A few weeks ago both Mike Kelly and Channing Lewis of Grand Champeen alerted me to this podcast with separate posts to my Facebook wall. Thanks fellas, you know me so well. It’s a one-on-one conversation between Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster and Bicycle Thief and Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets. The interesting twist on this casting of pods is that you’d expect Bob to have a podcast. He’s a legendary raconteur and is a natural for that kind of forum. But no, this convo is for The Cris Kirkwood Podcast, a surprising and most welcome development. I’m not sure if it’s entirely fair to call the Pups reclusive, but the Kirkwood Brothers, Cris and Curt, have never made themselves particularly accessible.
Hell, 10-15 years ago, Cris Kirkwood was inaccessible due to lifestyle first, and then by court mandate. So, it’s a treat (of sorts) to hear him talk honestly about prison and drug abuse, as well as how he got into music and the origin of the Meat Puppets. Given my well-chronicled love for Thelonious Monster more Bob stories are always welcome. But, what made this podcast click — and I imagine this was both deliberate and the work of producer, Bill Cody — was that having Bob Forrest on the first show made Cris’ job a LOT easier. Because they’re friends, they’re comfortable and speak easily to one another, and with Bob you never have to worry about dead air. Bob is also good about drawing stories out of Cris and asking follow-up questions. (He really should consider doing that professionally.) In sports parlance, it’s nice to have a guy who can create his own shot and Bob Forrest certainly does that. It’s probably why the next guests on Cris’ show are Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) and Wayne Kramer (MC5), two men also born with the gift of gab.
Even though we’re tangential to the discography, it’s nice to finally acknowledge the brilliance of the Meat Puppets here on The Adios Lounge. For no good reason I’ve never written about them before, but they’ve gotta be one of the most original and underrated rock bands of the last 30 odd years. Up On The Sun is one of my favorite records ever. Meat Puppets II is a classic, I get that, but Up On The Sun is my jam. The recordings, though, take a backseat to their live shows, which is where I think the Meat Puppets are meant to be heard. I wish I saw them back in their ’80s heyday, but I caught them in Seattle on the Too High To Die tour, and twice in Austin in the 2000s. They were a juggernaut of musicality every time. The songs breathe, bend, and stretch out live in a way that their albums only suggest and the drum sound is invariably better on stage. “Bakersfield meets LSD,” as Bob says below, is an oversimplified description of the Meat Puppets’ sound, but it’s not wrong.
So, here’s the podcast, which is just over an hour in length. I’ve transcribed most of the conversation — the parts I thought were particulary relevant — only editing it for flow and concision. I don’t offer much commentary because these guys should do the heavy lifting, but if I have something to say it’s bracketed and in italics. I’ve also included time markers throughout, so you can track where you are in the conversation. If you like this show, please visit one (or all) of the following:
The Cris Kirkwood Podcast on Soundcloud
The Cris Kirkwood Podcast on Facebook
The Cris Kirkwood Podcast on Twitter
And for fuck’s sake, go buy some Meat Puppets albums!
Less than a minute into his debut podcast and the first words out of Cris’ mouth are, “The old man ballsack story podcast,” with Bob cackling in glee. And we’re off! Pretty sure this is gonna be one of my favorite interviews ever. IN YOUR FACE, TERRY GROSS!
Producer Bill Cody introduces himself. It’s worth noting that Cody is a filmmaker who produced Athens, GA: Inside/Out, the 1987 documentary on the Athens music scene, and 19 years later produced Two Headed Cow, the 2006 documentary on Dexter Romweber of Flat Duo Jets and The Dex Romweber Duo.
Bob: Bill was my sponsor in AA for many years.
Cris: Sweet. A lotta good it did!
Bob [laughing]: I know. He really helped me grow up and take responsibility for myself.
FIRST TIME SEEING THE MEAT PUPPETS
Bill: So why don’t we start out with the first time Bob saw the Meat Puppets play.
Bob: It was right down the street — 1980-81, probably [June 4, 1981, flyer below] — you opened for DNA at the LA Press Club and I’d never seen hippies like that.
Cris: No. We were totally hippies, like acidheads with bad vibes.
Bob: Like many kids in southern California I idolized SST, and Meat Puppets, and Minutemen, and I was in the audiences for the next 5 years probably. And then I played music and ended up — you know, there’s just the elders that you look up to. And then I got to know Cris and he’s not really an elder to look up to! [everyone laughs]
Cris: FUCK NO!
