Jump time.

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Time to crank out another number? Right, then. One … two … one, two, three, fo… What? Wait for what? Oh, right. We need to pick a song. My bad.

Well, obviously we’re a little out of practice. It’s been a while since Big Green performed in these parts, and while we don’t have any plans to set up at the local gin mill and run through the ’93 set list (just like the old days, Steve), we could do with a little rehearsal time. A friend once told me that rehearsal is just a crutch for cats who can’t blow. (No, he didn’t wear sunglasses and a tam.) I like to think he had a point. It makes me feel better about doing nothing, and doing nothing is nothing if it isn’t fun.

Not to say that we’re dead idle – far from it. This week we’re recording the next episode of Ned Trek. We’re also working on the songs for our Christmas Extravaganza, rummaging through our big burlap sack of old Xmas songs that was the genesis of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, in 1999. Yessir, I remember back in ’02, when the pump broke down and we had to haul water from the brook all the way uphill to our little log lean-to in Sri Lanka. Then there was the time that old Barney the mule lost a shoe in the middle of winter sowing. Hard times. Yep. (Yep.)

A bit spare.Thankfully, life is a lot simpler now. We have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) haul all of our water from the brook. Except now, unlike then, we have indoor plumbing (our lean-to was very old-school), so Marvin just dumps the water into the cistern and we tap it. Modern conveniences! When Marvin’s batteries run a little low, we ask Anti-Lincoln to do it, and he always says no. We still ask, though. Everybody pulls his own weight around here. Everybody except the mansized tuber, who needs a little help. But what the hell – he’s a freaking plant. Can’t expect him to grow arms and legs and start jumping around anytime soon. (Or can we …. ?)

Well, I’ve wandered a bit. The bottom line is that we’re dusting off a few of the Christmas songs Matt wrote decades ago – ones that didn’t end up on 2000 Years To Christmas – and recording them properly for the first time ever (i.e. not on a borrowed 4-track cassette deck). Again, modern conveniences, utilized for our mutual benefit. It’s a crazy little thing called civilization.

Summer’s end.

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Here comes the sun … and there it goes, right over the back of the mill. Must be autumn. This place is like freaking Stonehenge – you can set your watch to the movement of the shadows.

Well, the season passing doesn’t mean much around here. I’ll be honest: we of Big Green never went in for summer activities in a big way, so the warm months are just about keeping out of the sun and wearing open newspapers on your head like a tent. Unless you’re Matt, of course, who wears a hat and spends half of his life out amongst the wild critters, rain or shine, snow or hail, you name it. The rest of us? We all busy ourselves with indoor activities, like bending pretzels and juggling priceless objets d’art. (That last one we don’t do a real lot. Like, well … never.)

It’s hard to keep track of what our entourage is doing in any given season. Some are more active than others. Anti-Lincoln, for instance, had and idea for a discount retail business. He was going to plant it right next door to Dollar General and call the store Quarter Colonel. His business plan was to undercut the competition – everything in Dollar General is a buck; everything in Quarter Colonel would be a quarter. The cash registers were ringing in his Four score and seven blue light specials agohead like the bells of St. Mary. I know Lincoln had a reputation, perhaps apocryphal, of being a humble, frugal man of simple tastes, so true to form, his anti-matter self is the exact opposite. He’s going to OWN north central Little Falls, NY …. OWN IT!

Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has been busy these waning weeks of summer. He’s mostly been checking his way through my to-do list. Hey … don’t look at me like that. What would YOU do if YOU had a personal robot assistant? At least I’m not sending him out to some local small business to earn money for my ass. Though he was working for a time at a five and dime. (His boss was Mr. Magee). I don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So, bring on the fall, people. We’ve got a pack of songs ready to record. Let’s track this mother! Ya-ho, ta-ho.

Missing pieces.

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This tape recorder has that Leroy Brown kind of problem. You know … it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. Guess it must have been messin’ with the wife of a jealous dehumidifier.

All right, well, it’s no secret that Big Green has a technology problem or two, even with an in-house mad science advisor like Mitch Macaphee. Our machines are aging, our circuits are frayed, our relays are frosted, and the electric bill’s unpaid. (That was an accidental rhyme, by the way.) Most of our recording devices have at least one tooth missing. I’ve got an Evil Twin direct box that needs surgery. Our VS2480 deck has finally been retired for a system that’s maybe six years newer (i.e. only nine years old).

Hey … if you’re a real band, that shouldn’t matter, right? Got a second-hand guitar and a panama hat? Start busking. Got a broken-down upright piano that’s barely upright? Grab a tin cup and start pounding those dusty keys. That’s the musician’s work ethic. Not super popular around here, I must say. We make music without much of a thought to monetizing it. God no – that’s Anti-Lincoln’s job. We just put our heads down in the studio. Old antimatter Abe sits in the den and moves the numbers around. Occasionally they add up to something edible.

