You can’t tell the history of the Seattle music scene without Marco Collins, the influential local DJ credited with breaking bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. He rose to the top of the music world, but then came crashing down. Now, he’s back and the focus of a new documentary that chronicles the rise, fall and re-emergence of one of the most compelling figures in music.
“I grew up listening to him every single night,” said Andy Mininger, producer of The Glamour and the Squalor.” Mininger and his partner Mark Evans had wanted to make a movie about the Seattle grunge scene in the early 90’s, and decided to tell it through Marco’s eyes.
“Even if it was a crappy band, if Marco was telling me to listen to it that’s what I’m listening to,” he said.
Marco came to Seattle in 1991 to start 107.7 The End. As music director and night time DJ, he picked what music got played. And the first two albums that crossed his desk were Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”
“I always had this approach you make the community a part of your radio station and the payback will be tenfold,” he said. But despite his enthusiasm for the music being made in Seattle at the time, he never imagined where it would lead.
“I actually thought Mudhoney was going to break before Nirvana. Nobody could have guessed that Nirvana was going to take off like that,” he laughed.
Marco’s star rose along with the bands he befriended. Eventually, he went big time, moving to LA to start a record label with Rage Against the Machine. He then headed to New York as music director for VH1. And he landed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But Marco had some serious baggage that would ultimately derail his career, a years long struggle with drug addiction.
“It kind of raised its ugly head here in Seattle just as I was leaving. And in New York it raised its ugly head in a big way and I kind of spiraled out.”
Marco had to leave New York in a hurry out of fear for his life, and it would be several years before he would get clean and sober again, and try and rebuild a career and life driven by his lifelong love of music.
“His story is one that just needs to see the big screen and we’re extremely excited,” Mininger said.
For Marco, telling that story hasn’t been easy. And it certainly wasn’t his idea.
The filmmakers lied to him just to get him to the table, first telling him they were doing a movie about the grunge scene.
“I thought ‘well okay I can be a part of it,’ and then it became ‘as seen through your eyes,’ then they read that darn Seattle Weekly article about me.”
The filmmakers and Marco have traveled the country. And while they’ve rekindled fond memories, they’ve also ripped the scabs off old wounds that have taken years to heal.
“I maybe wasn’t prepared for the kind of emotion that comes with stuff like that,” he said.
“It was hard. There’s some stuff in the movie. It’s definitely not a fluff piece.”
The film is still being shot. The producers are raising money via Kickstarter to complete the project.
“The spirit of Seattle, the spirit of local bands, the spirit of Sub Pop is DIY, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Marco said.
As for the ending, that remains to be seen. The film chronicles Marco’s role – along with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – in getting the music community behind Washington state’s successful effort to legalize gay marriage.
But Marco’s not sure he wants to know how it ends.
“I’m way too emotional about this stuff. I think I need to wait until the film is done, and then I’ll throw up,” he laughed.