Bob: He’s actually a guy you try to keep safe. You know what I mean??? It’s your responsibility to try to keep your elder guy you look up to from killing himself [laughs].
Cris: You tried. I’ll give you that, Bob. Don’t blame yourself.
Bob: Many a night I was worried for you.
A MISSION FROM GOD
Bob: I ended up getting bad into drugs, and got off of drugs, and I had a PASSION for getting people off of drugs. Which people think I still have to this day. I don’t really have it anymore. I just do it for a profession. But when I first got sober, Anthony Kiedis and I just thought all our friends that we love, we’ve gotta save them.
Cris: That was a shocking experience.
Bob: Cris was second on the list. Gibby Haynes [Butthole Surfers] was first and Cris was second. And we failed at both approaches [laughs].
Cris: It was so touching. Here’s what the story is. I will admit to having gotten pretty far out. Considerably far out, to the degree that I was fairly inaccessible. So, I’m sitting in my little hidey-hole–
Bob: In the garage. You weren’t even in your house!
Cris: No. That was our little studio, actually. That’s where the band practiced. We soundproofed that thing–
Bob: There was so much tinfoil and pipes around it was hard to see that there was a recording studio [laughs].
Cris: Oh dude. “Watch your feet!” [everyone laughs] All of a sudden I get a phone call.
“Cris, it’s Anthony.” It was Anthony Kiedis from the Chili Peppers.
“What’s up, Anthony?”
“I’m out in front of your house with Bob.” [Bob laughs]
“What do you mean you’re out in front of my house? Really?” And I’m sitting there going, “This is some good dope, man.” [Bill laughs]
Bob: We had already climbed into (the) window of your house and walked around.
Cris: AWESOME. I didn’t know that detail, that’s sweet.
Bob: We were on a mission from God to save you.
Cris: Oh lovely, lovely. So, you saw some of the stinky details that were all over the ground?
Bob: Yeah. I remember your reaction for the first 10 minutes we were in this garage. You were addicted to crack and you’d look at me and go, “Are you guys playing?!?! Why are you guys out here???”
Cris: Totally! [everyone laughs]
Bob: We’re like, “No. We came to take you back to LA and go to rehab.”
And (Cris) is like, “So, what are you guys doing out here???” [everyone laughs]
Cris: “Y’ALL WANT SOME CRACK!!!” [more laughing]
Bob: It was a lesson learned. You can’t force these things on people.
Cris: No, you definitely can’t. Rehabilitation is an interesting thing. I think it comes when it can. Ultimately, what it took for me to get off dope was getting shot and having to go to fucking prison.
Bob: When I heard it I thought, “That’s Cris Kirkwood right there! Fighting over a parking space and ended up getting shot!”
Cris: BOOM! [in disbelief] “You shot me?!?! How could you shoot me??? I’m such a nice guy!”
Bill: You said that hurt.
Cris: It didn’t hurt that much, actually. It knocked me on my ass and I doinked my head on the sidewalk. He shot me in the back. Let’s get that clear. And I didn’t cry in court, there were some questions about that.
Bob: Did you sue the county?
Cris: No. I mean I had to go to fucking prison. There was no suing anybody. I had to shuttle off to the penitentiary.
Bob: How long were in? 2 years?
Cris: That one was close to 2 years.
Bob: [incredulous] There was ANOTHER one I don’t know about???
Cris: Yeah. I did a lot of time. I went through a lotta rough shit with the dope thing. It was strange. Some of my pals out here, like y’all, were going through some stuff, and there was a different tack on things in Phoenix, where I’m from. There definitely was no love from the authorities and whatnot. The last go round with the shooting was the last time I did time.
Bob: In the recovery racket we call that, “It takes what it takes.”
Cris: Yeah, well, that was a little more than I needed to take [everyone laughs].
Bob: Why didn’t you ever just move to LA? You could still be high now?
Cris: I’d still be stoned as fuck, floating around, the cops would be like, “Oh, that guy. Just give him a pass. Free pass!”
Bob: “You know, that second record’s so great. Let him go.” That’s what happens out here! I was with Flea one time on PCH. He had this new car and he was going 135.