I think I see what the problem is...Speaking of missing pieces, our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, is massively overdue. The reason/excuse? Well … we produced eight songs, mixed seven, and thought we were freaking done. Matt was plugging the show together and, well … there was this gaping hole where a Nixon song should go. So it’s back to the mixing board with us, and the June episode is now turning into the September episode. But people … think of it. Eight new songs, written on the fly and recorded from scratch … on a new (to us) recording system, no less! Add to that some chasing around after falcons and the usual summer distractions, and you’ve got an abysmally late podcast. But, hopefully, it will be one for the books. (Eight new songs, people.)

I think that brings our Ned Trek catalog up to about 70 tracks. Christ on a bike. There’s got to be an album in there somewhere, right?

Rubbish in.

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Anybody seen my tuning fork? No, damn it, THAT’S not it. That’s my tuning spoon. I said fork, you moron. This …. place!

Oh, yeah … hi out there. I’m just attempting to replace a string on a second hand guitar that’s been lying around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill since before we started squatting inside this big old drafty barn of a place. In as much as Big Green is a collectivist institution by nature, we make use of what resources avail themselves, utilizing only what we need to accomplish a mutually agreed-upon task, then replacing the surplus in such a way as to benefit all. Yes, we’re all equal here. Except, of course, anti-Lincoln. Fuck that guy!

Why am I restringing an old, abandoned guitar? Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m doing it with used strings. We’re scraping the bottom of the stewpot here, folks – I won’t make any bones about it. (Typically, what you find at the bottom of the pot is not so much bones as sinew and fat, but I’ll leave that right there.) That’s what you have to do when you’re Big Green, you know. We thrive on privation. We bask in the glow of our obscurity. When gravity says come down here, we go up there. When we look in the mirror, we know that we’re the opposite of Dude, what did you DO to this thing?what we see looking back at us.

What does all this mean? Well, I’m gonna’ tell ya’. We still haven’t finished our podcast, that’s what. The machinery is moving pretty slowly these days, folks. Matt’s got his hands full with his various nature-focused responsibilities, tracking peregrine falcons, tending the beavers, and writing up stats for The Kingbird. And me, well … I saw a bunny in the yard. And there was some other junk. And I listened to a video clip on my phone. Uh … I got nothing. Rubbish in, rubbish out, right?

Sure, I know, it’s been four months since our last show; it’s in the works, and we’re mixing the songs right now. One …. more .. hurdle. Keep your eyes open and your mouths agape. Expect a delivery … soonish.

Make it spin.

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Where’s the summer podcast? I don’t freaking know. Must have left it in my other pants. What am I, Kreskin? Maybe. I hear HE has more than one pair of pants.

You see, here’s the problem with living in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. (And I should add here, it’s not the ONLY problem.) It’s goddamn hard to stay on a schedule. You can set up your little wall calendar or get one of those day planners at the stationery store. (Personally, I prefer stores that move around, like food trucks. Mmmmmm …. food trucks ….) Or you can vault bravely forward into the 21st Century and set your schedule on some phone app. Well, we’ve got none of that here. Nothing like it. Anti-Lincoln puts a mark on the wall every morning, but frankly, after a decade of that, it just looks like patterned wallpaper.

I guess what I’m saying is that we haven’t posted a new THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast in four months because, well, we lost count of the days. And days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and what the hell – here we are. That’s very nearly the truth, but like everything around here, it’s more complicated than that. The current episode of Ned Trek is a musical, so we’re in production – STILL – on I think seven songs. (Like I said, I lost count.) A couple of them have been mixed. I’m still working on rhythm tracks for the rest. We’re testing out a new system, and that’s been a bit of a process. Our tops won’t spin. Hey … just GET OFF MY BACK!

Really made your mark, didn't you?That wasn’t for you. There was a carpenter ant on my back. I’ve never been able to understand why they are named for something that is almost the precise antithesis of what they do for a living – namely, eat your house alive. (Carpenters, last I looked, build you house alive.) It’s another example of what we call the “Pelican Cove Principle” – naming things for either (1) something completely inappropriate to the thing named, or (2) something you destroyed to build the thing. For example: Pelican Cove was a tony bedroom community that had no pelicans and no cove, so it complied with principle (1). Then there’s Applewood Drive back in my hometown – a road built through an ancient stand of heirloom apple trees which were, of course, ripped out to make room for McMansions. You get the idea.

Well, there you go – I wasted another morning, didn’t I? That’s why we’re so far behind. Back to the basement with me.

Dig it.

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Well, if we needed storage space, it would be a good thing. Honest, Abe – where are you going to find enough junk to make it worthwhile? We can’t even afford shoes, for chrissake.

