Usual Rubbish

Old stock.

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Damn, I always forget how big this place is. Who the hell knew all this junk was in here? I didn’t. Maybe Mitch knew, but he’s in Sao Paolo, noodling around with deadly lasers and the like.

Hi, everyone. Yeah, we’re stumbling upon all kinds of trash/treasure, now that the local realtors have us on our toes. They held an open house here last Sunday, for chrissake. What’s next? Shooting an episode of House Hunters in the courtyard? I mean … is anyone going to want to open a store in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill?

Anyway, back to our find. There’s this little room on the east side of the building. We pulled the lock off with a crowbar and found all these old hammer handles. It looked like Lester Maddox’s closet. (Ask your mother.) That got me thinking: If we could sell the handles, we could pay rent on this place. Then I realized how stupid that idea is. Now, well … I’m fresh out of ideas on how to stay in this squat house without opening a boutique of some kind. Maybe we can get Mitch Macaphee to make decorative candles in his lab. (Preferably the kind that don’t explode.)

Looks like this side of the mill needs a lttle TLCWe could sell old stock out of said boutique. We’ve got hammer handles. There’s also a bunch of old music lying around in various forms. We could sell CDs, but since we only have three full-length releases and a couple of EPs, that would make us a bit like the Scotch Boutique on 70s era Saturday Night Live. (Ask YouTube … or your mother.) I keep digging up old recordings from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. If people still recorded on cassettes, we could just tape over the tabs and sell those. (Ask your … oh, never mind.)

Okay, so we’re lousy capitalists. What’s new? When I come up with something you’re likely to pay money for, I’ll let you know.

Speaking of old stock, we just dropped another installment of our occasional Ned Trek podcast. It’s another Ned episode knifed out of THIS IS BIG GREEN from a couple of years back – Ned Trek 25: Not The Children One, Please!

Usual Rubbish

Monetizing sloth.

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Leave me alone, Charles. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep? It’s obvious, for chrissake … I just called you Charles, and I don’t even know anyone by that name. So I must be effing sleeping, right? Charles?

Oh, hi. Fell asleep in my cozy broom closet. We are still in our highly restricted corners of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill as local venture capitalists eye the joint from stem to stern to see if it has any potential to make them serious bank. (I think there are more opportunities in the stem than in the stern, but I’ll let them find that out for themselves.) It’s like they have glass heads; I can see them picturing some knitting basket of a store, maybe a Hickory Farms … if such a thing still exists. (I remember stealing samples there as a kid. Strange, because I wasn’t even hungry … still, it was a good find.)

So, yeah … they’ll probably sweep us out of here like yesterday’s floor scum in a few months. Unless, that is, we come up with some cash … or Mitch Macaphee comes up with some kind of diabolical invention that will hold them at bay. Maybe a time-warp generator. Maybe a force field. (Even a little, teensy-weensy force field would help.) Maybe a great invisible ruler we can use to whack the invisible hand of the marketplace. Just throwing out a few ideas here. Are you listening, Mitch? Mitch??

A potential buyer visits.Oh, damn … that’s right. Mitch is off to Sao Paolo to attend the bi-annual convention of the International Society for the Purveyors of Mad Science (or ISPMS). I believe they’re giving him some sort of badge this year. (Not sure what it’s for, but it suspiciously glows in the dark.) In any case, we can’t rely on Mitch to keep the capitalist wolf pack at bay here at our besieged hammer mill squat house. We could have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) go out there and try to reason with the developers, but that would just make them laugh and point. We could coax Anti-Lincoln (perhaps with the promise of bourbon) to give one of his famous presidential addresses from the mill’s parapet, but again … pointing and laughing would ensue. (He’s not good.)

Thankfully, it’s a weekend, and I have the option of staying in my broom closet, strumming my unplugged guitar, while the realtor does walk-throughs. “What’s that sound?” the punters will ask, and the realtor will say, “Just the wind in the willows.”

Usual Rubbish

Pull!

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That thing shouldn’t be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mitch. I don’t want the mayor to send us nasty letters again. Five letters in one week is enough for any abandoned mill-squatter.

Oh, hi. I’m pretending to have just noticed you, looking at the blog post I wrote days ago. (What a giveaway!) We’re having personnel issues again here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, high in the hill country of Central New York, far from the beaten path. It’s my own fault for taking on a mad science advisor. Sure, he helps us get to Neptune and other distant worlds. Sure, he bends time like Superman bends steel bars (i.e. with his bare hands). But the utility ends where the madness begins, and let me tell you something, friends – Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is as crazy as Jeremy Shaw’s proverbial shithouse rat.

