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.

Technophobia.

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Not running again, eh? Try knocking it upside the head again. Harder. HARDER! Oh, wait … you knocked its head off. That’s probably too hard. Oh well….

Hey, welcome to the house of Big Green – that abandoned hammer mill we call home, because all of the groups live together. Just trying to get down to recording some new material, old material … whatever! If we can just get our technology to work for five minutes. (Actually, three and a half minutes would do, since this is pop music.) Seriously, we’ve got some old gear, folks. It’s almost as old as our asses. I’m not even talking tape recorders …. I’m talking wire recorders. I’m talking those wax record cutting machines they used when John-boy was being interviewed by a radio station on The Waltons after he got swindled by the vanity press dude. (Oh, you thought I forgot, didn’t you? Mr. TV Swindler!)

Ahem. Anyhow, we really are running on three cylinders down in Big Green’s clubhouse recording studio in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill. The eight-track DTRS machine we used to record 2000 Years To Christmas is a paperweight. The 16/24 track hard disc workstation we used to record International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick is 17 years old and ready for that farm upstate. We’re taping together our headphones and coaxing our pre-amps not to self-destruct. It’s a sad state of affairs, to say the least. Our neighbors keep saying, do a GoFundMe campaign or something, but hell …. that would require the invention of the personal computer. Our gear tells me it’s still 1982.

It was new when I bought it.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is probably the most sophisticated piece of technology we have at our disposal. In fact, that’s exactly what he is –  a re-purposed garbage disposal. I’m told that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, added some arms and legs and popped a refurbished Commodore 64 computer in his noggin, then it was off to the races with him. We could probably use HIM as an audio recorder almost as easily as we manage with our antiquated Roland VS-2480, but it would require some modifications, and damn it, we’re Luddites. We just flip the switch and a light goes on – the rest is magic.

So, hey … we’ll get those songs committed to .wav somehow, never fear. Just don’t ask me how they got there afterwards.

What you hear.

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Man, it’s windy again today. That’s what I’m hearing, right? Oh, okay … Anti-Lincoln is just practicing his bass clarinet. Right. Sounds like wind. Lots of wind.

Hey, look …. I know living with other people can be annoying. But we try to be tolerant around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill and let one another live up to his or her true self. And when they achieve that hard-won moment of self-realization, we all point fingers at them and laugh derisively. Particularly when they take up some wind instrument they have no hope of mastering. (Happens more often around here than you might suppose.) That’s what we call “positive reinforcement.”

I don’t want to give the impression that we of Big Green have something against innovation and initiative. Lord, no. The fact is, we rely on other people’s innovation and initiative to make up for our woeful lack of those qualities. We’ve made plenty of recordings that have random horn-like instruments honking in the background or someone plunking on a banjo in a lackluster way. Naturally, we don’t hire session musicians for this. (Very few of them are willing to work in ThereThere's a multitude in this place!exchange for discarded hammer handles from the last century.) So naturally we are left to forage for talent a little closer to home. And when I say “talent”, I’m using the word in a very generic, denatured sense. Bodies with working digits is what I mean.

Take Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. (Please.) Little known factoid: Many of the horn parts on that album were played by Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and Anti-Lincoln. We used trained monkeys for some tambourine parts. And when I say “trained”, I’m using the word in a very generic …. oh, never mind. Actually, I played the freaking tambourine. I just made it sound like I’m a trained monkey. Though frankly, most people playing the tambourine sound like trained monkeys. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The point being …. we may look like a band of three people, but there’s a virtual multitude involved in everything we do. (Now by “virtual”, I mean literally “in essence or effect, but not in fact”.)

Got all that? Good. Maybe you can explain it to me (and the virtual multitude).

Big rock, little rock.

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Going to Little Rock? But Big Green doesn’t have any fans in Arkansas … at least as far as I know. In fact, we don’t have any fans south of the Mason Dixon line. Not since Cowboy Scat, anyway. What? Oh, okay …. never mind.

Cheese and crackers, I thought we were going way on down south, but apparently we’re going in a very different direction. Out towards KIC 8462852 with a brief stop at the as yet undiscovered Dwarf Planet at the edge of our solar system, and perhaps the undiscovered mystery giant planet as well. So at least our destinations are clear. That’s the easy part. The not-so-easy part? Finding an agent who books that far out in the sticks, so to speak. (Actually, it’s beyond the sticks and into the rocks.) We usually book ourselves in instances such as these, but times being what they are, it’s helpful to have your interstellar ducks in a row before striking out into deep space.

Speaking of ducks, we need to line up reliable transport as well. And yes, I did use the qualifier “reliable” by intention: we tried the other kind of transportation and it didn’t work out so well. This time we’re going with a professional vendor, like SpaceX. Of course, we can’t AFFORD SpaceX because we’re a band full of broke-ass mo-fo’s, so we’ll have to opt for the next best thing. And that, my friends, is a company called SpaceY. (Pronounced “space why?”) It’s the cheap seat version, by an order of magnitude.

Getting there is the issue.So whereas SpaceX has the famed “Falcon 9” rocket with the patented “Dragon” spacecraft, SpaceY offers the not-so-well-known “Plywood 9000” rocket powering its nearly designed (and no, that’s not a typo: it hasn’t been designed yet) “Malaysian Tapir 9000” spacecraft. (They seem to like the number 9000. That would explain their requested down payment.) I know what you’re thinking …. this doesn’t sound like it meets the reliability standard I set forward in the previous paragraph. My only rejoinder to that is, well … that was more than a paragraph ago. Are you going to hold me to EVERYTHING I’ve said in the past? How about gurgling noises I made as an infant – do you plan to hit me with those, too?

Well anyway. Our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee is going to take me and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to the SpaceY showroom next week so that we can do a walk through and, perhaps, a test drive. He gave me a life insurance policy to sign as well. Such a thoughtful man!

Millsville.

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Sometimes if you’re up early enough in the morning, you can see the first rays of the sun breaking over the ruins of the abandoned mill next door. I think they made broom handles there or something. Now it’s just some disheveled wreck that the sun rises over. Hey …. been there.

Yes, friends, it’s been many, many suns and even more moons since I started this blog about Big Green. We now have posts that stretch back nearly as far as those rays of sunlight. A rich body of balderdash, and it’s getting balder all the time. Sometimes you forget where this all began – in some crappy dive on the west end of the city, the walls smelling of beer, dog crap on the stage, and a bartender who hates your ass. A lot of music careers start that way. Ours, on the other hand, was never anything else. (Yes, we are like most bands – spectacularly unsuccessful and damn proud of it.)

So we took to the hammer mill and started hammering out recordings. That was in the nineties. Since then, we’ve put out three albums and a bunch of songs on the podcast. Christ on a bike – I think we’re up to more than 50 songs since releasing Cowboy Scat in 2013. (Time for another album, right?) We’re still recording on an old Roland platform, trying to transition to Uh, I don't think so, Marivn.something more appropriate to the century we’re living in. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has suggested we start recording on cylinders or wire. Damn it, it’s been done, Marvin! Come up with something new, like, I don’t know … recording on bricks.

Some five years ago we started the podcast, and it is still sputtering along, though getting slower … slow like the two thousand year-old man. Fact is, we’re thinking about launching another podcast that would be devoted exclusively to bloviating – something we could get out a bit more regularly. And if it ends up half as popular as THIS IS BIG GREEN, we could nearly double our listenership.  Fan… tastic.

So, on we go. We’re in production for another podcast episode, doing the songs right now. (Damn, they’re strange.)

Six or seven. (Eight?)

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Jesus Christ on a bike. I told you this hard drive was full. And now there’s smoke emanating from the processor. Can’t understand it. It’s a 486, isn’t it? Sure, hot damn. Fast as one of those new-fangled horseless carriages.

Oh, hello. Just grappling with some minor technical difficulties. You know, little stuff like gear that was obsolete in the last century, now over-burdened with production content, bowing deeply under the weight of yet another project, bursting at the seams. Just the kind of thing we’re likely to run into here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, Big Green’s adopted squat house. Things can always be worse. We could have opted to do something else with this space, like start a church or something, but that doesn’t always turn out that well. (See Word of Life Church, Chadwicks, NY … up the road a piece.) Music it is.