Oh, hi. Yeah, I’ve been having a little conversation with Antimatter Lincoln about an idea he cooked up this week. Let me see if I can explain. With the help of Mitch Macaphee’s Particle Beam Generator™, we now have a tunnel to the center of the Earth in our basement. The downside of that, of course, is that it has the potential to act as a volcanic vent, sending an ocean of magma up from the planet’s chewy center and wreaking havoc on our entire community. (Also, it tends to whistle as the world turns.) What’s the upside of having Earth’s biggest hole? We’re still working on that.

Antimatter Lincoln piped up with a suggestion that we put shelving units around the walls of the hole and use it to store nick knacks, junk, souvenirs, and sporting trophies. Capital idea, except that we don’t have any of those things, particularly the trophies. Besides, when that thing blows its stack, it would burn our non-existent valuables to a cinder. And again, we live in an abandoned hammer mill. There’s plenty of room for Antimatter Lincoln’s imaginary possessions. The simple fact that they are imaginary – i.e., mental impressions only, not objects external to his fevered brain – suggests that he can have an infinite number of them and never have to worry about where to keep them all.

Fun!Right, so … what to do with that hole. We did bring Marvin (my personal robot assistant) up from the flames of hell this past week, after having lowered him down the well on an impromptu reconnaissance mission. He had little to report, though apparently he saw openings in the tunnel walls that led to large caverns underground. It’s possible that, for all his trouble, Mitch just built us a back door to Howe Caverns. I suppose NOW we’ll be getting busloads of middle school kids parked out in front of the mill, waiting for a chance to take the underground boat ride or step on the quartz heart-shaped platform where some crazy-ass couples chose to have their weddings.

Ah, memories. If you have a good use for the world’s biggest hole, just email them to us with the subject line: “World’s Biggest Hole”. We’ll know just what you’re talking about.

Audio dynamite.

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Yeah, turn the bass drum up a little in my headphone mix. Yeah, that’s enough. That’s good. Okay, dial it back … Too loud. STOP!! Christ on a bike. Can’t you turn a knob in a direction other than clockwise? No? Okay. Good to know.

As you may have surmised, we have resorted to using Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a sound engineer in the makeshift studio we maintain at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not the optimal choice, I admit, but hey, look – we only have two hands. Actually, between us, we have four, but – and this is important – WE’RE USING ALL FOUR OF THEM. I thought Marvin, being a robot, might be a bit more precise in his manipulations of various sound parameters, but it appears that Mitch Macaphee (our mad science advisor) cut a few corners when he put Marvin together. His wrist joints only turn one way, it turns out. What the fuck.

Hey, did any of you hear something?When you are effectively a pop duo … and I think Matt and I constitute the duo part, at least … you need to rely on others sometimes to do some of the heavy lifting. Marvin can do some stuff. I’ve gotten Antimatter Lincoln to shake a tambourine more than once – that’s about his speed. The man-sized tuber is pretty good at holding things up, like a table.  These are all things we would otherwise have to do ourselves, so it’s not like I’m ungrateful. But man … a shred of musical ability would come in handy right about now.

Then there’s such a thing as too much help. Yes, I’m talking about Mitch. This one song we were working on, we wanted a colossal bass drum sound. Mitch said he could do better than our superannuated effects boxes, so we said go ahead, knock yourself out. The next morning, I’m awakened by this earth-shattering BOOM and the whole mill is shaking like a jello mold. Out in the courtyard, there’s a smoking crater where the tool shed once stood. There were about seven mics set up around the crater. I guess Mitch was thinking surround sound.

It took about a year to live that down. (We still get calls from the codes department.) So hey, now I’m careful when I ask for help.

Seven up.

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Oh, Jesus …. I think I’m going to sleep over at the neighbor’s house for a few nights, guys. At least until the radioactivity dies down a bit after Mitch’s head explodes like an atom bomb.

Yes, you guessed it – it’s another one of those weeks, folks. Started out just fine. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) was vacuuming the drapes. Anti-Lincoln was out walking his imaginary dog and insulting the mail carrier. Matt and I were cloistered in the studio, digging through mountains of unpublished material. Everything was going just swimmingly …  and then NASA has to go an discover seven new Earth-like planets around a sun named Trappist-1. And no, not just any seven Earth-like planets, but the same freaking seven planets Mitch has been secreting away for the last decade. And he is going to bum, people.

This planetary search has simply got to stop. Not because it isn’t highly productive and stimulating from a scientific point of view – quite the opposite! I speak entirely from the perspective of narrow self-interest. Every time NASA finds new planets, it puts Mitch Macaphee into a funk. Often times they are worlds he has previously discovered – and even visited, in some cases. A true capitalist inventor, he has a decidedly proprietary approach to space exploration. Whatever he finds, he keeps. “Finders/Keepers” kind of cuts against the grain of NASA’s philosophy, so there’s bound to be conflicts. And it’s not such a good thing when both sides of a conflict have rockets at their disposal.

