Why Christmas?

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Okay, subject matter experts – let’s get down to it. We’ve written about fascists on the rise. We’ve written about space diseases. What’s left to write about? What? Christmas again? Oh, Jesus Christ on a re-gifted bike. Very well.

I’ll tell you, you ask a question around this place and you come away with six more questions. At least that’s an even number. That said, we’re still making music over here in Big Green-land (and no, I don’t mean big Greenland …. everyone makes that mistake), and well, Christmas is coming, so … that means more Christmas themed songs, right? Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly will be overjoyed to hear that there’s music that uses the word “Christmas” occasionally, even if it is mostly for humor and ironic purposes. (Or porpoises. Like hipster porpoises who do shark-like shit just to be ironic. You’ve seen that, right?)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are planning a holiday podcast extravaganza, with newly recorded Big Green classics never before heard by the likes of you, as well as some brand new material. (I don’t mean fabric, either – I mean music, music.) We’re in production, or Come again?pre-production, or something like that. This will be the first group of songs we’ve recorded entirely on Cubase 9, with no help from our trusty old Roland 2480 deck, which served us so well for the last 16 years. So we’ll just see how that goes, my friends.

Okay, so … we started working on the Roland deck a year or two after the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I have to say, this group of songs we’re doing are pretty closely related to the songs on that disc. Why Christmas? Because Jesus. Or because it starts with a C. I don’t know – that’s just what we hang the song on, much like a shirt cardboard. (We kind of used former Texas governor Rick Perry as a shirt cardboard for one of our albums, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick.) It makes it easier to develop a theme and … oh, who cares?

We’ll just keep making the songs, Christmas themed or not. You expect no less. And no more.

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?

Technophobia.

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Not running again, eh? Try knocking it upside the head again. Harder. HARDER! Oh, wait … you knocked its head off. That’s probably too hard. Oh well….

Hey, welcome to the house of Big Green – that abandoned hammer mill we call home, because all of the groups live together. Just trying to get down to recording some new material, old material … whatever! If we can just get our technology to work for five minutes. (Actually, three and a half minutes would do, since this is pop music.) Seriously, we’ve got some old gear, folks. It’s almost as old as our asses. I’m not even talking tape recorders …. I’m talking wire recorders. I’m talking those wax record cutting machines they used when John-boy was being interviewed by a radio station on The Waltons after he got swindled by the vanity press dude. (Oh, you thought I forgot, didn’t you? Mr. TV Swindler!)

Ahem. Anyhow, we really are running on three cylinders down in Big Green’s clubhouse recording studio in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill. The eight-track DTRS machine we used to record 2000 Years To Christmas is a paperweight. The 16/24 track hard disc workstation we used to record International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick is 17 years old and ready for that farm upstate. We’re taping together our headphones and coaxing our pre-amps not to self-destruct. It’s a sad state of affairs, to say the least. Our neighbors keep saying, do a GoFundMe campaign or something, but hell …. that would require the invention of the personal computer. Our gear tells me it’s still 1982.

It was new when I bought it.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is probably the most sophisticated piece of technology we have at our disposal. In fact, that’s exactly what he is –  a re-purposed garbage disposal. I’m told that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, added some arms and legs and popped a refurbished Commodore 64 computer in his noggin, then it was off to the races with him. We could probably use HIM as an audio recorder almost as easily as we manage with our antiquated Roland VS-2480, but it would require some modifications, and damn it, we’re Luddites. We just flip the switch and a light goes on – the rest is magic.

So, hey … we’ll get those songs committed to .wav somehow, never fear. Just don’t ask me how they got there afterwards.

Thingmaker.

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Well, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. A song is a thing. I think we can all agree on that. And I can also say, without fear of contradiction, that every song, no matter how insipid, is about some thing. That’s a no-brainer.

With that in mind, what’s the best way to make an album based on the melodramatic story arc of what can be described as a spacebound horse opera? Simple – break out the thingmaker! What is that, a hot plate, right? Anybody out there on the internets old enough to remember thingmakers? Sure … you plug the thing in, heat it up, pour goop into a mold, cook the mold on the hot plate, then chew on the plastic junk you create or electrocute yourself by pouring the cooling reservoir water on the thingmaker. Great fun.

Anyway … what we do is not that dissimilar from playing with a thingmaker. Let’s say that our overactive idiotic imaginations are the “goop”, if you will. I suppose the “mold” is the usual genres we work within, mostly rock, some bogus country, some other weird stuff we can’t define. Then of course, there’s the thingmaker itself, our superannuated recording system – a Roland VS-2480 deck we bought fifteen years ago to replace my now shipwrecked Tascam DTRS DA-88 deck. And let’s face it, that sucker is not that far removed from a thingmaker.

Great production valuesWe’ve started to use Cubase a bit over the last two years, just out of necessity, but we’re kind of locked into the thingmaker, despite the fact that it’s got a beastly 486 processor and a primitive proprietary “closed” operating system – and I do mean closed! There’s literally one way to get data out of that thing other than via analog audio outputs, and that’s through the coaxial digital outputs. There is no system that currently supports Roland’s (again) proprietary R-Bus data ports. The only other bus is SCSI, which of course is toast. The CD burner doesn’t work. The optical audio outs don’t appear to work either. Thingmaker.

Hey … that’s what Big Green is all about, right? Making something from nothing. With nothing. And for nothing. It’s what we do.