Bob: And we get pulled over. He’s like, “I think I have a warrant out for my arrest.”
I was like, “Oh God!”
And he goes, “Just shut up. Just shut up.”
He rolls the window down, he looks up, and the cop goes, “Is that who I think it is?”
He goes, “If you think it’s Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers it is.” [laughs]
Cris: “Yes, it certainly is, sir!”
Bob: That’s Los Angeles!
Bob: Even within the SST world you seemed like outsiders.
Cris: Yeah, we always were. The Meat Puppets — I’m the bass player in the Meat Puppets, just to clarify.
Bob [laughing]: Would people not know that???
Bob: Name a band that nobody knows who the drummer is?
Cris: Led Zeppelin.
Bob [in utter disbelief]: John Bonham???
Cris [totally going for it]: Bob Forrest??? “Moby Dick!”
Bob: We used to get into clubs because Matt Dike [Dust Brothers], my friend, was really handsome and he looked like a rock star more than rock stars. I used to sneak in (by telling) the doorman, “That’s the dude from Night Ranger.”
Cris: Oh sweet!
Bob: Because nobody knew (what) Night Ranger looked like and they’d always let us in!
GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
Bob: When you’ve made the records you’ve made, you know that people wanna hear those songs. Those songs are immortal and those albums are forever. Kids 12 years old start listening to ’em and they wanna hear those songs. How do you feel about that?
Cris: That’s all right. We definitely address stuff that people know. But, we’ll also go to the places that we want to go as well. Those songs remain alive, I don’t know. It’s one of the things that’s magical about where we’ve gotten to. I’m a crusty beat up old shit and I don’t wanna belabor the point. But, to have gotten to the point that we have as a musical entity, as a band, is fuckin’ interesting. That it still actually has some vitality to it.
Bob: But, you know how people are. I went and saw Elvis Costello one time and I didn’t go see the tour where he did the Burt Bacharach thing (October 20, 1998 @ Universal Amphitheater), (but later) he came and did the solo tour. I hated that Burt Bacharach record, I didn’t wanna hear it. And I go to the solo show and [for] the 5th song at The Wiltern* he starts playing (something) off the Burt Bacharach record. I yelled out, “Give us a fucking break!” and he stopped playing [everyone laughs]. [Mockingly] “If I wanted to hear Burt Bacharach I’d be at the Burt Bacharach show!”
[* This is probably the Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve show from June 2, 1999. The 5th song was “Toledo,” the second track from the 1998 Costello/Bacharach album, Painted From Memory.]
Cris: There’s that side of things, too. I remember we (presumably Cris and Curt) told our mom we were gonna go camping because we wanted to use her little mini-truck, a Chevy Luv. We drove over here to see (Captain) Beefheart, at those last shows he did.
Bob: At The Golden Bear [in Huntington Beach]?
Cris: The ones we saw were at the Whisky. And there was a point where he’s doing what he’s doing and somebody starts yelling in the audience, griefin’ him a little bit.
He just stops and he’s like, “FUCK OFF!!!” [everyone laughs].
I’m just sitting there going, “Far out!”
And he’s like, “No, fuck off! I mean it, I’m serious! I’m DEADLY serious!”
Bob: He’s not playing Trout Mask Replica.
Cris: He’s gonna do what the fuck he wanted to do.
Captain Beefheart – Woe-Is-Uh-Me-Bop
January 15, 1971
[This is a Beefheart song that the Meat Puppets have allegedly covered. I hope that’s true. Please be true.]
I remember one time I saw Leo Kottke in the ’70s, the guitar player Leo Kottke. He’s one of my faves, he’s just such a fuckin’ badass.
Bob: You are a real stoner, aren’t you? [laughs]
Cris: Totally. A wastoid from hell.
Bob [in disbelief]: LEO KOTTKE?!?!
Cris: I fuckin’ love that shit.
Bob: That is stoner acoustic rock like you never heard before! So, would you say that’s a big influence on Meat Puppets?
Cris: Oh definitely.
Bob: Oh my God [laughs].
Cris: Oh absolutely. I wish I could have that guy influence me. I wish I had the ability to get to that kind of musicality. So, Leo’s playing and in between songs he’s tuning up. It’s just him and some guitars. Somebody’s like, “I saw you at so and so and so and so,” and he leans into the mic and goes, “Who gives a shit?” [Bob laughs]. So there’s that side of things, too. You’re gonna do what you wanna do as an artist.