Sure, I know … it’s been three years since the release of our last album, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. And while we haven’t completed a new album, we have recorded the equivalent of about three albums worth of new material over these last few years. It’s all stuff cut into our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, so you may have heard it (or not). Bunch of songs, some of them sung by a pantomime horse. Who wouldn’t want to listen to that? So there’s little doubt in my mind that at some point we will package some or all of Eight songs? Really??these into an album of sorts and toss it out on the street for passers-by to happen upon and drop into their MP3 players.

Now you may ask, what kind of an economic model is that? Well, friends – we are a creative collective, built on an anarcho-syndicalist theoretical foundation, but with neo-socialist flavor notes that put us more into the worker-owned enterprise category. At least that’s how I describe it while hopping around on one foot. (I do that when someone is shooting at me for talking like a goddamn commie. This IS upstate New York, after all.) We’re giving a whole new meaning to “dance band”: We hit the first chord, and Yosemite Sam pulls his six-gun out and shouts “Dance, varmint!”

So, yes … we will assemble a new album by and by, assuming I can find a big enough technological bucket to carry it around in. Stay tuned!

Magnetists.

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Right, so there ARE gravitational waves after all, disturbing the peace of the space-time continuum. Uh … I knew that. No news to me. Next question?

See, here’s the advantage of having a mad science adviser. (Every band should have at least one. Wilco, I believe, retains an entire gaggle of them.) Just casual hallway conversations yield amazing benefits. Turns out there are planets with negative gravity. True story. In fact, our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee claims that he was born on one. The negative gravity of his home planet was so strong that it immediately shot him like a cannon ball straight to Earth. Fortunately, he was wearing a heat shield poncho at the time (his first invention, innovated straight out of his mother’s womb).

Mitch has an idea about how to manipulate gravity waves for casual amusement – kind of like playing with a galactic yo-yo. Only now he’s back in one of his funks, with the announcement of the gravity wave discovery by prominent physicists. “Everybody’s going to want a piece of this!” Mitch shouted upon receiving the news, and stormed off to his quarters. He’s been brooding ever since. Hard to keep a man like that happy. We gave him the best quarters available in this abandoned hammer mill, and at considerable personal sacrifice. (I myself have been forced to make do with dimes.)

That's some yo-yo, Mitch.Not much we can do except continue working on our music. Yes, music comes first around here – ask anybody. We’re currently producing a few more songs for the podcast, a couple of which may make it on to a collection at some point. It’s kind of the same process we’ve been going through for the past few years – write and track about a half dozen songs, throw them up onto the Web, then do it again. That’s how Cowboy Scat got done, for better or for worse. That’s likely how the next album will go, though at some point we’re going to knuckle down and record some of our older songs (at least one album of those), preferably before we punch our one-way ticket to geezerville.

Hold on … I think my applesauce may be warm enough to gum.

Inside October.

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The morning came up like thunder today. That was something. It poured so hard it felt like it was raining in my bedroom. Which, in fact, it was – the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill roof has some issues, as you’ve probably heard. Hey – over a century old, abandoned by its owners, neglected for decades … you’d have a leaky roof too.

So I’m sitting here at my superannuated mixing console, laptop open and running, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) holding an umbrella over me as I type. What better time is there to give a rundown of the recently posted October installment of THIS IS BIG GREEN, our podcast. Here’s what’s on deck for October:

Ned Trek 25: Not the Children One, Please! – Based on the original Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead” (one of the most annoying episodes ever), the Ned Trek version features the current crop of demon spawn circling the drain that is the modern presidency. Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz appear as the children, all poorly impersonated along with the voices of their fathers, Ron, George, and … uh … Ted’s dad, respectively. The evil angel ringleader is played by Judge Robert Bork. Lots of singing, chanting, dancing, and fist pumping. You know … kid stuff.

Song: Johnny Got His Gun – A selection from our 2008 album International House. We included this one as a nod to the Oregon shooting. Our version of Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, in a sense, written around a subject that seemingly never goes away.

Put The Phone Down – Matt and I wheel through a variety of topics, from a discussion of the ridiculousness of the movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, to one about my brief childhood excursion through the Catholic religious instruction process (a.k.a. Voyage to the Bottom of the Holy See), to random talk about Matt’s primitive diet and the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Basically, our mouths move and sound comes out – that’s all I know.

