"I know I'm the best. No, I'm good. I'm good," says Kirk Mattoon—known to P-town's karaoke crowd as "The Captain"—quickly back-pedaling to not come off as cocky. "Everyone seems to have their own following."
Donning a T-shirt with the image of Family Guy's Baby Stewie on it and drinking a domestic beer, the Captain is as excited to discuss his job as a karaoke jockey as he is his $13,000 worth of sound equipment or the upcoming final round of a six-week karaoke contest he and Green Room bartender Erin "Buttrock Girl" Johnson kicked off on Feb. 12.
Contestants have been judged in five preliminary rounds on ability, song knowledge and performance, and the finalists—honest to god—are pretty damn good. "I don't want to let out all our secrets," says the Captain, "but, you know, make the song your own, like you're doing a live performance, 'cause that's what it is."
The Captain used to run a service station, but when that didn't work out, karaoke seemed like the next logical step. "Karaoke's all I do now. It's fun. It's demanding. I get to deal with drunk people who all think they're superstars." A staple in Portland's karaoke scene for the past four years, when it's the Captain's turn to sing, one of his current favorites is Tommy James & the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now." "It truly was not written by Tiffany," he says. "Tiffany did not write that." As for the customers, "'Total Eclipse of the Heart' is pretty long, and it's very seldom done well," he says. "And thank god there's not 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' for karaoke."
When he's not working the faders and dealing with impatient drunks, the Captain plays drums for the Vortex, which he describes as "a futuristic, kind of a Star Wars-type rock opera," but his first karaoke experience was singing Elton John. "I totally bombed," he says. Now seasoned, his advice for those still trying to muster up their karaoke courage is "Don't hold back. Pretend you're by yourself and just let it all out."
And then there's that name. When Mattoon started singing karaoke regularly, the KJ would say, "Next up we've got Kirk; some people like to call him Captain." He says he'd tell people, "You know, my name is actually Kirk." And they'd say, "Nope, you're Captain." Now, he says, "Just call me Captain." But he wants to make one thing clear: "I'll answer to either 'Kirk' or 'Captain,' but I'm not Captain Kirk."
The Captain is a regular KJ at the Green Room, 2280 NW Thurman St., 228-6178; Twilight Room, 5242 N Lombard St., 283-5091; and Chopsticks Express II, 2651 E Burnside St., 234-6171. He will also be KJing at the upcoming Chopsticks III, opening in the next few months on Northeast Columbia Boulevard. The final round of his Green Room karaoke competition takes place Sunday, March 19. 9 pm. 21+.
music editor Mark Baumgarten and freelancer Casey Jarman—along with karaoke veteran Jenn Fiendish—will judge the finals.