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

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

Write hand.

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I’m kind of busy right now, Marvin. Just tell them that I can’t talk. And in any case, I don’t want to go on a Caribbean Cruise, even if it IS free. Cheese and crackers. (Hey, that sounds kind of good right about now.)

Writing is a hungry business. Just ask Hemingway, the guy with the moveable feast. I’m a little sensitive about interruptions today, so I beg your pardon … Marvin (my personal robot assistant) keeps coming into my study (a.k.a. the old forge room in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) with nonsensical requests. Stuff like,  “You’ve got a phone call from Missouri” or “There’s a brush salesman at the door” or “Leave the building – it’s on fire”. Be honest – would you listen?

What am I working on so feverishly? Ah, nothing. Just the script to this year’s Ned Trek Christmas Special. Last year we did an “It’s A Wonderful Life” parody. The year before I believe it was “A Christmas Carol”. And of course we began this annual comedic atrocity with a take-off on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, though I think our first Ned Trek holiday extravaganza was the Santorum’s Christmas Planet episode, based loosely on the classic Star Trek “Return of the Archons” script. I mean, how do you top THAT? I am sorely tempted to cop out and do a clip show, but I happen to know that there are some new songs in the works (again), so that won’t wash.

Forget the stupid tree, Willard.Actually, we’re recording a handful of songs, including some older numbers we’ve never properly tracked before using modern technology. There are a couple of new ones in the works. I am trying to write around this eclectic mishmash of musical material. As you know, we are sticklers for continuity and comprehensibility. And quality. And irony. Massive irony. Heh heh.

It is hard to concentrate in a hammer mill, no matter what state it’s in. (This one happens to be in New York.) But even with all the distractions, the diversions, the cold November wind blowing through chinks in the mortar, I SHOULD be able to write this freaking script. Hell, it should write itself. Shouldn’t it? Of course, last year’s Christmas show came in February … of THIS year.

There goes the phone again. Tell them I don’t want a higher limit on my credit card!

Podcast

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.

Usual Rubbish

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.

Usual Rubbish

Holism.

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This place is a freaking mess. No, we still don’t have garbage collection. You have to pay taxes to get that, Mitch, and we’re off the grid – remember? Guess this lot will have to go down the tunnel to the center of the Earth. It’s like having the world’s biggest trash incinerator.

Oh, hi. As you can see, we are making the kind of obvious mistake that protagonists in science fiction movies make all the time – abusing mother nature just to solve some petty human problem, namely, generating too much trash. That goes on for the first couple of reels, then some ungodly creature emerges from the bowels of the Earth and goes on a murderous rampage stopped only by some unexpected intervention by germs or gravity or something – a turnaround that redeems the value of nature in the eyes of middle class moviegoers. Yeah, well … we are asking for that.

The fact is, once there’s a hole in the floor, you have an almost unstoppable urge just to keep dropping things into it. I think Marvin (my personal robot assistant) may have dropped some of our master tapes down into the memory hole. A true digital native like Marvin has no concept of tape recorded sound – God no! Music encoded onto a long ribbon of magnetic film? Impossible! Of course, he himself runs, in part, on vacuum tubes and toggle switches, so one might think he would have some empathy for users of retro Wait. You dropped it where??technologies. In any case, down the memory hole they go … unless I left them in my other pants. Marvin? Have you seen my other pants?

Right, so … that’s not the only thing we’ve been up to. We’re hip-deep in production for our next tranche of Ned Trek songs, about seven or eight of them by last count. This is why our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN has become, well, kind of infrequent – too many musicals! In any case, we’ve amassed a backlog of about 60 Ned Trek songs thus far, seven of which are included in the podcast I just recently posted on NedTrek.com – episode 24: Whom Gods Deploy, which originally appeared in our August 2015 TIBG podcast. So … it hasn’t all gone down the hole quite yet.

Usual Rubbish

Inside April.

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What’s that rattling you hear? Could be the sound of Tomahawk missiles. Or maybe it’s just a loose screen in the upstairs window. Those may be the same exact thing, in effect.

