Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets answers a lot of questions for Andrew Perry, including:
You were the fourth or fifth band on Greg Ginn from Black Flag’s label, SST — was it a chaotic operation?
We were there real early on. We were from Phoenix which is like a faraway suburb of L.A., in our minds at least. It’s 400 miles away, it’s where you’re always looking when you’re kid. Disneyland is there, Hollywood is there, the ocean. We would go over there and play, and what Black Flag saw in us was, we were way more pissed off and crazy, and played a lot faster than all the other punk-rock bands around. We weren’t even that good, we just played really fast, and were completely out of our minds.
But we weren’t typical, in that none of us were aggressive bruisers. We would play stuff from Broadway shows, and stuff that I really liked from my childhood, like The King And I, then we’d go as far out on the other limb as we could, and just really try to hurt people mentally. It’s all completely valid in the art realm, and we could see that — there’s just so much canvas here to cover, we can do anything. It’s still that way. I don’t like to repeat myself ever. So we did a screaming punk-rock record, then I just went, “I can’t do that again.” Then I heard Metallica, and I was like, “Fuck, let them do it!” But you know, they didn’t have to keep doing it.
Was country music a big influence?
We always knew about it, and had dabbled in it — we did “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” on our first record. Then I was just like, “Know what, we could use this stuff to really hurt punk rockers’ feelings.” Because I was starting to hate them. Like, “Oh yeah, freedom? As long as we don’t leave your box!” It has to be loud, fast, pissed off. It’s just like more classifications, that don’t really do you or your art any good. So, what we really need to do is not just be defiant, we have to actually hurt these people’s feelings. Let’s just do this as ass-backwards as we possibly can — like we thought Jimi Hendrix did it — get fucked up, and make a fucked-up fuckin’ record, exactly the way you want to.
How did the new direction go down with SST themselves?
They got it. They always got it, even Black Flag. Greg Ginn and Chuck [Dukowski] and The Minutemen and Hüsker Dü were all our best buddies — and are still some of my best friends. They had to be taken seriously as punk rockers. Then you got Rollins. Then it’s, Look out! Things get real serious. Everything was drawing a lot of mosh pit stuff, but they liked it, because we could open for them, and their crowd would just spit all over us, and hate us, and they’d be good and pissed off by the time Black Flag came on.
They figured it out, too, though — like, “This is funny, you guys came in like a punk rock thing, but you’re so not,” so it was part of actually the growing ethos that that label had. The Minutemen were doing it. We just tried to take the jock, macho element out of our thing, initially. What I saw with punk rock, especially in L.A., it was becoming like an athletic event for people to slamdance to. So it was like, let’s just play stuff that’ll put these people to sleep. That’s when people were going [aggrieved dullard’s voice], “Pink Floyd! Neil Young! Grateful Dead!” I was like, “Yeah, I like that stuff!”
You recorded Up On The Sun in three days flat. You wouldn’t have believed at the time that you’d be playing it in full at a festival in 2011, at the behest of one of the world’s coolest bands, ATP curators Animal Collective…
I would’ve said no! We hardly ever played it live that much. I see why we didn’t. There’s a lot of guitar parts on it, and it’s very artsy, it needs to be examined. Once again: more thought than I like to put into something when I’m onstage. I don’t know: God bless Animal Collective, I don’t know ’em, I don’t know what their motivation is here, probably self-indulgence — they just wanna sit there and drink beers and hear Up On The Sun played live.
(click here to continue reading eMusic Q&A: The Meat Puppets – eMusic Spotlight.)
The Meat Puppets were one of my favorite SST bands back in my UT – Austin days, especially their second album (wikipedia entry). I liked them for the fact that they weren’t afraid to abandon the jock-rock aggressive music template and play some unusual genres.