Interviews

Meat Puppets' Derrick Bostrom Talks Touring, the New Live Album, and What's Next

Most of Meat Puppets. From left: Curt Kirkwood, Ron Stabinsky (keyboards), Cris Kirkwood, and Derrick Bostrom.
Most of Meat Puppets. From left: Curt Kirkwood, Ron Stabinsky (keyboards), Cris Kirkwood, and Derrick Bostrom. Sonia Bovio
Meat Puppets’ drummer Derrick Bostrom is a fun person to play catch-up with.

We did it after he returned to the band after several years in summer 2018, and recently, we had a chance to do it again.

The occasion, this time? On May 6, the band released Meat Puppets Live Manchester 2019. The show was captured while the five-piece (Curt Kirkwood on guitar, Cris Kirkwood on bass, Elmo Kirkwood on guitar, Ron Stabinsky on keyboards, and Bostrom) was touring in support of their most recent full-length studio album, Dusty Notes.

Bostrom says that some of the shows on the tour were great — Manchester, particularly — and he wanted to find a way to get some of those moments out to the masses. Videographer Yousef Sheikh and his crew captured a multi-track audio and video recording from the show with exceptional playback quality. During the pandemic, the band posted some of this footage, and it impressed Darron Hemann of DC-Jam Records so much that he offered to put out a six-song picture disc featuring material from the show.

Bostrom says that while he was working on picking the pieces for the record, the improvisations that happened during the band’s set were a focus for him.

“The record isn’t super long — it’s under 40 minutes — but it gives a great snapshot of the improvs that we were doing and that people seemed to be liking.”

Any Meat Puppets fan knows that the band isn’t afraid to take some jammy twists and turns when they’re playing and ride on those improvisations. It’s all part of their signature eclectic style that brings together rock, punk, psychedelia, and country for the superb results that have kept fans hanging around for more than four decades.

Bostrom’s recollection of the improvisations on that Manchester stage goes deeper than that. They’re about shaking off the temporal things that go along with touring — like being exhausted or traveling and playing while sick — and just letting the music envelop everything.

"You have to throw a lot of those elements out of the way,” he says. “You have to be front and center for the show” to find the place where you’re just free to play.

He acknowledges that doesn’t always happen immediately, “When you start a tour, as you progress, you get your sea legs, and you start to focus. The essence of the songs starts to present themselves and what’s important comes to the forefront."

“As you find yourself on stage, you get to a point where you realize, ‘I don’t have anything to prove, I don’t have to overcompensate because I haven’t been on the road in a while,’ and when I just shut off my mind and open my heart, the music will play itself. On this tour, it slowly became obvious to me that was our theme — opening your heart.”

He says that the comfort level that night was just through the roof. “We were just so in tune with each other, and instead of just playing the parts really well, while we were doing that, we were tossing ideas back and forth. It was a true ensemble inspiration, to the point where I was thinking inside, ‘Where is this going, what is this? We’re good and all, but geez,’ he laughs. “The record gives everyone a taste of when everything is just harmonious like that.”

If you’re grabbing the record — a pretty, six-song picture disc — you’ll get to put ears on that Manchester experience and absorb how the band’s vibes and skills merged for an electrifying show. The unpredictability as the band weaves each song gets the heart jumping. Where it goes, you don’t want to do anything but follow it to the end. Expect to find some classic tracks like “Plateau,” “Up on the Sun,” and “Lake of Fire” next to a newbie like “Nine Pins” from Dusty Notes.

Touring is when the band spends the most time together. “Curt lives in Texas, and Ron lives in Pennsylvania, so we don’t get to see each other much otherwise," Bostrom says.

The band just got off the road with Seattle noisemakers Mudhoney, so New Times had to know what’s next for Meat Puppets. For instance, will Phoenix fans be treated to the annual show that happens during the winter holidays? “That is definitely the plan,” Bostrom says.

“We also have some shows booked for June. We are, of course, keeping our eyes on what’s happening with COVID. We are also hoping to get back to Europe in September or October, but nothing has been confirmed yet.”

In the meantime, you can check out the release. “I’m very proud of it,” Bostrom says. “Like any Meat Puppets release, it’s a snapshot in time that is now gone, and we’re looking forward to the next handful of snapshots.”
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young