Five strings.

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I can play any instrument. Piano, bass, six string guitar, five string guitar – I broke a g-string yesterday (note that I didn’t say I could play them well) – kazoo, contra-bass kazoo … I think that’s about it. That’s all the instruments there are, right?

Actually, I’m not super good at any of those instruments. If I were, then I would be insufferable or famous or something; perhaps both. Or neither. Well, that covers all of the possibilities. I don’t like leaving things to chance. (And I don’t mean Chance the gardener.) Thing is, I like playing instruments, even if I do it, well … badly. So even though I’ve never been what I would describe as a punk musician, I do share that piece of the punk ethos – technical skill on your axe is not paramount. So if you see me strumming an acoustic guitar, don’t look for a pick; I basically use thumb and forefinger. Piano? Just thumbs. Gotta move fast to make that work.

I'm all thumbs, Abe. Honest.Many instrumentalists leave distinctive marks on their instruments – scratches in the soundboard or pickguard of a guitar, or in the keyboard cover of a piano, that sort of thing. My aging Martin D-1 doesn’t have a lot of marks, mostly because I don’t play it all that much, but also because I suck at using a plectrum. The guitar top and the strings are harder than my fingers; therefore, the instrument leaves marks on me and not the other way around. Matt, on the other hand, is a more traditionally trained guitar player, so his axes are all marked up. It’s been a few years, but when I last saw it his Les Paul Custom looked like a truck backed over it. (That’s what my hands look like.)

Why am I telling you this? Well, because no one else will listen. And it’s snowing outside. This time of year in upstate New York, we all get sealed inside our homes by a mountain of snow and ice, thanks to the relentless force of moisture rising off of the Great Lakes. (What the hell is so great about them? All I see of Lake Erie is seven feet of snow on my front porch.) So for that six months of snowbound sequester, we must amuse ourselves with random tales and tips and particles of useless advice. It’s the only way we can get to sleep in this drafty old hammer mill. Hey, did you ever hear about the time I played a New Year’s gig in Lake George, NY and …….

Zzzzzzzzz….

Start ’em.

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Is that the time? Are you sure? Seems like the sun just went down. Are you certain that THAT is the sun coming up again? Possible that it’s just a distant thermo-nuclear explosion. Think of the times we live in. No? Okay …. morning. Uhhhhhlll.

Hey, don’t look at me like that. Everybody …. and I do mean EVERYbody … gets caught in the Winter doldrums, bobbing around between the cross currents of time, never catching a break until the first signs of impending spring. Not that this is all that much of a Winter. I mean, it’s been 30s and 40s for about a week now, here in the dead of January in upstate New York. But despite the freakish weather, we try to hold on to tradition here. We of Big Green don’t give a damn about how nice it is outside. It’s winter, damn it, and we’re determined to get nothing done.

While it shouldn’t, this includes work on music and other sound stuff. That’s been kind of stalled, frankly, but again … doldrums. That said, we should be back in the studio on Friday if we can stay awake that long. I’m starting to No one is above the law!think we have some bear-like ancestry back a few generations – I have a strong inclination towards hibernation. In fact, I’m getting sleepy as I type this. Bouncing bowling ball … riding up the side of a dragon’s tail. Yep, sleepy.

I know … we should all be beating the bushes for work, right? Of course, that presupposes the notion that we give a flying fuck. As that web video makes clear, honey badger just don’t give a fuck. Besides, why should we beat the bushes? Haven’t they suffered enough? And what about the law of averages? If we all strive to excel, NO ONE will be average anymore. Isn’t that a violation of the law? Sounds like it to me!

These are matters that consume the mind and confound the soul. Or confound the mind and … confuse the soul? Soul Confusion – there’s a good name for a band. See? I’m already working hard, friends. Goodbye winter doldrums. And so on.

Rough draft.

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I’m sure I put that window putty around here someplace. And no, I’m not using masking tape again. You think tape is the answer to everything! Look at your clothes – they’re all taped together, for chrissake!

Whoa, damn it. Sorry for all the shouting. Not the best way to start out a new year. Tempers wear thin when you get extremes of temperature – I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s been decades since the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill has had anything like climate control technology, and back then it just amounted to an enormous, octopus-like boiler in the basement. In the summer, they opened a few windows. (With all of the broken windows in this old barn, we don’t need to do that anymore.) But now, when the mercury dips below zero, well …. we have to innovate.