Doc Watson, Chet Atkins, and Leo Kottke – Last Steam Engine Train
[Cris’ out of nowhere mention of Leo Kottke reminded me of this old clip, so thank God for YouTube. Not sure of the year. It’s Kottke pickin’ the John Fahey song he covered twice at the start of his career, but here he’s joined by Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. Kottke may be a talented guitarist, but Doc and Chet are arguably 2 of the 10 greatest guitarists of the 20th century, and they put on a guitar clinic for poor (though lucky) Leo.]
ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES
Bill: All Tomorrow’s Parties is this festival they used to have in England and obviously it’s a song from The Velvet Underground. They would invite various people to curate it and they invited the Meat Puppets to play one year. They had advertised that they were gonna play Meat Puppets II in its entirety. (Cris) was talking on the phone, “I think they want us to play a bunch of stuff off of Meat Puppets II.”
I said to Cris, “You’re supposed to play the whole record.”
Cris goes, “We don’t know all of those songs.”
And I say, “Well, I think you’re gonna have to learn ’em!”
Meat Puppets – Lake Of Fire
[Obviously, the band knew this Meat Puppets II song, but it was nice to stumble onto this version, which looks to be early-to-mid-’90s, but I’m not sure where. The song is going along pretty good, then Curt kicks it up a notch with his solo at 1:31, and then kicks it up several notches from 1:50-2:17 when he throws down the Billy Gibbons Gauntlet. All “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” on our ass. And please note his sweet George Jones shirt.]
Bob: So, not to namedrop, but Steven Tyler is a friend of mine. We grew up listening to Aerosmith, right? One of the greatest moments of my life, he’s at my house playing acoustic guitar, and I go, “Play ‘Seasons Of Wither.'” And he played it and sang it, and … oh my God!
Cris: I have a similar story. One time we were making a record, we were making Huevos. Remember that record?
Bob: Yeah, yeah. Mercury? No, that was SST.
Cris: That was SST, yeah. That blue painting on the front.
Bob: No drugs on that one!
Cris: No no! We’d been clean by then for decades [everyone laughs].
So, we’re at this studio, it’s called Pantheon, out in Phoenix. We walk through the studio and realize that in one of the rooms is fuckin’ Glen Campbell! He’s there to make a [sings] “Have you driven a Ford lately?” commercial. We’re like, “Fuckin’ Glen Campbell!” We went in the control room there, it was me and Curt, maybe the engineer, hardly anybody else. And he sat in there and just ran through all his hits as he’s getting warmed up for the thing.
Bob: That’s amazing.
Cris: It was very, very fuckin’ cool.
Bob: So, Steven and I got really close and I love Rocks (1976). I’m not the biggest fan of the more recent Aerosmith. I keep saying, “Rocks is one of the greatest albums ever made. You gotta play songs off Rocks.” He finally says, “We’re playing down in South America and I’m gonna throw like 4 Rocks songs in the middle.” Songs like “Back In The Saddle” or whatever.
He calls me that night and goes, “Well, you’re wrong!” [everyone laughs] They played a mini-set of Rocks and the whole audience, he said, went dead. Because they wanted to hear [Bob and Bill simultaneously] “Love In An Elevator!” [everyone laughs] So, you gotta give the audience what they want.
Cris: In a way. I don’t know, getting asked to play your whole record–
Bob: You don’t like the idea?
Cris: I don’t care, I don’t give a fuck. I like playing. I definitely like playing.
Bob: You do like playing.
Cris: Oh, I love playing.
Bob: That must’ve been the hardest thing in jail.
Cris: You know what, I was in a band.
Bob: A band in jail?!?! Did you play Meat Puppets songs???
Cris: No, that I refused [everyone laughs]. I drew the line at the fucking Meat Puppets songs. But, I played Chili Peppers songs! [everyone laughs] I played STP songs! I played friends of mine’s songs.
Meat Puppets – Up On The Sun + I Can’t Be Counted On
Peabody’s Down Under, Cleveland, OH
February 1, 1990
Cris: We did recently play one of those old records all the way through.
Bill: Was it Up On The Sun?
Cris: Yeah. Where was that? [All Tomorrow’s Parties, May 14, 2011] But, we don’t do it ourselves. It’s something we get asked to do.
