In this week's print edition, we published an oral history commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Meat Puppets appearing on Nirvana's legendary episode of MTV Unplugged. Here are the complete Q&As with Cris and Curt Kirkwood and the show's producer, Alex Coletti, featuring more remembrances and tidbits about the performance that didn't make it into the print piece.
Meat Puppets singer-guitarist
Willamette Week: How did the Meat Puppets get on Unplugged?
Curt Kirkwood: We got asked to support Nirvana on tour in the fall of '93, when they were doing In Utero. We went out a few weeks with them and got to know them a little bit, and Kurt asked me if we wanted to go up there and play some of our songs they were planning to play on their unplugged thing. Pretty straightforward.
Was there any apprehension on your part?
Nah, I thought it was a great idea. I loved the guy's singing and thought it would work. We had those songs for a good number of years already and knew them pretty well, and we were interested to see what would come of it. There was no apprehension at all. We were excited and enthusiastic.
What was the reaction from your label when you told them you'd be going on the show?
They looked at it as a marketing tool. They really didn't know what to do with us. We didn't really fit in anywhere. Alternative was blossoming, but I don't know if we really fit in there, either. This gave us the testimonial we couldn't give ourselves. In that sense, they started to take us a little more seriously for their means.
Did Kurt immediately know what songs he wanted to do?
Yeah. It totally made sense. They're songs we were playing as soon as we put that record out, and we were always doing those songs, especially "Oh Me" and "Lake of Fire." "Oh Me" is probably my favorite song off Meat Puppets II, so I thought that was a great idea. Those have always been the basis for some extrapolation for us, and that continues on. We're still trying to figure out how those songs ought to go, in their 10 or 15 minute versions.
Can you tell me about the rehearsals?
We spent a week in New Jersey, just convening every day. We'd play them through kind of roughly, it wasn't really intense. We just kind of got the basic knowledge along with them, making sure we didn't screw it up, but it wasn't really hardcore. I don't think we played them through to where it was, "All right, we got that down pat." You know the chords and all that. It was casual. That's kind of the way we practice, too. Once you get onstage, you're probably going to do it right, because you're on stage. As long as you know the chords.
Did it surprise you how well the songs sounded stripped down?
It's funny, we'd been in the studio in the early part of '93, when London [Records] was trying to figure out what we should do next after Forbidden Places. We'd gotten in there with [Butthole Surfers'] Paul Leary, and we were going to do an acoustic EP, and those three songs we had already done. We'd done them acoustically a good number of times, at record stores and what not. Our stuff, there's some riff-rock and some stuff that's a little more challenging to play acoustically, but it's mostly folk music at its heart. So it worked, and I knew it would.
What was it like being around Kurt Cobain at the time? It seems like that period marked the beginning of his downward spiral.
It was casual. He was always quiet, and a real nice guy. I had just met him a few months before that and only knew him from being on tour. We never spent any off-time just hanging around. We'd sit around and talk a little bit, but I didn't see anything that I would say like, "Oh, this guy's in a downward spiral." I thought he was quiet and kept to himself as much as he could, considering he was getting bombarded with attention.
Did you know the producers weren't happy that the Meat Puppets were the special guests?
Maybe the night of or the day before or something. I didn't think twice about it. We just figured, well, that's the way it goes. That's what they want, tell them no.
What did it feel like being there when the show was being filmed? Was the atmosphere tense?
It didn't feel tense at all. It may have been different if we were high-profile. It may have been different if we were being treated like interlopers, but I wouldn't have known because we were interlopers anyway. We were getting into the major thing and we'd been growing a lot, but we were never the kind of people who'd just play along. We weren't contentious, we didn't have to be. We just had our little bubble, and you couldn't get into it unless we felt like letting you in, and that worked really well for deal with suits or whatever. There's a schism generally in any case with musicians and anyone else, right? When you're in your bubble, that's what makes it fun. "Yep, we're the freaks. This is what you get." I don't have to go parade around with that stuff, that's who we are. That's why you want us.
