While many will associate the Meat Puppets with the ’90s (thanks in no small part to their drop-in on Nirvana’s famed 1994 unplugged set), the Arizona band has quietly spent the past decade releasing one fantastic album after another.
Derrick Bostrom, who recently reunited with the Kirkwood brothers after a two-decade hiatus from the group, was kind enough to take some time and discuss all things Meat Puppets, including their latest release, Dusty Notes.
Generation Mixtape (GM): First and foremost, thanks for taking some time to chat. Curt and Cris first reunited with you back in August 2017, when the three of you performed a set at your Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame induction ceremony–what was it like being back on stage together after all those years?
Derrick Bostrom (DB): For me, it was the first time behind the kit in twenty years. In all that time, I never played with anyone else, and that night, it was obvious why. The feeling of reconnection between the three of us was instantaneous.
(GM): How did the reunion come about?
(DB): I had not been in contact with the band for years. I actually heard about the Hall of Fame thing from a co-worker. I reached out to the band through their manager, who helped arrange a call with Curt. As we spoke, the years seemed to melt away. I found myself getting excited all over again.
(GM): How do you think the writing/recording of Dusty Notes was impacted by your return?
(DB): I came on board in the middle of the project. The basic tracks had already been recorded. I took them home and woodshedded on my own for a few weeks, then came into the studio and played them along to a click track. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it actually worked really well. I had the freedom to work out my parts in advance, to make sure everything fit just right.
(GM): It’s been six years since the release of Rat Farm, which, in a way, felt like a ‘back to basics’ return to the band’s DIY roots–how does Dusty Notes compare to that release?
(DB): Curt wrote the current batch of songs with Ron in mind. After Curt came up with the basic structures, the two of them got together and fleshed out the arrangements with keyboard parts. The goal was to end up with songs that would stay in the band’s live set.
(GM): Talk about what Keyboardist Ron Stabinsky and Curt’s son Elmo brought to the recording process.
(DB): Elmo actually plays more guitar on the album than his father does. Curt envisioned the songs with himself mostly on acoustic. Elmo’s electric work really stands out on this record. Every day during the recording process, he came up with something surprising and delightful. Elmo is my new hero.
(GM): Will Ron and Elmo be touring with the band?
(DB): It’s not the band without Ron and Elmo.
(GM): With so many classics to choose from, do you have a favorite song to perform live?
(DB): The best parts of any set are the parts un-planned for. We live for those moments of on-the-fly composition (I guess you call it “improvisation”). It could happen at any time, during any song. It’s why I look forward to getting on stage every night.
(GM): With the legendary status of early albums like II, and the mainstream success that came along with Too High To Die, a lot of people might be surprised to learn that you guys have released some of your best music in recent years (Lollipop is pure genius). Is there an album from the last twenty years that you’d like to highlight for someone who might have lost touch with your music?
(DB): Though it’s no longer in print, I encourage fans to keep an eye out for Curt’s 2005 solo album, “Snow.”
(GM): The first single, “Warranty”, is a vintage Meat Puppets country-punk romp, albeit, with one of the band’s strongest hooks in recent memory. Is there a story behind how that song came about?
(DB): We prefer to let our songs speak for themselves. To paraphrase the song itself, “what you hear is what I am.”
(GM): In the past, you guys have recorded pretty quickly, and because of this, there’s a spontaneous energy permeating most of your records. While Dusty Notes still has that trademark ‘Meat Puppets’ feel, the record is also incredibly nuanced (“The Great Awakening” and “Vampyr’s Winged Fantasy” immediately come to mind) and layered. Did you guys do anything different with the writing and recording process this time around?
(DB): The Meat Puppets always approach each album differently. Dusty Notes is no exception. This album represents the end of a five-year hiatus, both of recording and writing. In the interim, Cris developed a relationship with Phoenix’s Premier Studio and its owner Jeremy Parker. He talked Curt into recording there. Curt gave Jeremy a pretty free hand, as he did Ron, Elmo and myself. The final product was so successful that Curt shared production credit with Jeremy and the whole band, representing the collaborative nature of the project. The album, buoyed by the ecstatic reunion of the original trio, is filled with artistic discovery and creative connections, which is how it should be.
(GM): Anything final thoughts on Dusty Notes you’d like to share?
(DB): Another important contributor to “Dusty Notes” is artist Sam Hundley, who designed the album cover. Curt and Sam were childhood friends who formed a bond over their mutual creative energy. The two of the reconnected recently, and it turned out he fit right into the Meat Puppets family, giving us a new look that still manages to resonate our crazy unique energy.
Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published in 2018 on Soundblab.