Bob: You know, Prince has 2 prices for playing a concert.
Cris: That guy’s a badass.
Bob: He’s the greatest. He can play whatever he wants and he gets a quarter mil. He’ll play whatever set YOU want for 2 mil.
Cris: Oh, sweet.
Bob: How fucking great is that? He’s getting the best of both worlds.
Cris: I’m gonna get both for my next birthday.
Bob: You know how sick of “Purple Rain” that motherfucker must be. But he’ll play it for 2 million dollars!
Bob: So I think we’re gonna tell some stories about rock ‘n’ roll. Is that the whole idea?
Bill: Yeah, let’s tell some rock ‘n’ roll stories.
Bob: So, every time I think of Cris, I think of John Frusciante. Because John quit the Chili Peppers, and then he was on drugs, and then he told me one day, “I’m gonna join the Meat Puppets.” And I was like, in the shape he was in, how would he join any band??? So, he went out to Arizona — I was living with him at the time — and he came back like 2 weeks later. I don’t know what happened out there. He left our house and was joining the Meat Puppets, he was not of sound mind and body! [everyone laughs] So, I turn it over to you. What happened? Who picked him up at the airport?
Cris: He didn’t fuckin’ take a plane! He took the train! [Bob laughs] He took a motherfuckin’ choo choo train.
Bob: Because he could get arrested on a plane!
Cris: Yeah, they’re scary things. A train you kinda shuffle onto. He showed up with his guitar out of its case and I love you, John–
Bob: No case (for) the guitar?
Cris: No case and barefoot. It was just like, “Far the fuck out.”
Bob: Did you guys play?
Cris: Oh yeah. We were on a major label then, we’d gotten signed, and those guys had blown up to where they were at and John needed to get out or whatever. There was some article where somebody was talking to (John) about it and he said the only band (he’d) think about playing with was us. And I think that came out of our friendship with Flea and Anthony.
Bob: We all looked up to you guys.
Cris: Well, it made the record company fucking squirt liquid gold. [everyone laughs] They’re like, “OH MY GOD! WE HAVE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN!!”
Bob [continues the mocking]: “Hey, Kurt Cobain could go join, too!”
Cris: “Kurt Cobain, too! The quintet!”
Bob: “Do we actually need these brothers in the band???”
Cris: “You guys can go, especially that nasty little bass player. Go do a podcast!”
Nirvana & The Meat Puppets – Plateau + Oh, Me + Lake Of Fire
MTV Unplugged in New York
Filmed November 18, 1993
Bob: I get it. Because it didn’t fit you guys.
Cris: No, we were always open to musical weirdness. I love this story. And I love John. What a fucking badass, I’ll just say that. But, he gets to our pad and I’m like a fuckin’ redneck. And I’m not very bright. [everyone laughs] I’m not a nice guy.
We start getting ready to play, back in that little room that you and Anthony found me in. We hook up to play and I’m like, “You wanna use my tuner?” And he said, “Nah, I’ll bend it in.” It was so far out. I was like, “That is fucking so far out! What the fuck?!?!” I remember Hendrix said something like, “Tuning is for cowboys” and I’m sitting there, “Oh geez. Oh geez. Who’s the little cowboy???” And then we jammed some. It was pretty bitchin’, but it didn’t come to anything.
Bob: Did you start to write songs?
Cris: Not really. Like you said, maybe he wasn’t in the right place. And we were a fucking tight little unit. I don’t know. It just didn’t quite happen. But, it could’ve worked.
Bob: How long he’d stay out there? Like a week?
Cris: He was out there like a week.
Bob: And you only played one time? [laughs]
Cris: Jammed a couple of times.
Bob: How’d you tell John, “This isn’t working out?”
Cris: I don’t think we needed to. I don’t know, this is kinda personal, Bob. You’re kinda hurting my feelings here. [they both chuckle]
Bob: He comes home and was really disappointed.
Cris: Was he? Oh, that’s fucked.
Bob: It was positive in that he now said, “There is no one on this planet I wanna play music with. I’m gonna play my own music.” Which created all his solo stuff, which I think is very much influenced by [Meat Puppets]. It really is. It’s beautiful and it’s wonderful.
Cris: That’s a compliment.
