Two years ago, we ran an interview I gave to Matthew Lahrman back in 1993. When he sent it to me, Matt said he also had a long interview with Cris that he’d let me have once he got Cris’ permission to publish it. Apparently, they two of them finally met up, because I heard from Matt last week. The two interviews make for an interesting study in contrasts.
The following is a phone interview with Cris Kirkwood, bassist for Meat Puppets, conducted by Matthew Smith-Lahrman who, at the time, was a PhD student in Sociology at Northwestern University. Matt is now a Professor of Sociology at Dixie State College of Utah (firstname.lastname@example.org). Cris was at his home on February 3, 1993.
Matt: So how’s it goin’?
M: Good. I was wondering how. . .
C: How did you get Derrick’s number?
M: I wrote you guys a letter.
C: And he sent it back?
M: He sent it back with his number and your number.
C: God. He sent you his number?
M: He sure did? He actually sent me your number as well.
C: Well, I’m in the phone book.
M: He did quite a good interview.
C: He’s an intelligent guy. He likes college students. I think he regrets his not having become a college student.
M: What has what you do in the band changed from before you ever recorded anything up until now?
C: Well we started recording stuff fairly quickly, with the band. It wasn’t that big of a time from when I wasn’t recording to when I was. The only thing that’s really changed is that now that we’re on a major label, they care more about how many units are sold. For me nothing has changed.
M: But before you were on a major label, as far as the business end of things, did you personally have to take care of more of that kind of stuff?
C: No, not really. I still deal with pretty much as much of it. I used to talk to the agent a little bit more. Our cross-over to the major label hasn’t been the big ‘now I’m a rock star’ thing. Maybe once I achieve rock stardom or something on a major label, if I do, my life will change. Or if I get dropped my life will change drastically. It’s changed. The only real change is the real or perceived pressure, whichever, of needing to sell more or else getting dropped. Having to view my things in terms of success or failure on a financial level, which we never really had to do before. We don’t have to now. Like I said, perceived pressure. If I want to I can, but I still don’t have to, unless I want to give a shit. And I do to a certain degree, I don’t want to have to stop recording. I really enjoy making records. But I record at home all the time. That’s really where my true interests lie.
M: On your own?
C: Yea. I have my own home studio. I’m not adverse to selling a bunch more records. But it doesn’t drive me crazy or anything. It never has. The goal never was to only sell records. It was to have a band and to be able to make music for a long time. It was never something I wanted to get into and cash in on. It’s just one of the only things I found that interested me, making music. And that doesn’t mean being a rock star. It’s playing the music and trying to make the two align. It’s an interesting sort of conundrum, trying to make a living out of being a fuckin’ total wasterum.
M: Is there a difference between making music on your own at home, without any thought of selling records, than writing songs. . .
C: Yea, definitely. I’ll do strictly, satisfy the creative part of myself at home with my studio. In the studio you try to do that while making it pop. I’ll do things that aren’t considered pop. You’re dealing slightly with a . . .We don’t take it heavily into consideration. Curt just happens to write pop songs, and I occasionally write a few, whatever. So the band just kind of naturally has a pop angle. But we’ve tailored that to the audience. We also don’t just go in and make records full of our own little sound experiments like I do at home.
M: Because the audience is going to be different?
C: The band doesn’t do the kind of shit that I do. The band noise is more playing Curt’s songs, and wanting to go in and sculpt, give a little version of each of these new batch of tunes so our friends know what they are when we come to town next time and use them as spring boards to go off on the noise making crap that is more, is a little more similar to the kind of shit that gets done in my home studio. We do that kind of stuff live more than in the records.
M: The experimenting stuff.
C: Umm hmm.
M: You do different kinds of shows. I saw you’I'm in Chicago’at the Metro and then at Lounge Ax. At the Metro you did this ten or fifteen minute kind of spacey thing, with keyboards and stuff and you didn’t do it at Lounge Ax.
