Meat Puppets were riding a wave of success in 1994. Too High to Die was released in January followed by a year packed with tour dates, some of them high profile opening gigs with bands like Stone Temple Pilots, others smaller headlining shows. Too High to Die would go on to be certified Gold (500,000 copies sold). To this date the band’s biggest selling record.
But there were signs that Meat Puppets’ run at success was to be short lived. For one thing, even though the album and its single (“Backwater”) were doing well, attendance at the band’s headlining gigs didn’t seem to grow in the same proportion. It was as if people liked the song, bought the album, but didn’t care too much for the band in general.
Another sign of the band’s impending loss of success was structural, the grunge era was coming to a close. Meat Puppets’ success was in large part based on their perceived association with big-time grunge acts like Nirvana, Blind Melon, and Stone Temple Pilots. With grunge waning industry executives were looking to put their resources elsewhere.
A third important reason for Meat Puppets fall is more personal, especially for the Kirkwood brothers. Vera, the brothers’ mother, came down with Cancer in late 1994. Cris, especially, was devastated. He moved in with her to help her in her sickness. At this same time Cris developed a serious heroin addiction, thus compounding the personal and familial problems the Kirkwoods faced.
As 1994 morphed into 1995 Cris’s drug addiction became more and more of a problem for the band. He became difficult to work with both on the road and in the studio. He was often a no-show at the recording sessions for No Joke!, the follow-up to Too High to Die. And when he did show up he would nod off in heroin-induced sleep. Things became so bad that Curt, Derrick, and second-time producer Paul Leary left for California to finish the record, without telling Cris. Indeed, it was around this time that Curt, in an attempt to distance himself from his family problems, moved to Long Beach, essentially separating himself from the rest of the band.
In the second half of 1995 executives from London Records met a few times with Curt, urging him to drop Cris from the band. Curt wouldn’t do it. Curt’s loyalty, it seems, was to his brother and band rather than the label. London Records promptly dropped Meat Puppets. The final tour of the original Meat Puppets was an opening slot for Primus in late 1995; their final gig was New Year’s Eve in Chicago.
Too High to Die Success
As mentioned in the previous chapter, some good things were happening for the band in the Fall/Winter of 1993 leading-up to the January 1994 release of Too High to Die. In early October the band headlined the 96 Wave (96.1 WAVF) WaveFest in Charleston, South Carolina, a festival attended by “as many as 30,000 fans” (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2482&dat=20011009&id=NZ1IAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CAsNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1732,3429789), including a few influential radio promoters who were impressed with the performance and got the word out that Meat Puppets are radio ready. Soon after this they played their week or so of shows opening for Nirvana who, at this point, were the most popular rock band in the nation. So, again, more big crowds and more exposure. In November Curt and Cris joined Nirvana to record MTV’s Nirvana Unplugged which aired for the first time on December 14; two of the three Meat Puppets songs made the final video cut (all three would make the CD to be released a year later).
With the looming success of Too High to Die, Nineteen ninety-four proved to be one of Meat Puppets’ busiest years before or since. The record was released on January 25 for which, as is customary, the band would embark on a year-long series of concert tours to promote. First, however, some housecleaning was in order. One action they took was to find new management in the form of big-time managers John Silva and Tami Blevins of Gold Mountain Entertainment. As Derrick suggests, Silva and Blevins took some of the pressure off of the band so that they could concentrate on their art rather than on the business.
John hired the day-to-day person who’d been working with us from our old management, so the transition was good. We were able to concentrate on doing shows and not have to worry so much about that stuff. Our old manager was picking at us. He seemed to be more worried about getting his cut, and our new manager more like, “You guys do what you do and I’ll do what I do and don’t worry about a thing.” (personal interview, 2012)
At one point while “auditioning” possible second guitarists John Frusciante, who had recently quit playing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, went to Phoenix to jam with Meat Puppets. Cris’s telling of this story is consistent with the idea that London Records was encouraging the band to pick-up a second guitarist ala Nirvana.