At the time, did you feel like Unplugged would be something people would still be asking you about 20 years later?
I knew it was a really good show when we did it, and I knew it'd probably get shown on MTV, because that's what they do, but there were no plans at the time to make it into a record. For me, it was another show, albeit a very cool one, and unique. It was a really good show, I could tell when I was watching it. I was an audience member for the most part, until I did my own parts. I was just like everyone else in there. I think everybody knew it was a really good show.
For a lot of people, those songs might as well be Nirvana songs. Do you feel like you gave those songs away at all?
Not at all. I don't stake that much claim to them anyway. You have to distance yourself from your material. At least I do. I'm not writing stuff—I would say it's personal, but it's not like, "These are my emotions, this is my trip." I write songs so I have something to base my jams on. I like to play guitar, and I like to sing and be the cornerstone, but the songs are just songs to me. I like to hear other people do stuff. I saw that people directly after that, and still sometimes, they think they're Nirvana songs, but I don't care.
Is there anything that people don't know about the filming that you remember?
I have a kind of overall remembrance of the feeling, which was that there was us musicians, including Nirvana and Lori [Goldston], the cello player, and there we are, in the little fish tank, and everyone's pointing, and like a lot of times you're just waiting to do your bit, but it was kind of high profile. The one thing about [Nirvana] is they'd been through a lot but they were still a lot like us, in that, I don't think they considered themselves outsiders as much as that's just the way it is. Even in a situation where it's their show and all that, it's like being in a reverse Wonderland, where you're going, Huh huh, look at that. Here we are on MTV! There's a cartoon aspect, which is kind of where we got along. You can say there's rock'n'roll or alternative or even music, but there's a surrealness at play.
What effect did the show have on the Meat Puppets career after it aired? Was it tangible?
Yeah, the record company, on our part, started taking us more seriously, or at least put in more effort, and used that as a marketing method. They had something they could throw at people to turn their heads rather than, "The Meat Puppets are good." They didn't know what to do with us. Our first record on London didn't do real good. And they knew we were good, and that we had potential, but they didn't know how to categorize it, and we were never directed toward that kind of thing, like radio success or mass marketing. We just kind of fell into a weird slot. But once you can throw the Nirvana name around, that gave them something to work with.
What do you think about the show when you think back on it 20 years later? Do you feel the same?
It's like when I was a kid and went to Disneyland the first time. It won't change. It's beautiful.
You're touring with your son, Elmo, now. Was he aware of the show at the time?
He's 30, so he was kid, but he'd been around what we were doing since he was born. He knew that's what we do. He probably had a different aspect on it, but I think he was young enough to go, "[Nirvana] is one of the last legends that have popped up. You see their T-shirt next to Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix at the head shop."
Meat Puppets bassist
How'd the Meat Puppets get on Unplugged?
Cris Kirkwood: We were on tour with those guys. Kurt Cobain couldn't have been more gracious. He really dug the SST [Records] stuff, he really dug us, and that's why we were out on the road with them. One night, we were sitting around with—what's the one guy's name, the blonde guy? From Kids in the Hall? The gay dude from that show?…Anyway, we were sitting around one night, maybe it wasn't that night…Fuck, I don't know.
It was Cobain's idea entirely, obviously. It wasn't something we could make happen. It was his idea, and it resonated through the years so incredibly. So he brought it up one night with us, that they were getting ready to do that. He brought up that he wanted to do some of these songs off Meat Puppets II during their Unplugged thing, and we were like, "You could certainly do that. Curt can show you how the songs go or whatever." And then Cobain just took it to the next thing and he was like, "I'm going to have you come on TV with us and do these songs with us."
So it just came about because Cobain wanted it to happen. And it went from covering some of the songs to taking us on TV with him. At that point, we'd gotten to know him a little bit, and he was a very nice guy to us, for sure. He seemed a little bit troubled at that point, but he was going through a whirlwind of personal change, or had already gone through it. The place those guys were at, it was certainly novel to see a band not unlike ourselves, a very much homemade project in a lot of ways. Those guys were from some podunk town like we were, and suddenly to blow up to that degree—I mean, they were biggest fucking band in the world at that point.