C: We always do. I mean that’s the thing. We always do the different things and what-not. The reason the records usually come out as they do is because, you know, we write a lot of songs. Curt especially writes tons of pop songs. And it just gets down to what do you want to put on a record that’s only ‘X’ amount of time long? And what kind of a slant do you want to put on it. I mean it’s one particular art piece. And it just happens to be one that goes out to public consumption as well. So slightly there’s a consideration in there as to getting people to buy it. It’s like how much pressure do we want to put on people. We’re already a hard enough band to get in that sense. And it’s never been like we’re worried about being gotten, but there’s always been a certain awareness of the fact that we didn’t want to just. . .that we’re making art projects. That we were doing a particular piece and how we wanted the piece to come out. What we were aiming for for the piece. We’re not that interested in being that self-indulgent, we’re pretty interested in being pretty goddamn self-indulgent. But within the context of pop songs we’re trying to say something with the band. It’s a fairly clear statement if you read it. It basically says ‘fuck off and die.’ The whole Meat Puppets’ stance is right around in there. The only reason we don’t put out records with noise crap is ’cause my big brother is in the band. I always just go, ‘Ok. No noise jams? No bass solo?’ We’re sell-out little weasels. We’ve been trying to be REM for years. To cash in and get the big clams. Everything I say is a lie.
M: So I imagine there’s. . .
C: We played at Northwestern before.
M: Somebody was telling me that.
C: I met a guy from that band Urge Overkill. He told me that the show we did at Northwestern was the show that inspired him to start Urge Overkill. I think it was the guitar player that told me that. They’re nice guys. We played at a dorm, at a frat house.
M: Yea. They have things at Northwestern where they don’t advertise it in the city. They just advertise it on campus.
C: We might of played there another time.
M: Somebody told me you played at Norris Center, which is a student center.
C: Yea, that’s it. We played there too. Oh, God. I could tell you some stories about that, but I won’t while you’re still going there. I could tell you some funny stories about it.
M: How does a record label, especially now that you’re on a major label, do they come forward overtly telling you to make more poppier songs, more accessible type songs?
C: Yea. They want to try to tell us that. They want to deal with us in the way they deal with their other artists, who all are just on their knees trying to become stars. So they try to deal with us that way. They tell you, and if you don’t do it to their satisfaction, even if you try to and you still don’t manage to get it, what they think are hits. They control you more by denial rather than trying to make you do shit.
M: So you write a song that they don’t like. . .
C: . . .and they just don’t let you record it. Basically all they are is loaning you money. You don’t want to loan money to somebody that’s invented the toilet again that’s not as good as the original toilet. That’s how they see it. Their lookin’ at it as. . .especially if the new thing is shitting in your pants, and invented a toilet that actually whisks the doo-doo away or something. ‘Pants pooping is in this year, so bring us a fuckin’. . .a whatchamacallit.’
M: A diaper.
C: It’s a silly game.
M: So what kinds of specific things do they ever. . .
C: They go ‘write hit songs.’ They ask you, ‘Why do you do art? What is it? Are you just trying to satisfy your ego? Are you trying to make money? Are you trying to say something?’ It puts the question to you, ‘What the fuck are you about as an artist?’ Because they’re not into the art business. They’re into the music business. Selling music. They support the arts to the degree that they can as long as it’s gonna sell a bunch of copies. They don’t mind. You can be as fuckin’ arty as you want. And recently, like Nirvana, or. . .Those guys are definitely art students from the look on them. And by their song content and shit. It’s huge, they don’t mind. They can get as arty as they want as long as they sell all those records. But they’re gonna poo poo something like if our next video is our guitar player’s butthole mouthing the words. They’re gonna try to talk him out of that. And if they can’t talk him out of that, then another link in the chain will halt the process. It won’t get played or whatever. It all depends on how many units you’ve sold. It’s not like you can go in and go ‘we’re brilliant art. We have a really cool idea that is a classical idea that men have been about all through the ages and yada yada yada.’ They’re just like ‘Isn’t that nice. You’ve never sold over 100,000 records with any single release. So what you are in our books is what we call a failure.’
‘Cris gets a call on another line’
C: So specifically you’re asking what do they ask?
M: Do they say something like ‘we’re looking for this kind of tune?’
C: It depends on which particular record company you signed with, what the record company’s intents are, and that kind of shit. And it depends on what you’re A&R guy, your boss at the record company, sees for you. What do you see for yourselves? Basically what you’re trying to do is reach an agreement with the businessmen who are gonna sell your crap. And if you can all agree ‘we’re self-indulgent little pigs, and all we want to do is record our fart sounds on record,’ and if they agree with it, do that and live with the sales that are gonna be generated by something like that. Or if they believe that fart sounds are gonna sell a gajillion records. It all depends on basically everybody agreeing on the goals of the project.
M: And sometimes they don’t know what’s gonna sell, right?
C: They like to think that they do, and a lot of times they know that certain things are definitely a trend. So what they do is basically like any investment. You try a bunch of things, and whichever one goes is the one you run with.
M: So, say, with Nirvana, they can pay for a lot of other experimental kind of stuff from the profits from Nirvana.