Bob: And this is my moral to the story: The only reason Cris Kirkwood and John Frusciante are still on the planet alive is because THAT didn’t work out. [everyone laughs]
Cris: That’s probably a good call right there.
Bob: That’s the truth.
Cris: I don’t think we really took the time to get to the place that we needed to get to with it. “Here’s how the fucking songs go.” Because there’s other guitar parts on the records and he could’ve played those. And it would’ve been fun getting to learn his stuff. We were highly complimented by the fact that — I remember when John joined the Chilis, you know. I remember fuckin’ Hillel (Slovak), may he rest in peace. What a sweetheart.
Bob: Getting back to our drug problems, 3 weeks before Hillel died he did an intervention on me.
Cris: Oh God.
Bob: How fucked up is that? That’s happened to me twice. Shane MacGowan and Hillel Slovak both have said, “Bob, you need to slow down.”
Cris: Oh God! Shane??? OH GOD! [Bob laughs] That guy lost his teeth before me!
Bob: It’s the weirdest thing.
Bill: Tell the story about the other intervention at The Viper Room.
Bob: With Shane?
Bob: So, they’re doing an intervention on Shane and he and I were drinking downstairs at The Viper Room in that downstairs bar. It was like 1:00 in the afternoon. [laughs] They all come in, Johnny (Depp) and his wife, Shane’s wife, and a couple other people. She comes over and she says (to Shane), “Come on,” and she’s pushing the glass away. “We want you to go to a hospital.” And he’s like [mimicking Shane’s Irish brogue], “A hospital? What hospital?”
I’m really the odd man out here in this room. There was no way to get to the door and get out because there was only one door. So, I went and sat at the far end of the couches. They’re trying to pressure him and want to get him help because he was in the shape you were in when we saw you (chuckles).
So, he turns and goes [again mimicking Shane’s Irish brogue], “If you wanna really help somebody, Bob is SO fucked up! This guy’s so fucked. HE needs help!” [everyone laughs] They were all looking at me. They all want me dead anyways and this was changing the dynamic.
Bob: Then they’re like, “We’re not gonna help him. He’s a fuckin’ homeless loser!” [Bob laughs] That’s the sense I got.
Cris: I met Bill when I was out here making our first major label record, Forbidden Places.
Bill: Underrated gem.
Cris: It’s a beautiful record.
Meat Puppets – Six Gallon Pie
Forbidden Places, 1991
[The Meat Puppets don’t get nearly enough credit for being pioneers of alt.country, let alone cowpunk, but they never shied away from their country roots. Curt, especially, was a motherfucker of a guitarist and you can hear a little Clarence White and Roy Nichols in his playing, even if it’s filtered through Jerry Garcia.]
Bill: It’s a great record. I think it’s out of print.
Cris: It’s out of print definitely. But, you can find it somewhere. Pete Anderson did it. We did it at Capitol.
Bob: I did a record with Pete.
Cris: You did?
Bob: Yeah. (Anderson produced or co-produced a few tracks on Thelonious Monster’s Beautiful Mess album.)
Cris: Isn’t he great?
Bob: He’s a great guy.
Cris: Pete’s totally great. You know what’s a great record? Snow, the record Curt did with Pete. Have you heard that?
Bob: No, I gotta get that.
Cris: Check it out. It’s absolutely–
Cris: Yeah. It’s Curt.
Bob: Bakersfield meets LSD??? [laughs]
Cris: Totally! It’s gorgeous. It’s Curt all the way. There’s some absolutely beautiful stuff on it.
Bob: I gotta get that.
Cris: Curt just went in to play acoustic guitar and let Pete put the rest of the record together.
Bob: Really? It’s acoustic, not–
Cris: He brought in dudes. It’s got a backing band, bass, drums, and all that shit.
Curt Kirkwood – Movin’ On + In Bone + Circles
KIDS THESE DAYS, WITH THEIR SHITTY MUSIC
Bob: The most popular music is Beyoncé, non-songs, and EDM, which has never really evolved into songwriting.
Cris: Yeah, but I don’t have a beef with it. I’m too chill about it. I just don’t give a fuck.
Bob: Didn’t music change your life?
Cris: Absolutely. But, I don’t give a fuck if it changes other people’s lives. [everyone laughs]
Bob [still laughing]: Maybe I should adopt that attitude! Because it makes me angry how bad things suck!
