With a new record on the way pre show... the Pups return to bring the rawk!
MEAT PUPPETS BIO
Original. Influential. Uncompromising. Unpredictable. Not very many rock bands warrant being linked to such descriptions, but the Meat Puppet certainly do. With a career that has spanned four decades, the Meat Puppets have witnessed countless musical movements and fads come and go, but despite it all, have stuck to their guns and retained a dedicated fan base. Along the way, the Puppets have made admirers out of some of rock's most renowned names - most obviously Kurt Cobain, who personally invited the Puppets to appear on Nirvana's classic performance, MTV Unplugged in New York - and have amassed a canon of timeless songs ("Plateau," "Lake of Fire," "Up on the Sun," "Backwater," etc.).
Formed in 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona, the original Puppets line-up consisted of singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood, bassist Cris Kirkwood, and drummer Derrick Bostrom. Throughout the decade, the group steadily issued classic indie recordings, including 1984's Meat Puppets II, 1985's Up on the Sun, and 1987's Huevos, and were constantly criss-crossing the States, becoming a must-see live act in the process.
Jumping to a major label in the early '90s, the band saw their greatest commercial success in 1994, thanks to the aforementioned Nirvana Unplugged broadcast/album release (in which three Puppets classic were performed - "Plateau," "Oh, Me," and "Lake of Fire"), and a gold-certified album, Too High to Die, which spawned the MTV/radio hit, "Backwater."
Although the original Puppets line-up would splinter in 1996, Curt kept the band afloat with a new line-up for a spell, during which time he enlisted the aid of drummer Shandon Sahm. The Kirkwood brothers eventually reconciled in 2006, resulting in two more critically acclaimed albums - 2007's Rise to Your Knees and 2009's Sewn Together - before Sahm signed on once more, resulting in such modern day Puppets classics as 2011's Lollipop and 2013's Rat Farm. And recently, Curt's son, Elmo, joined the band as second guitarist.
"It's going to be real blown up folk music," explains Curt about Rat Farm. "I tried to write stuff that would be kind of easy to learn and easy to play, try and get it to stand on its own that way - just the chords and the melodies, and play it kind of straight. I think that was the guiding boundaries that I gave myself."
"I didn't want to get too complicated. It was one of those things where a lot of times, in the past especially, Cris would go, 'Well, that's all there is? Let's put a prog rock part in the middle.' But I tried to hold it off as much as I could. I'm a lot of times trying to do that - be as simple as possible - because it tends to make something stick for me a little better, because I don't have to think about it that much when I'm playing it. And that I might actually wind up playing it live at some point, which is what I'm trying to do. I made it a point to do that."
Additionally, the band's entire career was recounted in book form around this time, with the release of the must-read Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, which retells the band's entire history. Assembled by journalist/Puppets fan Greg Prato, the book features recollections from band members past and present, as well as such admirers as Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Peter Buck (REM), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), and Henry Rollins (Black Flag/Rollins Band), among countless others, and pulls no punches in telling the band's wild and wooly tale.
This far into their career, the Meat Puppets continue to offer inspired live performances and strong recordings, which match up extremely well to their earlier classics. And as evidenced by Rat Farm and their upcoming live dates, you'll soon have the opportunity to experience the power of the mighty Meats yourself.
Out of all of the bands that made SST Records a towering force in the American underground during the mid-'80s, Meat Puppets lasted the longest, surviving where other bands fell apart. Meat Puppets never had the dedicated following of HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ or the Minutemen -- two fellow SST bands who played the same circuit as the Puppets -- but they were able to carve out a long career where other hardcore bands could not, because they always drew from conventional hard rock as well as punk. Not only did they play hard, loud, and fast, but they also had elements of the blues-rock of ZZ Top, the ambling folk-rock of the Grateful Dead, and Neil Young's country-rock and hard rock. As they grew older, the band matured musically, developing an accomplished instrumental technique and moving closer to the traditional hard rock that was always underneath their punk. But they never quite abandoned their punk roots, even when they briefly broke into the mainstream in the early '90s.
The core of Meat Puppets was Curt (guitar; born January 10, 1959) and Cris Kirkwood (bass; born October 22, 1960), a pair of brothers born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. As teenagers, the Kirkwoods played in local rock & roll bands, primarily playing mainstream rock and hard rock. After graduating from a Jesuit prep school, the brothers formed Meat Puppets in 1980 with drummer Derrick Bostrom. Unlike the Kirkwoods' earlier bands, the Meat Puppets were directly inspired by punk rock; they were so committed to keeping the music punk that they refused to rehearse.
A little over a year after their formation, Meat Puppets released their first EP, In a Car, on World Imitation. At this point in their career, the band was at its noisiest, playing furious hardcore with avant-garde leanings. Greg Ginn, the lead guitarist for Black Flag and the head of SST Records, heard the record and offered the Meat Puppets a contract with SST. In 1982, the band released their full-length eponymous debut album on SST, which continued in the experimental vein of their EP.
