Christmas, like nostalgia, is for losers ;-)
Christmas, like nostalgia, is for losers ;-) KAREN MASON-BLAIR

Marco Collins spent the '90s helping bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Beck blow up as a DJ for KNDD (107.7 FM-The End). Photographer Karen Mason-Blair was there, too, taking photos of bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains before they got famous.

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They crossed paths a few times back in the day. In fact, Collins thinks it was Mason-Blair who first introduced him to Kurt Cobain in 1991 at the Paramount Theater, when Nirvana played their Halloween show. “Even though I don't remember,” he laughs. “I think I was really fucked up then.”

Collins made multiple trips to a storage space in San Diego for the doc film about him, The Glamour and The Squalor, and just kept finding things he had forgotten about. Mason-Blair had been touring this past year with a photo show called The Flannel Years.

Recently, they teamed up and gathered never-before-seen objects and photos from their respective personal collections for a show, Nostalgia Is for Losers, which opens tonight at The Bakérée. I had a chance to talk to both, and the stories behind some of their stuff are fascinating. Check them out after the jump.

Let's just start with the title, Nostalgia Is for Losers

Marco: Having been involved in the '90s scene here in Seattle, at The End, I struggle with being stuck in an era. And I don't want to be that guy, because I'm not listening to old Alice in Chains records. I've moved on from that decade, but I know that people love that time period, and I know the '90s have a pretty, you know, it's also desired music, and a musical landscape for a lot of younger people, too.

So, one day I found a meme on Tumblr that said, “Nostalgia is for losers; move forward.” And I thought, oh my God, that's me! That's exactly my motto. And then I decided to call the show Nostalgia is for Losers, kind of playing into the self-deprecating humor of that entire decade.

So, in a way it's a bit of a slap in the face. And at the same time, I'm embracing it.

Karen: I mean, I find it playful …I don’t know. It’s also a reference to one of my pictures, called Christmas is for Losers, and it's that picture of Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in Santa hats.

What are some of your favorite “nostalgic” objects you’ll be displaying at Nostalgia Is for Losers?

Marco: I keep finding these little bits of nostalgia. I found the first In Utero DAT tape that I leaked on The End. It was like a month before the record came out. And when we played it, Courtney called me up, and she's like “Marco, Kurt's mad at you.”

And then I could hear Kurt in the background going, “I'm not mad, just tell him to let people know these aren't the final mixes!” They didn't even tell me to stop playing it.

The leaked In Utero DAT tape.
The leaked In Utero DAT tape. MARCO COLLINS

And just some really cool moments. A 12-inch single that a buddy of mine sent me from L.A., this little song called Loser. And I have the original, so I'm displaying that.

The Beck single, from Bong Load Records.
The Beck single, from Bong Load Records. MARCO COLLINS

There's a roll of film that I just found in my storage space from when I was in Amsterdam with Hole. And let me just tell you. That was one of the wildest times in my entire life! And I had forgotten I'd taken all these pictures.

Karen: There’s a photo I took of Kurt at the Butthole Surfers show, and he’s standing there and he's all grumpy like, he never, never smiles. I was like, “Hey, can you smile? And he goes, “You always say that!” And I go, “Yeah, and you always like my photos!” And that's why he smirked. There's only like five pictures of Kurt smiling, and I have two of them!

Kurt, smirking.
Kurt, smirking. KAREN MASON-BLAIR

Did it ever feel a little raw or emotional for you, going through all this old stuff?

Marco: Well for me, to go through a lot of that stuff, I had forgotten about it. I had kind of closed that decade off and put it in a box. So, looking at some of that old Nirvana stuff kind of fucked me up.

Karen: That’s why I just gravitate towards the smirking photo of Kurt, because that is what I want to remember him as. And this is my first show that I'm doing since Chris Cornell is not with us anymore. It was hard to dig into his file; I'm still too emotional.

Chris Cornell

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Marco: But also, and part of what the title means, is that there's a lot of joy in the moments we’ve collected...when you walk into this show you're not going to be like, you know, bummed out. This isn't going to bring back bad memories, or make people sad; it's going to be pretty damn upbeat!

Soundgarden, goofing off.
Soundgarden, goofing off. KAREN MASON-BLAIR

It's all about relationships. It's more like…family. It's like, our Seattle music familia, and that's what we're doing…is just trying to love the ones we still got, you know? That's all I know. That's all I fucking know, man, I'm telling ya!

Alice in Chains, being adorable.
Alice in Chains, being adorable. KAREN MASON-BLAIR