Did you think about what it would mean for your career?
Oh, yeah, only and entirely, because that's all we've ever been about. We're slavish career hogs. That's why we spend so much time on our dance routines. No—in a way. We'd gotten signed, we were already on a major label, and definitely the major label people saw it as an advance for their ability to put us in front of the public. I think the reason [Cobain] liked us as well as he did is we've never been an easy sell. And that holds some cachet in the rock world. So it was a neat thing to have happen, but neat things were already happening, in a way, for a band like us, who'd been around for quite a while at that point anyway. We were getting more traction in terms of being able to continue doing the work we like to do.
We just stumbled into these circumstances. It wasn't like we aimed at SST. Suddenly, we played with Black Flag and they asked us to do a record. A few years later, some things changed a little bit, and a few years later things changed a little bit and other folks asked us to do some recording for them. That was the majors, and then bands that were citing us as influences were suddenly commercially viable. So it was a continuum. And of course there was no way of knowing that [Cobain] was going to take himself out of the picture like that and turn himself, essentially, into a rock icon for doing that. You didn't know that was going to happen. And when we did [Unplugged], it was just going to be the TV show, it wasn't going to be turned into an album. It wasn't planned as a release. You couldn't tell it was going to turn into what it was going to turn into.
Definitely, the major label wasn't unhappy about it, I'll say that. MTV didn't really want it to happen, as I recall. They were somewhat disappointed we were the guests they chose to take on TV with them.
Were you aware at the time that MTV wasn't happy?
As I recall, we remember hearing that. It wasn't a big shock. It's not like we were that sensitive. It was fairly apparent that we hadn't been that intimately involved with that side of music, selling or whatever. But we were at that point. We were signed at that point, so it wasn't that beyond the pale, but certainly there were other things MTV was a lot more familiar with. It was no big whoop. It was charming. "Oh, how sweet, they don't want us." And yet [Cobain] makes it [happen]. It just adds to the novelty of the whole experience, and the coolness of it, for the guy to insist. Musically, I don't necessarily hear our influence on [Nirvana] that heavily, but definitely it's neat to think that's the influence of the punk scene, where it's like, fuck that, we do what we want, we do what feels like, and that's what the guy chose to do with his newfound celebrity. So it's kind of a charming thing.
What do you remember about the rehearsals? Was Kurt in a bad way at the time?
No, he wasn't that bad. … It wasn't like this Shakespearean portensions of doom or whatever. It was more like, he's dealing with this as best he can. It was just like, wow, it's got to be a handful. But no, the rehearsals were fun. It was at a practice space out in Jersey. That was neat as shit. We got to know those guys pretty well. We'd see them practicing their stuff, we'd be hanging out all day, and then we'd practice our stuff.
The one thing I remember from the practices really clearly is that one day, Bobcat Goldthwait came by, and he was getting ready to go on The Tonight Show. We were sitting around talking about how he wanted to do something memorable, and my suggestion, as I recall, is that he should tip over Jay Leno's desk. I'm pretty sure he lit the fucking [guest] chair on fire or something. And in reality, Jay Leno didn't like it. I think that negatively impacted Bobcat's real career, but it sure makes for a great memory for me.
Were you surprised by how those songs sounded stripped down?
Not really, because they were done that way initially. I definitely thought Kurt did a great job singing them. The whole thing came off really fucking well. Especially in hindsight, looking back, it's like how you're intimately involved with the details of the work you're doing at that particular time and then you go back and listen to it—it's like the records we made. They stand as these little time capsules, these markers of our lives. And the specifics about them—"Oh, the bass tone," the kind of crap you care about when you're involved in the project—I can go, "Oh, fuck, I love it all." It's all exceedingly endearing and the fabric of my life.
What do you remember about the actual filming of the show? Was it tense?
