Deadmeat Puppet

Curt's new band debuted last March at Austin's South by Southwest, the music industry's largest annual conference. They played under the name Royal Neanderthal Orchestra and received ecstatic reviews. One prominent Austin critic dubbed R.N.O. the most promising new band to emerge from the city in years. "Everyone just assumed we'd be signed to some fat deal in a matter of weeks," Curt contends.

The thing is, though, Curt already has a deal. He's under contract with London Records, the company that released Too High to Die and No Joke. And unless he's willing to give up the rights to the name "Meat Puppets," which he's not, Curt is obligated to provide London with two more Meat Puppets records, which he's happy to do, with or without Cris. According to Curt he has about four albums' worth of new material and plans to record a new Meat Puppets album early next year.

"It seems like every time I picked up a music magazine in the last two or three years, I read about how the Meat Puppets disbanded in 1995, or I see myself described as 'ex-Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood,'" says Curt. "And I'm like, Hey, I didn't say a fucking thing about the band breaking up, did I? No. It's my band. Just because I've got a junkie brother, that means no more Meat Puppets? Whatever."

He continues: "I had enough money to take as long a break as I wanted, so I did. I have enough money to retire now, but I don't want that. Every other kid in the mall has at least heard my band's name, so I'd say I still have places to go."

So far Derrick Bostrom has not been involved with Curt's new project. He is, however, still an integral part of the Meat Puppets. Bostrom tends the band's Web page, answers 40 to 60 pieces of fan mail per week, and is organizing the reissue of eight Meat Puppets albums on the Rykodisc label, which will contain live concert footage and bonus tracks. He is also overseeing the compilation of a live album of Meat Puppets concerts in 1988, due out this spring, also on Rykodisc.

"My future role in the Meat Puppets is somewhat up in the air," Bostrom says. "But obviously the Meat Puppets as an entity will continue, new album or not." Bostrom, who claims he never did hard drugs and quit smoking pot long ago, hasn't seen Cris since the Kirkwoods' mother's funeral, almost two years ago. "I can't help other people slay their dragons," he says. "The situation as it stands is very sad, but I've known Cris a long time, and I've never thought of him as fundamentally weak. I think he may get out of this mess alive."

Curt also admits he holds out hope. "No matter how logical or cynical or realistic I try to be to protect myself, of course I still have hope. He's my brother. There would have to be a tremendous amount of mending, but there's always a place for him."

Curt offers these comments as he waits for the sunset on the huge wooden deck of his new, beautiful home in the hills that skirt Austin. There is a hot tub on the deck and a swimming pool and Curt's bulldog, Lulu. His silver Lexus is parked in the garage. But Curt doesn't look happy.

"I'm unrequited," he acknowledges. "It's just hard to fuckin' deal with what's happened in my life in the past three years, with my mom [dying] and my brother. I mean, here I am, with my shit so fucking hard-wired and together. I got lots of potential left, and a lot of bread. But it's a cold comfort having real money for the first time in your life when your family is dying off around you."

In the morning, Curt explains, the buzzards rise from the valley below and fly in a vortex, high overhead. The sun paints a veil of clouds on the horizon orange and pink. And the air is cool and sweet. "Fuck," Curt says. "I really wish I could get my brother up here to see this.

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