Meat Puppets didn't develop their own distinctive voice until their second album, Meat Puppets II, which was released in 1984. On Meat Puppets II, the band created a fusion of punk and country that sounded unlike anything else in the American underground. With their second album and constant touring, Meat Puppets began to cultivate a dedicated cult following across the U.S. that continued to grow throughout the rest of the decade. In 1985, the group released their third album, Up on the Sun, which earned them their first reviews in mainstream music publications. Up on the Sun also demonstrated that the band was beginning to streamline their sound, moving closer to traditional blues-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia. This shift toward conventional hard rock continued throughout the late '80s, as the band gradually sanded away their rougher punk edges.
After releasing an EP called Out My Way in 1986, Meat Puppets released two critically acclaimed albums -- Mirage and Huevos -- in 1987. By the release of Mirage, Meat Puppets had established themselves as college radio stars, as well as popular attractions on the American underground circuit. Monsters, their final album for SST Records, was released in 1989, and its heavy rock attack foreshadowed the approach the band would adopt in the following decade. The straightforward sound of Monsters wasn't greeted favorably by the band's cult following, and the record stiffed on college radio.
Following the weak reception of Monsters, Meat Puppets broke up. In 1991, they re-formed and signed a major-label deal with London Records. Before they recorded their first album for London, SST issued the compilation No Strings Attached in 1990. The following year, Forbidden Places, the group's major-label debut, appeared in the stores. Forbidden Places was neither a commercial nor underground success.
For two years after the release of Forbidden Places, Meat Puppets were relatively quiet, playing a couple of gigs every once in a while. In 1993, they re-emerged as an opening act on Nirvana's In Utero tour. Toward the end of the tour, Nirvana taped an appearance for MTV Unplugged, during which they covered three songs from Meat Puppets II with Meat Puppets themselves. The exposure on MTV Unplugged helped set the stage for the commercial breakthrough of the band's second major-label album, 1994's Too High to Die. Released around the same time as MTV Unplugged originally aired, Too High to Die didn't gather much attention at first, but after Kurt Cobain's suicide in April, the record and its first single, "Backwater," began to move. This was due to radio's acceptance of "Backwater," but also to MTV's constant airings of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged. By the summer of 1994, "Backwater" was a genuine hit, climbing to number two on the album rock charts and just missing the pop Top 40. None of the other singles from Too High to Die performed quite as well, but the album was a success, becoming the group's first to go gold. Meat Puppets released No Joke!, their follow-up to Too High to Die, in the fall of 1995. However, this album received mediocre reviews and little airplay, and disappeared from the charts and radio a few months after its release.
Following this setback, the Pups effectively went on hiatus. Derrick Bostrom recorded a one-off EP of goofy, saccharine pop covers for the Amarillo label in 1996 under the name Today's Sounds; he subsequently took a job with a multimedia company, also overseeing both the band's website and Rykodisc's 1999 Meat Puppets reissue campaign. Cris Kirkwood, unfortunately, did not fare so well. With the influx of fame and cash, his drug problem had worsened during the No Joke! sessions, and in 1995, he married Michelle Tardif, whose own addictions and run-ins with the law sent things spiraling out of control. Tragedy struck in December 1996, when the Kirkwoods' mother died, and again in August 1998 when Tardif died of a drug overdose. After virtually disappearing for a short time, Cris began to sort out his addictions in rehab programs, and his attendant legal problems in court. Meanwhile, the band's label, London Records, was swallowed up by Universal in a corporate mega-merger.
An overloaded Curt Kirkwood had already relocated to Austin, Texas, prior to Tardif's death; there he formed a new outfit dubbed the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra with ex-Pariah members Kyle Ellison (guitar) and Shandon Sahm (drums; also the son of Doug Sahm), plus former Bob Mould bassist Andrew DuPlantis. Eventually, this group took over the Meat Puppets name (although neither Bostrom nor Cris Kirkwood was ever officially removed from the lineup). Curt secured a release from his prior contract and signed with Breaking, an Atlantic subsidiary. Golden Lies, Meat Puppets' first new album in five years, was released in the fall of 2000. Seven years later, after a lengthy struggle with substance abuse, Cris Kirkwood reunited with brother Curt and new drummer Ted Marcus for the release of Rise to Your Knees. Touring lasted through the end of 2007, while sporadic shows kept the bandmates busy in 2008. They also returned to the studio that year, and their twelfth studio effort, Sewn Together, was released in the spring of 2009. The band continued to stay busy, announcing that they would be performing Up on the Sun at the Animal Collective curated All Tomorrow's Parties in 2011. They also continued to work on new material, and went into Spoon's HiFi Studio in Austin to work on their thirteenth studio album, Lollipop. It was released in April of 2011 by Megaforce Records. There's a new record coming in advance of this gig!