C: Right. And then Nirvana started out as a fairly experimental thing. It gets all into levels of, they were fairly experimental but they still had quite a bit of money put into them ’cause there was already the Seattle scene. It had a big buzz. Things like plastic beads and shit just sets off bells. They know what teenagers are into. Teenagers are into this rebellion sort of a trip. And especially rebellion that everybody else is doing. ‘Be an individual along with all the rest of ‘em.’ So they see something like that, and Nirvana. . they pushed the shit out of that on a certain level. But they didn’t push the livin’ shit out of it. They didn’t give it the fuckin’ Shaneese treatment. But it still got the livin’ crap pushed out of it. And once it starts to run, then they unload the coffers onto it. And they’d do that on anything. And the degree to which they push it initially gets back to that agreement that you have with the company. ‘Ok. I believe that this is gonna be huge, so I’m gonna push it. I believe that this might be huge, so I’m gonna push it to this degree.’ Initially when you’re dealing with them, where we’re at with them now, is trying to figure out, ‘What do you want to do with the thing?’ Our record company thinks we could be big stars, and wants us to be. They didn’t sign us to be, to continue to be the heroes of musicians. And musicians love us.
M: And the critics love you, too.
C: The critics have loved us. But we’ve abandoned. . .We’ve never stayed good little critical guys like REM or something who, not to slag them, I think they’re great, but who still, they just kind of mine that one thing. We could’ve stayed critical faves, and we still are with some records. But we’ve made records that weren’t. Which I like. I like not just being a critical little weasel. I like getting out on the limb where nobody likes it.
M: Which albums didn’t they like?
C: They’ve said bad things about all of them. All of them have had good things said about them. Some have had ridiculous amounts of good things said about them where we’re suddenly like a big band to the critics. And then some of them have been slagged like shit. Some records have gotten both extremes. Most of them have. The record company isn’t interested in keeping it at that level. They want us to push it over. They saw all that alternative shit getting popular and they were like ‘Alternative!’ A name had arisen for it. Once it got to that we got signed. We’re pretty, fairly pro-rock in a way. We’ve been around for a long time. We can play fairly well, and if we want to we can do noise jams and be good little rock spuds. And they see that in there. And that’s what they want out of us. ‘Be good little boys.’ To not make it harder on them. But they’re idea is that they want us to be huge.
M: And what do you think about that?
C: That just makes them say, ‘Write hit songs. Make it easy on us.’ And we just go, ‘That’s fine.’ I’d love to be huge. The gear that would come with it. All the little toys that you could get. My real love, deep down, is making the noise. Being huge to me means unlimited supply of tape. I could really fuckin’ lose myself to what I really love. It’s my discipline. It’s my soul, man! And what I think about them asking us to write hit songs is that I know my brother, who’s our main song writer, is a really unique and strong artist. But I don’t know how good he’s gonna be at taking his talent and imitating Bon Jovi with it. And the critics have been on us to do it for years. That’s kind of why some of the critics stopped liking us, is ’cause we didn’t do what REM did, which is solidify our vision to the degree that we can be consumed on a popular level. We can either experiment and break new ground within our own little thing, and that’s not what they want you to do. They want you to condense, and get to the core of it. And that’s where they’re at. ‘Well what are you doing this for? What are you about here?’ That’s where they’ll try to lead you in that direction. And, you know, the idea of a producer is take the artists vision and clarify it and blah blah blah. And years ago we went into Geffen and talked to the guy, Gary Gersh, who sat there and told us how he signed Gene Loves Gezabel without even hearing them play. He just met the brothers. Just by the way they looked. And this is in like ’86. And we’re goin’, ‘That’s really nice Gary.’ He’s sittin’ in his socks and his gajillion dollar office on Sunset and the Geffen Company which is just so exciting. He tells us he doesn’t sign us then ’cause he says we’re unfocused. To us. He calls us unfocused. Well, we don’t have a costume. No, we don’t. We have a costume but it’s a real broad based costume called music. Called fuckin’ whatever we want to do. ‘We were inventing something new here Gary. We’re rediscovering something that’s always been around. And that when it comes to the fore, it’s considered. . .It’s part of a renaissance period and everyone looks back on it lovingly, and there are high points in musical history and artistic history and the history of the, you know, the human chimp.’ He didn’t give a shit. He was lookin’ to be there when the timing comes up. He wants to be a part of it. He’s the guy who signed Nirvana, who are basically the realization of what we were talking about. But they do a real good careful pop. . . a good job of being real. . . condensing it down and making it that pop thing. That’s what pop is, is an art idea that can be sold to tons of people. It doesn’t have to. . .they don’t have to get it. They don’t have to be smarter than a shoe to get it.
