Meat Puppets is an American rock band formed in January 1980 in Phoenix, Arizona. The group's original lineup was Curt Kirkwood (guitar/vocals), his brother Cris Kirkwood (bass guitar/vocals), and Derrick Bostrom (drums). The Kirkwood brothers met Bostrom while attending Brophy Prep High School in Phoenix. The three then moved to Tempe, Arizona (a Phoenix suburb and home to Arizona State University), where the Kirkwood brothers purchased two adjacent homes, one of which had a shed in the back where they regularly practiced.
Meat Puppets started as a punk rock band, but like most of their labelmates on SST Records, they established their own unique style, blending punk with country and psychedelic rock, and featuring Curt's warbling vocals. Meat Puppets later gained significant exposure when the Kirkwood brothers served as guest musicians on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. The band's 1994 album Too High to Die subsequently became their most successful release. The band broke up twice, in 1996 and 2002, but reunited again in 2006.
Meat Puppets performing in 2014
|Origin||Phoenix, Arizona, United States|
|Years active||1980–1996, 1999–2002, 2006–present|
Elmo Kirkwood (touring member)
|Past members||Derrick Bostrom
Ken Boucher (session bassist)
Troy Meiss (touring member)
In the late 1970s, drummer Derrick Bostrom played with guitarist Jack Knetzger in a band called Atomic Bomb Club, which began as a duo, but would come to include bassist Cris Kirkwood. The band played a few local shows and recorded some demos, but began to dissolve quickly thereafter. Derrick and Cris began rehearsing together with Cris' brother Curt Kirkwood by learning songs from Bostrom's collection of punk rock 45s. After briefly toying with the name The Bastions of Immaturity, they settled on the name Meat Puppets in June, 1980 after a song by Curt of the same name which appears on their first album. Their earliest EP In A Car was made entirely of short hardcore punk with goofy lyrics, and attracted the attention of Joe Carducci as he was starting to work with legendary punk label SST Records. Carducci suggested they sign with the label, and Meat Puppets released their first album Meat Puppets in 1982, which among several new originals and a pair of heavily skewed Doc Watson and Bob Nolan covers, featured the songs "The Gold Mine" and "Melons Rising", two tunes Derrick and Cris originally had written and performed as Atomic Bomb Club previously. Years later, when the Meat Puppets reissued all of their albums in 1999, the five songs on In A Car would be combined with their debut album.
By the release of 1984's Meat Puppets II, the bandmembers "were so sick of the hardcore thing," according to Bostrom. "We were really into pissing off the crowd." Here, the band experimented with acid rock and country and western sounds, while still retaining some punk infulence on the tracks "Split Myself in Two" and "New Gods." This album contains some of the band's best known songs, such as "Lake of Fire" and "Plateau." While the album had been recorded in early 1983, the album's release was delayed for a year by SST. Meat Puppets II turned the band into one of the leading bands on SST Records, and along with the Violent Femmes, the Gun Club and others, helped establish the genre called "cow punk".
Meat Puppets II was followed by 1985's Up on the Sun. The album's psychedelic sound resembled the folk-rock of The Byrds, while interestingly the songs still retained hardcore influences in the lengths of the songs and the tempos. Examples of this new style are the self titled track, "Enchanted Porkfist" and "Swimming Ground." Up On The Sun also sees the Kirkwood brothers harmonizing their vocals for the first time. These 2 albums were mainstays of college and independent radio at that time.
Over the rest of the 80s, Meat Puppets remained on SST and released a series of albums while touring relentlessly. Between tours they would regularly play small shows in bars around the Phoenix area such as The Mason Jar (now The Rebel Lounge) and The Sun Club in Tempe. After the release of the hard-rock styled Out My Way EP in 1986, however, the band was briefly sidelined by an accident when Curt's finger was broken after being slammed in their touring van's door. The accident delayed the band's next album, the even more psychedelic Mirage, until the next year. The final result included synthesizers and electronic drums, and as such was considered their most polished sounding album to date. The tour for Mirage lasted less than 6 months, as the band found it difficult to recreate many of this album's songs in a concert atmosphere.