John came out. He quit the Chilis and he said in some newspaper article that the only band he’d think about playing with was us. And the record label saw it. And we knew John. And they were like, “Why don’t you ask him if he’d like to do that?” It seemed like an interesting idea, as I recall. John came out and jammed with us a little bit. It was trippy. It was interesting. (personal interview, 2012)
In the end Curt settled on Troy Meiss, a guitarist from Kansas who had spent a bit of time playing with the Feelies. Both Curt and Derrick enjoyed having Troy on tour but Cris, on the other hand, apparently did not. Cris, according to Troy, did not like him and treated him horribly during Meat Puppets’ extensive 1994 tour schedule (Prato 2012). Though Derrick liked him as a member of the band, he saw the addition of Troy as a causal factor in Cris’s increasingly erratic behavior; Curt was spending more time with Troy than with Cris.
Without the structure of being tight with his brother, with Curt going off with Troy, I’m afraid that had as much to do with Cris getting into trouble as anything else. (personal interview, 2012)
Too High to Die was released on January 25, 1994, and the band immediately hit the road to promote it. They began the year with what they titled the “Munchies” tour, a two-week acoustic promotional jaunt for press, retail, and colleges throughout the country with lunch bags full of goodies as promotion gifts.
The band began February by making a professional-budget video for “Backwater,” directed by established videographer Rocky Schenck, a video that received ample airplay on MTV. Schenck had already made a name for himself making videos for Alice in Chains, the Afghan Wigs, and Paul Westerberg, among others. The video caught much of the psychedelic joy that Meat Puppets’ fans enjoyed: liquid distorted images of the band members, disturbed looking clowns, trolls, long hair. It was a cool video to make, says Cris.
He made these clear plastic tanks, big enough that you could get all the way underneath, and then suspended them over each other and hung a camera on top of it and shot down through them, and floated flowers and shit, had us get underneath them at different levels. It was a trip. And there’s some cool other affects, like shards of mirrors. (personal interview, 2012)
The video received ample airplay on MTV, helping propel the song to #47 in Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Album Rock Charts. It also received a nomination for Best Editing in a Video at the 1994 MTV Video Awards.
In late November/early December of 1994 Meat Puppets embarked on a short (“five or six shows at the most” [Derrick, personal correspondence, 2012]) headline tour of France and the Netherlands with Alternative Tentacles band Alice Donut. Curt and Cris brought their mother, Vera, along for the trip. It was here that the cancer she would battle for the next couple years first became an issue, one which play a major part in the lives of the Kirkwood brothers leading up to, and beyond, the making of their next record, No Joke! (Prato 2012).
With the twelve months of touring in 1994 coming to an end it became time for Curt to whip up a batch of new songs and for the band to get to work on making a new record for 1995. But, as things tend to be, there were problems to be dealt with, roadblocks to plow through, life to live. One problem, though not necessarily a threat to the band’s existence, was Derrick’s increasing distance from the Kirkwood brothers and boredom with the rock and roll lifestyle. It had become all business to him. He had stopped partying, doing any drugs really, in the late 1980s, so at this point he would show up for gigs, play, and go back to his hotel room.
The only bone of contention there would be that after a gig I wouldn’t stay up all night with the label hacks doing drugs. I would go back to my room and try to get some rest so that I could continue on. I do not do well without rest. I learned that on the road. If I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t function. So after a certain point I was like, “You’re gonna do the 4:00 am record promotion.”
And Curt used to try to pretend that it was a huge burden. Like, “You need to be there!”
And I’m like, “If that’s what it’s gonna take, I guess we’re gonna fail. I’m not doing it.” (Derrick, personal interview, 2012).
But overall, Derrick liked his job and was happy being in the band. When asked if he enjoyed his time in the band in 1994, he responded
More or less. More so than the late-eighties. I liked working with Tami. I liked having the accountants to help us with our stuff. I liked having our finances more or less in order. I thought we were doing good shows. I enjoyed having Troy around. I very much enjoyed working with our tour manager, Ben Marts, during ’94. (personal interview, 2012)
The main problem for the band at this point, it seems, was Cris’s drug use and its concomitant tribulations for himself and for those around him. The scene Meat Puppets were playing through 1994 was rife with hard drugs, heroin and cocaine were readily available. A number of the artists Meat Puppets played with at this time are now well-publicized cases of drug addiction. It was no secret that Kurt Cobain used heroin regularly. And though he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound rather than heroin in April of 1994, many feel that drugs played a significant part in his ongoing depression. Stone Temple Pilots front man Scott Weiland is said to have started using heroin with Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes on the bands’ 1993 tour together; Paul Leary, the producer of Too High to Die and the upcoming No Joke! being Haynes’ bandmate, had this to say to Greg Prato (2012): “Everything I had my hands into was turning to shit because of somebody’s fucking drug problem” (p. 279). Additionally, Shannon Hoon, lead singer for Blind Melon (the band Meat Puppets toured with in February, 1994) had serious drug problems and died of a cocaine overdose in October, 1995.
