All present and accounted for.

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Okay, everybody – band meeting. Let’s do roll call. Matt Perry? Present. Myself? Present. Marvin (my personal robot assistant)? Present, but lacking in agency. Mansized tuber? Absent. (He planted himself in the courtyard again, and frankly, it’s just too cold today to have the meeting out there.)

Yeah, it’s been a while since our last meeting. A few weeks, anyway. Like August 1987. We are a self-governing collective, but not a very well organized one, truth be told. When you live in an abandoned hammer mill (or an abandoned refrigerator, for that matter), there’s little else to do besides wander around and try to keep yourself occupied between tours. We might go crazy for a spell and even (dare I say it?) rehearse a few numbers. Such madness has taken hold of us on more than one occasion.

I suppose you’re wondering how it is that we manage to support ourselves. Well, I don’t think I have to tell you that we are lousy salespeople … perhaps the worst ever. In a capitalist society such as ours, you have to charge for your music, no matter by what means it may be delivered. Of course, the availability of the post-industrial hulk known as the Cheney Hammer Mill makes it possible for us to basically give away our music and still have a roof over our heads, albeit a leaky one.

Present.We have, in the past, posted our albums for purchase on digital distribution sites – the Orchard, CDBaby, etc. My feeling – and I should raise this at the meeting, already in progress – is that we should just post songs for free download and give people an opportunity to contribute towards the good of the Big Green cause through a Patreon site or something like that. It’s basically a digital passing of the hat, which we’ve done as well (the Luddite version, in any case).

Our songs keep getting sillier. I think it may be something in the water. That’s another topic we should raise if this meeting ever gets underway. How do we turn up the serious? Doesn’t that have to happen before you’re born? All these searing questions, and there’s more where those came from. (Mind you, it’s a little dark up there.)

Okay, well … meeting adjourned until, I don’t know, 2047. Make it a Sunday in October. I’ll dial in.

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.

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.

Rewind.

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It’s the dog days, or at least we think it is. So where are the freaking dogs, then? Somewhere a dog is barking.

Well, dogs or no, it’s hot as hell out there, so it’s probably a good day to lurk in the shadows of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill and rifle through the archives of the last 30 years of Big Green history. Fortunately, I have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on hand to help me with the heavy lifting. Yes, he can lift very heavy things. (It’s the putting them down part that he’s not so good at.) There’s a safe in the attic, but I think we’ll stick to the file cabinets and banker boxes in the main hammer assembly room.

Got a few old tapes, obviously … more than a few. When we started out as a band, we recorded on wire … I mean, tape. (We couldn’t afford wire.) Our first reel-to-reel was a broken down SONY machine that my dad bought used at some point. We recorded a few songs on old, thrice recorded tapes, though I couldn’t tell you even the names of any of them. Matt had some long instrumental pieces that still survive in that form, a few of which he wrote lyrics for. Then the revelation of cassette tapes arrived, and we bowed in humility before its sheer awesomeness. (That was about the time people started saying “awesome” when they meant something other than “awesome.”)

Look what I dug up.I listen to some of our earliest recordings, from back before we had even the name Big Green, and they sound like something from another planet. Most are very poorly recorded, scratched onto a cassette tape using a cheap mic or two. We did a demo at a local studio in 1981 that is a bit clearer – that basically captures what we sounded like at that moment. (It wasn’t overdubbed; we just DID IT LIVE, as Bill O’Reilly would say.) That tape was just me, Matt on bass, our guitarist at the time, the late Tim Walsh, and drummer Phil Ross, who still plays downstate. Maybe if I have too much port one of these nights I’ll post a song somewhere you can hear it.

That’s as deep as I can go into the history sack. We’ll see what’s a little closer to the top, maybe next week.

More verb.

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Give me a little more slack on this XLR. Little more … little more … woof! That’s good. Now point the speaker down over the side of the hole. There’s a good chap.

Right, well … you’ve caught us in the midst of a pretty typical dilemma for bands as unsuccessful and under-resourced as Big Green. You probably know what I’m talking about (because I sure as hell don’t). You’ve come to expect us to scrape our way through every situation, living in squat houses and lean-tos, taking the cheap seats on pretty much any mode of transportation you can name. So what the hell – we’re not some fancy-ass successful band that can afford racks of expensive gear. We’ve got a bunch of second-hand kit that’s held together with masking tape … because that’s what our audience demands.

So, when you need reverb, and you don’t have an expensive effect unit, or even an old, cranky one, what the hell do you do? I’ll tell you what – you just lower a microphone down the tunnel to the center of the Earth that’s in your basement and then pipe in your tracks. It’s a little boomy, but it beats the hell out of the reverb spring in my antiquated fender twin. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to go old school – and by “old school”, I mean effects that are almost entirely environmental in nature, like getting echo by scrambling up a hillside and shouting real loud. (Just be sure to bring a jar with you so you can catch the echo.)

No dice, Mitch?It’s when you get into things like distortion that this approach gets a little tricky. Sometimes we just plug a guitar cord into Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and have him jump in place; though that ends up sounding a bit more like tremolo. I was thinking of asking Mitch to attach a leslie rotating horn to Marvin’s head so that we can get a better B-3 sound while he’s jumping up and down, but Mitch would probably just wave that suggestion off. (He’s kind of picky when it comes to big ideas.)

Thing is, if you have a big empty space, or even a little one (like, say, between your ears), you can get a decent reverb effect. Tech tip for the day from Generation Reverb.

Cave in.

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Marvin, can you hear me? Marvin? Damn … that’s just the echo of my own voice. I was wondering why Marvin would be calling out to himself. Marvin!?

Right, so … I think we went a little too far with the archaeological dig, particularly once we got Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) involved. At first it was just a lark – we took a shovel to the floor of the Cheney Hammer Mill’s sub-basement just to see what we could find. Turns out there’s a lot of dirt down there. (Little known fact: the Earth is largely composed of dirt. I suspect that’s why “earth” is a synonym of “dirt”.) Sure, we turned up our share of lost quarters, belt buckles, tie clips and fossilized coelacanths, but that was about it.

Then Mitch decided to get involved, and of course, all hell broke loose. That is to say, he used one of his patented Particle Beam Generators™ to burn a hole through the Earth’s crust, clear down to the molten nickel core, which (as you know from watching television) is in a perpetual state of raging ferment – hell fire from beneath the ground, shall we say. To understand why this may have happened, you have to understand the scientific mind. Once you get that, imagine a diseased version of that same mind and you will have some insight into Mitch’s reasoning.

Say it twice!Well now, this didn’t go over very well, but I suggested to Mitch that his Particle Beam Generator™ had essentially blown the entire archaeological enterprise by incinerating every stratum between the mill floor and the Earth’s core; hence, a thousand potential discoveries may have been irretrievably lost. His answer was to devise a crane-like device and lower someone (not him!) down into the newly-bored hole to have a look at the top layers that had been exposed. How did we decide on Marvin? Well, there’s that ten bucks I owe him … and of course, he is much better qualified for the mission than I am. So sure, we put him in a harness and lowered him down into the hole, like he was on a fishing rod.

Anyone who has seen the movie Crack in the World can picture what comes next: A big flame comes out of the hole ten minutes after Marvin took the plunge. Radio silence thus far, but no worries: it’s Marvin’s nap time right about now, so he would tend to be unresponsive anyway.

Our four bears.

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Did you find any yet? Hmmm … I was sure they’d be here somewhere. How about now? Nothing? Okay. Keep digging. Great hopping organoids, this archaeology business is harder than it looks.

Idle hands do the devil’s work, or so they say. Here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our squat house), we like to try to keep busy just so that we don’t get into trouble. Sure, you might think being a musician would be enough, and well, it should be. But you can play and play and play until the cows come home. Then what have you got? A whole herd of cows, and no place for them to graze. Who do those cows belong to, anyhow? Right … well, I’ve wandered a bit, but you get the point.

So sure, we make music, but in between all that we like to involve ourselves in scientific endeavors … at least in the social sciences. (We leave the hard sciences to our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee.) This week it’s archaeology. Why that field? Well, we spotted an article about Neanderthals or Denisovans finding their way to the Americas more than 100,000 years ago, and that piqued our interest. The evidence seemed a little thin: just some smashed Mastodon bones. So we thought we’d take a look in the dirt and see if we could find some helpful artifacts, buried far below the hammer mill.

Dude ... behind you. Take a look.The fact is, I’m pretty sure those scientists are right about the Neanderthals. Back when we used Trevor James Constable’s patented orgone generating device as a time travel portal, we sent ourselves back in time to a point in American history when large-jawed anthropoids made up the majority of our club audiences. They’re heavy tippers, I understand, but always call out songs you never heard of. And when you start playing, they knock rocks together until you’re all done. Charming.

If you’re wondering whether we’ve come across any remains, well, I hate to disappoint you, but the Neanderthals’ secret still remains safe. It’s basically choose your myth at this point. I choose the one where they follow some wayward bears over from Russia. Others have suggested a cable car of some sort. We may never know.

Wait a minute.

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Got this song running through my head. It’s one of Matt’s from some time ago. I get that a lot, actually. Our entertainment center hasn’t worked in ages, so when we’re not playing I have to rely upon the jukebox in my mind for my entertainment. And just now it’s playing Big Green circa 1989, maybe. Couple weeks ago. The lyric goes like this:

Thought we were madly in love
but we were just plain mad
I always thought we were in love
But we were mad, just mad

Under a Gothic sky
we heard an ancient choir
In an amphitheater
we compiled notes and prayed aloud

We held our breath and heard the voice
of uncommon sense
We dropped our eyes and saw the floor mosaic move
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness

In the torrential rain
we still open the mail
We still shake the pieces
Still building boats unsafe to sail

We were badly in need of some
uncommon law
We were sadly in need of some corrective lens
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness

We weren’t in love
We were mad

That song is called “Uncommon Sense” and I literally haven’t heard it in years. So why is it bouncing around in my bean? No freaking clue. Stuff just bobs up like an inflatable horse in a swimming pool. Or something else that bobs up … maybe somebody named Bob who comes up for the weekend. Not that that’s ever likely to happen. And what if he has special dietary restrictions? Okay … where was I?

Eight-tracks are just fab, man.I think I’m hearing music because my mind is wandering. It’s like hold music – something has to fill the void, and since my psyche is out on vacation, someone fired up the old juke box. Sometimes it’s junk-ass radio pop music from the 1970s. I won’t even name some of the ear-worms I get because then you will have them to grapple with for the rest of the day, and you will end up hating me until the end of time. You know, songs like “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”, for instance, or “The Night Chicago Died”. Oh, God damnit!

Fortunately for me, my brother and collaborator in the musical collective enterprise known as Big Green has written a smoking ton of music over the past three decades. I can run his song list end-to-end in my head literally non-stop for about three weeks and never play the same song twice. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of control over what I’m hearing with my mind’s ear – not like Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who actually has an 8-track cartridge deck built into the side of his brass head. All he has to do is hit the channel button and it hops over to the middle of another song. Welcome to the future, friends.

Note to cognitive scientists: if you figure out how to change earworm songs, let me the fuck know. Thanks mucho.

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.