Mitch ... they're ALL yours?Now before you get alarmed, let me qualify this. Mitch is not … repeat, NOT … at the point of launching any rockets. He is principally an electrical engineer, so he’s always cooking up gadgets that bend time/space or generate black holes – that along with a lot of buzzing, whirring, and flashing. (Remember that he invented Marvin, who does a fair bit of buzzing, whirring, and flashing of his own.) In fact, I’m not convinced that Mitch hasn’t found a non-spacecraft method for traveling to other planets. And I am not talking about soul travel here, brother (though that would be an excellent name for a travel agency). There’s the time he hooked up that surplus department store revolving door to Trevor James Constable’s orgone generating device. That’s how we got Antimatter Lincoln. That was awesome.

So, hey …. seven new planets, seven new problems. That’s the story here at the mill.

Song farm.

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Where’s Matt this morning? Where he always is – trudging across the landscape like Ewan McTeagle, writing crazy-ass song poems in his head and putting them to music … also in his head. And feeding the beavers. Curious fellow!

As we’re patching together the next episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, featuring our holiday (yes, holiday!) installment of Ned Trek, it’s beginning to dawn on me just how many Ned Trek songs we have recorded over the last three years. If you piled them up, the resulting stack would be taller than the Empire State Building. (That’s assuming, of course, each song is about 1/50th the height of the Empire State Building.) But spacial relationships aside, we’ve got a big backlog of songs that are just screaming “Put me in an album!” Marvin (my personal robot assistant) tried to be helpful by picking up a photo album down at the corner drug store, but of course, that kind of album is a whole ‘nother thing. But semantic considerations aside …

Yep. About that tall, man.Okay, well … 50 songs is a lot for an album, even one of ours. Here’s where both the spacial and the semantic relationships actually come into play. What the hell is an album, right? It used to be an LP with a limited capacity; then a cassette, same deal; CD, same deal. In the digital music age, those limitations have vanished. No more four-disc box sets, right? It’s just a big virtual bag of MP3 or .wav files. So both the semantic and the spacial constraints are history, man. That means the only constraints on what to include in our next album are those pertaining to aesthetics and good judgment. (In our world, that means no freaking constraints at all!)

The truth is, we haven’t completed a new album because we’ve been taken up with writing and recording new songs for the podcast. When we finish a bunch, we start on the next one. And when I say “finish”, I mean our typical fast-mixdown …. not finished in any kind of releasable way. That takes time and care, much care. Marvin has to lay down a coat of shellac. Then we get Anti-Lincoln started on the hand-carved details. And that’s just for the box it comes in!

Many’s the time I’ve thought, there must be an easier way. But even thinking about that seems way too hard.

 

 

Just holler.

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Delays, delays, delays. Frankly, production is a pain in the ass. That said, what do I do for a living? I’m a producer, damn it. I should have been a janitor. (Though on Sundays, I’m that, too.)

Yes, friends … the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast wagon has hit a few bumps in the road. Is it because our Ned Trek productions have become too elaborate and costly? God, no. It’s STILL the most cheap-ass podcast on the planet. (We still have that trophy somewhere. I think Anti-Lincoln is using it for an ashtray.) No, it’s not complication, it’s … well … the OTHER kind of complication. Frankly, I need six hands. I could also use a third leg. One ass is enough, of course. The point being, we are spread kind of thin here in Big Green land.

Sure, if we were any other band-focused podcast, we would be content with just hollering randomly into the mic every week and dropping that onto iTunes. But if you’re Big Green (and we are), the quality goes in before the name goes on. (Note to lawyers: we make no claim of ownership over the preceding slogan, and it does not in any way reflect the character of our organization.) Of course, the term “quality” is, in fact, value-neutral: things can be of good quality, bad quality, etc. But that’s not the point. Every episode has some kind of “quality”, and until we insert that value-neutral substance into the file, it ain’t going nowhere. Short answer: we’re running behind … again. But THIS IS BIG GREEN is still a thing, and it will return.

Are the 80s over yet?Okay, I’m not going to dip into one of those “things were simpler in the old days” reveries, but what I’m describing are both first-world problems and 21st Century foibles of a type that would have baffled us back when we started this moth-eaten music collective known as Big Green. When we first started using that moniker in 1986-7, we were working with people out around Albany, NY. Matt was writing songs like a mad man, just as he does today. Only there was no internet, no smartphones, no simple way of getting your music out there other than standing on a stage or hawking home-made cassette tapes at the local record shop. Kids these days!