Now, you would think that we would benefit from having a mad scientist on retainer (no, really … his dentist had him fitted for one last week), even if his advanced knowledge is somewhat tainted by the sound of wild cackling in the night. I took it upon myself this past week to ask Mitch Macaphee if he had some solution to the cold; you know, move the earth a few million miles closer to the sun, or laser open a magma vent … stuff like that. He pretty much ignored me. I was picturing some kind of atomic solution – the equivalent of a neutrino space heater, but no luck.

Well, that's ONE way to stay warm.Even so, Mitch seemed not too bothered by the sub-zero cold. I got curious, so I sent Marvin (my personal robot assistant) into his mad-science lair to take some web cam video. Turns out, Mitch has been holding out on us. Apparently, he’s been using the Orgone Generating Device left behind nearly a decade ago by our old friend Trevor James Constable. He switches on the OGD and creates a curved time-space anomaly that amounts to a portal to Miami. Well, that’s the rough equivalent of having the windows open on a summer day, right? So it’s nice and toasty in his study; meanwhile, we’re burning the furniture out here in the not-so-great room. Christ on a bike. If you’ve got a cure for leaky mill windows, send them our way.

Ice days.

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Man oh man. Put another log in the furnace, Anti-Lincoln. Drafty old barn of a place. Are you sure we weren’t somehow transported overnight to one of those Kuiper Belt planetoids? I’m freezing my ass off in here.

Oh, hi. Yes, we’re in the midst of another cold snap here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Our local gas an electric company discontinued service here years ago, as you might suspect. The hammer forge has been pretty quiet since the 1940s. You might think, well … burn the furniture, right? Well, we did that YEARS ago. I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and no, I’m not burning that. (We’re always looking for kindling. After almost twenty winters of this, the mansized tuber is looking pretty nervous.)

Okay, so we have to break the ice in the bathroom sink every morning – is that anything to complain about? We have a roof over our heads … or most of a roof, anyway. More importantly, we have a floor beneath our feet. I say that because, if you’ll recall, we went on a “Journey to the Center of the Earth” tour some years back, and I for one never want to make THAT journey again. You haven’t had a tough audience until you’ve played for Morlocks. And those talking rock creatures! What’s that, Marvin? You don’t say. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has just told me that there were no talking rock creatures. This one club owner just had a novelty landline telephone, that’s all.

Oh, right. I remember these guys.I suppose we, like so many other upstaters, should find some way of monetizing this freezing cold weather. I don’t know, like … exporting ice or something. We could turn this place into the abandoned Cheney Ice Mill, start shipping ice all over the country. We could pack it in dry ice, or sawdust, or … something. Iron filings, perhaps. (There’s a lot of those in the hammer mill basement.) It’s just a damn shame that you can’t bottle this weather and sell it in the summer. Hey ….. Nah, forget it.

Well, we’ve got one thing to keep us warm: Our Christmas episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, still in production. Likely to be a little late this year, friends – my apologies. I will post something around the holiday as a placeholder then drop the new episode when it’s good and ready. (Well … ready, anyway. If I hold out for “good” , we may be talking about NEXT Christmas.)

Spring is … psych!

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Had the weirdest dream last night, Anti Lincoln. I dreamed I saw Joe Hill …. I mean, I dreamed there was snow all over the place, like it was mid January. Talk about unrealistic. Hey, pull up the shade … it’s kind of dark in here. What the …. WHAT?

Yeah, that snowfall took us all a little bit by surprise here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in frosty upstate New York. Somehow, after a freakishly mild winter (which I personally think was cooked up by our own Mitch Macaphee, mad science adviser), snow has returned in early April. Once again, I think Mitch might have had a hand in this. He’s got this big-ass smoke machine that shoots unnamed projectiles into the heavens – missiles loaded with I don’t know what the fuck, and lots of it. Mitch cranks it up, the sucker sputters and pops for a few minutes, then it starts snowing. Kind of. (That might be torn up fragments of Mitch’s membership agreement with the National Academy of Mad Science.)

Nice gizmo, Mitch.Okay, so let’s assume the weather has nothing to do with Mitch’s cloud bazooka. This is effed up, man! Remember now – we are squatters in this here hammer mill, see? And, well … the heat in this place is a little unreliable. Most of the winter we depend on an old wood stove in what used to be the shipping office. It’s the mansized tuber’s job to stoke the thing, and sometimes he falls down on the job a little. But most days we manage to keep the ice off the dishwater … though I don’t suppose you’re aware of how effective ice can be as a dishwashing medium. It scrapes, it emulsifies, it …. okay, I’m exaggerating. You have to look on the bright side when you’re freezing your ass off.

