Q&A: Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets

By: Sarah Ventre

The Meat Puppets’ long awaited return after more than a decade of absence from the valley brought fans old and new to the man-made shores of Tempe Town Lake. While any homecoming for a nationally recognized band is a big deal, this one in particular meant more than your run of the mill show as the Meat Puppets hadn't reunited since their mid-nineties split until two years ago.

Since joining forces once again, Cris and Curt Kirkwood have played SXSW, gone on two tours and released a new record. Bassist Cris Kirkwood sat down with the New Times and reflected on a new generation of Kirkwood music, smelly cheese food spread and poop pellets.

New Times: How was it to be back in town?

Cris Kirkwood: It was alright. It was fun. You know, there wasn’t enough crap blowin’ up onstage. I like to have a lot of explosions going on when I’m playing. It was fun. What did you think?

NT: I thought it was great. I had seen you guys in L.A. last summer, and I thought you sounded better last night than when I saw you in L.A.

K: Well, you know, in L.A. we were playing for a club full of people that were coming there specifically to see us, you know. And I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care what people think of me, you know? Fuck ‘em.

NT: I think the people that were there to see you guys had a really great time. Everybody seemed really enthusiastic and I heard people talking about it afterwards.

K: Good. I thought it was cool, and it’ll be fun to do a show of our own here in town, definitely. 'Cause right now, we’re definitely just having a blast playing. No doubt about it. Curt and I are definitely having a fucking good time playing, and Ted’s doing a real good job.

NT: Why didn’t you come here last summer?

K: Just nothing got set up. We just did a month with Built to Spill and we just got back Sunday. We played in Flagstaff last week, or two weeks ago...whenever it was. Just nothing’s been set up so far, any club thing. It’s kind of cool playing the first time in a long time in town at something big like that, but it’ll also be a real blast to have our own show where everybody’s there specifically to see us. I don’t know. What the fuck ever. But you know: play longer...have more explosions.

NT: You guys came out of the punk tradition, so a lot of your initial promotion was DIY. I think that’s really come back with things like Myspace. How are you guys marketing yourselves to a new generation of fans?

K: I don’t think we are marketing ourselves, if I’m not mistaken. I think we’re stumbling through the dark as we always have. Intentionally. 'Cause I think that’s about all anybody can really do. They can think that they’re marketing themselves, but ultimately what’s happening is that there’s this cheese food spread that covers the world, which is invisible and smells really really fuckin’ foul. And yet we’re inured to it. We actually like it. So we’re washed in the stench of the wonder weirdness. And that’s what sells. That’s how you prize the ducats from the gullible teens.

NT: Good! I’m glad you guys got that figured out.

K: Absolutely! Fuck, you know? You need some marketing, you call me baby. We’re gonna go big. We’re gonna go public with this thing.

NT: That’s fantastic.

K: You know, marketing. It’s just like, what the fuck.

NT: I guess marketing was probably not the right word.

K: No, it’s the right word. That’s a necessary part of trying to be a musician, maybe. Unless you just wanna have a job that supports yourself, or something. But you know, you wanna try and sell your crap. It just seems that largely in the music business, that’s the main motivation. It’s just that side of it. The music is just a tool with which to fuckin’ stroke your ego. Which is fine, if that’s what people are into. I just don’t give a fuck cause I’m a fuckin’ hateful bad thing. And my intent as far as marketing is concerned is to make people feel bad. And I got pretty god damn good at it, if I’m not mistaken.

NT: Yeah, well, it is an art, but I think you’re certainly able to pull it off.

K: I just like to pound on the fuckin’ stupid, wooden, electric thing. The metal and the wood and the electricity combined I find thrilling, as a monkey. I’m drawn to sparkly things.

NT: Aren’t we all?

K: Exactly.

NT: I know you guys just did the album Rise to Your Knees last year, but are you guys working on any new stuff right now?

K: It’s always in the works. We just do what we do. We’re always doing what we do. Yeah. No. I don’t know. Ask my marketeer. Mickey Marketeer. Yeah. No. Yes and no.

NT: Yes and no. Got it.

K: What are we doing? What’d you ask? Are we making a new record? We’re definitely kicking around some ideas. We’ve got a three-pronged attack basically. The first, is a new line of digestible fuckin’ poop pellets. I don’t fuckin’ know. Yeah, you know. Do whatever.

NT: Okay, well, let me know when the poop pellets are done, and we can move on to the next part. Phase two.

K: Prong two.

NT: Sorry. My apologies.

K: Yes, it’s very prongular. Phase is so last year. Jeez Louise. That record that we put out last year, that was the first time Curt and I had played together at all. That was just getting back together and playing and we just decided, well, let’s just make a fucking album. I didn’t even know half the songs when we went in there. And then we recruited Ted in the studio. He was doing audio for Joe Cultice’s film project, and we found out he was a drummer. And it was just like, fuck it, you play drums then. We were gonna do it ourselves. Curt was doing it at first. And then it’s like, well, screw it. That’s one less thing for Curt to do. More time for Curt to be able to do bongs. Ted didn’t know any of the songs. So we just whipped it out like that. It was just what we wanted to do at the time. Now, we’ve been playing together for a while, with Ted, and definitely it’ll be cool to see what we come up with next. Just another fuckin’ project. That’s all this has ever been, you know. Something to do.

NT: You’re still living in town, and Ted and your brother live in Austin, right?

K: No, Ted lives in Manhattan.

NT: Do you get together outside of when you’re touring?

K: Not if we can help it. No, not really.

NT: It’s like, “We made a triangle of the United States and decided to each live in a different corner?”

K: Well, we got together a couple of times last year. We figured out some of our old crap and ran through it a few times. It just depends on what we feel like, but we all live in different cities. In the old days we all lived in town together. e practiced a lot back then. We played a lot. It wasn’t just practice -- we played together a lot back then. A fuckin’ lotta good it did us, so why bother?

NT: Did you like [your nephew] Elmo’s show at Yucca Tap Room?

K: Oh yeah. It just blew my brains out. I thought it was really, really good.

NT: Me too. I hadn’t seen [Kirkwood-Dellinger] in a really long time. I’ve always liked them, but they sounded a lot better this last time than any other time I had ever heard them. They’re really tight now.

K: Really tight, really focused -- some really cool new songs. Yeah, just awesome. Elmo’s such a good musician, you know?

NT: He’s good at a lot of things. A really good songwriter too.

K: Yeah, it’s strange. It’s weird how his dad’s such a bad ass and so is he. It’s just like...crime-a-nitly! I thought they were great. The whole band sounded really good. I thought they pulled together a really cool band sound. It’s just really unique too. You can’t really put your finger on what kind of music it is specifically. It’s just really cool. Really, really cool.

NT: Is there anything else you want to add? K: Hail Satan.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jonathan McNamara