Before & After

The Meat Puppets relish the career that bookends their 90’s brush with fame

A semester at Creighton University told the Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood all he needed to know about his future in academics.

The 17-year-old Kirkwood attended the Jesuit university in the fall of 1976, but he returned to Arizona shortly after.

It got cold, so I left,” Kirkwood told the Reader during a Monday afternoon phone interview.

I wasn't that into college.”

Kirkwood's parents are originally from Omaha and many of his relatives still live in Nebraska and western Iowa. He and his brother Cris lived in town briefly, when Curt was in the first grade.

While at Creighton, Kirkwood says he was surrounded by people who would expose him to different types of music.

That was all I was into when I was there. I never went to class,” he says.

He had played guitar and clarinet since fourth grade, but he didn't start playing in rock bands until he returned to Phoenix after that semester at Creighton.

Kirkwood started out in a few cover bands and one original soft-rock band. Once Kirkwood got turned onto bands like Devo and the Talking Heads, it led him into a new direction.

Eventually, Kirkwood and his brother Kris formed the Meat Puppets. The band quickly became an underground rock mainstay, issuing several records on the seminal SST Records label. Their second album, Meat Puppets II, has earned its own seminal status, bridging the gap between hardcore punk, alternative rock and country rock.

What began on independent record labels has returned to independent record labels, in the days since the Meat Puppets reunited in 2006. The band is now on Megaforce Records, after releasing their first post-reunion album on Kansas City-based Anodyne Records.

The life of the Meat Puppets now has a lot of similarities with how life was like in the band's first decade together.

The record industry isn't as big of a deal,” Kirkwood says. “The shows are the main deal.”

In between the SST days and life now, the Meat Puppets ascended up on the wave of grunge-era alternative rock hype. 1994's Too High To Die even spawned rock radio singles.

We always had an upward trend,” Kirkwood says of the band during the early 90s.

However, the band received a bittersweet boost, after joining Kurt Cobain on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged session. A CD version of session was released shortly after Cobain's death. On the disc, the Kirkwoods join Cobain to play three Meat Puppets' songs.

The time after touring and playing with Cobain were sad, confusing times, Kirkwood says. Now, Kirkwood can cull the joyful memories of playing with Nirvana and getting to know all of the members of the band.

It makes sense after awhile because of time,” he says.

Kirkwood would later join up with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and play together as Eyes Adrift.

After a few solo projects, the Meat Puppets came back together when Curt and Kris started playing together again.

There wasn't much thought into what would happen, besides the fact that the two wanted to make music together again.

I didn't know how it would go putting out a new Meat Puppets record,” Kirkwood says.

Anodyne came first, expressing a love and strong desire to work with the band. After putting out 2007's Rise To Your Knees, the band switched to Megaforce. Megaforce has now released two Meat Puppets albums, including the 2011 release Lollipop.

The band recorded Lollipop in Austin at Public Hi-Fi, a studio owned by Spoon's Jim Eno. The eight-day session was a relaxed, intimate process, Kirkwood says.

It's right down the street from my house in Austin,” he says.

The band basically went in without rehearsing. They built up songs and even penned whole tracks in the studio.

Kirkwood says the process helped break through the sterility of the typical studio session. It helped the band mates listen more and kept them open to different possibilities on each song they recorded.

That's a really fun way to do something,” he says.

The Meat Puppets w/ Anonymous American play the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., Friday, July 1 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $14. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 10:43 am
on Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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