Inductee Biography for MEAT PUPPETS
Meat Puppets is an American rock band like no other of its generation. Formed in 1980, the trio nominally was a hardcore punk band like other acts on SST Records, the small but influential label that put out the band’s first seven albums. Unlike their labelmates, Meat Puppets also blended punk, folk, bluegrass, country and psychedelic rock into their songwriting and performances.
The Kirkwood brothers, Cris and Curt, grew up in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix and met drummer Derrick Bostrom while attending Brophy Prep. They moved to Tempe and eventually formed the band in 1980, staying true to the faster, harder, noisier punk-rock ethic they were steeped in.
After releasing their first EP in 1991, they were signed by SST Records’ honcho Greg Ginn (the lead guitarist for Black Flag). Their third SST album, “Up on the Sun,” marked the full flowering of the band’s unique sound. As rock historian Stephen Thomas Erlewine notes, that album “demonstrated that the band was beginning to streamline their sound, moving closer to traditional blues-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia. This shift toward conventional hard rock continued throughout the late ’80s, as the band gradually sanded away their rougher punk edges.”
SST released seven of the Pups’ albums – including critical favorites “Huevos” and “Mirage” – while the band built a dedicated and large following on the road. This helped propel the Pups to a major-label deal with London Records in 1991. The band’s major-label debut “Forbidden Places” came as part of a wave of signings of Arizona bands in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But Curt Kirkwood said that the band’s touring success made a critical difference. “I wouldn’t want to be in this position (having a major-label deal) and not have fans already. The stakes are high and there’s a lot expected of you, but whether this record dies or not, it doesn’t matter … because I’ve got a lot of fans. We can go ahead and tour endlessly.”
He viewed the band’s improvisatory live performances almost as a separate entity from their recordings. “Live performance for us is a pretty cathartic experience. We’re into the must ultimate, voodoo, teenage #$%! that we can get. Trying to do that on a machine in a studio like that is kind of like getting a roller-coaster ride on a toilet.”
Between tours they would play in Phoenix clubs such as the Rebel Lounge, the Mason Jar and the Sun Club.
Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain shone a big light on the Meat Puppets by inviting Cris and Curt to play the Pups’ “Plateua,” “Oh Me” and “Lake of Fire” on “MTV Unplugged,” which helped boost the Meat Puppets’ next album “Too High to Die” into a bona fide hit in 1994.
The band has gone through some hiatuses and reconfigurations since, but when the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame hosted the original trio (playing together publicly for the first time in two decades), Curt, Cris and Derrick showed how true they have stayed to their roots in the desert of Arizona with a sonic haboob of a set!