What’s the source of the current eviction order? Well, Mitch heard an internet rumor that a certain Chinese Space Station – the Tiangong 1 – has been sputtering in a decaying orbit for the past few years, neglected by its owners, causing a threat to navigation high above the Earth’s surface. He is now taking it upon himself to defend planet Earth by shooting the sucker out of the sky. Bet you can’t guess how. No, not with a rocket. Nope, not a deadly Edward Teller-style laser. No, not an electron lasso (is that even a thing?). Give up? Me too. I don’t freaking know.

Frankly, this seems a little dicey.All I can tell you, honestly, is that this project has consumed Mitch and our courtyard at the same time. He’s spent the last week building a big howitzer-like monstrosity with a barrel that’s got to be 80 feet long and a control panel with gauges, levers, flashing lights, electrical arcs, and steam whistles. (I think those are just for laughs, frankly.) Mitch refers to the device as his Positron Howitzer, though what that means I cannot tell you. But from what I’ve seen he can zero in on that sputtering space station and plant some kind of projectile in its side in a way that has the potential to ruin its whole day.

Matt wants me to dispatch Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to City Hall with some kind of peace offering – donuts or potato soup, something like that. I don’t know. Those official threats are the only personal letters I receive anymore … I’m a little reluctant to let them go.

Usual Rubbish

Fire rockets.

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What do you mean what am I listening to? Music. What the hell do you think? It’s my abandoned storage room. You got a problem with that? You do? Hmmm. Okay.

Well, here we are – another February at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, and let’s just say things are getting a little slow around the Big Green collective enterprise. For the world is frozen and I have touched the sky. (Wasn’t that almost a Star Trek episode?) ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky – how about that? Anyway, not much to do this month except catch up on my reading and listen to some tunes. I made the mistake of cranking up some traditional jazz – Lenny Breau, to be exact – and our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee took exception to that. Not a jazz fan he. I think he’s partial to Wagner. Porter Wagner.

Actually, it’s not just the music that has Mitch acting ornery. He’s been at sixes and sevens ever since that Space-X launch of the “Falcon Heavy” and the subsequent touchdown of its twin booster rockets. I have never seen Mitch so glued to a television set (except that time he Nice ride, Mitch.was cooking up a new kind of super glue and, well, inadvertently glued himself to the television set). I may be going out on a limb, but I think the thing that is sticking in his craw is the notion that another private rocket launch would be so successful. He also has a strange fixation on the Elon Musk space car. I think he wants to hijack that ride and take it to Pluto.

I try to mollify Mitch with my assurances that, though the Falcon Heavy was a huge success, we DID do at least five interstellar tours by virtue of his spacecraft expertise. Sure, we were almost killed about a thousand times and, sure, we were stranded on strange alien worlds for weeks on end, but those are mere footnotes. The REAL story is that we didn’t make a dime on ANY of those tours. THAT’S what’s got ME all worked up. I don’t know what the hell MITCH has to complain about. (Phew. You can see why my effort to reassure Mitch kind of fell flat.)

Okay, so … keep an eye on the hammer mill. If you see the nose cone of a rocket sticking up out of the courtyard, give me a call.

Usual Rubbish

Hiatus be damned.

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Yes, I know the phone is ringing. Just let it ring, for crying out loud. Don’t people know we’re on vacation? Jesus Christ on a bike, try to take a week off around this joint! What? Oh … okay. It’s the neighbor’s phone. Stupid neighbors!

Hey, out there. You caught us taking a brief hiatus between the nothings that we have going on. (You can tell I’m on vacation because I say “hey” when I mean “hi” … though that might also make me an NPR correspondent.) Everybody needs a little down time. We tend to have a little more than most people. In fact, you could argue that Big Green is a bit like a downtime reservoir. People come here to waste time; that’s what makes the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill such a regional treasure. (And one man’s trash, well … you know the rest.) That’s understandable – sometimes taking a hiatus can be heavy lifting. That’s how people end up with hiatal hernias. (I’m just going to leave that right there.)

Do not disturbOkay, so … when you’re on vacation, you end up doing a bunch of stuff you don’t ordinarily have time for. For me, that usually involves surfing the web, and in my idle wanderings a stumbled across another Big Green. No, I don’t mean another BAND called Big Green – lord knows, there are at least one or two of those. This is a nutrition advocacy organization that works out of Detroit. Which means they are actually doing something USEFUL with our name, which is more than I can say for us. They’re helping to feed people; we’re wasting time with stuff like this. Case closed.

