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.

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.

Post not.

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Ask not what Big Green has been doing for you this week. Ask what you can do for Big Green. And yes, I am cribbing from John F. Kennedy – that’s how we roll around here. It’s all JFK, all the time.

Interestingly, president Kennedy did have a role in Big Green’s history, albeit a minor one. Back in the day when we were fighting the cat for the scraps that she had just wrestled away from some mice, we would record in our childhood bedrooms, our mother’s living room, some spare room – wherever we could fit a cassette machine and some battered instruments. (Those instruments!) Matt and I would bang around the way we still do now, hammer together a song, then release it on cassette. And when I say “release”, I mean something like tossing it out into the middle of the road and hoping someone chances upon it. (You know – essentially like posting it on the Internet … without the Internet part.)

Hey, Abe ... Does this song remind you of the war?Well, many of those cassette collections were made up of Christmas songs – not carols, but songs Matt wrote on the theme of Christmas. (He typically recorded these collections himself to retain the element of surprise.) The one Matt put together in 1989 was entitled “PT 109” and the sleeve featured a slightly modified version of the heroic cartoon-like cover of Kennedy’s war memoir by the same name. The song PT 109 was actually a country number ripping on George H.W. Bush, who had just become president and who had a heroic WWII story about how he had rescued a future president of the United States – himself – from a plane crash in the Pacific. The lyric was written in the posthumous voice of one of Bush’s crewmates, lamenting that he hadn’t served under another commander:

Had I served on PT 109
I would have had the good fortune to be
on patrol with lieutenant JFK
and I might just have survived to this day
‘Cause sometimes not only the hero survives to tell the tale

Anyway, that’s Kennedy’s contribution to Big Green. Not unique, of course – our songs feature many presidents, including the current one. Occasionally they show up in the titles as well. Fun fact: one of our cassette collections was entitled “Songs that remind Lincoln of the war”. Extra points if you can guess which president was on the cover of that sucker.

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.

What ho.

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There’s my pocket watch. And no, it’s not a proper pocket watch, just a wrist watch I keep in my pocket because my wrists get sore when I wear it. As a result, the crystal is scratched to the point where it always looks like 3:54 last Wednesday. So …. happy Wednesday, everybody!

What’s new this week in Big Green land? Well, I’m guessing there’s more news coming out of regular old Greenland (That’s part of Scandinavia!), though they have the advantage of belonging to Denmark. It’s been suggested to us more than once that we should just ask Denmark to annex us, like the even bigger Greenland, so that we would have more to talk about on our blog and podcast. Another good suggestion, people. Keep them rolling in!

In all seriousness, though (and I’m making my most serious face now), we have been working our fingers to the bone on our next raft of Big Green songs. We’ve even worked a few of our toes to the bone as well. (You don’t know hardship until you’ve worn sneakers over bony toes.) All of this is leading up to the next episode of Ned Trek, which promises to be another musical – this time a takeoff on the Galileo 7 episode of the original series. At least I think that’s what the next episode will be. Because you know … shit happens. And it happens fast sometimes. Fast, fast shit.

Lend me a bob 'til TuesdayAs always, Matt has been doing the bulk of the songwriting. He’s a writing machine, people … just pacing through his duties on that nature sanctuary, talking out the lyrics of his various crazy-ass songs like a distinctly non-Scottish Ewan McTeagle. (Though, in the interests of full disclosure, this is probably a good time to point out that Matt’s partner does indeed play the bagpipes.) Matt wrote at a relatively breakneck pace before he spent his days out on the range, as it were, whereas I have always been the kind of songwriter that squeezes one out every once in a while. (If that sounds nauseating, it’s because it kind of is.)

Hey, Matt has his process, I have mine. Drop it into a 3-quart mixing bowl, set the beater on frappé, and voilà (or for you British listeners out there, what ho): Big Green casserole. Help yourself.

Where’s my jetpack?

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Ridiculous. It’s the 21st Century and we’re still moving about like gorillas, feet peddling the ground in a manner similar to our shrew-like remote ancestors. Mitch: get working on that little problem, will you? There’s a good chap. What’s that? Ummmm … I believe that would be a physical impossibility. Got any other suggestions?

Like many of his frothy colleagues, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee doesn’t take direction real well. I’ve rambled on more than a few times in this blog about how sensitive he is, so I probably shouldn’t bait him with idle requests about revolutionizing human locomotion or swapping meiosis with mitosis. The man’s busy, god damn it! He cranks out inventions like brother Matt puts out songs. And when I say “like”, I don’t mean exactly like it. Mitch’s battles are fought in the laboratory, not the prize ring … I mean, not the wildlife sanctuary. But I digress.

I don’t know how my mind gets stuck on these issues. Maybe it’s living in this abandoned mill for the better part of twenty years. After a decade or two, you start rattling around like bird shot in an oil drum. Your mind gets going, then you trudge around the mill, singing dirges. Next thing you know, you’re contemplating your very footsteps. Then it hits you – This is the twenty first century? Where the fuck is my jetpack? John Robinson had one back in fictional 1997! This is real-ass 2017 and I’m still stomping around like an ape. How is that fair?

Finally!Sure, you might say I have a distorted view of the future; that I’m stuck in a 1966 notion of what 1987 should look like. Be that as it may, jet packs would be a real step up from our current modes of transportation. And not any more impractical than some of the suggestions I’ve heard bandied about lately, like ski-resort type gondolas carrying people between a post-industrial mill town and what’s breezily described as a “harbor” that’s really just a wide spot in the Barge Canal. And yes, I know that jet packs have their challenges – all back-mounted rocket boosters do. But where would be without challenges, right? Where?