Mix together the fact that hard drugs were rampant in this particular scene, that Vera, the Kirkwood’s mom, was battling cancer, and that Curt and Cris had never been ones to shy away from drug ingestion, and you have a perfect recipe for a Meat Puppet to come down with an addiction himself, and it was Cris. Furthermore Cris was now dating Michelle Tardif, a woman who had a taste for hard drugs herself, so now he had an intimate with which to share his addiction. Top this off with the fact that it was Cris who moved in with Vera to provide hospice as she died, and you end-up with one sick Puppet.
According to Derrick, it was par for the course that Cris would become increasingly unstable as Meat Puppets’ tours progressed.
The first week or so of any tour throughout our career was fine until one of Cris’s tent posts came undone and then his tent flaps started flapping in the wind and then all the posts would come undone and the next thing you know he was a freakin’ mess and unbearable to be around. (personal interview, 2012)
The addition of Troy to the band’s touring line-up didn’t seem to help the situation. Troy gave Curt someone other than Cris to hang-out with on tour, leaving Cris to his own devices, many of which involved hard drugs. One result of Cris’s estrangement from Curt was that Cris did not treat Troy well. Indeed, according to Troy, “the guy fucking tortured me” (Prato, p. 260).
The combination of coming off a year of intense touring, Curt writing songs for a new album, taking care of Vera, Cris’s disabilities due to drugs, and the Unplugged in New York payday, led to a relatively quiet early 1995 for Meat Puppets. Curt, who had had enough of Cris and his habits, and was not dealing well with his mother’s illness, moved to California after the recording of No Joke!, ostensibly to find a new touring rhythm guitarist, and stayed, living by the beach in Venice, for two years. He did eventually hire Kyle Ellison to play on Meat Puppets’ final tour with their “original” line-up, with Primus in November, 1995.
According to Derrick, Meat Puppets were looking forward to making a “proper major label record with lots of money and lots of big nerdy engineering stuff” (personal interview, 2012) this time out. To this end Curt spent the first few months of 1995 writing songs and the band cut demos of these songs which they dutifully sent to London as any proper major label act would do. Following their laissez-faire attitude toward the band, London accepted the demos out of hand.
As Derrick suggests, “During the No Joke! sessions Cris’s drug problems were in full effect.” (personal interview, 2012) There were days, says co-producer Paul Leary, when Cris simply wouldn’t show up, putting recording on hold until he would (Prato, 2012). They would even schedule days just for Cris to come in, and sometimes he wouldn’t. One day he came in, promptly laid face-down on the floor of the studio, and slept for three hours (Prato,2012). Sometimes he nodded off while playing. (Cris, personal interview, 2012; Prato, 2012). In short, as Peter Koepke, President of London Records and the man responsible for signing Meat Puppets, told Greg Prato (2012), Cris was totally unreliable at this point.
As for the relationships between Curt, Cris, and Derrick as band members during the recording sessions, things were strained. The pressures of making a record and having two seriously unhealthy family members (his brother and mother) was taking its toll on Curt. According to Dennis Pelowski, a long-time friend of the band (and current manager, 2008-present), Curt was “the most uptight I’ve ever seen him in his life (Prato 2012, p. 268). Curt and Cris, especially seemed to be at odds with one another, Cris’s addiction-fueled (non) activities being the main cause. But overall, according to Derrick, none of the band members were speaking to each other much. They lived apart, came to the studio separately, did their parts, and left. Separately.