I haven’t told our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee about the other Big Green because I don’t want him to start doing what he always does, which is stew on something until smoke comes out of his ears. He sees threats everywhere, including the forge room at the mill, which mostly contains broken down machines and iron filings. When he wanders through there at night, he sees silhouetted in the darkness the hunched profiles of creatures he either invented or destroyed during his long, evil career. I can see how that might be unnerving, especially when you misplace your anti-depressant tabs the morning before. (We encourage Mitch to take his Paxil regularly. It’s a kind of self-defense.)

Well, that’s what we did on OUR winter vacation. And you?

Usual Rubbish

Know well.

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Let’s see how we’re doing here. Shovel the front walk? Check. Peruse the local shops for root vegetables to give to the children? Check. Decorate the forge room with robots? Check. Yep, I haven’t done ANY of those things. (I keep checklists of things not done; a “to-don’t” list, if you will.)

I don’t think I have to tell you that Christmas is a very special time of year around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. No, this I think you know well. Not because we’re religious or Jesus freaks or anything like that. No, the specialness is more about quietude. This sleepy little corner of post-industrial upstate New York gets a little sleepier around the holidays, mostly because people take off to visit relatives, friends, etc., in far-flung corners of the globe, leaving the village almost entirely to ourselves. No beeping delivery trucks backing up to loading docks. No drunken neighbors threatening the kid next door. Peace on Earth, man.

Even Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, has taken off for the week. It looked like he was packing for a conference, but he told me he was headed for some sort of family reunion in Aberdeen. That made me scratch my head. “Do you really need to pack the death ray pistol?” I asked cautiously. He just smiled. Sucks to be HIS second cousin this year. (Maybe any year.)

Hey, you look great, Marvin.This year, I took the bother to replace some of Marvin (my personal robot assistant)’s lights with Christmas bulbs. So yes, he blinks red, green, and gold now when he talks or performs some computational task. (Oh, yes …. he computes. He’s a regular Turing machine, our Marvin … well … a touring machine, at least.) In previous years, we would trim the mansized tuber, in lieu of a Christmas tree, but he’s not having that this year. He’s getting a little touchy as he gets older. Age 18 is a difficult time for sweet potatoes, I hear.

Oh, and don’t think we’ve forgotten you this year. We’re still working on our 2017 Holiday Extravaganza episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, which I don’t mind saying is not in the least bit extravagant. I’ve been doing mixes all week and we should be posting soon, so keep an eye on that empty spot under the tree. Just keep a close watch, then check Twitter or Facebook and see if we’ve posted yet.

Hey, if we don’t see you (and we won’t), happy Christmas and all the rest of it. Now … back to the checklist!

Usual Rubbish

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.)

 

Usual Rubbish

Thirty (or thirty-one).

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Is this one of those years with a “7” at the end? Right, I thought as much. I guess that’s another decade in the can then, right? Fuck all – I am old.

Oh, hi. I was just having a little conversation with Marvin (my personal robot assistant). He keeps a lot of useless information in his memory banks, and among those bits and bobs are statistics about the history of Big Green, the music collective we formed some thirty years ago. Yes, I believe we adopted the moniker back in 1986, in a 2nd floor apartment in Ballston Spa, NY. That was the first incarnation of Big Green, which cracked apart in – yes – 1987, leaving it in the state it remains in today. (And no, I don’t mean the state of New York.)

Some may think it’s a bit of a problem that our band historian is a robot. That’s not that unusual, actually. I hear that the historian for “Captured by Robots” is also a robot. And then there’s Kraftwerk. All German bands have robot historians, from what I understand. (Though most bands choose not to read me in on the details.) Marvin can handle this task because he has what mad scientists call an “Electronic Brain”. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, invented it himself. The sparking contacts and dusty transistors inside that whirring little box function not unlike the synapses of the brain. Marvin can think, captain. And if he thinks, it’s only one small step from there to – dare I say it? – ruling … the world. Mwa-ha-ha-ha ….

