context, giving a little extra credit where it's due at the same time. Though the article itself made it online, as did the rest of the sidebar, I never saw anything by me, except in the the print edition. Whatever; I still have my copy:

Too often, a list of "influences" is just a bunch of artists somebody likes. This time, I've chosen to avoid the usual suspects (Hazelwood, Cooper, Tubes, et. al.) and attempt to rescue from the dustbin a handful of obscure Phoenicians who had an actual influence on me. If you've never heard of 'em, that just underscores how badly they need some ink.

1. Mike Condello Mike "Commodore" Condello was my first personal hero. His two "Mini Albums" released under the aegis of the Wallace And Ladmo show were my prized possessions as a kid. It took me months to save up enough allowance and visit the old Ladmo Drive-In for my copies (which I still have). Suffice to say, I knew Condello's take-offs on Sergeant Pepper and Jimi Hendrix long before I discovered the originals.

2. Dolan Ellis Back when we were teens, "Arizona's Official Balladeer" was a rich source of derision for my friends and I. To my by-then thoroughly Beatle/Hendrix saturated ears, Ellis' super-straight country crooning was profoundly kitschy. But Dolan's outlasted 'em all. He's still hanging in there.

3. Jack Knetzger Back before there was a Meat Puppets, my first musical mentor and I had a band called the Atomic Bomb Club. Perhaps if Jack hadn't been so determined to complete his college education and find a "real" job, Nirvana might have covered three of his songs instead. But he's also still going strong -- his web site at features several albums worth of free downloadable tracks, as well as a generous selection of old Bomb Club recordings (many of which feature guest performances by both Kirkwood brothers).

4. John Vivier The original renaissance man of the Phoenix punk scene. I first heard about him when his group the Heavy Metal Frogs played a stealth lunchtime gig at my high school. This was before the days of punk, but the group's psychotic performance earned them an escort off campus just the same. By the time I got to know him a couple years later, John was a member of most every cool band in town (Feederz, Liars, Cicadas, Killer Pussy, International Language). Hard living caught up with him in 1983. To this day, I'd like to smack him.

5. Don Bolles When one of your local heroes joins your favorite band (the Germs), there's only one word for it. Out here in Goldwater Country, we call it "pride."

6. David Wiley Even after he moved to Los Angeles, first with the Consumerz and later singing for the Human Hands, David and I maintained a correspondence. Once the Meat Puppets got on its feet, David got us our first gigs on the west coast, and made for us the crucial introductions. If anyone is said to have "discovered" the Meat Puppets, David is the man.

7 & 8. George Dillon & Bill Bored No mere bedroom noodlers, these boys helped break the Phoenix club scene open to local punk bands. Not only did they get their hands dirty, dealing with the local club owners, but they carried water for the rest of us. You can bet if Bill's popular new wave outfit The Nervous or George's uptown art/noise crew International Lanugage managed to con a bar into giving them a night, one of their scruffier fellow bands would also be on the bill.

9. Gary Russell When the Puppets first burst out of their little suburban practice space onto the greater Phoenix scene, the Killer Pussy's guitarist was the first to take us under his wing. His wacky sense of humor and free-form approach to performance made him an instant kindred spirit. Our early jam sessions with Gary helped us develop the improvisational spirit that left a lasting mark on our live shows.

10. Damon Bostrom With all the artistic foment occupying the local scene in the early 80s, it was only a matter of time before my brother jumped in. A classically trained composition major, his groups the Noknownames, Happy Sirens and Funston Arts Ensemble eschewed rock music for a more whimsical, cerebral approach. Combining serious musical aspirations with a loose undisciplined performing style, my brother's shows were fascinating not-to-be-missed events.

"Soup" - The Bethel Compilation

by Derrick Bostrom in

I got another great bite the other day while trolling the web with my ego feeds. Amidst the endless social networking pages ("Now Playing: Backwater"), reviewer hype ("original drummer Derrick Bostrom declined to participate") and right wing rants against so-called lapdogs of the "liberal media," I found another effort by a generous fan. Once again, I am saved by my energetic constituency from having to expend any effort. The European cassette-only "Bethel" compilation dates back from 1983, and traces its origin to an offer to contribute to a collection of "industrial" artists. Since the Meat Puppets were busy mining country and classic rock at the time, we were somewhat unsure of our place alongside of  such artists as Boyd Rice, Foetus and Nurse With Wound. But I dutifully snipped a few minutes from a warm-up noise jam from one of our home rehearsals and sent it in. At one point, Curt says, "I blow my nose in your soup." After the recording cuts off, entirely by accident, the next thing on the tape is my voice saying, "I think I'll have a bowl of soup." Impressed by the odd serendipity, I left it on the submission. Unfortunately, the compilers didn't catch on, and faded the track out before my spoken line. Disappointed, I listened to "Bethel" once then threw it into the archives. There were to be better Pups noise jams over the years, and this one had little to recommend it.

But fans have clamored for this track ever since I included it in my band discography. Thanks to Cranio and his "The Thing On The Doorstep" blog, I can cross that one off my list. And now that you've heard it, so can you. One interesting item of note: my copy came in a thin cardboard box with skeletons riding bikes printed on it. Cranio's copy appears to have come in standard cassette packaging with a teal cover.

The Thing On The Doorstep: Various - Bethel

"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 this Saturday for Bostrom's new show

by Derrick Bostrom in

This Saturday, March 31st at 3PM, Pacific Time, internet radio station, will debut my new hour-long show, "C'mon! Live A Little." You can find the station at its web site, 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, "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. 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