Their next album, the ZZ-Top inspired Huevos, came out less than six months afterward, in late summer of 1987. In stark contrast to its predecessor, Huevos was recorded in a swift, fiery fashion, with many first takes, and minimal second guessing. These recordings were completed in only a matter of days, and along with a few drawings and one of Curt's paintings taken from the wall to serve as cover art (a dish of three boiled eggs, a green pepper, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce), were all sent to SST shortly before the band returned to the road en route to their next gig. Curt revealed in an interview that one of the reasons for the album being called Huevos (meaning 'eggs' in Spanish) was because of the multitude of first-takers on the record, as similarly eggs can only be used once.
Monsters was released in 1989, featuring new elements to their sound with extended jams (such as "Touchdown King" and "Flight of the Fire Weasel") and heavy metal ("Attacked by Monsters"). This album was mostly motivated by the Meat Puppets' desire to attract the attention of a major label, as they were becoming frustrated with SST Records by this time.
As numerous bands from the seminal SST label and other kindred punk-oriented indies had before them, Meat Puppets grappled with the decision to switch to a major label. Two years after their final studio recording for SST, 1989's Monsters, the trio released its major-label debut, Forbidden Places, on the indie-friendly London Records. The band chose London Records because it was the first label that ZZ Top, one of their favorite bands, was signed to.
Forbidden Places combined many elements of the band's sounds over the years (cowpunk, psychedelia, riffy heavier rock) while some songs had a more laid back early alternative sound. Songs include "Sam" and "Whirlpool," and the title track. Despite being a fan favorite, Forbidden Places is now out of print, and as such it remains a highly sought-after collectible online.
In 1992 following his departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, guitarist John Frusciante auditioned for the band. Cris Kirkwood stated "He showed up with his guitar out of its case and barefoot. We were on a major label then, we just got signed, and those guys had blown up to where they were at and John needed to get out. John gets to our pad and we started getting ready to play and I said, 'You want to use my tuner?' He said, 'No, I'll bend it in.' It was so far out. Then we jammed but it didn't come to anything. Maybe he wasn't in the right place and we were a tight little unit. It just didn't quite happen but it could have worked."
In late 1993, Meat Puppets achieved mainstream popularity when Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who became a fan after seeing them open for Black Flag in the 80's, invited Cris and Curt to join him on MTV Unplugged for acoustic performances of "Plateau", "Oh Me" and "Lake of Fire" (all originally from Meat Puppets II). The resulting album, MTV Unplugged in New York, served as a swan song for Nirvana, as Cobain died 138 days after the concert. "Lake of Fire" became a cult favorite for its particularly wrenching vocal performance from Cobain. Subsequently, the Nirvana exposure and the strength of the single "Backwater" (their only charting single) helped lift Meat Puppets to new commercial heights. The band's studio return was 1994's Too High To Die, produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary. The album featured "Backwater", a minor hit on alternative radio, and a hidden-track update of "Lake of Fire." This album features a more straightforward alternative rock style, with occasional moments of pop, country and neo-psychedelic moments. Too High To Die earned the 'Pups a gold record (500,000 sold), outselling their previous records combined.
1995's No Joke! was the final album recorded by the original Meat Puppets lineup. Stylistically it is very similar to Too High to Die, although much heavier and with darker lyrics. Examples of this are the single "Scum" and "Eyeball," however the band's usual laid-back style is still heard on tracks like "Chemical Garden." Though the band's drug use included cocaine, heroin, LSD and many others, Cris' use of heroin and crack cocaine became so bad he rarely left his house except to obtain more drugs. At least two people (including his wife and one of his best friends) died of overdoses at his house in Tempe, AZ during this time. The Kirkwood brothers had always had a legendary appetite for illegal substances and during the tour to support Too High To Die with Stone Temple Pilots, the easy availability of drugs was too much for Cris. When it was over, he was severely addicted to cocaine and heroin. When their record label discovered Cris' addictions, support for No Joke! was subsequently dropped and it was met with poor sales figures.
Derrick recorded a solo EP under the moniker Today's Sounds in 1996, and later on in 1999 took charge of re-issuing the Puppets' original seven records on Rykodisc as well as putting out their first live album, Live in Montana. Curt formed a new band in Austin, TX called the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra, but they changed their name to Meat Puppets for legal reasons and released a promotional EP entitled You Love Me in 1999, Golden Lies in 2000 and Live in 2002. The line-up was Curt (voc/git), Kyle Ellison (voc/git), Andrew Duplantis (voc/bass) and Shandon Sahm (drums). Sahm's father was the legendary fiddler-singer-songwriter Doug Sahm of The Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados. The concluding track to Classic Puppets entitled "New Leaf" also dates from this incarnation of the band.