There wasn't tension, none at all.…It wasn't like there was tension in any way at all. [Nirvana] had gotten to the point where they were like, "This is how it's going to go down." It was exceedingly slick, exceedingly professional, at the Sony Studios up in New York where we recorded it. You're talking about people who knew what the fuck they're doing. They made the stage look bitchin'. Those guys rolled through their shit, and they did some other covers that were great, their own stuff sounded really cool on it, and then at one point we went up and did our stuff. It certainly wasn't tense.
What were you thinking as you were watching it happen?
You know, how's my hair? Where's my cod piece? I don't really remember how much of it I watched, honestly. We were backstage more. I never watched it from the audience during the actual filming of it. I thought the whole thing…like I said before, it wasn't apparent the guy was going to take himself out of the picture like that, and it was going to become one of the last things they did.
Did it feel like you were giving those songs away, in some way?
Already, Curt had given those songs away to the Meat Puppets. Those are Curt's songs, he wrote those. I've certainly benefited as a player, as someone who enjoys just playing, that my brother turned out to be a composer, and a prolific composer, and a composer I could get behind in a way that works for me.
I just remember thinking, "Don't flub." If you listen, there's a fucking clam of the first order on one of those songs. I clam like a motherfucker. It's the Bob Ross method of making music. Bob's technique doesn't just apply to painting, it also applies to music making. It's not a mistake, it's a happy accident. If everyone thinks it's supposed to sound like that, well, it's a clam. It might be on "Oh Me." It's something I could point out if we were listening to it.
Here's the other thing that was sweet about that. During the practice sessions, I just played bass, right? When we did the live thing, I took Krist [Novoselic's] seat, and I took the bass chair, and he had a microphone set up for him. I definitely went ahead and went, "There's a microphone here, it's TV—I'm fucking singing backups." It wasn't practiced, and to my ears, it sounds like that. Also, at the end, since there was a mike there, I just wanted to say something. What do you say? "Hey, I like to thank these guys for having us on?" So I said, "Fucking Nirvana!" That's all I said. And the funny thing about that, I heard that song on the radio one day—and this is straight radio, those people have their standards and whatnot—and so it plays to a particular point, and then the tracks over, and all of a sudden, really clearly over straight radio, I go "Fucking Nirvana!"
I recently saw Dave [Grohl] and Krist when Dave invited us to play at South By Southwest when he did his Sound City Live thing this year. I hadn't seen either of those guys for quite some time, and they're still friends.
Could you feel the effect on your career after it aired?
Suddenly, we were getting played on MTV a lot when it aired. It really got played more, unfortunately, after Kurt passed away. But already, the association with those guys didn't hurt. It helped the record company promotionally for sure. But then, people really liked "Backwater," and that made a big difference as well. But the calls got answered a little easier or something. All of it as a piece didn't hurt.
Do you still have people come up to you a lot and say, "I discovered the Meat Puppets from Unplugged?"
I remember a few years ago, it was actually in Oregon—I think it was in Eugene—I was standing outside the club, it was a youth center or something, and there was a bunch of kids and stuff, and I heard some girl telling her friend, "Who's playing? I think it's some Nirvana cover band." And I'm sure half the crowd thinks we're doing Nirvana covers when we play those things.
Producer, MTV Unplugged
Tell me about landing Nirvana.
Alex Coletti: It was actually kind of easy. It was just timing. They wanted to do it when [In Utero] was done. I remember Rick, the talent booker, coming in with a fax. "Nirvana says they want to do it on this date. What's going on?" We checked around, and we always try to book these so we can do multiple shows at the same time. Once you rent the stage and put a set and lighting crew up, you try to shoot these two or three episodes at a time. Then it becomes a booking process of, OK, who else is available that we're talking to? You land two or three in a row and all of a sudden we're in business. Around Nirvana, I think we did Stone Temple Pilots the next day, and maybe Lenny Kravitz.
It wasn't like, "Oh shit, this is the biggest band in the world?"
I don't want to sound jaded, but at the time, we were doing the Eric Claptons, the Paul McCartneys and Nirvana was just another great show. They weren't any harder to book than any of those artists. It was more exciting for some people in the company maybe, but Eric Clapton had won multiple Grammys for it. It was a big deal for everyone. I think it was as big a deal for them as it was for us possibly. Not to sound conceited, but the show at that point was important in the music world, so I think it went both ways. Our relationship with Nirvana had been very good from the get go. It wasn't like, "Oh my God, we just got the hardest band in the world." It was, "Nirvana said, 'Yes.' Cool.'"
How much artistic freedom did the band have?
Look, you're never going to tell an artist what to do. Of all the shows, Unplugged is not that show. Other than me saying, "Look, you can't bring electric guitars and you can't plug that in"—that was my job, I was the unplugged police. I fought those fights. With certain artists, I got into interesting conversations, but with Nirvana, I don't remember talking to the band much.
I flew out to meet them one night after a gig outside Boston. We give every artist and every manager the same spiel before the show. It's like, "Hey, what's worked on Unplugged before is obviously reworking your songs, maybe a guest, maybe a cover, maybe something that illuminates a bit of your influences. And if you go through the archives of Unplugged you'll see that template. 10,000 Maniacs brought David Byrne on for a song. Soul Asylum brought Lulu out. So there's always been a little guest here, a little cover there. Other than that, that's all we steer artists toward.
Some artists would come to town for a few days and rehearse and I'd sit in a studio with them. With Nirvana, I went out and brought an acoustic bass. A lot of people don't realize that acoustic guitar sales jumped when Unplugged hit its stride, but no one had acoustic basses. Those were really hard. And if they did, they were hard to play. A rock guy playing a Fender Precision every night is something that's got a relatively low action as compared to what feels like a cello. It's a tough adjustment for the bass player. So I had a couple on hand leant to me by guitar manufacturers for the exposure. I remember bringing a Guild, I believe—and it's a thing to shlep on the plane, a huge acoustic bass—and gave it to Krist [Novoselic] to hold onto in the month between the meeting and the show, so they could rehearse acoustically and build up the finger strength you need for that.
Other than that, we can never dictate to an artist what song they can play. You can shoot down a cover based on, hey, we can't clear the publishing, but other than that, we weren't in the business of meddling in an artist's vision. That being said, there was disappointment that there wasn't the obvious hits on the setlist. I think there was a little concern around MTV about that, but I was like, "Hey, it's Nirvana. Fuck it, it'll be fine." And when they said they were bringing in a guest, everyone thought, for some reason, it would obviously be Pearl Jam. Why would it be? But at the same time, why wouldn't it be? So when it was the Meat Puppets, it was like, "What?"
Were you familiar with the Meat Puppets?
You knew the name. If you didn't know the music, the name was just too genius not to be aware of. But 120 Minutes played them, and they had a legitimate hit ["Backwater"] around that time, don't forget. We knew the Kirkwood brothers and kind of knew the story, but I wasn't very educated on them. I knew the name wasn't going to send waves of joy down the halls of MTV, but when you have Nirvana onboard already, you don't need the guest to be Bob Dylan. So Kurt wisely brought in somebody he wanted to shine a light on and sing with other than just another name for the marquee value.
Is it wrong, then, to say it was a tense episode?
It's all relative. There have been shows that have been much more of a clusterfuck, much more chaotic, much more ramped up. Maybe on the band's side there was tension I wasn't seeing, but honestly, it was a fairly—y'know, their crew's awesome, their manager's awesome, they show up and do their job, and as far as the band, they're really professional. It wasn't, "We can't find Kurt," it was none of that.
I don't remember where the stress and the tension would've come from, other than, for any band, to lay your soul a little bare this way, and to step out from behind the big amps and the big sound, it's nerve-racking, but from a production standpoint it's business as usual. There was no real drama on our side. Again, there were some executives wondering if the setlist could be better, could the guests be better, but at the same time, I think everyone was willing to cut this band some slack for their vision, and quite honestly, Judy McGrath, who was the head of MTV at the time, had a wonderful relationship with [Nirvana manager] John Silva, so there wasn't going to be any push back on, like, "We don't want these guests or we need a hit song or you can't be on the show." That wasn't going to happen.
