Meat Puppets bassist Cris Kirkwood, whose use of heroin and other drugs has long made friends and family fear for his life, is in a Phoenix jail after being arrested two weeks ago for possession of drug paraphernalia.
"Thank God," said a person close to the band who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He's going to get a chance now to save his life. ... Jail ain't the best place, but he's clean. He's forced to be."
Kirkwood, 38, was arrested at 10:10 p.m. April 28 at his home in Tempe, Ariz., according to Deputy Dave Moyer, public information officer for the Maricopa County sheriff's office. The following day, Kirkwood was charged with two counts of drug paraphernalia possession, which are violations of probation for earlier possession arrests.
He is being held without bond at the Durango Jail in Phoenix until a May 19 hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, Moyer said.
The arrest comes as Kirkwood's brother, singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood, moves ahead with a new Meat Puppets lineup. The psychedelic-influenced, roots-punk band will play two shows in June and hopes to have an album out by year's end, manager Tammy Blevins said Monday (May 10).
Police were called to Cris Kirkwood's house after 40-year-old Pete Sievert, a friend of the bassist, overdosed there, according to a source who requested anonymity. Tempe police did not return phone calls to confirm that report, although details of Sievert's death were reported recently in the Phoenix New Times.
Sievert, who the source said was a friend of the Kirkwood brothers since junior high, is the second person to OD at the house in less than a year. Cris' wife, Michelle Tardif, who was 36, died there in August.
After Tardif's death, Cris became itinerant and difficult to reach, according to sources close to the band. Earlier this year he returned to Phoenix and began appearing at court dates for earlier possession arrests.
The Meat Puppets were part of the influential 1980s roster of SST Records, which also included such punk pioneers as Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen and Sonic Youth. Rykodisc reissued the Meat Puppets' SST albums this year with dozens of bonus tracks. The label also released a new collection recorded in 1988, called Live in Montana.
In 1994, the band had a minor rock hit with "Backwater" (RealAudio excerpt). The same year, MTV aired an episode of "Unplugged" in which longtime fan Kurt Cobain invited the Kirkwoods to join Nirvana onstage to play two Meat Puppets songs (a third Meat Puppets song appears on Nirvana's album Unplugged in New York).
During a tour that year with the Stone Temple Pilots, Cris' occasional drug use spiraled out of control, according to those close to him. He has since become a user of crack cocaine, the New Times reported.
Frustrated with his brother's deadly habits, Curt moved from the band's Phoenix hometown to Austin, Texas, where he assembled a new lineup that includes ex-Bob Mould bassist Andrew Duplantis, guitarist Kyle Ellison and drummer Shandon Sahm.
Original drummer Derrick Bostrom stayed in Arizona, where he oversaw Ryko's reissue series and maintains the band's official website (www.meatpuppets.com).
"We hope that Cris gets back on his feet soon, but until then, it's all good [with the new lineup]," Regina Joskow, a spokesperson for London Records, said.
Joskow, who has heard 10 of the band's new songs, described the material as "vintage Curt. ... It's got beautiful, big, huge guitars and completely trippy lyrics."
The Meat Puppets will play the Grand Ole Days festival June 6 in St. Paul, Minn. The following night they will perform at the 400 Club in Minneapolis.
Among the songs Blevins said were likely for a new album are "Hercules," "Fat Boy," "I Quit" and "I'm Not You." While there is no album yet on London's release schedule, Blevins said she would like to see the band issue a single soon.
"If all the gods are good to us, we could have a single before the end of the summer," she said.