M: So has your next release been slowed up by this?
C: Yea. That’s what has happened. We almost got dropped and shit. We just got sick of them. We almost dropped ourselves. Just like, ‘You guys don’t get it. You don’t want to try to get it. Go die. We don’t care. We’ll find somebody that does.’ Cause we stomp! We fuckin’ play circles around other people. If anybody gave a crap about fuckin’ bass solos than we’d be huge. So they’ve kind of slowed it up a little bit. But all that slowing up stuff also gets down to how much the artist wants to get into being a businessman. How much we want to get up and say, ‘No, you can’t slow us down because I’m a visionary, man, and I’ve got this fuckin’ thing I gotta put across.’ We’ve never had that. We’ve never been, you know, ‘Baby we were born to run!’ We never had this, you know, from the streets to the. . .you gotta make it. That’s where the fuckin’ passion comes from. ‘And I said, ‘Daddy, I want it all!” That’s not where our whole egis has been. Whatever ‘egis’ might mean. I doubt if it means what I’m using it as. That has never been a big part of our thing, chest pounding. We’ve always been willing to make music without anybody getting it. We didn’t really give a fuck. We’ve been absorbed into all these different little scenes, and they’ve come and gone around us.
M: How old are you?
M: And Curt’s older than you?
C: Yea. Two years.
M: So you started out when you were, what, around. . .
C: 19. I was 19.
M: So with that in mind, you guys aren’t teenagers anymore. Rock is sold to teenagers, basically. They’re the ones who buy most of the records. Who do you see as your audience?
C: Whoever listens to it. I don’t think about that that much. I know I could, but I never gave a fuck about rock and roll. I’ve just never been into it to be a rock star. I always thought it was fuckin’ stupid. I never gave a shit about it. It’s only been in the last few years, in the last decade that I’ve realized what rock and roll meant. I always dug music, but I never gave a crap about rock, ’cause I always thought it was pandering twaddle aimed at being baby food for teenagers. I just never gave a shit. It was all about this fuckin’ moronic teen stance that is the same thing as fuckin’ racism to me. It’s, what, play down? You play down and empires collapse. I think we’re undergoing systematized institutionalism of which I’ll play no part. Because of that I’ve been forced to watch all my friends who greedily slurped up teenage butthole oil become millionaires.
M: Such as?
C: You know, all the obvious ones. I’m not gonna name any names about my pals who it’ll get back to, and who are now rich and can fuck with my career.
M: Bands from that L.A. punk scene?
C: Like the Chili Peppers. Not to take anything away from them at all, but they’ve always been way more about. . .they got a lead singer who’s willing to do this whole lead singer shtick. And that’s just a difference. It’s not a bad thing. But they took, and had punk ideas, and the same with Nirvana, any of these people, they had a punker idea. . . not like I’m punk or whatever. . . but they took elements of that, and elements of funk and this and that and that, along with elements of straight rock and roll such as packaging, and your look. . . and those guys are always careful to wear goofy shit, and keep in really good shape. And to play with their shirts off, and have that macho swagger. All those things that are aimed at pleasing teenagers. I’ve never even given it consideration beyond, you know, ‘who wants to get hit in the face with the blunt end of my guitar?’ I just never cared. I never could relate to my teen chimps. It’s not against my fellow man or anything, it’s just that rock itself. . .I only started to give a crap about it once I realized that. . .the idea of rock as a soul music. That I started to get. I only heard cheeseball rock, mostly. And never really gave a crap about the ’60s bands and all that. And then I started to see that some of them, some of those older bands have got some cool shit goin’ on. I started to understand rock as. . .I just came down off of my alienated high horse. I was driven into snooty music more as I had (A) something that had a little more substance and (B) I hated everything. I hated Boston and I hated all my fellow high school assholes. I thought they were a bunch of fuckin’ small minded versions of their parents. They looked like the next step down in the rotting of American, to the sound track of ‘More than a Feeling.’ It made me want to barf, I couldn’t relate. Then I started to see that punk. . . Derrick was into punk, and I checked that shit out. He’s the guy who turned me onto rock. I started to see that there’s a certain thing about rock that’s this Jim Morrisony kind of fuckin’ burn-out fast explode type of thing. Or just an attitude thing that you can express your feelings. There is an art angle to it that can be stroked. And not even an art. It can be an expression of your being. I’d never seen rock as anything but a product. Then I got turned onto a few things.
