Shooting Star

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The interventionist was able to mollify security. "He's an older man, about 60, and a real respectable pro. He dealt with them. He said, 'Look, we're just trying to get a very sick man to a hospital,' and even when he put it in that light, they were just like, 'Good.' They treated us like shit, just because my brother was in a bad way with drugs.

"This stigma our society puts on junkies is fucked. My brother is not a bad person. It's a sickness. I wish someone would force medical treatment on him. But the law says you can't force medical treatment on people. Instead, you put them in jail. Well, fuck, that doesn't make any sense. To someone in my position, that's infuriating.

"Anybody who's ever partied understands drug addiction. Even if drugs didn't set the hook, you can feel it just a little bit. You can understand the junkie mindset. You want to have fun, and feel no pain, and that's all it takes. But then it all turns around on you, and it's no fun, and it's nothing but pain, but by then it's too late, because you're sick. But you're not a criminal."

Cris eventually got on the plane and checked into rehab, but he checked out five days later and went to a friend's house in L.A. When Cris called a limo, his friend tried to stop him from getting in, but Cris shoved him out of the way. That was in late August. Cris showed up in Tempe in early September. Curt heard from mutual friends that Cris was living in his car for a while, then a Motel 6. Curt says no one has seen him since a few days before Halloween. On October 6, Cris was arrested outside the Royal Inn Motel in north Scottsdale for possession of stolen property and false vehicle registration. A police officer became suspicious when he saw the license plate on Cris' Infiniti was haphazardly attached, ran the number, and discovered the plate was stolen. Those charges are also pending.

Cris turned 38 on October 22. Curt didn't send him a present or call.
"I have no idea how to get in touch with him."
Months before that last failed intervention, Curt stopped waiting for Cris to come back, and moved on without him. In the fall of '97, he formed a monster new band with Bob Mould bassist Andrew Duplantis (now on tour with roots-rock notables Son Volt), and two refugees from the San Antonio wunderkind heavy-metal band Pariah: guitarist Kyle Ellison and drummer Shandon Sahm, son of famed Texas singer-guitarist Doug Sahm, who played with the Sir Douglas Quintet.

Curt says Ellison is one of the few people he can relate to his bitter conundrum. Ellison's brother, Sims, played bass for Pariah. Sims went into a deep depression after Pariah was dropped by Geffen Records, and killed himself earlier this year.

"I think it's a day-to-day struggle for both Kyle and I to deal with our reality right now, and keep from irrationally thinking we're pathetic worms because it's all our fault. We help each other out in that respect."

Curt's new band debuted in March in Austin during South by Southwest, the music industry's largest annual conference. They played under the name Royal Neanderthal Orchestra, and received ecstatic reviews. One prominent Austin critic dubbed R.N.O. the most promising new band to emerge from the city in years.

"Everyone just assumed we'd be signed to some fat deal in a matter of weeks," Curt says.

The thing is, though, Curt already has a deal. He's under contract with London Records, the company that put out Too High to Die and No Joke. And unless he's willing to give up the rights to the name Meat Puppets, which he's not, Curt is obligated to provide London with two more Meat Puppets records. Which he's now happy to do, with or without Cris.

Curt is focusing now on preproduction work in his recording studio, and plans to record a new Meat Puppets album early next year. He says he has about four albums' worth of new material.

He wants to be doubly clear on this point: The Meat Puppets are alive and well.

"It seems like every time I've picked up a music magazine in the last two or three years, I've read about how the Meat Puppets disbanded in '95, or I see myself described as 'ex-Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood.' And I'm like, 'Hey, I didn't say a fucking thing about the band breaking up, did I? No.' It's my band. Just because I've got a junkie brother, that means no more Meat Puppets? Whatever.

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse