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.

All in favor.

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Do we have a quorum? No? Where’s Matt, then? Oh, right …. watching the falcons. That’s fine. The mansized tuber can sit in for him for the time being. Okay, tubey … raise your right, uh … taproot.

Oh, hi. Caught me in the middle of a production meeting. We’re trying to work out who is going to be the first down the hole … I mean, the elevator to the center of the Earth. Since this is a question that affects all of us, it must be decided in council. That’s right – we are not tree dwellers here, my friends. We are civilized people, okay? And we are familiar with the principles of self governance. At least we know there are such principles. And if you don’t like them, well … we have other principles.

I’ve described Big Green as a creative collective more than once. That’s not far from wrong, though the creative part is a little sketchy. Nevertheless, we are very much a worker-run enterprise, operating out of an abandoned hammer mill, wearing recovered skins from the carcass of a failed industrial economy. Think of us as post-apocalyptic commie minstrels, sharing everything we scrounge together (including our lack of money). Routine matters, like opening windows or walking across the street, are passed by simple majority vote, but more weighty matters – like who is going to move that very heavy refrigerator across the room – require a consensus of four fifths plus one, with an extra vote on alternate Tuesdays.

All in favor, say aye.You might think such a flat structure would lead to some kind of anarchistic free-for-all or frequent proxy fights. Not a bit of it – we all get along swimmingly, particularly on occasions like last weekend when the skies opened up and we had 3 feet of water on the ground floor of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not that it’s trouble free. I can remember one management meeting when Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, fashioned three or four robotic arms so that he could win every show of hands. He already has Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a proxy. That’s when we went to voice votes.

The simple fact is, when you don’t have much to divide, it’s a lot easier to be equitable. Everybody gets an equal slice of nothing. And everyone gets a say on who will be the first to explore the Earth’s core. Fair is fair.

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.

Tubs and bones.

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Well, nice try anyway. I always thought it would be best to start on the valve trombone and work your way up. Maybe I was right for once, though the odds are against it. Anywho ….

Oh, hi. Just talking to my illustrious brother, who was gifted a trombone for Christmas this past month. We’re always stretching our musical horizons here at the mighty abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, always looking ahead to the next Big Green project, whether it be a new album, a podcast, or just some random squeaking in the night. Sadly, whatever that project may turn out to be, it’s unlikely to have trombone parts on it. Matt’s not big on the mouthpiece, frankly. Making music is just plain hard!

This is far from the first time we’ve attempted to add instrumentation. And no, I’m not referring to when Marvin (my personal robot assistant) hired a Lowry organ for a fortnight so that he could learn the wedding march in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding on Netflix. (Sentimental pile of lifeless tin.) I mean all those other times, like when Anti-Lincoln took up the glockenspiel or when the mansized tuber tried to carve a piccolo our of one of his root-like appendages. (This, too, I have seen with mine own eyes.) I even banged on some drums once upon a time.

Um, I think you need mallets with that thing.The simple fact is, when we are producing a piece of music, our only resource is ourselves. We can’t go out and hire people to score and perform orchestral parts – that’s prohibitively expensive …. in that it would cost more than the fifteen bucks I have hidden in the mattress. No, sir …. Big Green forages for what it needs, plucking banjos and bagpipes from the junk pile of music history. That’s part of our thing, actually – found sound made with found instruments. What the hell … if we didn’t do that, we would have to get another thing.

What kind of instruments will we need for our next album? Good question. Sousaphone comes to mind, but only because I like the sound of the word “sousaphone” … even more than I like the sound of the horn itself. We may have use for mandolins and accordions, but it’s a little early to say. Ask me after dinner. That’s when I do some of my best thinking.

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.)

New thing.

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What’s this summer been about? I’ve got nothing. What’s happening in your world, mansized tuber? Finally taking root, are we? At least someone accomplished something this summer.

Look at me, talking to a plant. What is this world coming to? Though I suppose a lot of people talk to their plants. Though that kind of makes it sound like the mansized tuber is my property, and he is most certainly not. He is totally his own plant, a sovereign creature of the universe, a law unto himself … a … an oversized sweet potato riding around on a dolly. At least up until recently. The tuber planted himself in the courtyard, so you could say it’s “goodbye, dolly!” for him.

So, it has been an uneventful summer, to say the least. I’m not sorry to see it go. Probably the high point was when Mitch practically self-immolated over the news that his planet orbiting Proxima Centauri had been discovered. That broke us out of our stupor for a few days, at least. Just recently he was getting a little hot under the collar about the news that scientists were planning to send out a spacecraft to do some soil collecting on an asteroid Mitch took some interest in. Given his expression, I refrained from asking for details. I know that look. It’s usually followed by a sickeningly bright flash and some deep rumbling. (We just replaced the windows in that side of the hammer mill, for chrissake.)

Makin' it rain, Marvin?Marvin (my personal robot assistant) tends to get a little busier in the Autumn months. I think he may have volunteered for one of the political campaigns, actually. He seems to be taking an awful lot of phone calls just lately, and one of our friendlier neighbors (i.e. the guy without the pitchfork) told me Marvin was handing out flyers in the town square. (Fun fact about this little burg: the town square is round. So why don’t the cars have square wheels? Riddle me THAT, Batman.)

What are we planning for the Fall? Glad you asked. In fact, this conversation would be just perfect if I had an answer for you. You know Big Green well enough to know that we never plan anything. We’re rebels, we’re loners, we’re iconoclasts. And in addition to that, we’re … broke. So, maybe that means work. A new thing ’round these parts.