M: So you’re at least willing to do the product thing?
C: Oh yea. We always have. We’ve always made records. I was never against that. I was always just not interested in concerning myself about it. I think that the fact that we sell the records is the product. They’re not for free. But I’ve never been interested in having that play any part in what the product was. I strictly wanted to make it an art piece. And then if it sold, fine. But if it didn’t, fine also. I never expected it to sell, ’cause of what people have been into. Once I became aware of rock as art, I saw why it stopped being art. That’s where I developed. . .I realized all along that my thoughts on the way that people as. . .are analogous to countries, to the world in general, and the way entropy works and why fuckin’ good ideas get used by assholes to turn the fuckin’ environment to shit. So no wonder rock turned to crap. Cause like any other groovy new thing, becomes. . .goes from Christ to Tammy Faye Baker. From the land of the free and the home of the brave to fuckin’ Pat Buchanon. Why do these things happen? What causes people to have to strive for freedom, and then let that freedom become just another cage? These kinds of things.
M: But, again, being on a major label. . .
C: That’s where we’re at still. How do you sell a lot of records? I don’t know if it was a good idea for us to sign. But we’re finding, we’ve been around long enough so that now we can still make music that we like and want to make, and people will like it. We’ve got our quirks. We’re not trying as hard to do them, ’cause we can play better. So it’s not as much trying as doing now. We’ve always tried shit. That’s something that you don’t do if you’re a successful pop artist. You do what you know you can do. There’s REM. Those guys don’t get up on stage and try to fuckin’ thrill everybody by making noise jams, much. They’ll have their projects for that. For REM they’re very careful to recreate the record. With Stipe up front jumping, you know, goading the crowd on really carefully. It’s a good idea. It’s just only showing your strengths. But we’ve always fucked that off. Not being big rock. Like Pet Buck, a rock aficionado. Part of his art trip was to get popular. Which was never was one of ours. Curt and I were never rock gearheads. He’d probably say that he was, but you won’t be able to talk to him.
‘SIDE ONE OF TAPE ENDS’
M: It’s interesting that both you and Derrick used REM as an example.
C: They’re a good one. They’re our old, you know, they go back a long ways and shit. They’re our parallels, you know, in a way. They embody a lot of the same ideals and stuff, but they were just more careful about it. They got a lead singer. They got a little creep up there that, what’s he gonna do when the bass player goes over and starts noodling on his fucking Casio? He’s got to take out his butthole, you know. What else is he gonna do? They just are a different kind of band. We purposely never got a lead singer. ‘Cause we weren’t about that. We weren’t about relating to the audience. That’s what the singer does, you know, up there fuckin’, you know, cheerleading essentially. And, you know, that wasn’t part of the trip. It was for those guys, definitely. They’ve always been, you know, years ago they wore those little vests and their long sleeved shirts and all that. Everybody’s been a lot more careful about being good little pop stars than we have, that’s for god damn sure.
M: So have you been careful not to be the good little pop artists?
C: No. We haven’t tried. It just comes naturally to us. That’s what I’m saying. We’re not like anti-pop, you know. I’m not fuckin’ Trent Rezner or whatever. I’m not trying to appease to a radically different crowd either. We’re radical as fuck but not in a traditionally radical. . I’m not gonna get into, you know, techno-whatever and cut my hair sideways or whatever. I don’t need to. I’m fuckin’ radical in my ideas. And also not sucking up to the notion of radicalism because I don’t believe in normalism. I just do exclusively what I want to do. And that’s as radical as you can get these days. It’s not like weird for weird’s sake. It’s fuckin’ freedom because that’s what my mind needs.
Music to me is really broad based. I like all sorts of different kinds of music a lot. Some kinds that aren’t considered cool at all. I like classical. I listen to it all the time. It just fuckin’ fucks my brain up. All different types. Some really old shit, you know, newer composers. Plus a ton of other stuff. I like, you know, fuckin’, the ‘Ritual de Bobo’ by the Pigmies of Ghana or whatever. I’m into all sorts of crap. And I like to play all sorts of crap. It’s a question of me and my big. . .rather than me and my tenure as a rock star. The Meat Puppets have always been a live project and that’s what all great art is. Somebody can’t help it. We are what we are, period. We’re not what we’re trying to be.
M: So is it possible to sell a lot of records, to have a platinum album, with that attitude?