Despite the interpersonal troubles Curt, Cris, and Derrick were having during the making of No Joke!, in an interview with Greg Prato for his book Too High to Die (2012) Curt actually claims that the recording of the record was actually “fun” and “easy.” The reason being that it was the first major label record they were able to make at home, “in town,” in Phoenix.
Fun and easy though it may have been to make the record in town, in the end Curt, Paul, and engineer Cris Shaw ended-up finishing the record at Westlake Studio in Los Angeles, without letting Cris know. In Prato’s book this seems to be a pretty big deal. Both Paul Leary and Troy Meiss remember the move to L.A. as a fairly definitive moment in the recording of the record (Prato 2012). However when I interviewed Curt in 2012 he had a hard time recalling the move, and Derrick (again in a 2012 personal interview) said, “I didn’t even know they went to California to finish it.” Eventually, after a little prodding, Curt said, “Maybe we did go out there. I guess that’s true.” He continued by saying that he and Derrick had done the same thing when recording 1989’s Monsters:
Cris was drinking a lot and being obnoxious, so Derrick and I went out there and started Monsters, got a whole lot of it done before we had him come out. (personal interview)
In the end, as Curt’s memory of the event came back, he says they only went to California to do final mixes. The vast majority of the record was made in Phoenix.
What Puppets Say about the Record
The general consensus among Meat Puppets is that No Joke! sounds good but, unlike Too High to Die which, according to Curt,
pretty accurately nailed how the band sounded at the time. No Joke! was a little bit more of a process in the recording to where it sounded like a record more than the band. (personal interview, 2012)
It sounds like a record, they say, which is to say it doesn’t seem to have the looseness and intersubjectivity of feel that had come to characterize the band’s live sound by this time. It sounds, to Derrick, like a “cut-and-paste” record, one that’s good, but “the vibe’s not there.” (personal interview, 2012)
Curt suggests the “heavy” sound of the record is the result of the rock music sounds that were around at the time, the sounds that Curt and the band were around at the time: “With that album we were playing a lot of big, loud shows, so the record came out more rock, or heavy rock.” (personal interview, 2012) As for the content of the record, the songs themselves, Curt and Derrick agree that it is dark, probably due to the circumstances under which it was made. Furthermore, the scene in which they were caught up influenced the record’s “dark” nature,
It's really just a bunch of my stuff filtered thru the "alternative" scene that we were sort of caught up in...lots of hard rock with teen angst overtones. Perhaps a bit of influence from my own band’s plight, but plight was all around as we toured with Nirvana, STP, Blind Melon, etc. Lots of drug use around and I wasn't using...just watching others fuck their lives up. I tried to make it beautiful anyways but with a little sting. (Curt, personal correspondence, 2012)
What Others Say
Reviews of No Joke! are mixed, with more writers rating it on the negative side than probably any other Meat Puppets’ release. Some reviewers fall on the side that the record is decent, nice to listen to, average, competent, standard rock with songs that are okay. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/no-joke!-mw0000645644, http://www.reocities.com/mjareviews/meatpupp.html#NO) The sense here is that the record is alright, but not as outstanding a record as one might expect from such a mighty band. Thus, it’s a bit disappointing. Along these same lines are writers who feel the record is not inspired, not glorious (as if glory was expected of this band), and bland. (http://www.reocities.com/mjareviews/meatpupp.html#NO) Furthermore, some writers accused the record of sounding “samey,” (http://www.markprindle.com/meatpuppets.htm#nojoke) suggesting a lack of sonic texture from song to song, resulting in a record that, rather than challenging the listener, is something more like “easy listening” (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1995-11-17/entertainment/9511170448_1_meat-puppets-curt-kirkwood-joke) music. Again, bland and probably insignificant.
Never-the-less, of course, there are those who write positively about No Joke!. Mark Prindle, for instance, wrote that it was one of the best CDs of the year, containing “nine great songs’ (out of thirteen), and Nick Karn suggests it has “traces of greatness.” It is seen as a “fun ride” and “you will like it.” (http://dailyuw.com/archive/1995/12/07/imported/stylus-record-review-meat-puppetsno-joke#.UNkxM6xQDHQ, http://www.westnet.com/consumable/1995/11.13/revmeatp.html).
