This weekend Marco Collins, the legendary DJ who broke some of the greatest bands of the early ‘90s alternative era while working at The End, will be trying to make magic happen again. This time it will be on a small stage at Volterra Drawing Room in Ballard. Tonight and tomorrow night an unlikely collection of artists—including Kris Orlowski, Wanz, Katie Kate, Hollis Wong Wear and Superdeluxe’s Braden Blake—will take that stage and play acoustic Christmas songs to two cozy sold out crowds. This two-night event comes on the heels of an equally odd October benefit show to raise money for The Glamour & the Squalor , an in-progress documentary about Collins’ life as a DJ, recovering drug addict and leader in the marriage equality fight. Collins booked that show as well, putting together a wildly diverse lineup featuring Sean Nelson, Mary Lambert and Nacho Picasso. Curious where the inspiration for these shows is coming from, I gave him a call. He started the questioning, asking about a new band, naturally. “What are you thinking about this Tangerine band?”
The one who put out an EP earlier this fall? Yeah. I got to the Fin Records anniversary party at Conor Byrne the other night just as they were walking off stage, but I just watched a video. These guys were totally not on my radar and I don’t know why. But, fuck, I’ve been kind of impressed with what I’ve heard so far.
When did you book these holiday shows? They seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I literally just put the last two bands on two days ago. I’ve just started learning about promoting shows. I only put that benefit show on sale three weeks before we hit and this show was basically two-and-a-half weeks, maybe three weeks before the event actually happened. I’m still kind of feeling that part of it out. I wanted to hold out till I had it solidified, but solidifying a weird, diverse lineup like this sometimes takes a little longer.
Why are you putting on this show? The biggest reason to do these shows is that it’s not like I’m doing anything else right now. [Laughs.] I’m without a job, really, so I thought, why not?
Is this the beginning of a new chapter in your career? Maybe. It is sort of an attempt to step in a different direction for me. I’ve realized this last year that my skills are limited. I’ve worked in music my entire life. I’ve worked in radio, television, music television, or for management at a label doing A&R, but I haven’t really done too many things. So this last year I’ve been struggling. It’s been a rough year. So putting these shows together is me trying to reinvent myself a little bit and see what I’m capable of.
You had a tumultuous year. You started it working at Jet City Stream, but that ended. Is there a chance it will come back? The owner wants to bring it back. He’s working on a new plan, but right now you can’t listen to music, there’s no new content up. And if he can turn that thing around I support him wholeheartedly. I just couldn’t continue to volunteer. After a minute of not getting paid I realized I needed to find something to pay the bills, and I’m still looking for that thing.
So, why an Acoustic Christmas show? I thought it would be a lot of fun to see how these artists handle an acoustic set. Like, how is Katie Kate going to make an acoustic set work? I know that Hollis Wong Wear, she’s got experience doing pretty much anything, so she’s going to be playing piano, acoustic guitar. The biggest thing I wanted was to have something eclectic.
It’s surprising to see Braden Blake from Superdeluxe on the lineup? Superdeluxe was massive in the ‘90s. It was our number one played record on the end, they were selling out massive venues and then the band just broke up. It’s rare for Braden to do shows, but goddamn they’ve got a fanbase still. But his big thing was, “Don’t put me on late in the bill; I just wanna open.”
And you’ve got Ayron Jones playing on solo acoustic? That guy is a virtuoso and every time I’ve seen him play it’s been phenomenal and I just imagine that his skills are not limited to the electric guitar.
Did you give the band’s any direction besides that they had to play a Christmas song. I opened up the lines of communication between the artists and let them decide who did what. Friday’s lineup interacted crazily; I have email threads that go for days. Night two, I don’t know how much collaboration is going to happen that night, but I do know there will be a couple special guests that I can’t mention because of their contractual obligations.
Interview edited for length and clarity.