You’re right. I’ve been bumping around this mill waaaaay too long.

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.

 

 

Funky town.

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Did somebody borrow my amp yesterday? If so, I pity them. That thing is a piece of shit. Next time, borrow and amp from someone who knows something about shopping. I myself am a bit out of practice.

Yeah, we of Big Green are back in the broke period, scrounging around for a few extra dollars, sharing leftovers, and hiding from the mailman. Good thing they don’t have bailiffs in this century, because those mothers would be at the door of the Cheney Hammer Mill right now, pounding away, court papers in their sweaty hands. What’s the problem? Simple – we owe. We owe back taxes, we owe for the grocery bill, we owe for the electric bill, and we owe something to pretty much everybody in this funky ass town.

I know what you’re going to say. (I suspect you knew I was going to say that. WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER TALKING?) You were probably going to ask, why don’t you guys just knuckle down and earn the money to support your lazy asses? Good question. There are as many answers to that as there are losers living in this hammer mill. You see, we follow the squatter’s code: when the bailiffs are closing in on you, hunker down and pretend you’re furniture. If you can imitate a side table long enough, you’ll never have to pay your bills. News you can use, my friends.

Hey, at least you're not on fire.That said, we do have uses for our time. Matt is chasing birds around most of the week, though he does show up regularly to continue our glacial-pace production on the next collection of songs. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has been taking an automaton sabbatical these last couple of weeks. (His battery pack has been removed and put on a deep charger. We may end up having to jump start him like a ’95 Buick LeSabre.) Mitch Macaphee has taken off to check on his property in orbit around Proxima Centauri (Proxima b) – he’s gotten very jumpy now that the astronomers have stumbled onto that little piece of celestial real estate. Not sure what he’s been doing up there.

So … just another week in funky town. I may have another “Wayback Wednesday” in me to close out the summer – wait and see.

Poditosis.

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All right, then. Time for the now quarterly ritual – that of passing the podcast from one computer to another and listening to it until we collapse from incoherent self-amusement. That’s what I call “Friday”.

I know, THIS IS BIG GREEN is late once again. I would use summer as an excuse, but you know that’s lame. We NEVER take summers off – just ask the missus. I would use old age as an excuse, but hell … we’ve been old since we started the podcast, and it used to be monthly, so what gives? Well … other stuff tends to get in the way. Matt has his various jobs, columns, reports, and committees to deal with. I’ve got my day job, night duties, plus the Cutty Sark model that I’ve been building in the dark for 12 years, etc. (Apologies to Graham Chapman for lifting that.)

Then there’s the freaking play, of course – Ned Trek, which takes up the bulk of our creative time … writing it, editing it, toasting it, spreading margarine all over it, then recording the voices, editing the audio, chucking in the alley, flying kites for six days, etc., until the show emerges from the butt end of this long and alimentary-like process. There’s got to be a better way, right? Well, if there is, I have yet to hear about it. What the hell … we’re not good.

Where's that podcast? I don't effin' know!Simultaneous to this production schedule is our music production schedule, which involves writing, tracking, and mixing songs using stone knives and bearskins. (The kind of primitive tools used in the late 1990s, early 2000s, before time began.) We’ve got a start on two new songs thus far in this cycle, likely destined for a future Ned Trek episode. They’re ridiculous enough, let’s put it that way. Then there’s an oldies project we got a start on, not to mention the omnibus Ned Trek song collection we plan to release at some point before we keel over. (Better start picking up the pace on some of these projects. I’m feeling kind of woozy.)

Anywho, I expect you’ll see a new THIS IS BIG GREEN episode drop later this week. Don’t quote me – I am notoriously unreliable.

Toast terrific.

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Damn it. Misplaced my breakfast again. Third time this morning. I definitely need more sleep. If anybody trips over some cold toast and a half-empty mug of tea, drop me a line.

We keep odd hours here in the cohort of collectivists known as Big Green. Matt, the naturalist in the group, is up at all hours chasing after critters, feeding them, changing their diapers, keeping them safe from the elements. That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight – the guy is attempting to single-handedly make up for all of the injustices meted out by god and man. Kind of time-consuming. Me? I am the unnaturalist in the group. When I am outside, I think to myself … “This is too strange for us, Hanar. We are creatures of outer space. We long for the comforting closeness of walls.”

Okay, if I’m paraphrasing classic Star Trek, I must be a little groggy. (Too much grog, perhaps.) I’m up late at night in the lab, sometimes. Did I say lab? I meant studio. Cranking up the keyboard, jamming along with drum loops, listening to old recordings and occasionally committing something to disc. Then I’ll climb the stairs to my bedroom and get halfway through a decent night’s sleep before Mitch Macaphee detonates some weakly controlled “experiment” in his lab (yes, lab), shaking the walls of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill to their very foundations. We’re not so different, Mitch and me. Profoundly sleep-deprived. Trying to make loud noises using sophisticated instruments. Nearly bringing the house down on our heads.

Lincoln, did you steal my toast?One of my obsessions of late has been rebuilding our YouTube site. That’s my hobby, if you will, until Matt returns from Peregrine Falcon watch. (To catch up with him, see his Falcon Watch blog.) We don’t have a lot of video to post as of late, but we do have archival material that may be of interest to those who have limped along after Big Green for lo these many years. I will drop a note to all and sundry when I launch the new YouTube channel. There will be a few takes from an old video demo in there, most likely, along with our usual compliment of strange videos.

Okay, down goes the toast. Turn the keys up to eleven. And Mitch is back in the lab, so … boom goes the dynamite.