Winter is in extra innings. We can live with that. After all, we have spent weeks on remote planets, like Pluto, for instance.  We have traveled to the center of this here Earth. We have, I don’t know … done lots of stupid stuff. Certainly this is no stupider.

So, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and the mansized tuber are tasked with fanning the flames for another week. Good exercise, even for a robot. And an animate stump.

Back pages.

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Looks like rain again. And forty, maybe fifty degrees. You call this winter? I call it bullshit, man. Fifty years after the blizzard of ’66, and it’s like freaking April out there in the middle of February. Freak. Ish.

Right, I know. Don’t start a blog post by talking about the weather. Very well. But I should add that, even though the weather’s been less than frightful, we’ve been sticking pretty close to home this winter. Old habits die hard, I guess. And while the sun shone over these past few days, we’ve occupied ourselves with digging through the vast Big Green archive, looking for rare nuggets of a glorious past that never was. The odd gig poster. A broken guitar string. A broken guitar. A broken guitar case. (Interestingly, I found those all together.)

Some will remember that my first instrument was the bass guitar. (And when I say “some”, I don’t mean anyone reading this.) When Matt and I started playing out in the late 70s, that was my axe, for the most part, though I started banging on my brother Mark’s Fender Rhodes piano fairly early on. Matt and I spent more than a few years in the wilderness, putting together bands and watching them fall apart. First we couldn’t hold on to a guitar player. Then it was drummers – before John White picked it up, we hopped from one player to another. After that, it was guitar players … I think we had three in the space of two years in the early nineties. Big Green was invented in 1986. It Yep. Busted. kind of came up in our alphabet soup while we were hanging out in Ballston Spa, NY, waiting for something interesting to happen.

Okay, so … if you look around my basement, you’ll find my P-Bass, still virtually unplayable (just like it was thirty years ago). If you look hard, you’ll find Mark’s Fender Rhodes. We’ve got some recording from those early days, but they’re spotty at best. I may post one at some point just for laughs. We popped into a studio in Utica back in 1981 and recorded some live tracks, including a couple of originals. It’s a pretty good snapshot of where we were musically back then – rushed, tired-sounding, no sense of parts or arrangement. We were a mess! Kids those days!

God damn, I wish it would snow so that I wouldn’t feel as thought I’m just wasting my time down here. (That’s right, friends … it’s all about me.)

Pulling it together.

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Holy Moses. Where did all this snow come from? The sky? That’s where it ordinarily comes from. There have been exceptions, sure, but … how likely is that?

Now, that's a better fit, tubeyWell, here we are. First days of the year and we’re already snowed in. Mountains of the stuff piled up against the front door of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, our adopted home. Just as well that it’s relatively congenial in here, that is if you don’t mind being cooped up with crazy people. There’s Matt, of course, though he mostly occupies himself with tending the wild creatures and feathered friends. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) does have some annoying habits, much as I’ve tried to program them out of him. (I’m not a scientist – I just play one on the internet.)

The most troublesome companion we have in the Mill is anti-Lincoln, the antimatter doppelganger of the Great Emancipator, who was chrono-teleported into our midst some years back by Mitch Macaphee, using Trevor James Constable’s patented orgone generating device. The device is, shall we say, a less-than-optimal time portal/matter transportation gizmo, so it made an antimatter copy of Lincoln as he was passing through the wormhole on his way to his future, our present. Lincoln has since returned to his Civil War glory days, while anti-Lincoln has remained behind to vex us unceasingly. Arrogant, selfish clone!

Our companion the man-sized tuber is not that bad, though he does require some tending. He had retired to the courtyard and was beginning to take root, but his retirement planning didn’t take Winter into account, and as the days grew colder, he yanked himself out of the ground and rolled back inside, taking his place in a terracotta planter we had lying around. Of course, one of us has to bring him water, plant food, reading material, etc. He’s been asking for wi-fi lately. I keep telling him, just get a freaking data plan, but he won’t listen.

Right, so … distractions aside, we are planning the next phase of Big Green’s conquest of the universe. Well … not the WHOLE universe; just one little tiny corner of it. Namely, this web site, where the next episode of our podcast will appear at some point. Come snow or high water.