C: At points it’s been possible. And like I said before, when those points have arisen, you know, those are considered golden ages. And very rarely has it been that the artists with the most radical and outward considerations and, you know, the most advanced and considered playing and whatnot have been on the top of the charts. In the ’60s they were. In the bebop era they kinda were; the big band/bebop era. Those guys were definitely the furthest out and coolest shit around and it was what everybody was into. They’re considered golden ages.
M: What about this whole Seattle thing?
C: I don’t think they’re that.. .the guys are just a bunch of heavy metal posers. Suckin’ up big time to.. .I just saw the Seattle scene developing and it was just, you know, little junior hippy rock, with their little beads, and their little abdomen muscles. And the little combination with each of the bands that are kind of getting popular now, and they all sound like Ozzy Osbourne to me, they all sound like Black Sabbath. You know, it’s trendy fuckin’ suck up shit and it’s gotten a lot more popular. I mean, I like it better than I like most rock, there’s some of it I do. I think Nirvana are pretty cool. Some of the other shit I think is just flat out fuckin’, you know, the same thing to me as Poison, basically, no difference at all. ‘Oh is this bitchin’ with the teenagers? Get me my funny little hat and my love of sports.’ To me that stuff is fine. But I don’t think they did that. I don’t think they took extreme radicalism in any way and made it popular. I don’t think Nirvana did either, just ’cause they smash their crap. The fuckin’ Who did that years ago. I’ve been smashing my shit for years. It hasn’t got me anywhere. I saw that band about a year ago. They played real safe. They play all their songs like they are on their record. And then at the end they smash all their crap. It’s real predictable. I wasn’t that impressed. I think it’s just like what’s kind of existed for awhile. These bands. . .Seattle. . you, know, real solemn, seriously heavy batch of fuckin’ artists purveying this wondrous new vision.
There’s very few artists in rock that I think are worth half a shit at all.
M: Which ones are worth half a shit?
C: To me, people that have done interesting things in rock and roll are, you know, a lot of the sixties people made fairly far-out shit. It was one of those periods where the best and the brightest were actually looking to go the furthest.
M: Can you name specific bands?
C: Like the Dead, who are still around. I think something like that is bitchin’ But bands that were around and were fuckin’ making interesting shit, like Pink Floyd, any of that old crap. The Beatles. The Beatles are the ultimate example of someone that were really pushin’ it, and their audience was keepin’ up with them. That’s all it is. It can exist at any time, but it’s circumstantial to the way that systems unravel themselves. You can study it a lot if you want to, and become the next Tony Robbins. You can go out there and bilk cajillions of dollars just by manipulating the group psyche which is on display. It’s obvious it’s fucked to me. I’m the next Maurice Starr. It’s so obvious, you know. Sit there and crank out this pure pabulum. Just occasionally the circumstances will come together. It always takes something really radical, like a war or something, to motivate people into a higher conscious. They have to get used to that degree. Extreme oppression seems to finally do it. The level of oppression that we’re at now is just not oppressive. This is how empires fall. They get soft around the middle. They get used to their cereal in the morning. And they get used to their fuckin’ Kenny G.
M: Or their Nirvana.
C: Yea. Or their Nirvana. Then it’s down to.. .it’s down to Lettermen rock. ‘Ooh. Can you say ‘poop’ on t.v.?’ Which is, ‘Ooh. How scary! Ooh, God, he really smashed that drum up! Yike!’ That coupled with Geffen having put a million dollars into it at the beginning really made them sell a lot of records. And punk rock, you know, finally coming to the surface. It’ll be gone in a couple years. And what will be next? Booger rock. It’s social dynamics once again. Some bands I just like. I like the Dead. I think there’s a band that just fucked everybody off and didn’t give a crap and plays fuckin’ goofy ass shit and stays together all these years. I like them. I like the Chicago Art Ensemble, speaking of Chicago. Modern Jazz Quartet. They’re classical musicians. People that fuckin’ devote themselves to something within themselves. That’s why I like found musics. I really dig local musics, you know, or indigenous musics. Stuff like that. I don’t give a crap about hearing these little fuckin’ guys trying to get their rocks off.
M: Do you listen to much rock?
C: No. Not a whole lot. I have artists that I respect. Zappa I think is a fuckin’ hilarious guy, flat out. Really wide ranging and funny.
M: What bands from the scene you guys started with?
C: I have my pals who I dig. My best pals. They’re old friends. Like the fIREHOSE guys. Mike and George are really sweet guys, and Ed is a nice guy, too. But the Minutemen were great! That’s a band I thought was great. I think the Butthole Surfers are great.
