New Meat Puppets Will Hit Stage Jan. 17

Frontman Curt Kirkwood to unveil new lineup while brother Cris Kirkwood continues drug treatment.

Singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood will debut a new Meat Puppets lineup next week, while

his brother Cris Kirkwood -- the influential country-punk band's original bassist --

continues with a treatment program for heroin and other drugs.

The next several months, in fact, will find the Meat Puppets at their busiest in years,

despite Cris Kirkwood's struggles.

Curt Kirkwood will perform with the new lineup, which includes neither Cris nor original

drummer Derrick Bostrom, on Jan. 17 at Emo's in Austin, Texas, according to the band's

manager. Kirkwood, an Arizona native, now lives in Austin.

Meanwhile, Bostrom is completing work for the spring release of The Meat Puppets

Live in Montana, which documents two December 1988 shows, as well as a reissue

series that will include dozens of unreleased songs.

Still, the attention of many fans is focused on 38-year-old Cris Kirkwood.

Meat Puppets manager Tammy Blevins said Friday (Jan. 8) that the bassist has been

participating in an outpatient drug-treatment program. "When I say that, I don't want

people to get the impression that he's clean," Blevins said. "He's not. But he does realize

the depth of his situation."

Cris was itinerant for months following the August death, from an overdose, of his wife,

Michelle Tardif. Friends and family were concerned that his years-old drug habit had

finally spun out of control. But he has returned to the band's hometown, Phoenix, and

has shown up for recent court dates related to past drug-possession arrests, according to

Blevins. "That's a big step for him," she said.

At Emo's, Curt, 40, will play with Andrew Duplantis (bass, ex-Bob Mould), Kyle Eillison

(guitar) and Shandon Sahm (drums). The same group has performed under the name

Royal Neanderthal Orchestra. Now that they're calling themselves the Meat Puppets, the

other name has been retired.

"It's a lot heavier than what the [original] Meat Puppets would have done, although

because Curt is singing and because of Curt's guitar playing, you still hear that Meat

Puppets thing coming through," Blevins said. "But some of the guitars are almost

hard-rock-like, and that's Kyle's influence."

During the 1980s, the bluegrass-influenced Meat Puppets were an integral part of SST

Records' legendary punk roster, which also included the art-rockish Black Flag, the jazzy

Minutemen and the melodic punk band Hüsker Dü. In 1994, Kurt Cobain -- a

longtime fan -- and his band Nirvana saluted the Meat Puppets by inviting them onstage

to perform three Meat Puppets songs with them during a taping of "MTV Unplugged."

At the time, the Kirkwoods and Bostrom were riding the Meat Puppets' biggest

commercial success to date with the single "Backwater" (RealAudio excerpt),

from Too High to Die.

Rykodisc plans to re-release the band's SST albums in what Bostrom calls "a fairly

comprehensive, historic reissue project." The new editions of such influential albums as

Meat Puppets II (1983) and Huevos (1987) will be fleshed out with demos,

outtakes, rehearsal tapes and compilation tracks. The discs also will include expanded

artwork, liner notes and CD-ROM video.

"It boils down to just under three hours of new material floated across seven CDs,"

Bostrom, 38, said Friday.

The Meat Puppets Live in Montana, culled from two gigs in December 1988,

features myriad covers, including Woody Guthrie's "Do-Re-Mi," the Elvis Presley

soundtrack song "Cotton Candy Land," Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" and a heavy-metal

medley.

"Half the album is us working out songs from [1989's] Monsters, but they're a little

different," the drummer said. "They have a part missing, or an arrangement is still being

worked out, or a vocal line is still a little different."

While the months ahead will see a flurry of Meat Puppets activity, the band's footing is

not quite solid.

Curt has written "four albums' worth" of new songs, including "Way That It Are," "Fat Boy,"

"Clone" and "Pieces of Me," according to Blevins. But he's waiting until the

reorganization of London Records -- the band's label since 1991 -- is complete before

recording them. London is part of the PolyGram group of labels that have been folded

into the new Universal Music Group under a $10.4 billion merger completed in

December.

When he does begin recording, Curt will use the new Meat Puppets with him, with

Bostrom likely contributing as well, Blevins said.

Cris Kirkwood has his own tests ahead. The bassist is on probation for a drug

possession conviction; if he tests positive for drug use in the coming weeks, he could go

to jail, according to Blevins.

Curt Kirkwood, meanwhile, will continue writing. For the past several years, Blevins said,

songwriting has helped him cope with his brother's addiction. "That's been one of his

means of therapy," she said.