Interview with Derrick Bostrom of Meat Puppets

by tonedefsound

The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, The Cure, Meat Puppets. What do they all have in common apart from being white, middle-class musicians? Their longevity. They’re still plucking their gitfiddles, banging on drums and singing to the crowds for 40+ years, but don’t tell them it’s at a much slower pace than what they used to play! Wait till you get to that age, you damn whippersnapper you!

For the uninitiated, the Meat Puppets core is Derrick Bostrom on drums and brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood on guitar and bass. In recent years, Curt’s son Elmo and keyboardist Ron Stabinsky have joined in on the fun. The late 70’s afforded them the chance to meat (lolzzz) as young lads and start performing hardcore punk shows before punk was a thing you could put on. Their sound over the decades has evolved to include cowpunk, psychedelic rock, and more alternative music intermingled with melodic vocals and intricate guitar riffs and bass lines. They’ve shared the stage with and influenced anyone and everyone from the 80’s, 90’s and beyond including but not limited to Nirvana (RIP), Soundgarden (RIP) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (not RIP).

Derrick has kept the Puppet dream alive even when the band was on hiatus or he wasn’t performing with them, through his encyclopedia of experiences on his website. They were punk before punk, grunge before grunge and web developers before web developers took over the world. What next can they pioneer?? Anyway, it’s a treasure trove of information with interesting stories on the band. Derrick sets aside a few minutes to chat with us about the good times, best times and better times coming up!

Derrick, can you compare touring around in the early 80’s to today?

It probably won’t surprise anyone that the biggest difference is the availability of mobile computing and cell phones. Advancing shows, booking rooms, doing press is so much easier that there is no comparison. Age presents another difference. These old bones love sitting in a car all day much less than they used to. Nor do they respond as well to the food options of a touring lifestyle. Luckily, the shows are better and the fans are more enthusiastic.

Your sound evolved from fast, chaotic punk to chilled out cowpunk, to ambient rock to spaced out psychedelic to more standard alternative and everything in between. Did your die-hard early fans disdain the progressive sounds of each newer album?

I suppose we may have lost one or two fans who preferred our sloppy initial works to our more mature later works. But eventually, fans accepted the drastic changes we might make from one album to the next as just part of the ride.

I recently watched an upload of you guys playing “Swimming Ground” and “Maiden’s Milk” on your Youtube channel and the crowd and host seemed pretty blown away by the technical play of the three of you. What have been some memorable reactions introducing your sound to the world?

I remember opening for Suicidal Tendencies in NYC back in 1984. They greeted our nascent “Up On The Sun” material with such ferocious negativity that the club dropped the curtain after about ten minutes. But usually, reactions haven’t been so entertaining. Probably the most gratifying reaction was the time during a tour with Black Flag when Rolling Stone gave “Meat Puppets II” a glowing review. It didn’t endear us much to Black Flag’s hardcore base – nor to Black Flag for that matter – but it made us feel good.

How many times did you have to break up the brother’s onstage Gallagher-brothers-like fights?

Fortunately, we were never as popular as Oasis, so the brothers never had the opportunity to let money come between them. Any onstage battles were usually about who owned the tastier licks and were played out in the music.

How have you been spending your time both artistically and career-wise when not playing with the band?

I hold down a day job, which is in no way as fun as playing music, but it gives me the luxury of thinking of my art in strictly non-monetary terms.

Any future post-pandemic plans in the works?

I guess that depends on whether there’s any post-pandemic future.

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