So it wasn't like an executive screaming at you to get Tori Amos or something?
It was a much funnier approach the execs took. The solution was, from management and the music department, "We can't go to Kurt now and tell him we don't think the setlist is good enough, we can't go to Kurt and tell him we need another hit. But what we can do is during the show, when everything's going great, Alex, you can step in and say, 'How about an encore? How about this? How about that?'" This plan never works, by the way. But it puts it all on me, so it happens.
We do the show, I turn around and look and don't see any support, so I step right into the middle of the pit there, the arena. The audience is there, the band's there. I pull him aside and say, "Are you happy with everything you did? Do you want to do a song over?" We do that all the time on Unplugged. The first song is usually very tentative, even the audience is scared to clap, so you get a better second take on a first song, usually. "Man Who Sold the World," you can still hear the feedback that went everywhere. I was like, "Do you want to do that over?" And Kurt's like, "No, I'm fine." "We finished the whole thing in an hour, so do you have anything else?" And that's my way of maybe nudging them in the direction of another song, maybe a hit song.
Krist and Dave [Grohl] are like, "What are you thinking?" I threw out a couple titles, I didn't go right to "Teen Spirit." No Alternative had just come out, and i personally loved "Verse Chorus Verse," or "Sappy" as they were calling it. And Kurt was entertaining it, but then he finally looked at me and said, "I can't top that last song." And it hit me, like, he's really thought this thing out. There's a beginning, middle and end to this story, he's told it, and I'm asking him to write a new chapter on the fly, and that's just not cool. I pressed a button on my headset and said, "We're wrapped. Go home, everybody." At the time, we witnessed what we knew was an amazing show. We were wrong about the Meat Puppets, we were wrong about it needing the hit, but I just wanted to get that because it was the plan going into it. Even that wasn't a, "we need to get in there and get a hit out of them or this is a catastrophe." There was no drama. They were like family to us and MTV. It was a very comfortable situation.
It was funny, Dave Grohl told me they were rehearsing on the road, and Kurt was really not happy with the drumming, and thought maybe he should do the show without Dave. I was having the same worry, knowing how heavy Dave plays and having done enough Unpluggeds to know if you can control the drums, the guitars and everything sits nicely in the mix, and everyone plays in a certain way. The minute the drummer starts hitting hard, the guitar players start bashing on acoustics, and they sound like shit when you try playing them like electrics and it all goes to hell. I had an intern, my PA, go to Sam Ash and get some brushes and swizzle sticks. I got some Christmas tape, I wrapped them up, Dave walked in and I was like, "Hey, merry Christmas," thinking he's going to open these up and think I'm an idiot or he's going to laugh. He goes, "Cool!" I've never had these before." So they go to soundcheck and Kurt turns around and goes, "Oh cool, Stay." So I see how there may have been some tension behind the scenes. Because they were still really working out their arrangements. Is Dave on the show? Where's Lori playing? What's Pat doing?
The two things—if you want to call it "drama"—I got into with Kurt were, one, his chair. We had these nice stools for Unplugged, these kick stools that didn't have a back and your arms are free because you're a guitar player and need to be able to move. Kurt didn't like any of the stools, so he came into the control room and took one of our office chairs and ended up using that. I thought it looked so shitty on camera, but, classic Kurt, "Who cares what it looks like? I want to be comfortable." If you want drama, that's as much as I can remember.
