By DON CAMPBELL //
Out of his own pocket he produced “Marc Baker’s Church of NW Music, Volume 2 – Viva Portland.” He worked diligently with labels and artists to procure and clear tracks – unreleased demos, album cuts and one live in-studio performance by the quirky Miss Red Flowers – and drew on his sons’ refrigerator artwork. A delicious homegrown album was born.
Marc Baker recently released a compilation recording that few will ever likely hear, let alone own. It contains 14 cuts from the late 90s – a lifetime ago in terms of music and art – from important Portland artists, at least to Baker’s experienced and wise ear, including Fernando, Sunset Valley, Little Sue, Luther Russell, Carmina Piranha, Pinehurst Kids, Kaitlyn ni Donovan, the Flatirons and more.
Baker’s wisdom in producing the CD may be illusive, murky and questionable, but his perspective is not. Baker is now a successful partner in an insurance company but once managed a Portland band called the Crazy 8s, a rollicking, irreverent and ungodly tight ska unit that he took to the edges of national and likely international stardom (another illusive and murky concept). On his way to that gig he worked at Oregon State University’s KBVR radio during his college years, interned for a Warner Brothers record executive who taught him the industry ropes, and gained a lifetime of insider and firsthand music business knowledge in a few short years.
Oh, and for nearly 14 years, from 1991 to 2004, he hosted KBOO radio’s extremely local Sunday night radio show, “The Church of Northwest Music.” It was a musical dervish that romped through our then-white-hot regional scene. He spun cuts and demo tapes, he did live in-studio performances and conducted interviews. To help capture and promote that auspicious scene, in 1997 he released The Church of Northwest Music, Volume I, about which one local reviewer wrote, “While compilations seem to lack flavor, this one is a tantalizing musical treat,” for its revelation of the Rose City’s best-but-least-known acts “who prove themselves to be far more than mere appetizers on Portland’s music scene.”
Cut to 2015. A founding and now-former member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, which recently held its annual induction ceremony, and a successful fundraiser for that august body’s scholarship program, Baker wanted something to hand out to award show attendees and to celebrate his own induction into OMHOF. Out of his own pocket he produced Marc Baker’s Church of NW Music, Volume 2 – Viva Portland. He worked diligently with labels and artists to procure and clear tracks – unreleased demos, album cuts and one live in-studio performance by the quirky Miss Red Flowers – and drew on his sons’ refrigerator artwork. A delicious homegrown album was born.
“This was a result of everybody being cool,” Baker says. “Nobody said no. I didn’t even really have to dig too far into the archives,” which, based on the longevity of his show, is voluminous.
He is cautious to warn that it is in no way definitive of the scene. “This is my take on it,” he says. But it bodes for something possibly grander, bigger, more definitive of the rich history of music that has poured out of Portland, and that he had the good sense to support and promote with a dedicated radio show – one he inherited from show creators Fiona Martin and Rhonda Kennedy that could electrify 20,000 watts of broadcasting power with a music scene as verdant and rich as any scene anywhere at any time.
But time, as we know, morphs all things. We grow up and put away Rock ‘n’ Roll dreams. Baker, though, for all his wisdom, has captured and released, in his own small way, an important moment in time with the forethought to have packed away a musical bug in the amber of a once truly vital musical community that included so many necessary components: a thriving club scene with owners like Tony Demicoli; chance-taking record labels that included Cravedog, Tim Kerr, Cavity Search and others, many of whom went on to bigger and better things; an active press with Buck Munger’s Two Louies magazine, Anodyne, and others; Terry Currier’s actual brick-and-mortar record store and undying, unwavering love for and promotion of local Portland music.
Baker easily drifts off to that time when he would have the likes of guitar legend John Fahey in the studio, or a young Everclear or Kelly Joe Phelps. He was never at a loss for artists to showcase. “It became a matter of not enough airtime,” he says. “It was all over the place by design.” He continually mystified why there is no local show like that now.
Was he wise to release a volume two? Financially, certainly not. For the love of the music? In spades. He has enough archival material to release a five-CD set of Portland music from the show. It’s a matter now, as we lose our brethren to the ravages of time, of tracking down estates and permissions, and finding those seminal players who have scattered across the globe.
But more importantly, will anyone care? Should they? What value is there in looking back? History is a funny thing: mostly packed away and forgotten – until you need to call on its wisdom. “I haven’t really kicked this can all the way down the road,” he says.
Here’s hoping he does.
Listen to Carmina Piranha's "Water" from Marc Baker’s Church of NW Music, Volume 2 – Viva Portland