Spring is … psych!

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Had the weirdest dream last night, Anti Lincoln. I dreamed I saw Joe Hill …. I mean, I dreamed there was snow all over the place, like it was mid January. Talk about unrealistic. Hey, pull up the shade … it’s kind of dark in here. What the …. WHAT?

Yeah, that snowfall took us all a little bit by surprise here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in frosty upstate New York. Somehow, after a freakishly mild winter (which I personally think was cooked up by our own Mitch Macaphee, mad science adviser), snow has returned in early April. Once again, I think Mitch might have had a hand in this. He’s got this big-ass smoke machine that shoots unnamed projectiles into the heavens – missiles loaded with I don’t know what the fuck, and lots of it. Mitch cranks it up, the sucker sputters and pops for a few minutes, then it starts snowing. Kind of. (That might be torn up fragments of Mitch’s membership agreement with the National Academy of Mad Science.)

Nice gizmo, Mitch.Okay, so let’s assume the weather has nothing to do with Mitch’s cloud bazooka. This is effed up, man! Remember now – we are squatters in this here hammer mill, see? And, well … the heat in this place is a little unreliable. Most of the winter we depend on an old wood stove in what used to be the shipping office. It’s the mansized tuber’s job to stoke the thing, and sometimes he falls down on the job a little. But most days we manage to keep the ice off the dishwater … though I don’t suppose you’re aware of how effective ice can be as a dishwashing medium. It scrapes, it emulsifies, it …. okay, I’m exaggerating. You have to look on the bright side when you’re freezing your ass off.

Winter is in extra innings. We can live with that. After all, we have spent weeks on remote planets, like Pluto, for instance.  We have traveled to the center of this here Earth. We have, I don’t know … done lots of stupid stuff. Certainly this is no stupider.

So, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and the mansized tuber are tasked with fanning the flames for another week. Good exercise, even for a robot. And an animate stump.

Killers from space.

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Just an FYI: this post has nothing to do with Killers from Space, either the thing or the movie by the same name. I just used it to draw your attention to an even more immediate problem: Killers from Underground!

Say what you want about Big Green. Sure, we may not be the most successful band around. And true enough, we don’t perform very much … or even at all, really. And it’s fair to say that we spend much of our band time recording stuff in the basement, releasing the resulting tracks buried in incomprehensible podcasts. Further, you wouldn’t be wrong to say that we are gaunt, pigeon-toed freaks with bad builds and gray hair. Right … are you done saying what you want? This is getting depressing.

Oh, yeah – my point is simply that, even though we don’t deliver on a lot of what you might expect from an indie rock band, we try to be useful in little ways. Like giving you pointers on how to handle a disgruntled mad scientist. Or tips on personal robot assistant maintenance. Or best practices with regard to the care and feeding of man-sized tubers. I think you’ll agree that there’s value in that. And you can listen to music while you learn. That’s the kind of service we provide.

You may be on to something, Marvin.Anyway, some of you may recall our Journey to the Center of the Earth a few years back. For highlights, just look back a few years in this very blog. (If you find it buried in the madness, let me know. I can’t freaking find it for the life of me.) Well, we have had indications that the Morlocks are planning some kind of attack. How do we know? For one thing, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has an electronic earthquake monitor built into his water works, and it has been turning out some disturbing data … data that suggest a veritable army of Morlocks digging their way to the surface. Either that or someone is fracking in the neighborhood. We’re opting for the far more likely Morlock scenario.

Trouble is, with our luck, they’ll probably break through the earth’s crust right in our courtyard or in the basement of the mill. We’re trying to prepare for that eventuality. Matt’s got a shovel handy. I’m ordering a couple of pizzas. Carrot and stick, friends.

Density rising.

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You may say I’ve got a lot to learn. Seems like this is the perfect spot to learn. No, I’m NOT playing Vegas … not yet, anyway. (Though I did spend a summer in Reno once. Long story, which I’ll spare you.)

Raining like hell here at the Cheney Hammer Mill. Wish we had invested in that new roof a few years back, when we were overflowing with Neptunian shekels from our last interstellar tour. Those were the days …. NOT. Yeah, the water is coming in like … well … water from the sky. The mansized tuber is loving it. Not Marvin (my personal robot assistant), though. His brass finish is getting tarnished in the humid summer weather we get up here in upstate New York, and this is certainly not doing it any good. (Kind of vain, actually, that robot. I think he sees himself as a Tyrone Power lookalike. He needs to download some newer movies.)

Over the last few weeks the humidity has been rising. Our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee, inventor of Marvin, insists that it is atmospheric density, not the humidity, that is rising. He has been hammering away at some kind of device that he claims will control the weather, or something to that effect. I could share with you what he told me, but it might cause you some distress. Suffice to say that throughout his diatribe, he managed to end each sentence with the term (and I quote) “BWA-HA-HA-HA!”  I have asked Y'know, I kinda see it.anti-Lincoln, our resident language history scholar, to find me a gloss on that. So far no luck.

We’re still working on our next album, working title “WORKING TITLE”. (We were thinking of renaming the band “Various Artists”, just so that we would show up in the Columbia House 8-track tape catalogs.) It’s slow going, to say the least. We’re re-thinking parts that we put down over the past two years, building on old tracks that were hastily recorded and shipped out via our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. Some are rougher than others. And we’re starting with the roughest ones … I hope. (These are pretty freaking rough!)

So, we’ll keep scratching. Keep your eyes open …. especially if you’re driving.