THIS IS BIG GREEN: November 2017

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Big Green marks its 31st birthday with another lame episode of Ned Trek, five warmed-over Christmas songs, and some pointless banter. Make merry while you can, mo-fos.

This is Big Green – November 2017. Features: 1) Ned Trek 34: Shitty and a Bit of a Stretch; 2) Put the Phone Down: Nixon’s happy days; 3) An accent-rich consideration of Seb Gorka’s racism; 4) Remembering the Rutles; 5) Song: Christmas Green, by Big Green; 6) Song: Jit Jaguar’s Christmas, by Big Green; 7) Song: Horrible People, by Big Green; 8) Song: Christmas Presence, by Big Green; 9) Song: Make that Christmas Shine, by Big Green; 10) inside Matt’s Ned Trek editorial process; 11) What we watched on T.V. in the 60s; 12) Time to go.

Light work.

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Okay, ready? On three … one, two, THREE! Arrrgh. I meant, on the count of three LIFT the freaking thing, not wave your hands in the air. What the hell’s the matter with you? It’s like you just don’t care.

Yeah, I guess you could say we’re having a little moving party here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, Big Green’s adopted home for the last two decades. (I think we technically have squatter’s rights, but what law is there in a place such as this?) No, we’re not vacating the premises – far from it. I just wanted to move my piano from one room to another. No particular reason. Maybe that’s why I can’t get any cooperation out of this crew. I KNEW I should have done one of those leadership retreats! Curses.

Sure, there are useful things we could all be doing, but who’s got the time for that? I mean, I’ve been putting off restringing our borrowed electric guitar for about two weeks now. That sucker isn’t going to string itself, right? Things just keep getting in the way. Like Marvin (my personal assistant) – he got in the way yesterday when he was vacuuming the hall. To get to the guitar, I would have had to maneuvered around him. And well … I just don’t feel like stringing the guitar, Put your back into it!that’s the point. You see? When all else fails, the truth will out!

While we’re not moving things around at random, we are actually working on a music project. As I mentioned last week, it’s kind of similar to our first album in that we’re reworking some of the songs Matt wrote as low-rent Christmas gifts in the 1980s and 90s. The biggest difference is that we’re recording it for the podcast … and we’re twenty years older than we were for 2000 Years To Christmas. So this may sound more crotchety … or not. But hey … it’s free, right? To us, you’re all kids, and on Sundays, kids eat free. In fact, in my book, kids always eat free. That’s how we roll.

So, let’s put the piano the fuck over there, and let’s get recording, damn it. Christmas is almost here, right?

Inside September.

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You sent it up the chute already? Okay, then … well … I WAS going to put the good stuff into it first, but I guess it’s been long enough that people will settle for whatever they get. Oh, well … maybe next month.

Yes, you heard right – we’ve uploaded the September 2017 installment of THIS IS BIG GREEN, and this seems like a really good time to talk about what’s inside that honking little MP3 file. Here goes:

Ned Trek 33: The Nimrod Seven. Incredibly, the thirty-third episode of our Star Trek parody, Ned Trek. This one’s based on the classic Star Trek first season episode entitled The Galileo 7, in which Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and some toss-aways get their shuttlecraft stranded on a hostile ape-infested planet.  Well, replace those three regulars with Perle, Coburn, and Sulu, change the shuttlecraft’s name to “The Nimrod 7”, then throw in Seb Gorka, Peter Lorre, the Nixon android, and a Mr. Stephanie or six and you’ve got a poorly-wrought morality play worthy of The Immortal or even fourth-season Big Valley. Oh, yes.

The Nimrod Seven contains no less than eight new Big Green songs:

Song: If You’re Listening To This – A somewhat country-fried Willard song that’s a musical and conceptual adaptation of the “final orders” video Captain Kirk left for McCoy and Spock in The Tholian Web. “You’ll have to use your creed and your opportunities; but temper them with profits from false securities.”  You get the drift.

Song: Commander I’m Dead – A Stephanie Q (or R?) song about the uses of a dead soldier to any canny leader of men. The only lyric I can think of that makes use of the hick-French term “Mercy Buckets”. Non-sequitur backing vocals by The Twenties Guys.

Song: Doctor In The House – A bit of musical braggadoccio from self-reputed alpha male and Nazi progeny Seb Gorka, recently departed from the Trump clusterfuck. Prepare yourself for choruses of “beta cuck”. Tell your wife: here comes Sebastian!

Song: Wait For You – A Doc Coburn song with a real 60s anthem rock vibe. I find myself humming this one a bit as I wait for us to invade all those other places in the travelog.

All settled in?Song: Nimrod – Perle song lamenting his frustrations as commander of the Nimrod 7, the misunderstandings … it’s like everybody speaks a different language! Heavy is the head … and kind of heavy the song.

Song: Neocon Captain – Sulu’s number. Another anthem-like tune that likens the insufferable Perle to Captain Bligh (who ended up governor of New South Wales, by the way.) This is probably my favorite of the tranche (as Sulu songs often are), but you be the judge.