Bassist Cris was arrested in December 2003 for attacking a security guard at the main post office in downtown Phoenix, AZ with the guard's baton. The guard shot Kirkwood in the stomach at least twice during the melee, causing serious gunshot injuries requiring major surgery. Kirkwood was subsequently denied bail, the judge citing Kirkwood's previous drug arrests and probation violations. He eventually went to prison at the Arizona state prison in Florence, Arizona for felony assault. He was released in July 2005.
Derrick Bostrom began a web site for the band about six months before the original trio stopped working together. The site went through many different permutations before it was essentially mothballed in 2003. In late 2005, Bostrom revamped it, this time as a "blog" for his recollections and as a place to share pieces of Meat Puppets history.
On March 24, 2006, Curt Kirkwood polled fans at his MySpace page  with a bulletin that asked: "Question for all ! Would the original line up of Meat Puppets interest anyone ? Feedback is good – do you want a reunion!?" The response from fans was overwhelmingly positive within a couple of hours, leading to speculation of a full-blown Meat Puppets reunion in the near future. However, a post made by Derrick Bostrom on the official Meat Puppets site dismissed the notion.
In April 2006 Billboard reported that the Kirkwood brothers would reunite as Meat Puppets without original drummer Derrick Bostrom. Although Primus drummer Tim Alexander was announced as Bostrom's replacement, the position was later filled by Ted Marcus. The new lineup recorded a new full-length album, Rise to Your Knees, in mid-to-late 2006. The album was released by Anodyne Records on July 17, 2007.
On January 20, 2007, Meat Puppets brothers performed two songs during an Army of Anyone concert, at La Zona Rosa in Austin, Texas. The first song was played with Curt Kirkwood and Cris Kirkwood along with Army of Anyone's Ray Luzier and Dean DeLeo. Then the second song was played with original members Curt and Cris Kirkwood and new Meat Puppets drummer Ted Marcus. This was in the middle of Army of Anyone's set, which they listed as Meat Puppet Theatre on the evening's set list. The band performed several new songs in March at the South by Southwest festival. On March 28, 2007, the band announced a West Coast tour through their MySpace page. This is the first tour with original bassist Cris in eleven years. The tour continued into the east coast and midwest later in 2007.
In 2008 they performed their classic second album live in its entirety at the ATP New York festival.
The band parted ways with Anodyne, signed to Megaforce and began recording new material in the winter of 2008. The resulting album, entitled Sewn Together, was released on May 12, 2009. In the summer of 2009 the band continued to tour across America. They appeared in Rochester, Minnesota outside in front of over 5,000 fans, after playing Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the night prior. Meat Puppets performed at the 2009 Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans over the Halloween weekend.
As of November 2009, Shandon Sahm is back as the drummer in Meat Puppets, replacing Ted Marcus. The band was chosen by Animal Collective to perform the album 'Up on the Sun' live in its entirety at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival that they curated in May 2011.
Meat Puppets have played several gigs in their hometown since 2009, such as the Marquee show in June 2011 with Dead Confederate.
Meat Puppets also contributed to Spin Magazine's exclusive album Newermind: A Tribute to Nirvana, playing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
In June 2012, a book titled Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets by author Greg Prato was released, which featured all-new interviews with band members past and present and friends of the band, and covered the band's entire career.
In March 2013 Meat Puppets opened for Dave Grohl's Sound City Players at the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX 
The Meat Puppets were picked to open for an 11 show tour is support of The Dean Ween Group in October 2016 after Curt Kirkwood and drummer Chuck Treece contribute to The Deaner Album. Also the same year, Cris either produced and/or played with the following artists for Slope Records - The Exterminators, the Linecutters, and Sad Kid.
On August 17th, 2017, original drummer Derrick Bostrom posted an update on his website derrickbostrom.net. He performed with Cris, Curt and Elmo Kirkwood at a concert honoring the Meat Puppets. It appears that, while Derrick enjoyed himself, that this was a one-off performance.