M: And they’re about to come out with a major label record.
C: Oh. What it gets down to is all these bands, you know, giving their ass for art, and who now get to go and be fuckin’ failures. So what do they do? They have to sell-out. God, please let the Buttholes imitate Nirvana enough on this new record to sell a cajillion copies. ‘Cause they’re sweet people and I’d love to see them make a lot of money, ’cause all of them have more talent, and more fuckin’ open-mindedness which, to me, equals talent to a degree, and more fuckin’ humor and a broader consideration of everything than 99% of the shit that’s on MTV. And all these undeserving butt sucking little fuckin’. . .play into the hands of the people who have fuckin’ put a nice big hole in the ozone and are making Somalians starve and letting the war in Bosnia happen and turning the east coast into a garbage pit, and America into one big giant Las Vegas. And being their little good boys. It’s disgusting. I’d just like to see my friends get in with these scum and make a bunch of money and move the fuck away to some nice little part of the world that doesn’t exist anymore call ‘Suicideville.’ There’s a lot of shit that gets me off. I’m way more interested in my life than I am in fuckin’ rock and roll. It’s stupid. That’s why the Meat Puppets have never done very good. But why we’re worshipped by musicians on a certain level. And by critics and stuff. ‘Cause we’re into these kinds of ideas. But these aren’t applicable ideas. These are the kinds of ideas that inspire men to fuckin’ rise up from their chains when they’re in bondage. These are the kind of things that get people nailed to a cross and worshipped for it. But the poor fucker who thought it up had to cut off his ear and eventually shoot himself. ‘Cause nobody would buy his crap. Or he had to get tacked to a cross or whatever. But years later, ‘don’t worry buddy, be bummed now, but in 100 years your butt farts, your last bag of semen is gonna be worth 100 million bucks!’ Yea, and me and a lot of my pals from the days, that are still around, it’s all they. . .it’s obviously the people that had the better idea than just ‘I’m punk rock!’ And they’re still failing because of it. In the same way that the country is going to shit. But suddenly Nirvana is huge and there’s a new president. But Nirvana is huge with their really careful record. It’s all these cool little pop songs that are all just the right song and they’re catchy and really carefully constructed and sell cajillions. And the new president is a professional politician scum sucker who immediately hires all these other old guard. And it’s just yet another fuckin’ snooze bag piece of shit politician. And basically America has gone to hell. Human kind has gone to hell. We’re all fuckin’ doomed! So what!
M: Which is strange. Another band like Bad Religion who sold out the Metro, with 13 year olds. These kids were maybe 2 years old when Bad Religion first began. But that’s who their music appeals to.
C: Because, you know, that’s what REM did too. But with something that’s a bit less moronic than Bad Religion. And carefully kept making the same record over and over. That’s fine. Eventually your market will grow up, or it will catch up. If any of that punk rock shit came out now it would be huge. Wait until Black Flag gets back together. It’ll be like mania for a couple years. They’ll be able to pack anywhere too.
M: Or Social Distortion.
C: Or Social D is a perfect example. And Nirvana is just the realization of it. They’re students of punk rock. You just distill out all the best elements of it, and it’s already getting more and more popular anyways, and you put on some cute little beads and some torn jeans and a jacket and you make it obvious how to get to it. And I’m not against any of that. I always sound bitter, but I’m not. I don’t give a fuck. People can do whatever, they’re all doomed. I consider humans the walking dead. I don’t even think of them as walking dead people. I think of them as walking dead plant life. Dirt, animated mud. Electromud. That’s a good song title. It’s too late, we already used it on our first album. That’s what Meat Puppets means. ‘Yea, go ahead and yammer, you little fuckin’ monkey. You little constructed bag of space born vacuum resistant nothingness.’ We’re not like punk standard bearers. We’re not gonna pack the Metro with 13 year olds, because we weren’t punk. Nor are we gonna fill it up with dudes wearing cowboy hats, ’cause we’re not cowpunk. Nor are we gonna fill it up with Prince clones, ’cause we’re not, you know, Prince or any of that shit. But we do fill the Metro up fairly good with people that can dig our trip. We’re not that far out or anything. But we’re definitely not one of those bands that have been around forever and are still bloody but unbowed. We just never have been. Those are some funny days, when punk rock was really punk. We had all these nasty little fuckers’all of ‘em are for sure in jail by now’comin’ to the gigs. It was like ‘Punk or Die!’ It was just so stupid. ‘Yea right, man! Punk out!’ And some of those bands are still together. I don’t give a crap. I’ve just gotten so used to it, gotten so used to shit selling. What I consider to be pure unadulterated fuckin’ garbage. And that’s helped me to be the really self-satisfied person that I am. I’ve always thought this. I’ve never felt anything different. If I had felt different I would’ve bought into America. I’d be a good little fuckin’ controller pig, ’cause I’m more than smart enough to be able to. Nobody comes anywhere near me in manipulability. In being me. I’m the only person I know who’s me. And I could do whatever I wanted. I’m white. I’m a white young male. I have the chance to take over the reins of Coke-Negro-Slovakia, whatever this country is called. No. I chose not to. ‘Cause I’m not into that. I’m on a different trip. I don’t give a fuck about Bad Religion or REM or rock ‘n’ roll or making money or any of that shit. But I do. I mean I have to ’cause I have to feed my little self. So I’m an idealistic non-purist.
