Craig Marquardo's name is mud. The 35-year-old East Coast native is locally notorious thanks to a slew of hard-to-believe—and hard to verify—claims he's made over the years: he played Major League Baseball, he helped produce Die Hard 2 while working for Warner Bros. in the early '90s, he sang backup for Sting as a 15-year-old, he'd bring Major League Baseball to Portland, he received a Purple Heart for his service in the military…the list goes on. As a result, everyone and their mother (The Oregonian, Portland Tribune and WW included) has dug into Marquardo's story, shooting holes in his claims and attacking his integrity. Though Marquardo claims that, at the very least, the bases for his claims are true (he says he played Minor League Baseball and did serve in the Navy, for instance), WW attempted to push the past aside and talk to Marquardo about the two things we're sure he is doing: publishing Music Spectator, a monthly magazine on the Portland music industry, and putting on the first annual Portland Music Awards, a "Grammy-esque" event celebrating Portland musicians and industry folk. According to Marquardo, the final nominees and winners for the awards, which will be held at the Roseland Theater on Monday, Jan. 28, were chosen by local "music-related individuals" such as bookers, promoters and bands, as well as Music Spectator's "200 subscribers." Over a four-hour lunch at downtown's Macaroni Grill, Marquardo explained why the awards (might) matter, and speculated on why he just "can't catch a break."
WW : Why put on an awards show?
Craig Marquardo: In the July issue of [Music Spectator], I interviewed Colin [Meloy] from the Decemberists. He said [paraphrased], "Other cities were home to some of our earliest fans...it wasn't until, somewhat recently, that [Portland] really started praising us." I started to think about that, and that's when the award show idea came up. Let's recognize [these musicians] now, for what they did this year. The Oregon Music Hall of Fame has one inductee a year, and it's a "hall of fame" award. You don't get it if you're just good, you get it if you're famous.
Portland Mercury music editor Ezra Caraeff wrote that the PMAs aren't real.
If everybody agrees with him, then he's right. Years ago, the Golden Globes didn't mean anything; now they're meaning a lot more than they used to. It's not a marketing thing for the magazine. The Mercury and the Willamette give out their little year-end things. [A musician] takes that somewhere else, down to Los Angeles, and says, "Willamette Week said—" "Who? We don't know who they are." You say, "The Portland Music Awards—"
Do you think they know what that is?
No, but...over 3,000 people cast votes, and decided that these were the people they wanted to win. If you're an artist, would you rather have a local newspaper's write-up saying, "We think you're cool," or a Portland Music Award?
I don't know.
I don't know. It's only as valuable as people give it value.
Did any bands drop out of the PMA show because of your past?
Climber dropped out. [But] I didn't use my past to impress them. I said I publish a music magazine. I do. I said there's gonna be an awards show. There is. You know, Chris Isaak might come to the show. He might, he's still considering. The Decemberists, Modest Mouse, Curtis Salgado are still on the table.
I hear you're not paying the performers.
It is not a festival. They're doing one song.
So you're not paying the bands at all?
No. Are you kidding me? I'm gonna lose so much money on this show, it's not even funny.
How many tickets have you sold so far?
I don't even know where our numbers are at. I'm afraid to ask.
Are you gonna post the PMA votes online?
Please. Maybe when I have an intern, more money, more staff, more time.
Why do you keep putting yourself in the public eye?
What do you suggest I do as a day job? I can't get a job. I'm completely unemployable!
Well, if you tell someone, "I was down and out, and I called Sting and he picked me up in his jet"—they're gonna say, "Bullshit."
That wasn't quite how it worked. Here's the problem. People write a story [and call all the wrong people]. My legend grows. Come on. How 'bout asking me? I'll send you to people. I know who to send you to; I was there, morons.
Can I take you up on that? Who do I call at Warner Bros. to verify that you worked there—
Well, see, but no, that's the problem. I got indicted for that. I ran for office in Hood River…I don't have [proof of] everything. In 1992, they were Warner Bros. and then Time Warner and then they were AOL TimeWarner, and AOL Time Warner is not responsible for keeping employee records from 1992.
Are you a victim of the Internet?
There's so much stuff on the Internet, they don't feel they need to ask any more questions...Google is my enemy. Worst thing that ever happened to me, let me tell ya. Bad press is one thing. People seem to think I'm gonna leave town, that bad publicity is gonna scare me away. Where am I gonna go, a town with no Internet? Tell me where that is. I'd love to live there.
The PMAs, featuring live music from Art Alexakis, the Dimes, Ohmega Watts, Debra Arlyn, Josh Hodges, Ashleigh Flynn, Leigh Marble, Drew Shoals, Carlyle, Caleb Klauder & Sammy Lind, Papa Salty, Sound Spell, Gunnar Roads, Craig Marquardo, Key of Dreams, Rose City Chamber Orchestra and Uprite Dub Orchestra and hosted by Marquardo and KOIN news anchor Kelley Day, take place Monday, Jan. 28, at the Roseland Theater. 7 pm. $20. All ages.