Song: Yo-Ho – A song from Mr. Welsh, with the usual Celtic overtones and undertones. The Yo-ho, Toe-ho chorus is probably borrowed from the Viking episode of Lost In Space, but don’t quote me.

Song: Nixon is Saving Us All – This Nixon song closes out the set; the android’s internal power source is used to fuel the crippled shuttlecraft and, as the title suggests, save us all! Favorite line: “Until we loose the surly bonds and touch God’s face; maybe drop some bombs.

Put the Phone Down. Matt and I banter aimlessly (and occasionally break into song) about what we did over the summer, Seb Gorka, mechanical Nazi men, psycho Batman, and quite a bit more. Give it a listen, anyway.

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.

Punch out.

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I think it’s CMD-O or CMD-SHIFT-O, something like that. No? Okay, try CMD-ALT-5. Do it again. Okay, now divide 87 into 214 and multiply the dividend by the square-root of fuck-all. Jesus!

That was a bit of a tantrum, I admit it. It’s just that I’m living in the wrong freaking century, that’s all. I’m from that period in history when people did different things for a living and those things all looked different – the doctor had a stethoscope and a mirror on her forehead, the accountant an adding machine and a legal pad, and the musician a freaking guitar. Now everybody’s sitting in front of a computer, pecking at keys randomly and hoping for some elusive result. Smarty alec kids! Get off my lawn!

Matt and I are in production on another tranche of songs, and it’s taking a while because we’re transitioning between recording systems. Now we’re using a computer-based DAW instead of a proprietary hard disk system, and well … I miss the simplicity of just pressing record and punching stop. Those were the days, right? (Well … they were days.) Our autopunch back then was Marvin (my personal robot assistant) with his claw on the console and a complex series of eyebrow movements. What could possibly go wrong? (Listen to some of our albums and you’ll find out.)

Uh, dude ... Thanks, but no thanks.Right now we’re kind of winging it, I admit … though that’s a bit more considered a state than we’re usually in during recording sessions. I boot up the new system, punch a few keys, then start playing whatever instrument is called for – piano, sousaphone, kazoo, triangle, whatever – and realize a few moments later that nothing has been captured. Rinse and repeat. I need a team of scientists! And I don’t mean mad scientists – we’re all set on that score. If we were to ask Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, to reconfigure our studio, we would end up with something on the order of what Magic Alex threw together for the Beatles back in the Apple Records days, i.e., a decorative, non-functional studio full of flashing lights with a speaker for every track and other non sequitur features.

Well, we don’t want that. (No offense, Alex, wherever you are.) So if you’re looking for me, look for that guy sitting at a computer terminal.

Just holler.

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Delays, delays, delays. Frankly, production is a pain in the ass. That said, what do I do for a living? I’m a producer, damn it. I should have been a janitor. (Though on Sundays, I’m that, too.)

Yes, friends … the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast wagon has hit a few bumps in the road. Is it because our Ned Trek productions have become too elaborate and costly? God, no. It’s STILL the most cheap-ass podcast on the planet. (We still have that trophy somewhere. I think Anti-Lincoln is using it for an ashtray.) No, it’s not complication, it’s … well … the OTHER kind of complication. Frankly, I need six hands. I could also use a third leg. One ass is enough, of course. The point being, we are spread kind of thin here in Big Green land.

Sure, if we were any other band-focused podcast, we would be content with just hollering randomly into the mic every week and dropping that onto iTunes. But if you’re Big Green (and we are), the quality goes in before the name goes on. (Note to lawyers: we make no claim of ownership over the preceding slogan, and it does not in any way reflect the character of our organization.) Of course, the term “quality” is, in fact, value-neutral: things can be of good quality, bad quality, etc. But that’s not the point. Every episode has some kind of “quality”, and until we insert that value-neutral substance into the file, it ain’t going nowhere. Short answer: we’re running behind … again. But THIS IS BIG GREEN is still a thing, and it will return.

Are the 80s over yet?Okay, I’m not going to dip into one of those “things were simpler in the old days” reveries, but what I’m describing are both first-world problems and 21st Century foibles of a type that would have baffled us back when we started this moth-eaten music collective known as Big Green. When we first started using that moniker in 1986-7, we were working with people out around Albany, NY. Matt was writing songs like a mad man, just as he does today. Only there was no internet, no smartphones, no simple way of getting your music out there other than standing on a stage or hawking home-made cassette tapes at the local record shop. Kids these days!

Natural history.

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How old is the Moon? That is totally the wrong question, man. What you really want to know is, how much does the Moon weigh? Or if you want to be more sensitive about it, ask it how young it feels.

Just reacting to the news this week about those Apollo 14 rocks. Man, those suckers took a long time coming back from the processing lab. Like my entire adult life … and then some. (Editor’s note: I was 12 when Apollo 14 landed on the Moon, so I was probably in the second year of building my four-foot-tall detailed Revel model kit of the Saturn V rocket. Now, of course, I am in my 47th year. Those damn engine cowlings!) News about the Moon always gets some attention around the mill, particularly in the dead of winter when there’s precious little else to think about.

