Unwrapping.

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I got socks this year. Lots of socks. And a few discarded ties. Plus some bricks from the courtyard. No, they weren’t loose – the mansized tuber just pulled them out of the courtyard and gave them to me. Yeah, I put them back. Now that’s a holiday to remember.

Well, I don’t know what kind of a Christmas YOU had, but here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York, we had a rousing celebration that quite nearly woke the dead. No, it wasn’t well attended, but Marvin (my personal robot assistant) cranked up the stereo and started playing random sides from Sun Ra to Fountains of Wayne. It was Christmas in crazytown, and it didn’t go unnoticed by our neighbors, who (I feel compelled to say) were … ahem … a bit LACKING this year in the HOLIDAY SPIRIT. (You heard!)

Then there were random fireworks. Now, I hate to be a spoil sport, but I don’t like hearing explosions late at night. It makes me jump, and my mind goes straight to some imagined mishap in Mitch Macaphee’s lab. It took a moment to recall that he’s out of town this week, but the downside risk of having a mad science laboratory in your basement does tend to put you on alert. He was Keep it DOWN!muttering something about a “planet buster” last week. Sometimes that’s just idle rambling, but you can never be too sure. Look at what happened to the planet Zorchon. (Yeah, that’s right – there IS no planet Zorchon, sure …. not NOW.)

So, hey … there’s a lot to unwrap with the kind of holidays we have around here. People tend to save up their resentments and hard feelings all year, then let them loose on their relatives around the yuletide dinner table. That’s not what happens at the Cheney Hammer Mill, but only because we don’t have a dinner table. We typically sit around this old cable spool we found in the middle of the road one time when we were driving back from a gig at Middlebury College in the 1990s. It makes a fair table … not a HOLIDAY table, per se, but a fair platform for dishes, cutlery, etc. Then there are the boxes we sit on – can’t remember where we found those. Talk about festive!

Anyway, we survived it. Hope you survived yours.

Social obscurity.

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Yeah, I’m back. Did you miss me? Didn’t notice I was gone? Okay, then. (Sigh…) Not for nothing that Big Green was once described as one of the most obscure bands out there. We are freaking invisible – just ask the people standing behind us, all of whom you can see clearly, because … again … we’re freaking invisible.

But just because we’re invisible, that doesn’t mean we’re inaudible. That old adage about children being “best seen and not heard” doesn’t apply here, as we are not children, and we are not quiet. Nay, we are LOUD. Well, loud-ISH, and occasionally louder than that. Exhibit A: our song Jesus Has A Known Mind, which we’ve featured a couple of times on our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. That’s loud, if you turn up the volume. Try it next time you play the podcast. Or put your iPod bluetooth speaker in the middle of a cavernous room, then crank it up to 11. That should be the advisory on all of our albums. That and “avoid using heavy machinery”. (Not because it’s dangerous, but because it is hard.)

Get out! We’re not only musically obscure, Big Green is also socially obscure, I’m proud-ish to say. We’re the only band I can think of who, when moving into an abandoned hammer mill, draws pointed comments of “there goes the neighborhood” from across the brickyard. Fact is, we’re not even good enough to live in a condemned building. But we don’t let THAT stop us. No, sir … and thanks to the ingenuity of our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee (just back from MonsterCom, an annual gathering of like-minded crazy doctors in Madagascar), none of those local hostiles can get within thirty feet of our front door without being stopped by an impenetrable force field. (At least I’m told that it’s there. Either that, or no one wants anything to do with us. Which is more likely? You decide, my friends.)

The happy by-product of our unpopularity is that we are able to work without fear of interruption on whatever it is we’re producing at any given time. (Currently, it’s the Ned Trek Christmas Pageant.) And with the help of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who’s helping us with the editing, we have a shot at finishing this sucker before the holiday … so that we can share it with … well … whoever listens to us. (Note: the podcast is invisible as well.)

 

Write hand.

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I’m kind of busy right now, Marvin. Just tell them that I can’t talk. And in any case, I don’t want to go on a Caribbean Cruise, even if it IS free. Cheese and crackers. (Hey, that sounds kind of good right about now.)

Writing is a hungry business. Just ask Hemingway, the guy with the moveable feast. I’m a little sensitive about interruptions today, so I beg your pardon … Marvin (my personal robot assistant) keeps coming into my study (a.k.a. the old forge room in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) with nonsensical requests. Stuff like,  “You’ve got a phone call from Missouri” or “There’s a brush salesman at the door” or “Leave the building – it’s on fire”. Be honest – would you listen?