As with any band that reaches “legend” or “godfather” status, and Meat Puppets were on the cusp in 1995, new recordings are measured (artistically and commercially) against the successes of their past. No Joke! is no exception. In one paragraph, for instance, the reviewer for the All Music Guide suggests that Meat Puppets “didn’t mess with the formula” of their past records, “the band’s essential sound” hasn’t changed, and that “the tunes and riffs are cut from the same mold as before” (http://www.allmusic.com/album/no-joke!-mw0000645644). No Joke! is variously seen as “one of your finer Meat Puppets albums” (http://www.markprindle.com/meatpuppets.htm#nojoke), “the same great stuff” (http://www.westnet.com/consumable/1995/11.13/revmeatp.html), “a return to form” (http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,298709,00.html), and “no exception” to the band’s immaculate rhymes of the past (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1995-11-17/entertainment/9511170448_1_meat-puppets-curt-kirkwood-joke). A few reviews, of course, compared the new record with its predecessor, Too High to Die, wondering if it could duplicate the former’s success, noting No Joke! to be a “darker” version of its more successful cousin. Finally, there were those who wrote that this mid-1990s version of Meat Puppets had changed, they weren’t “the same set of Puppets that roared out of the blocks in the early ‘80s” (http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=1056613&style=music&fulldesc=T, http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/11.22.95/meatpup-9547.html).
Reviewers also noted that, similar to Too High to Die, Butthole Surfers’ guitarist Paul Leary was once again hired-on to co-produce No Joke!, and along with this is the mention that the record has a “heavier” sound than its predecessor. It’s also considered more “straight ahead” with more brisk tempos that Too High to Die.
Again, the important point to the above comparative reviews is that by the mid-1990s Meat Puppets were already enshrined as an essential forerunner of the bourgeoning grunge scene, and their best records were considered to have been made a decade previous. The playing of three Meat Puppets II songs on Nirvana Unplugged (and nothing from any other point in their career) served to solidify this perception of them. Reviewers, then, really couldn’t help themselves from comparing “current” Puppets fare with their output from the early 80s.
Many writers commented on the contrast between No Jokes!’ guitar heavy sound and its melodic vocals and harmonies. It is said to have “distorted chord washes,” “scorching rock riffs,” and “bone crushing,” “lugubrious thrashing” (to emphasize its dark tone) mixed alongside a “smooth voice” and “soft melodic vocals” that make for a “pleasing chorus” made up of “off kilter yet on target harmonies” all, again in comparison with earlier records, delivered in Curt’s “distinctive vocal drone.”
Of course writers, as they are apt to do, reviewed No Joke! as it fit within their perceptions of already existing musical genres. Most common, is the case for Meat Puppets’ records dating back to their first full-length in 1981, they are seen (heard) to have a strong country strain: they are written about as “countryish,” “country-western folk,” “twisted country,” “hillbilly,” and “breezy country rock,” as well as “rootsy” and “southern fried” (be sure to catch the drug reference with that last one). Also, however, writers made sure to highlight Meat Puppets’ hardcore punk rock roots and how these roots link the band to the then modern grunge and alternative movements.
Though Curt claims that at the time he didn’t notice the dark themes within the record (though he says that now, with time and distance from the record, he can see how others might see it that way), many writers did. Maybe, as Cris says, it was the influence of their dying mother, or maybe it was Curt’s difficulties in dealing with a brother firmly in the grasp of heroin addiction, or possibly it was the impending demise of his band at the precise moment when they were poised to make it big). Whatever the reasons, critics saw No Joke! as lacking the humor of the band’s past records (again, comparing this one to their earlier catalogue), as having a “more brutal vision” than previous records, “brutish,” “grim”, “absurd and dark,” akin to a “Poe short story” that contains “distorted observations of humanity.” As Derrick might say, in a catalogue full of dark-themed songs, No Joke! is a particularly dire sounding record.
Of course the critics didn’t avoid Cris’s fall as they wrote about the album. One writer chastised London for “throwing away one of the best CDs of the year” simply because “your bass player is a drug user.” While another makes reference to the “drug fried” Cris. On a positive note, however, a few writers liked the contributions Cris made to No Joke! in the form of two songs: “Inflatable” and “Cobbler.”