That's great, Marvin. Thanks.Song: It Should’ve Been Me – The closer on our 2013 album Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Something in the way of a tribute to cousin Rick Perry, who ended his 2016 presidential bid this past month. (NOW what will we do?)

Song: Enter The Mind – Another selection from International House, this one about enhanced interrogations and the mindset that promotes them.

Song: Why Not Call It George – This is an unreleased recording of a song Matt wrote decades ago, recorded on 4-track cassette, I believe, with Johnny White on drums and a positively volcanic guitar solo by the amazing Jeremy Shaw, who played with us in the early 1990s. One of Matt’s songs about geoscience (I think there were others) and plate tectonics, with a dash of mad science. It’s a particular favorite of our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee, who would name a reconstituted Pangea “Mitch,” I suspect.

What’s with the cheap-ass show?

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Okay, so we posted a cheap-ass podcast for July. So sue me. Go hire Mr. Simon’s lawyer and sue me. Things went all pair-shaped this summer, what can I tell you?

The fact is, we did produce a new episode of Ned Trek. I wrote the script, with Matt’s able help, we voiced it, and Matt finished editing it … and then his computer blew up. So he’s reconstructing it, in between the fifteen thousand other things he’s responsible for. And it has taken longer than anticipated, right? You know the drill. Even more galling in a way is the fact that this was one of our musical episodes, which means that we produced no less than 6 original songs for the sucker. A lot of production for an episode that never got posted. Still … it will go up, eventually. Just wait and see. (Or hear.)

Anyway, we thought we’d take this opportunity to re-run one of our favorite Ned Trek episodes, called The Wrath of Carl, in which Carl Sagan decimates the Free Enterprise crew through the awesome power of his calling bullshit on all of their pseudo-scientific TV-show contrivances, like artificial gravity and … well … interstellar travel. (My favorite moment is when Sagan points out that horses lack the requisite anatomy for speech, at which point Ned loses his voice.)

What a lame ass cop out.What’s on deck for this month, besides this re-tread episode of Ned Trek? Well, we have a selection from Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick – a little song called Savin’ Myself for America, which is a particular favorite of mine from that album. (Hear it now on YouTube.) We also launch into a shaggy-dog planning session about our next album, which will feature songs from – you guessed it – Ned Trek. We’ve produced about fifty so far, and you can listen to us engaging in the somewhat useless task of winnowing this down to maybe 45. Will this be our first double album? Who freaking knows. (We obviously don’t – just listen to the podcast.)

So there you have it. Another day at the office.

Taking stock.

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Run that one again. Yeah, that’s right. Hmmmmm …. I forgot about that part. Okay, rewind it and let’s hear it from the top. Yep, yep. Heard that before.

Oh, hi. Joe of Big Green here. Just listening back to some old tracks. Every time we’re in-between projects or waiting for something to happen, the amateur archivist begins to take hold within me and I start pulling out the old stuff. Some of it’s on reel to reel, some on cassette, some on DAT, some just written on an old sheet of note paper. When you’ve been doing something for 30+ years, you have a lot of leave-behinds.

While I’ve been waiting for Matt to finish the latest episode of Ned Trek (now in the works), I thought it might be a good time to back up the masters for Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick, our 2013 album about cousin Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, 2012 presidential candidate, and once again a member of the Republican electoral field. Our Roland 2480, which we used to record that album, is in somewhat shaky condition and has no internal means for backing up data. That means we have to port the sound files over, track by track, to my install of Cubase LE. I’ve done most of the songs; still a substantial way to go. Booooring work, frankly, but you gotta do it. Sort of.

Play it again? Yup.If this keeps up, I’m going to do a deep dive into some unreleased material from yesteryear. I was listening to a live tape of us from back in 1993. That’s never been transcoded, so hell, time to get busy. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) can get started on that anytime. Or not. (He thinks transcoding involves switching his gender identity somehow. Not sure where he got THAT idea.)

There is one other thing keeping us pointlessly busy. It’s the new site we launched for Ned Trek. The URL is www.nedtrek.com and it features five selected episodes from the now 24-show run of this ludicrous mockery of classic Star Trek, occasionally set to music. Go there and binge, folks – it’s free, as audio should be.

Off we go again. More archiving. This place is like the Library of Congress.