photo & text by nacrowe
its always COMPELLING to learn about the INDUSTRY GATEKEEPERS that had a demonstrative impact influencing and effectively curating AMERICAN culture for a period, be they RODNEY BINGENHEIMER of 106.7FM KROQ in LOS ANGELES in the 1970s/1980s/1990s or MARCO COLLINS of 107.7FM KNDD THE END in SEATTLE in the 1990s. these DJs are in essence force-multipliers who communicate novel sounds and new artists to a much wider audience, essentially giving permission for bigger entities like MTV or national radio to add them to the rotation. in a pre-internet age, these GATEKEEPERS were incredibly POWERFUL and BINGENHEIMER and COLLINS cultivated such influence by staying true to their ears and sense of tase. this in the face of the industry practice of PAYOLA whereby RECORD LABELS courted RADIO STATIONS and program directors with massive amounts of money for airtime, which had been a thing going back to the 1930s. such was still the case with the competition for both BINGENHEIMER and COLLINS.
as someone who has a regular INTERNET RADIO SHOW on a much lower scale, i can assure you having that sort of EMPATHY and capacity to lock in with emerging cultural movement is a RARE gift. scratch that, an extremely rare gift. the recent documentary THE GLAMOUR & THE SQUALOR (ORANJE FILMS, 2015) follows the COMPLICATED LIFE and impactful career trajectory of celebrated SEATTLE DJ MARCO COLLINS who in essence gave emerging local bands in the early 1990s their first radio exposure. current and past local bands like SOUNDGARDEN, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, SEAWEED, ALICE IN CHAINS, HARVEY DANGER, SCREAMING TREES, PEARL JAM, SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, MUDHONEY, THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and NIRVANA as well as national acts like BECK, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, WEEZER, EVERCLEAR, THE CRYSTAL METHOD and GARBAGE and even international acts THE PRODIGY and DAFT PUNK. participants in this documentary include everyone from musicians like CARRIE BROWNSTEIN (SLEATER-KINNEY, WHITE FLAG), SHIRLEY MANSON (GARBAGE), MIKE MCREADY (PEARL JAM, MAD SEASON), PATTY SCHEMEL (HOLE), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE) SEAN NELSON (HARVEY DANGER) and MACKLEMORE to MUSIC WRITERS and JOURNALISTS like MATT PINFIELD (120 MINUTES) and CHARLES R CROSS (HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN, ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS) as well as RECORD EXECUTIVES such as DEBI LIBETZ (EPIC RECORDS), MIKE TIERNEY (EPIC RECORDS), SUSIE TENNANT (GEFFEN RECORDS), SCOTT PERLEWITZ (SUB POP RECORDS) and ERROL KOLOSINE (ASTRELWERKS, CAROLINE RECORDS) among other INDUSTRY VETERANS.
all that aside, one aspect of this film i was particularly struck by was the argument that COLLINS' HOMOSEXUALITY gave him a sort of OUTSIDER STATUS that enabled him in his PROFESSION. it was almost an UNEXPECTED and UNINTENTIONAL competitive advantage in the sense that his very perspective and formative experiences as a GAY MAN surrounded by HOMOPHOBES (including his father) engendered him to go his own path and trust his instincts. surviving childhood in the sticks made the insular RADIO and MUSIC INDUSTRIES a breeze in comparison, although being 'out' publicly was another matter entirely. i just found it interesting that within a community of artists and musicians, COLLINS was excepted intrinsically due to his PASSION, INTELLECT and even his SEXUALITY. i wonder if there is something about being an OUTSIDER that resonated with the KURT COBAINs and EDDIE VEDDERs of the PACIFIC NORTWEST ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene at the time. interesting to consider when you take in the similar dynamics of BIGENHEIMER being an EFFEMINATE male, who likewise broke a whole platoon of HARDCORE, NEW WAVE and ALTERNATIVE bands a generation earlier.
less interesting was the drug angle and COLLINS coming to terms with his chemical addictions. i have no doubt that such were a massive DISAPPOINTMENT and PERSONAL FAILURE for him and dealt lasting blows to his work and close relationships. but such is not as interesting as his recovery which includes reintegrating himself in the current music scene and enabling new bands to get their initial exposure, much like he did nearly 30 years ago. that dedication to the here and now is what radio in my opinion is all about. its also nice to know that in years since this documentary COLLINS has been a regular contributor at the massively INFLUENTIAL 90.3FM KEXP in SEATTLE which has innovated the digital landscape with its high-quality recorded and mixed live performances at its dedicated multi-use CREATIVE SPACES. seems he is where he should be.
which is exciting for new music lovers and bands alike.