When Curt Kirkwood invited his kid brother Cris to join his band back in 1980, he had no idea he'd be doing it again 26 years later. Then again, when Meat Puppets issued their self-titled debut in 1982, nobody in their hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. could foresee the Kirkwoods becoming the Blues Brothers of cow-punk. In 1995, Cris' drug problems began making things difficult and he soon quit the band; he was shot in a brawl and arrested in 2003. When he was released from prison last year, Meat Puppets was the last thing on Curt's mind. Yet the brothers reunited, with drummer Ted Marcus replacing Derrick Bostrom, to record Rise to Your Knees. As with Meat Puppets II or Huevos or Forbidden Places, you can almost hear the familial conception of the band's sound. CP caught up with Curt Kirkwood for a little brotherly trash-talk.
Rise to Your Knees seems to inhabit a larger space than most Meat Puppets songs.
I wanted them to be like campfire songs ... as horrid as it is to hear "Kumbaya" being sung, I went to summer camp as a kid and we used to have the campouts and sing that kind of thing. Heavy Baptist summer camp and I was the only Catholic there, so they used to ship me away on Sundays like I was a pig sent to slaughter.
There's a line in the new song "Radio Moth" about seeing your face flying out of a radio. Do you see that happening anytime soon?
Oh, I doubt it. That's about pimping your shit out. I've never seen it happen accidentally, no matter how they try to contrive it to seem. When "Backwater" took off, it took off on its own, but they started to spend some money. There's one or two on Forbidden Places that were "getting close." Then people start coming around going, "That 'Backwater' song, that's the one. It's good." From there, it needed the Nirvana endorsement and it was nuts.
How do you feel about being the subject of an upcoming documentary?
I think it's alright. They're trying to get a picture of me vomiting when I'm all fucked up. "Legendary dopers, ha ha ha." I always have people telling me shit about myself that's not true anyway. Who cares if it's the truth or not the truth or whatever? I don't want people getting into my habits. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because I think they're trivial. I think smoking pot is a stupid, trivial thing like drinking a beer and I don't want people making a big deal out of it.
You mentioned that Cris played in some jail bands -- was this good preparation for rejoining Meat Puppets?
For sure. He's honed his bass-playing style. He was spoiled from playing with me, where he could be all over the map. But, when he was playing with other people, he had to learn how to lay it down and just groove as a bass player.
What exactly landed Cris behind bars?
He got into an argument over a parking space at the post office with some lady and it escalated into a brawl with the guard there. They got into a fight and Cris got shot. He was in a wheelchair for a long time. ... All's I know is that yeah, it's a rotten thing to shoot somebody in the back, but it's goddamn stupid to fucking hit a cop.
I'll bet Cris is glad to be back after that.
Yeah, he's way into this, but I still have to remind him all the time, "This is way better than having to line up to eat, dude, so just shut the fuck up." He's a running joke. That's how we keep him in line. I didn't give a fuck when he was a pathetic junkie because he'd hurt all our feelings really bad. I invited him back into the situation, but it's a lot of fun to tease him. We're fabulous trash-talkers and we're brothers, so he always felt picked on. Now he knows why he's picked on. Because he's a loser who got shot.
So if Meat Puppets had to briefly squash the brotherly beef in order to save the world with one song, what would it be?
"Shall We Dance?" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It's from The King and I. I highly recommend that soundtrack if you're really into that kind of thing. It used to be one of my favorite records. Yeah, it's the underpinnings of my style in a certain way.
Meat Puppets with The Only Children and The Bumps. 8:30 p.m. Tue., Aug. 28 (doors at 7 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $12. 21 and over. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com