Cris: I’m chill about it. I’ll go back hundreds of years for my music if I need to.
Bob: Gene Autry.
Cris: Gene Autry, back in the ought-tens.
Bob: I have a house out in Pioneertown, if you ever wanna go out there.
Cris: Do you?
Bob: Gene Autry had a town there where he shot all his movies, right behind Pappy And Harriet’s. You ever play there?
Cris: We did a couple years ago. [November 3, 2013]
Bob: Oh my God. I live right down the street, I didn’t go! [laughs] I got a kid, you can’t do fucking shit when you got kids.
Cris: That’s why they made velcro and duct tape. [everyone laughs]
Bob: If your parents — when you guys were kids — wanted to go out, wouldn’t they just leave?
Bob: Now it’s illegal or something.
Cris: “Here’s the key to the liquor cabinet.” [Bill laughs] Here’s a great story. We play Pappy And Harriet’s and they offer us some grub. They got that little barbecue there. And this is a telling tale about my brother. We’re eating and I have myself a delicious pork chop. I must say, it was mmm mmm mmm.
Curt after awhile has eaten about 3/4 of his steak and he’s like, “This tastes kinda funny,” and he’s busily gnawing away at the thing. He gives me a bite of it and it was actually a turned piece of meat. [Bob laughs] And this is no disparagement against Pappy And Harriet’s, it just happened to happen, it was an accident. The motherfucker was rotten as shit and Cockroach Curt [everyone laughs] had eaten 3/4 of the fucking thing!
Bob: “Eh, put some more ketchup on this.”
Bob: What do you listen to now?
Cris: I still listen to a lot of the stuff that I always loved. Stuff that really got down deep with me. I’m still way into Fela (Kuti), George Jones. Shit that built this world around me and I can still actually get to.
MAGIC JOHNSON’S SHOE
Cris: Here’s one of my favorite Flea stories. One time we were over at Flea’s house and there was this gigantic tennis shoe. He’s like, “This is Magic Johnson’s tennis shoe!”
Bob: I know that tennis shoe.
Cris: You know that shoe? This bigass thing! It’s like 4 1/2 feet long, right? [everyone laughs] He obviously loves Magic Johnson. He takes the thing and he starts taking these big, deep fucking nose huffs off of it. [everyone laughs] He’s just parks it on his face and is like SNIIIIIIFFFFFF “Ahhhhh!” SNIIIIIIFFFFFF “Ahhhh!” I was going, “God DAMN! All righty then.” [everyone’s dying]
Bob: SST really started it and all the bands of SST.
Cris: Hey, I gotta give Black Flag the props for that. Greg (Ginn) and Chuck (Dukowski).
Bob: “Get in the van and let’s go play.” I remember the first Thelonious Monster tour, the 2nd date we played Pandora’s Box. What town was that?
Cris: I don’t know.
Bob: Phoenix or Tuscon. You and your brother and 4 other people who came with you were the only people in the audience [laughs]. We played the next day in Albuquerque at Bow Wow Records. From you guys blazing the trail, and then us all following, the Chili Peppers, Fishbone, all these bands, eventually it became the coolest thing.
Cris: Those days were definitely bitchin’. I think the Ramones started it, ultimately.
Bob: Yeah. That kids like us could be in bands and play.
Cris: Yeah, that came (from) the Ramones in a way. Definitely punk rock was the thing that allowed me to be in a band. Just playing however you wanna play.
MEAT PUPPETS ORIGIN STORY, PT. 1
Bob: Did you and your brother learn how to play music together?
Cris: Nah. You know how I got into it? Mom had us take lessons as kids, so I took guitar lessons and the dude used to rub my knee. He’d be like, “I really like you, but you can’t tell anybody.” Then mom had me take piano lessons, but the teacher was really old and he’d fall asleep while I was playing.
The thing that caught my attention with music was the movie, Deliverance (1972). The fuckin’ banjo sequence in it. I was like, “Gotta get myself a banjo.” I was probably 13-14. So, I got a banjo.
Curt stuck with guitar and had taken lessons from a guy that played with Barney Kessel. It was a music shop pretty close to the neighborhood we lived in. This dude kinda had a bebop background.
Bob: How much older is (Curt)?
