Master of Puppets

Curt Kirkwood is the heart, soul and everything else of the Meat Puppets, no matter who's in the band

Doug Sahm was actually part of the Golden Lies picture in an abstract way, and because of that, when he died two days before one of the Meat Puppets' Austin performances last winter, the band dedicated the show to the elder Sahm.

In fact, during the hardest times of last year, when London Records' commitments were being compromised and the band was waiting and doing the only thing it could do -- write more music (recording almost 60 songs in three years) -- Doug Sahm would sometimes poke his head in the studio.

"He used to say to us all the time, 'Music is what's happening beyond the other shit,'" Kirkwood remembers, "and the other shit is like, 'Oh, isn't that a pain in the ass?'"

New edition: Meat Puppets Version 2.0. Kirkwood 
(kneeling) and, from left, Ellison, Duplantis and Sahm.
New edition: Meat Puppets Version 2.0. Kirkwood (kneeling) and, from left, Ellison, Duplantis and Sahm.
Kirkwood on the original trio: "It was always evolving. I 
was never privy to what Meat Puppets is as a thing."
Kirkwood on the original trio: "It was always evolving. I was never privy to what Meat Puppets is as a thing."

Clearly, the elder Sahm's death was a blow to the band. Shandon was devastated. His father's heart condition was unknown, and his sudden death due to heart failure in New Mexico, following the death of Shandon's mom a year and a half before, shattered the drummer. "Hard stuff, I know man. Hard. I'm just thankful that I got to spend 30 years with him."

The Meat Puppets wound up playing that weekend after Doug Sahm's death -- a performance that's still talked about by those who were in the audience. Shandon decided it would be the best way to carry on -- to play the music. As he said, everything in this band is about the music.

So when you talk to any of the guys about the definition of integrity, any of them could unleash a hurricane of examples of how they've stuck it out in the business, regardless of the crap it entails. Because they all love it. Pure. Simple. Perhaps the album's title is about the surface conflict between making good music and making a bunch of money so you can keep making good music.

Kirkwood, as usual, shares a pithy view of the phenomenon that is large-scale music making in the 21st century. It's really basic.

"It's like the same thing we were all doing when we were smoking dope when we were kids," Kirkwood begins. "Fucking, 'I want to be Pink Floyd, man.'" He screws up his face and makes a goofy, howling riff sound that might the beginning of "Money." "That's all it is. It's just jamming out. That's all it is. It's the fucking groove, man. That's all it is. It's all the same fucking day, like Janis said. It's all the same fucking band. And it's the same planet, from the stupid monkey Romans or whatever, to the Neanderthal fucking dinosaurs. I mean, it's great that we've all noticed anything, anyway. That's the way I look at it. It's great that we've all noticed."

He's on a roll now. "That brings it back to the paradox of the trick," he says, continuing. "Get people involved and then get them beyond it. It's supposed to be transcendental. A lot of stuff in rock is like that. KISS or Elvis or Kid Rock or whatever. Rock by nature: Elvis is transcendence. Like, 'Yeah I'm wearing a fucking lime-green suit. Get over it.' And it's always like that. 'And by the way, thanks for fucking caring. Please don't call the police or do anything violent to me.' Just don't fucking pass out, that's all I can say. Or somebody's going to take your wallet."

It's an apt metaphor for just about anything that matters in life. Don't pass out, because someone will rob you. Or at least if you pass out, says Kirkwood, make sure you're alone.

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