The other thing was, he wanted his amp onstage, not because he wanted to play electric but because he liked to control his chorus and his delays a little bit. Normally, on Unplugged, we plug the acoustic guitar into a direct box and our sound guy can mix and add those effects out of the house, but for some reason Kurt wanted the amp onstage with him, which for me was a no. So we argued back and forth, and finally, I took his amp and had a carpenter build what looked like a monitor case around it so it looked like a floor wedge. It looked like one of their vocal monitors. It sat onstage, and no one knew that's what caused the feedback on "The Man Who Sold the World." So I was kind of right about that. And every time I hear the song on the radio I cringe. But that was really, as far as drama goes, in my recollection, that's as tense as it got. On a scale of 1-10, that was a 2.
What do you remember about the Kirkwood brothers?
They were really nice. Three songs? I go, "That's a lot." I thought they'd come out and do one song. But once you heard them, these songs are awesome. The way Kurt sang them, I was like, "Is that key OK for you?" And he's like, "No, I want to strain. I purposely want these not in my key." So it was clear in everything he said that there was a plan here. He'd thought this through, song by song by song, down to what key would make him strain his voice and give that song the personality he wanted.
[The Kirkwoods] rehearsed with us day of show, we did soundcheck all afternoon. They did three songs together, and two of them made the initial broadcast. All of them made the record. So it wasn't like we were trying to minimize it. Once it happened, we all realized what a great call it was.
Did the Meat Puppets seem comfortable with the whole thing?
We did this at Sony Music Studios on 54th Street, which sadly doesn't exist anymore. So you're not coming into, like, the MTV corporate headquarters. You're coming into this room where we built this little cocoon of a set, with drapes and stuff, so it was a really safe environment. It wasn't intimidating. And they clearly had a relationship, the two bands. If anyone felt uncomfortable, it was me and the crew, because we were in their space now. That's how we created it. It was meant to feel that way. They clearly had a vibe, they had a plan, and we were the ones playing catch up. I don't remember the brothers feeling shell-shocked or camera shy or any of that.
Did the show feel special when it was over?
It was awesome. It was definitely, like, "Wow, that was great." The setup at Sony was great because it wasn't a truck outside, it was a control room right off the main stage. To leave, they had to walk by, and we were able to re-roll the tapes and watch a couple songs together. We broke out beers, and Kurt, Krist and Dave, the three principles, came into the control room and got to watch it back with us. Kurt was funny. He says, "My wife tells me I never smile on camera, so can you find a shot of me smiling?" When we got to the edit, there was this wicked smile after the first song that he clearly did just for Courtney's benefit that we hadn't caught, that we were able to put back into the show for the edit. So I'm glad he gave us that note. It was like a little inside joke.
It felt special, but very rarely does an Unplugged feel like, "Well, that tanked." They were all special because it was one time only. You're never going to see this band do those songs that way again. So every day at work for Unplugged was that. Did it feel like, "Hey this is a Grammy? This is another big album?" Yeah, I think it did. It didn't feel like it was what it became. I think there's validity to people who say it's a good album but it became a great album because of Kurt's passing. That's arguable, I guess, but we'll never know, because it is what it is because of circumstances. You can't divorce the two. It became the thing that got played 24-7 when he passed, so in a de facto way, it became his swan song.
How do you feel about it 20 years later?
It's so simple, so uncontrived, because we didn't strong-arm or force anyone to do anything they didn't want to do. It's perfect for what it is. It's a great scrapbook moment. It's part of the story of an amazing band. It's not the whole story by any means. In fact, it's meant to be the odd chapter out. It's the thing you'd never expect to see but did. But I'll tell you, I tend not to listen to Unpluggeds or put on those albums in general. It's just too close to home. But I love hearing it on the radio. I love when people reference it. And i'm so thankful we had the opportunity to do that. Had [Kurt Cobain] passed before that got captured, that would've been a real crime and a true sin. I think we're very fortunate to have recorded that for everybody.
Did you ever have a run-in with the Meat Puppets again?
I bumped into one of them at a party a month later. I was not the guy who went to the cool parties. I was at a party at the Lower East Side, and one of the Meat Puppets was there. I was like, "Oh, that's random." It was so packed i couldn't get across the room to say, Hey I just did that show with you. I never really did bump into them again.