What am I working on so feverishly? Ah, nothing. Just the script to this year’s Ned Trek Christmas Special. Last year we did an “It’s A Wonderful Life” parody. The year before I believe it was “A Christmas Carol”. And of course we began this annual comedic atrocity with a take-off on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, though I think our first Ned Trek holiday extravaganza was the Santorum’s Christmas Planet episode, based loosely on the classic Star Trek “Return of the Archons” script. I mean, how do you top THAT? I am sorely tempted to cop out and do a clip show, but I happen to know that there are some new songs in the works (again), so that won’t wash.

Forget the stupid tree, Willard.Actually, we’re recording a handful of songs, including some older numbers we’ve never properly tracked before using modern technology. There are a couple of new ones in the works. I am trying to write around this eclectic mishmash of musical material. As you know, we are sticklers for continuity and comprehensibility. And quality. And irony. Massive irony. Heh heh.

It is hard to concentrate in a hammer mill, no matter what state it’s in. (This one happens to be in New York.) But even with all the distractions, the diversions, the cold November wind blowing through chinks in the mortar, I SHOULD be able to write this freaking script. Hell, it should write itself. Shouldn’t it? Of course, last year’s Christmas show came in February … of THIS year.

There goes the phone again. Tell them I don’t want a higher limit on my credit card!

Why Christmas?

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Okay, subject matter experts – let’s get down to it. We’ve written about fascists on the rise. We’ve written about space diseases. What’s left to write about? What? Christmas again? Oh, Jesus Christ on a re-gifted bike. Very well.

I’ll tell you, you ask a question around this place and you come away with six more questions. At least that’s an even number. That said, we’re still making music over here in Big Green-land (and no, I don’t mean big Greenland …. everyone makes that mistake), and well, Christmas is coming, so … that means more Christmas themed songs, right? Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly will be overjoyed to hear that there’s music that uses the word “Christmas” occasionally, even if it is mostly for humor and ironic purposes. (Or porpoises. Like hipster porpoises who do shark-like shit just to be ironic. You’ve seen that, right?)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are planning a holiday podcast extravaganza, with newly recorded Big Green classics never before heard by the likes of you, as well as some brand new material. (I don’t mean fabric, either – I mean music, music.) We’re in production, or Come again?pre-production, or something like that. This will be the first group of songs we’ve recorded entirely on Cubase 9, with no help from our trusty old Roland 2480 deck, which served us so well for the last 16 years. So we’ll just see how that goes, my friends.

Okay, so … we started working on the Roland deck a year or two after the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I have to say, this group of songs we’re doing are pretty closely related to the songs on that disc. Why Christmas? Because Jesus. Or because it starts with a C. I don’t know – that’s just what we hang the song on, much like a shirt cardboard. (We kind of used former Texas governor Rick Perry as a shirt cardboard for one of our albums, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick.) It makes it easier to develop a theme and … oh, who cares?

We’ll just keep making the songs, Christmas themed or not. You expect no less. And no more.

Old stock.

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I think it’s over there, in that cardboard box. No, no – not that one! The one under that one. Or the one under that. I don’t know, just start opening boxes – I’ll tell you when to stop.

Oh, yes, that’s right … I have a fourth wall. Hello, then. What are we doing? Thanks for asking. We are digging through the Big Green archives again. And when I say “archives”, I’m talking about something that’s really much more rudimentary than that term suggests. Call it a series of boxes, some of which have the Kellogg rooster emblazoned on their side. Then there’s those round Quaker Oats boxes …. I used to make pretend ham radios out of those.

What we’re searching for is, well, some ideas for this year’s Christmas pageant extravaganza. Amazingly, there’s a lot of holiday material that hasn’t been released or even heard for the last ten years. Matt did, what, ten years of Christmas tapes, between 1986 and 1995, with one added on after that for good luck. We’ve got an enormous backlog of 4-track cassette recordings from that period, essentially demos, which we can harvest and repurpose like, I don’t know, sorting through a junk yard for something useful. Don’t ask me for metaphors this early in the morning!

So whatcha got, Lincoln?Now, I don’t want to leave you with the false impression that we are constantly recycling music from days of old. Not a bit of it! In fact, the songs on our last THIS IS BIG GREEN – Ned Trek extravaganza are all brand spanking new (and probably in need of that spanking). Not that we haven’t reached into the old grab back in past episodes. Usually around the holidays we start rummaging around for something that will fill a hole in the production. I’m thinking maybe we should just patch in some video of a local 2nd grade school orchestra playing Jingle Bells. Now THAT’S entertainment, people. (Literally every one of those cute little critters playing the same note, all together.)

Okay, so … yes, we’ll be working on a Christmas show. Because that’s how we roll here at Big Green. Next podcast will be another non-musical Ned Trek, then who knows … an actual album? Yikes!

Six days.

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No, it’s not the fifth day, Marvin. It’s the sixth. Doesn’t that processor between your ears do simple sums, for crying out loud? Six, man, six!