Cris: 22 months. He actually played in a couple different cover bands. There was one band called Granite Reef. It’s the name of a street in Phoenix. [mocking stoner guy] “Granite Reef, man! Rockin’ reefer, dude!!!” [Bob laughs] That was like Mormon stoner rock. Then he was in a band called Keeley, which is Apache for “warrior.” It was these Chicano dudes. Matching shirts, matching vests, all matching suits. They were a professional band that were part of the Ray Andrade Orchestra hookup. Curt did that. He was on his own musically in a way that I wasn’t. At a point, I just thought basses were bitchin’.
Bob: Did you get into it because he played guitar? Because it fit?
Bob: Were you guys always thinking you’d have a band.
Cris: Fuck no! Not at all.
Bob: How old were you when I saw you in 1980? You were born in ’60. You were 20!
Cris: Yeah. I turned 20 at the Mabuhay (Gardens in San Francisco). That was with The Feederz! I was the first one to make it out to California to play gigs because The Feederz asked me to play bass.
Bob: You’re kidding?!?!
Cris: Yeah yeah. I played the Whisky, I was 19. The next night we played the Mabuhay and it was my 20th birthday. All those Phoenix guys moved out here. The Consumers moved out here.
Bob: Don Bolles and Rob Graves, who was the bass player in (Thelonious Monster), were from Albuquerque.
Cris: No, Don’s from Phoenix. Don Bolles, his name–
Bob: Is the guy who got murdered.
Cris: Right, the journalist.
Bob: Freddy Snakeskin, you know that guy?
Cris: Yeah totally.
Bob: He was the program director at KROQ. He was from out there, too. It was like a desert invasion of Los Angeles.
Cris: And David Wiley (Consumers).
Bill: Paul Cutler (Consumers).
Bob: Is Cutler from there, too?
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Cris: Totally. The Consumers were fucked off good.
MEAT PUPPETS ORIGIN STORY, PT. 2
Bob: I wanna know how it started that you guys were gonna play together.
Cris: We met Derrick (Bostrum) through my oldest pal, Chris Hart, who lives out here now. Derrick and Curt hit it off and thought I could play with ’em. So, they asked me if I wanted to play. Because I’d been playing bass for awhile.
Bob: Man, that shows you the mythology of rock. Because I heard — from Flea, I think — that you guys learned how to play together and that you only know how to play together.
Cris: No, that’s bullshit. Here’s really what it was, Bob. The 3 of us got together. It had to do because I was Curt’s brother, in a way, but more it just happened to be because of the fucking noise we made together. The place that we got, the 3 of us together, it suddenly excluded all of our friends that were also players.
Bob: Changed a lot of people’s lives.
Cris: And now we’re fuckin’ podcasting.
Bob: And we’re in our 50s! Here’s another interesting thing. When I saw you guys play that first time I thought only cool people or people on drugs can play music. Like the art crowd, (which) is what you guys seemed part of. Before that it was Foreigner, you had to be a handsome, rock ‘n’ roll, long haired,guy. It wasn’t until I saw The Replacements a couple years later at the Cathay De Grande, and I saw Paul Westerberg, and I watched their set, and I was like, “I can fuckin’ do that!”
Cris: There ya go.
Bob: But, John Frusciante and other people saw you guys and said, “I could do that!” [laughs] The Meat Puppets were a very inspirational band.
Cris: Well, I appreciate that. That’s a sweet thing to say, Bob. I like us. I like what we do.
Bob: That’s amazing because I don’t like my bands that I’m in. That’s amazing if you like the band you’re in, making music. Can you imagine what that would be like? I’m too insecure to like my own music.
THE BICYCLE THIEF
Bill: We’re gonna close this podcast with a Bicycle Thief song. (Bob) did this record that came out twice (1999 and 2001) and I think 27 people bought it. It was just an amazing record. Frusciante plays on it–
Bob: Cris, there’s a reference to you in it! It’s about my friends, I want my friends back and they’re all on drugs, I can’t be part of them, and they can’t be part of me. I just needed to wait 20 years.
Bicycle Thief – Cereal Song
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Hi, I love your pod cast. I just bought a banjo today. Cris inspired me to give it a shot. I am 49 year old married lady living the dream in Chandler AZ. I am trying to quit smoking cigarettes and it’s helping me much more than my cross stitching dream. (blah, blah, blah) I can’t imagine life without the music of the Meat Puppets.