Marco Collins is probably best known in San Diego for his days working as a DJ and musical director for 91X. His life is the subject of the new documentary film The Glamour and the Squalor, and it is primarily what he did while out of town that makes his story suitable for the big screen. In the early ’90s, Collins worked as a DJ at Seattle’s KNDD 107.7, “the End,” and was responsible for launching the careers of artists such as Weezer, the Foo Fighters, the Presidents of the United States of America, and, as he explains it, Beck.
“The record I’m most proud of being involved with is ‘Loser.’ We started playing that at the End from a 12-inch single when there were only one hundred of them. It was vinyl-only on a little label called Bong Load Records. A buddy of mine from L.A. sent it to me. Beck was their Silver Lake arty little busker,” Collins said. “That was one where the machine wasn’t in place yet, so I think that’s probably one of my proudest moments.”
So Collins broke some legendary bands and, because of this, actually became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a DJ. But how was it that his life became the subject of a feature-length documentary?
“I didn’t know [the filmmakers] ahead of time, and when they first approached me, it was about a documentary about the Seattle music scene from 1991 to 1997, as seen through my eyes. Over about 12 hours of meetings in coffee shops, the story evolved, and they let me know that it was a little bit more about my life in the middle of this music revolution. It would focus more on this one individual in the middle of the scene.”
Collins continued, “It’s a strange thing because the movie’s not done, and I am nervous about seeing it. I’ve seen documentaries on other DJs that have been kind of sad and pathetic, and I just didn’t want this story to be that. I am not interested in working on something that would portray me as lame. I just wouldn’t sign on to it. So, we had to have a lot of talks, and I hired a great attorney.”
“I respect the fact that he took his time and did his homework before agreeing to it,” the film’s director Mark Evans told the Reader via email. “It took several three-hour meetings before we finally got it done. We had prepared the concept for several months before approaching him, and I think he appreciated that. Marco has such a unique story, being in the middle of a cultural revolution and being such an important figure for so many people in Seattle. He’s seen his peaks and valleys, and his biggest concern was how we would represent those valleys.”
The film is in production, and Collins’s anxiety levels regarding the project are raised.
“I am so critical about myself that we have a rule that I can’t watch it until the end,” Collins explained. “Until the final cut, but we’re still in edit mode. Hell, we’re still in filming mode, we’re filming Courtney Love tonight.”
“Yes, absolutely, but that’s the part I have to let go of. Courtney Love and I had a very tumultuous relationship. We had our ups and downs... In the end, I am a fan of hers and Kurt’s. I supported both of them. I am a bit nervous about what Courtney will say, but I don’t care. She’s said it all before, and I’ve let her say it on the air.... Courtney is one of the most powerful women I’ve ever met. She walks into a room and owns the room, and it can be scary and it can be totally magical. And that’s Courtney Love.”
The “squalor“ portion of the title refers to Collins’s history of substance abuse. He left 91X in 2006 to attend a rehab program in Georgia, and he hopes that the finished product gives people with similar struggles a tale they can identify with.
“The story is gritty and the story is real,” Collins said. “I had to come to terms with that because I have this vision of how I need to be, and that vision is more pure than I will probably ever be able to achieve. All of those things make me nervous, being me makes me nervous.”