Finally, Curt’s lyrics don’t go unnoticed by reviewers of No Joke!. They are described as “catchy” “super-smart poems.” As was his style by now, his songs are filled with “bad-trip metaphors” and “outright nihilism,” seen as “lyrically absurd.” Indeed, one criticism of the record as a whole is that the lyrics are “getting a bit too absurd for their own good.”
Post-No Joke!/The End of Meat Puppets V.1
No Joke! was recorded in April, 1995, and released six months later on October 3. As Curt says, London Records was prepared to throw their heavy guns into promoting the record (Derrick isn’t quite so sure about this). They pushed the first single, “Scum,” getting it in rotation at a number of mainstream rock radio stations early on. Then, as Curt also says, when they got wind that the band was “messing up on the dope” (Curt, personal interview), they pulled the plug. No Joke! reached #183 on the Billboard 200 charts (compared to Too High to Die, which reached #62).
Between the recording of No Joke! and its release not a lot happened. Curt moved to California to, in his words, “detach” himself from his brother’s habit and his mother’s terminal illness (Derrick remembers Curt going to California ostensibly to look for a new bassist). Derrick, as far as he was involved in band-related activities, worked on designs for the CD insert. Cris took care of his ailing mother and became firmly addicted to heroin.
Three days after the release of No Joke! Meat Puppet’s again played Wavefest in South Carolina. They also appeared on Conan O’Brien in October, playing “Scum” with new second guitarist Kyle Ellison, and on MTV 120 Minutes. On October 21, Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon, another alternative/indie/grunge colleague of the band, died of a cocaine overdose, yet another reminder for Curt of the “scene” in which his band was a part.
Soon after the record’s release, Meat Puppets’ management, Gold Mountain, began to badger Curt to replace Cris, who’d become too much of a liability for a label that had only a year or so before had to deal with the drug addictions and suicide of Curt Cobain. They told Curt that either Cris goes or the entire band goes. “That didn’t sit well with me,” says Curt, “so they got rid of us all.” (personal interview, 2012)
In November Meat Puppets headed-out as a support act for Primus, a tour that would be their last. Derrick says that this was the third leg of Primus’s 1995 tour and, thus, they were playing tertiary markets. Many of the gigs played were in college basketball arenas that held anywhere from 4,500 to 6,000 people: SUNY Albany, Western Connecticut University, Lehigh University. Cris, in his own words, was pretty messed-up at this point: “That was the only tour I did when I was actually addicted to dope. It was hellish.” (personal interview, 2012). Additionally, it was becoming apparent to Curt that London had withdrawn support for the record:
Nobody even knew we had a record out even though the record company was like, “This is getting a lot of adds” and all this stuff. It went away pretty quickly. They lost faith in us because the band was messing up with the dope and stuff. They could tell. (personal interview, 2012)
Curt finally had to accept reality, he had been living in denial about Cris’s habit. Maybe, he suggests, he was too involved in the situation to recognize what was going on: “I was just too close to it to see it. I think other people saw it a little more clearly.” (2012)
The writing was on the wall. Curt cancelled any and all engagements that the band had planned for 1996. The last show of the original Meat Puppets was on December 31, 1995 at the Hard Rock Café in Chicago.
The actual end of the original band writes more like a fade away than a clean break. There was never an actual “break-up.” As Curt sees it the band stopped working because he, its leader, let it. In his thoughts letting everyone cool-out for awhile, letting Cris see that nothing professional would happen if he didn’t get his act together, would bring the band back together. But that didn’t work.
The reason the thing came to a halt for awhile was because I just didn’t do anything about it. I quit talking to Derrick and quit talking to Cris. I was like, “Well, maybe this will work itself out.” And it didn’t. There wasn’t anything that was, like, an event or something like that. I tried to get Cris to go to rehab. He wouldn’t do it. I figured he’d get over it pretty quickly if I quit doing anything. But it didn’t get any better. So time just went on. (personal interview, 2012)
Derrick’s story of the original band’s demise is similar to Curt’s, peppered with a bit of bitterness at Curt claiming sole ownership of an enterprise that had included Derrick from the start.