But there is a third possibility, and that is the April THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. We’ve got another boatload of sound for you this month –  here’s a brief look inside the ship’s hold (just to overextend that little metaphor) …

NED TREK 32: All Our Festeryears. A take-off on the “All Our Yesteryears” episode in the original Star Trek series (I believe their second or third to the last episode ever), Willard, Ned, Pearle, and Sulu pay a visit to a strangely deserted world, the entire population of which has retreated into old B movies on VHS tapes. The caretaker of the library (or Blockbuster Video) and his various doppelgangers are played by Ronald Reagan. Ned and Sulu have to deal with cheap-ass cinematic cowboys, whereas Willard and Pearle face-off against cave men. Kind of lame, but …. whatever.

Put the Phone Down. We start with the cornbread song, then move downhill from there. Some bird talk, some pondering of dialogue from the TV show Kung Fu. I could draw you a picture, but it wouldn’t be pretty. I’m thinking about brewing some coffee before we start talking next time out.

Song: Doc’s Freedom. This was from the very early Ned Trek episode called “Spector’s Grandchildren”, in which telekinetic space aliens forced the crew to sing. One of my favorite Doc Coburn songs, this one comes complete with a funky intro. Look for a version of this on Big Green’s eventual Ned Trek collection.

How 'bout another song? Yeah, okay.Song: Neocon Christmas. This is a Mr. Perle song from another early Ned Trek – “Santorum’s Christmas Planet”, I think. Kind of a jazz trio treatment on this, with backing vocals from the non-sequitur 40’s guys.

Song: Jesus Got A Known Mind. Another Doc song, and again, a particular favorite of mine because of its primitive rock vibe and the backing vocals seemingly borrowed from Helter Skelter. Rock out, people!

Song: Up On The Bridge. Featuring Mr. Sulu, this song from a more recent Ned Trek episode contemplates the volatile fortunes of a certain T.V. actor whose fame was built on a re-run cult following that persists to this day. The vocals on this are kind of hilarious. (We spent more time on that than anything else.)

Usual Rubbish

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.

 

 

Usual Rubbish

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!

Usual Rubbish

Six days.

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No, it’s not the fifth day, Marvin. It’s the sixth. Doesn’t that processor between your ears do simple sums, for crying out loud? Six, man, six!

Yes, I am correcting Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on his math. Or his calendar skills. Not sure which, actually. I put him in charge of counting down our “Six Days of Christmas” celebration. Why six? Well, turns out we couldn’t afford twelve. And since we were too sick to finish our Holiday extravaganza on time, we all thought it only appropriate to provide a small … even half-assed compensation. You’re welcome, America!

For those of you who missed it, this is what our lame celebration consisted of:

Day One: Post of “A Very Neddy Christmas” on NedTrek.com. This is a rerun, yes, of our Ned Trek parody of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, featuring four songs, some bad celebrity imitations, and all the rest of it.

Day Two: Soundcloud post of Vital Signs, a song off of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas. This is one of my personal favorites from that collection. But who the hell cares what I think, right? Damn straight.

Day Three: Soundcloud post of Merry Christmas, Jane, a song off of our EP Live From Neptune. This was recorded live to stereo DAT back in 1994, I think, with Jeremy Shaw on guitar. (We’ve played this on the podcast a couple of times.)

SIX days! Are you MAD?Day Four: Photo album of Matt and Joe, posted on Facebook. These are promo shots taken in, I don’t know, 1987, by our niece Mona. I think we were trying to mock a U2 photo spread in Rolling Stone for Joshua Tree, but it’s hard to tell.

Day Five: Soundcloud post of Jit Jaguar’s Christmas. This is a ridiculous Christmas song Matt wrote quite a few years ago that we recorded I think in 2013 as part of our ongoing project to record our back catalog. Pretty pared down, but I like this recording. Rough and ready.

Day Six: This shit. Hey … it’s like getting a load of wooden balls. We’ve got a pageant under construction, so … think of it as some delayed holiday joy. Keep your eyes open, people, and happy new year.