Yes, I am correcting Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on his math. Or his calendar skills. Not sure which, actually. I put him in charge of counting down our “Six Days of Christmas” celebration. Why six? Well, turns out we couldn’t afford twelve. And since we were too sick to finish our Holiday extravaganza on time, we all thought it only appropriate to provide a small … even half-assed compensation. You’re welcome, America!

For those of you who missed it, this is what our lame celebration consisted of:

Day One: Post of “A Very Neddy Christmas” on NedTrek.com. This is a rerun, yes, of our Ned Trek parody of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, featuring four songs, some bad celebrity imitations, and all the rest of it.

Day Two: Soundcloud post of Vital Signs, a song off of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas. This is one of my personal favorites from that collection. But who the hell cares what I think, right? Damn straight.

Day Three: Soundcloud post of Merry Christmas, Jane, a song off of our EP Live From Neptune. This was recorded live to stereo DAT back in 1994, I think, with Jeremy Shaw on guitar. (We’ve played this on the podcast a couple of times.)

SIX days! Are you MAD?Day Four: Photo album of Matt and Joe, posted on Facebook. These are promo shots taken in, I don’t know, 1987, by our niece Mona. I think we were trying to mock a U2 photo spread in Rolling Stone for Joshua Tree, but it’s hard to tell.

Day Five: Soundcloud post of Jit Jaguar’s Christmas. This is a ridiculous Christmas song Matt wrote quite a few years ago that we recorded I think in 2013 as part of our ongoing project to record our back catalog. Pretty pared down, but I like this recording. Rough and ready.

Day Six: This shit. Hey … it’s like getting a load of wooden balls. We’ve got a pageant under construction, so … think of it as some delayed holiday joy. Keep your eyes open, people, and happy new year.

Wrap it up.

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Where did those scissors go? Right … I’ll just use my teeth then, shall I? What the hell. I hate the freaking holidays! Especially when they get this close. Christmas looks a lot better from a distance.

Yes, my friends, you caught us in the middle of another Cheney Hammer Mill meltdown. They’re becoming more frequent in this new era, I must admit. Still, I have cause – trying to wrap up another holiday extravaganza, and it’s not going all that well, frankly. I’ve got a em-effin’ cold, for one thing. What’s the other thing? Huh … Don’t remember. I always forget shit like that when I have a cold.

One thing I’m having trouble wrapping is this year’s Christmas show. It’s a little hard to voice these things without a voice. It’s like playing sousaphone parts on a tambourine. So the choice is either, croak everyone a merry Christmas, or …. we’ll have to cancel Christmas. There’s nothing I can do – it’s this weather. (Okay, now I’m randomly quoting dialog from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Another symptom of my illness.) We’ll be a little late in posting this year, let me put it that way. But there are consolations.

Hey, uh ... that's a really creepy get-up, Marvin.We’re thinking we might post last year’s extravaganza as a Ned Trek episode at NedTrek.com. And if I can get my voice working again, I might try to do more of a straight music podcast, playing selections from our holiday music catalog of the last 20 years. There are a couple of outtakes from 2000 Years To Christmas that have never seen the light of day. We’ve got some more recent recordings composed around a holiday theme. I might pack that together like a mincemeat pie and toss it out to the hungry masses as we continue to work on our current marathon-like production. Part-timers!

Anyhow, if you can tear yourself away from your holiday table in the coming days, look for additional posts between now and the new year. I’ll be holed up here in the Cheney Hammer Mill, hammering away at some piece of junk. Stick a bow on it and send it off! Feliz navidad.

Ice days.

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Man oh man. Put another log in the furnace, Anti-Lincoln. Drafty old barn of a place. Are you sure we weren’t somehow transported overnight to one of those Kuiper Belt planetoids? I’m freezing my ass off in here.

Oh, hi. Yes, we’re in the midst of another cold snap here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Our local gas an electric company discontinued service here years ago, as you might suspect. The hammer forge has been pretty quiet since the 1940s. You might think, well … burn the furniture, right? Well, we did that YEARS ago. I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and no, I’m not burning that. (We’re always looking for kindling. After almost twenty winters of this, the mansized tuber is looking pretty nervous.)

Okay, so we have to break the ice in the bathroom sink every morning – is that anything to complain about? We have a roof over our heads … or most of a roof, anyway. More importantly, we have a floor beneath our feet. I say that because, if you’ll recall, we went on a “Journey to the Center of the Earth” tour some years back, and I for one never want to make THAT journey again. You haven’t had a tough audience until you’ve played for Morlocks. And those talking rock creatures! What’s that, Marvin? You don’t say. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has just told me that there were no talking rock creatures. This one club owner just had a novelty landline telephone, that’s all.