Okay, well THAT took a dark turn. Why do we have multiple start dates for Big Green history? Well, it’s complicated. In point of fact, my personal opinion is that Big Green was born when Matt wrote and recorded the song “Sweet Treason” for a tape he sent me for my birthday in Spring of 1985. I think we’ve played versions of the song on our podcast. The original is a very scratchy recording that Matt did bouncing between two cassette tape decks and using a mixing bowl for a snare drum. The lyric, personalized for the occasion, goes like this:

Joe is "happy fitness" thanks to JFKEveryone into the pool
We’re all fun at the club
All of us nasty loud
Our metal detectors are safe from ambush
Our stomachs elastic with eclairs
Master’s beer

Joe owes much to gym class
Joe is “happy fitness” thanks to JFK
All of us join him, we’re grateful, JFK
All of us upside-down
Fungus on our knees

This time, it’s gonna be
gonna be easy
Sweet treason
Strange inclination has us warm up separate TVs
Every box word echoes neatly
Then it explodes

Joe, the mayor’s systematically going through your mail
He’s sifting, but not finding
He’s searching for some west-end sandwich
ten years good and stale

And on that day, Big Green was born. (Editor’s note: the “mayor” in this song refers to a kid we knew out in the Albany area back when we were trying to make a previous incarnation of this band work. Which brings us back even further, to 1979 … damn it!

 

Usual Rubbish

Music minus fun.

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There’s that funny music again. And the really strange thing is, every time I hear it, there’s someone at the front door. What’s that? A door bell? Oh … okay. Never mind.

Well, I thought I was on to something important there; maybe a new scientific principle born of some random observation, like noticing a minor irregularity in the orbit of Mercury. No such luck, my friends – looks like the Nobel Prize for Physics will be going to someone else this year … again. (Don’t know how many of these disappointments I can stand.) I understand that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, has been nominated for the Ignobel Prize in making things blow sky high. That’s a tough one to win – it’s a little hard to guess how high sky high is.

Lord only knows, we don’t do what we do here at Big Green for the love of prizes and little metal statuettes. Neither do we do it for the money. (The simple fact is that there IS no money in what we do.) Nay, we just do it for the simple joy of music …. that omnipresent mellifluous force that lifts our spirits up on high. That unseen power that unites us with the choir invisible. That … I don’t know …. ear worm that drives you out of your skull for three days; thanks an effing bunch, Matt! YOU AND YOUR CATCHY TUNES!

Not MY master's voice.Honestly, if we relied on positive feedback, like all of our coaches and half of our therapists suggested, we would have left this “business” years ago. I’ve known enterprising individuals who consider push-back a strong indication that you’re doing the right thing. That sounds good to me, but frankly … we don’t even get a lot of negative feedback. We’re like the band in the bubble. We’re music minus fun.

Hey, maybe we’re on to something, right? Matt wrote a song years ago called “Motivation X” which celebrated the sentiment: use your motivation to restrain yourself. That’s the revolution, right? Go easy on the world. Start a collective and make music because that’s what you do, not because you want to rip the world a new asshole and burn through a lot of money, a lot of trees, a lot of water, a lot of gas, etc. Make your revolutionary act the act of not succeeding.

Wait …. there’s that funny music again! Mailman, perhaps?

Usual Rubbish

Missing pieces.

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This tape recorder has that Leroy Brown kind of problem. You know … it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. Guess it must have been messin’ with the wife of a jealous dehumidifier.

All right, well, it’s no secret that Big Green has a technology problem or two, even with an in-house mad science advisor like Mitch Macaphee. Our machines are aging, our circuits are frayed, our relays are frosted, and the electric bill’s unpaid. (That was an accidental rhyme, by the way.) Most of our recording devices have at least one tooth missing. I’ve got an Evil Twin direct box that needs surgery. Our VS2480 deck has finally been retired for a system that’s maybe six years newer (i.e. only nine years old).

Hey … if you’re a real band, that shouldn’t matter, right? Got a second-hand guitar and a panama hat? Start busking. Got a broken-down upright piano that’s barely upright? Grab a tin cup and start pounding those dusty keys. That’s the musician’s work ethic. Not super popular around here, I must say. We make music without much of a thought to monetizing it. God no – that’s Anti-Lincoln’s job. We just put our heads down in the studio. Old antimatter Abe sits in the den and moves the numbers around. Occasionally they add up to something edible.

I think I see what the problem is...Speaking of missing pieces, our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, is massively overdue. The reason/excuse? Well … we produced eight songs, mixed seven, and thought we were freaking done. Matt was plugging the show together and, well … there was this gaping hole where a Nixon song should go. So it’s back to the mixing board with us, and the June episode is now turning into the September episode. But people … think of it. Eight new songs, written on the fly and recorded from scratch … on a new (to us) recording system, no less! Add to that some chasing around after falcons and the usual summer distractions, and you’ve got an abysmally late podcast. But, hopefully, it will be one for the books. (Eight new songs, people.)

I think that brings our Ned Trek catalog up to about 70 tracks. Christ on a bike. There’s got to be an album in there somewhere, right?