Curt cancelled the tour and moved to California. And it was like, “I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”
I was like, “Great. I’ve got money from Too High to Die and I don’t have anything lined-up with the band.” So I got on with my life. Eventually he was like, “So, uh, yea. . .,” two years later or whatever.
And I was like, “I got other things to do. Here’s my schedule. If you can fit into my schedule. I have a life, too. I’m not just sitting around waiting for you to call me.” Once I put it to him like that, I was like, “I’d love to work with you again, but here are the things that I need to do.”
He didn’t call me back. He just got his own band together.
So ended Meat Puppets version one. No Joke! is an underrated record containing some solid songs recorded in a professional manner. But it wasn’t meant to be for Derrick, Curt, and Cris. Derrick, anxious to get on with his professional life outside of music, found himself a regional position with Whole Foods Market. But he still had a little music left in him: In 1996 he released Songs of Spiritual Uplift and in 2000, The Sounds of Today, both under the moniker Today’s Sounds.
Cris continued to battle his family and drug demons. In a fairly short span after the end of the band his mother died, his wife died, and a good friend died (on his couch). In 2003 he began a twenty-one month prison term for assaulting a security guard at a Phoenix post office. The prison stint did, however, work in Cris’s favor as he was finally able to kick his habit while inside.
Curt continued on. After the break-up of the original band he put together a new one with the name Royal Neanderthal Orchestra. However, label pressures encouraged him to rechristen the band Meat Puppets. This version of Meat Puppets released an EP (You Love Me, 1999), and LP (Golden Lies, 2000), and a live LP (Live, 2002). Furthermore, he teamed up with Krist Noveselic of Nirvana and Bud Gaugh of Sublime to release one eponymous record under the name Eyes Adrift (2002). He then released another album with Bud Gaugh and other friends, the self-title Volcano (2004). Finally, in 2005 Curt released a solo record, Snow.
In 2005 Cris was released from prison. In 2006, through Curt’s son Elmo, he got in touch with Curt. In 2007 Curt and Cris released a new Meat Puppets record, Rise to Your Knees, with new drummer Ted Marcus. They then began a regular touring and recording schedule releasing new records in 2009 (Sewn Together), 2011 (Lollipop), and 2013 (Rat Farm); the last two using Shandon Sahm on drums.
And that’s where they stand today. Meat Puppets (Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood, and Shandon Sahm) are today a professional rock group touring and recording at a regular clip. As always, it’s Curt’s band. He writes the songs, makes most of the “important” decisions, and writes the lyrics.
 Other videos nominated were “Everybody Hurts, R.E.M. (winner), “Amazing,” Aerosmith, “Human Behaviour,” Bjork, “Sweet Lullaby,” Deep Forest, “Kiss the Frog,” Peter Gabriel, and “Disarm,” Smashing Pumpkins.
 Cris and Michelle would marry in 1996, she would die of a drug-related infection in August of 1998.
 Kyle would also play guitar in Curt’s next version of Meat Puppets (also known as the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra) that released one EP, You Love Me, in 1999, one studio LP, Golden Lies, in 2000, and one live record, Meat Puppets Live (2001).
 In 1999 Curt put together the Royal Neanderthal Orchestra, a band that included current Meat Puppet’s drummer Shandon Sahm. He eventually rechristened that band Meat Puppets even though Curt was the only member left from the original band. This version of Meat Puppets released a studio EP (You Love Me, 1999), one studio LP (Golden Lies, 2000) and one live LP (Meat Puppets Live, 2002). In 2006, after Cris’s eighteen month stint in prison for assaulting a post office security guard, the Kirkwood brothers reformed Meat Puppets without Derrick,
They had a third party say, “So, you wouldn’t really be interested I doing this, would you?”
“No, not really.”
“We didn’t think so. Thanks.” (Derrick, personal interview, 2012)
As of this writing, the current Meat Puppets have released four LPs: Rise to Your Knees (2007, with Ted Marcus on drums), Sewn Together (2009, with Marcus again on drums), Lollipop (2011, with Shandon Sahm on drums), and Rat Farm (2013, with Sahm on drums).