Oh, right. I remember these guys.I suppose we, like so many other upstaters, should find some way of monetizing this freezing cold weather. I don’t know, like … exporting ice or something. We could turn this place into the abandoned Cheney Ice Mill, start shipping ice all over the country. We could pack it in dry ice, or sawdust, or … something. Iron filings, perhaps. (There’s a lot of those in the hammer mill basement.) It’s just a damn shame that you can’t bottle this weather and sell it in the summer. Hey ….. Nah, forget it.

Well, we’ve got one thing to keep us warm: Our Christmas episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, still in production. Likely to be a little late this year, friends – my apologies. I will post something around the holiday as a placeholder then drop the new episode when it’s good and ready. (Well … ready, anyway. If I hold out for “good” , we may be talking about NEXT Christmas.)

Target: clue.

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Bloody hell … my mirror cracked. No, I didn’t smash it with a hammer … I just looked into it, trying to freaking shave. Jesus, I’m old. Hey .. can I use your mirror?

Yeah, we’re cracking mirrors around here, no doubt about it. Looking back on about 30 years of making music under the same moniker, and it’s a little stupefying, frankly. True fact: Big Green was founded in 1986 and it’s still kind of rolling, give or take a few members. But regardless of the lineup, we still have the same DNA. The clueless core has remained intact … it hasn’t gone sub-critical yet. That’s ’cause we’re blood, man. Blood brothers, inseparable. (Particularly so, since Matt does most of the work.)

As we continue working on the next raft of songs, I’ve been taking a few minutes here and there to listen to our previous releases, for context if nothing else. Actually, part of it is taking note of stuff that I hate so that I can resolve not to make the same bonehead plays again and again. (Hey … how about that as a name for the next album: Bonehead Plays? Anyone?) Then there’s the stylistic question: what pigeonhole will we be placed in? And will the pigeon charge us rent? I don’t know about you, but my experience tells me that pigeons are lousy landlords. When something goes funky, like a leaking faucet or a broken mirror, they never send a proper workman … just some brother-in-law pigeon who owes them a favor.

We're type-cast ... and it's all Abe's faultOkay, I digress. Here’s the thing. Our first album had a holiday (i.e. Christmas) theme. The second was more of a straight rock record. The third was a mock country album. And yet, when you look us up in any of the music services, we tend to get chucked into “Holiday” or “Seasonal” categories, no matter what genre we assign to the album when we post it. The collection we’re working on rolls all over the stylistic map, starting in Alaska and ending up in Madagascar. Some pretty crazy shit, man. Look for it under “Holiday”.

Prisoners of our past, in search of a clue. That’s the glory of … that’s the story of Big Green. Happy 30th anniversary, kids.

Inside the Xmas Podcast.

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Back to Earth with us, in a manner of speaking. Gravity always brings you home, right? Stupid ass gravity! Oh, well … where would we be without it? (In space, perhaps.)

While we were away on our interstellar trip to nowhere-ville, we dropped another THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast – our annual Holiday Extravaganza, as it were. (And it were … oh, it were!) If you’ve listened to it already, then you are among the few who truly understand Christmas cheer, let alone Christmas pride, Christmas joy, and all those other seasonal soap products. (We were sponsored by P&G this year. The really took a gamble!)

Anywho, without any further ado, here’s what’s inside the Holiday podcast:

Ned Trek 26: A Very Neddy Christmas. The Ned Trek crew re-enacts Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a more modern sensibility. Unprecedented? Certainly not. Nor is it un-presidented. It in fact features cameos by no less than two ex presidents and probably at least one future president. Introduced as always by Lee Majors, who doesn’t even attempt a British accent.

Ned Trek 26 is a musical episode, featuring four new recordings by Big Green. They are:

Christmas Past. Apropos of its name, this is a song Matt wrote in the very late 1980s, back when the sky was black with flocks of pterodactyls. This new recording includes choral parts in a little-known extraterrestrial tongue, with helpful translations by other choral singers who attempt to imitate David Bowie.

McBridy. Another number from the old days, this one from Matt’s 1990 Christmas cassette. A song about the troubles in Ireland, which were still going on back then. Eye for an eye, and an island of blind men. Pretty thumpy little number.

Put the decorations away now, Marvin.Romney in Reserve. Kind of a country swing song about Willard standing by his phone, waiting for a call from a desperate GOP chair pleading for him to jump in and save the party for 2016. Dream on, Willard, dream on.

40s Guys Christmas. Our best approximation of a big band, which is not too great, but nevertheless. The 40s guys get their chance to shine, singing about working on Christmas.

Put The Phone Down. Matt and I talk about a whole bunch of stuff, from George Washington Carver, to George Washington’s wooden teeth, to the war of the Cuban conservatives, and more. Easy listening here in Big Green land.

Enjoy and keep those comments coming. (Don’t forget to check out the special encore Holiday Special at NedTrek.com. )