Any upstate New York musician knows this better than his/her own name. January and February have been the traditional dead zone for performing musicians in this area of the country. Of course, we don’t really perform any more, so it doesn’t affect us much, but I well remember my years as an itinerant musician, both in and out of Big Green, scratching out a living from a scattering of gigs, struggling to keep the wolf away from the door (though wolves can be very nice … unless they wipe out whole villages), and pondering the age of the Moon. January/February were the months that hung me up the most, man. Big fat nothing.

Huh. You don't look it.Hey … that’s what you get for living in a backwater. No disrespect, my local friends – I freaking love it here. But staying busy as a musician, an artist, a writer … anything creative has always been a struggle. It may be a bit easier now than it was twenty or thirty years ago, now that there are more local indie music venues and a whole “thing” that has grown up around that “scene”, man. Yeah, man. So you have to store your nuts in the fall and hope you have enough to tide you over until the sun returns. Or at least until the moon returns.

And since we’re on the topic of how old the moon …. how high the moon?

Inside August.

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Did you upload the episode on time? Marvin? Can you hear me? Oh, Jesus. Not again. Right … Hey, anti-Lincoln! Plug Marvin in for a couple of hours. Make yourself useful!

Hi, good people. I’m pretty sure Marvin (my personal robot assistant) uploaded the August episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN – our fifth anniversary broadcast! – over the last couple of days, but until he has a decent charge on him I can’t be sure. If you listened to it, you know a lot of what I planned to tell you today. But because I am a pedantic motherfucker, I fully intend to tell you about it anyway. Here’s what we got under the hood.

Ned Trek 29: Error of Mercy – This latest episode of our Star Trek political parody audio melodrama is based on the classic Star Trek episode titled “Errand of Mercy”. (For you non-aficionados, here’s the IMDB listing.) The crew of the Free Enterprise arrives at the planet Origami just ahead of the Confederation’s arch rivals, the Cleenton Empire. The episode features a bad, bad imitation of Bill Clinton, a perhaps worse imitation of James Carville, and a lot of cheap shots. Perle ends up wearing another barrel, so it’s probably worth a listen.

Marvin, did you ... ? Forget it.Put The Phone Down – We start with some strained renditions of a song by The Troggs, as sung by Peter Lorre, the Daleks from Dr. Who, and others, then rip right into a discussion of current affairs. That more or less follows the theme of my political rant this week – the assholes vs. the fuckers, in essence, though we also spend some time on “Bernie or Bust” and the Green Party. (Don’t get me started!)

Live Songs – These are audio tracks from the excerpts of our live video demo we posted over the past few weeks on our YouTube Channel. These include Sensory Man, I Hate Your Face, and Why Not Call It George? Fairly raucous, more or less in line with cuts from our Live From Neptune EP. The recordings were made pretty proximate to one another, probably within a year or so (1993-4). This was at the end of the period when we performed with guitarist and friend of Big Green, Jeremy Shaw.

Anyway, a lot of good-ish listening here, so enjoy. Or at least try to enjoy. I just want to spread a little sunshine as I move through the world, that’s all. Just call me “little joey sunshine”. (Sure beats “fucker”.)

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.

About your face.

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I don’t know. Do you really think it’s that insulting? Not sure why anyone would take it personally, frankly. Unless, of course … they have a particularly hate-able face. A hate-friendly face, if you will. Oh, well.

Yeah, here we are, in the midst of one of our summertime projects. Always something to do here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, even if that something is virtually nothing. You could say this entire blog – all 17 years of it – amount to virtual nothingness, am I right? In any case … we’re just hashing out what the rest of the season is going to look like. We’ve got some archival material yet to go through; the kind of stuff that accumulates over three decades of playing and writing and recording together. A mountain of … something. Give it a listen, then you pick the descriptor.

This week’s “Wayback Wednesday” release was another selection off of our 1993 video demo – just us playing our set list live in front of a madman’s camera. We posted Matt’s song “I Hate Your Face“, the first verses of which goes like this:

God, I hate your convulsive face
Four, sixteen, a million, your annoying face
has got me sick and I’ve got to go

God, I made a big mistake
Eight sixty-four, a million, a huge mistake
when I parked it here
Did I stay too long? You know I stayed here far too long
Back in the day

Teenage angst? No sir. He wasn’t a teenager when he wrote it, for one thing. I won’t speak for Matt, but it always felt to me like a parody-punk song, complete with faux-teenage angst. By the way … this isn’t about YOUR face. Just putting that out there. It’s another face entirely, folks.

What’s left? Well, from the video, there’s a bunch of cover songs, a couple of which we may be able to get away with posting. (Expect pop-up ads.) We also have a lot of audio content – a bunch of live songs, some even listenable. We also have a handful of studio numbers that we can put out.

I know, I know … stop talking, start posting. Right, right.