M: That’s what the Meat Puppets are all about.
C: Only! That’s what anybody is about. But pretty much they don’t want to admit it. Most people express it through their love of football. You can see what the Meat Puppets are about. If you talked to Derrick and you talked to me, and you see what kind of people we’re about. You can kind of get an idea.
M: When can I expect an album?
C: Soon. The record company has gotten on it. We’re getting on it more and more. We’ve got all the songs together. And there are all these bitchin’ new songs. But is it the next ‘I’m Going Hungry’ or whatever? Is it the next ‘Jeremy’? Fuck no! ‘Have you written the next teen angst song about a teenager who’s just misunderstood’? Fuckin’ no, we haven’t. Maybe we have, but I don’t think so. We don’t deal with those issues. We never have. We kind of did on our last album. That song ‘Sam.’ In there somewhere it talks about how someone who wasn’t related to anyone, picked up a dollop of the doobiest doo doo, sparkled like something folks scramble to swallow. That’s funny.
M: But you did it in a way that nobody could understand what you were singing anyway.
C: ‘Cause we’re not fuckin’ retarded enough to, you know, ‘War is bad!’ ‘Really? We hadn’t noticed that.’ We’re not interested in manipulating the indigenous market groups as they’re able to be manipulated. Sell fuckin’ titties and beer to the twenty-somethings. Rebellion against your parents for teenagers. Titties and beer to the twenty- and thirty-somethings. Oppulance and cars to the forty-somethings. Power and fuckin’ misogyny to the fifty-somethings. And fuckin’ adult diapers beyond that. I don’t know if we’re gonna be huge or not. I doubt it. I highly doubt it.
M: Do you hope to be popular? Do you care?
C: For my brother’s kids, I would like us to be more popular. For all the other people around me who aren’t as strong as me, and who can’t take what we can take. We don’t have any money at all, ever.
M: But you’ve got a studio.
C: Yea, I have a few things. And at points we’ve done fairly good. We get little tiny piles of money. But then I gotta go right back out on tour again to support everything and we haven’t been out for a while. And now we’re in this other land. That’s something independents offered us, is the ability to connect with the people that are out there. ‘Cause people are into anything, anything you can think of as a human, you can find other people who are into it. There’s billions of us, and even if you’re into killing people and cutting them open and taking out their doo doo and making a lovely little brisket out of it, you can find at least another ten thousand people that are into it. So the Meat Puppets have found hundreds of thousands of people that dig our shit. And that’s been enough for years to roll with it. But then this major label thing came along, and we’re not anti-it, it’s just too fun to resist. So we’re in with them and they’re a challenge, you know. Can we make this thing, this really fairly interesting thing, that’s been noticed as interesting, and billed as such by the rock intelligence, can we make that something that is widely received? And that’s what the critics all came at us with years ago. ‘Can you do what Hendrix did? Can you do what the Beatles did?’ That’s what all the old sixties critics said to us. ‘Can you make it a movement and change to face of the world?’ And we’re like, ‘No. As a matter of fact we can’t. ‘Cause we’re not gonna dress up like fuckin’ Hendrix did, or like the Beatles did. Nor is there a war for us to exploit. ‘Stop the war, man!’ Oh, groovy!’
M: Well, I think I’ve got an interview.
C: Groovy. You have the startings of a book there.
M: I sure do.
C: This is a stock standard ‘Interview to College Guy: Brand Q.’ A PhD, though, in something as frivolous as that. Silly little waster of your own life and your parents money.
M: And everything you say is a lie, correct?
C: Yea. I like to preface my statements with a little bit of fuckin’ boiled yak lard.