Comedian Marc Maron is raw, honest and often angry and he explores comedy’s dark side on his twice-weekly WTF podcast. Music plays a critical role in his mood and he chooses songs that celebrate the "romance of tragic love" - as well as the power of rock 'n' roll -- in his Guest DJ set. Marc is performing as part of the SXSW 2011 comedy lineup.
Mario Cotto: Hi this is Mario Cotto from KCRW. I'm here with comedian Marc Maron who hosts the popular W.T.F. Podcast – you can guess what that stands for. Today, we've asked Marc to share some songs that has inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. How are you doing Marc?
Marc Maron: I'm O.K!
MC: You've got an amazing list, especially this first one right here. It's one of my all-time favorites. Why don't you tell us about "Heroes" by David Bowie.
MM: I don't remember when it first affected me – I think I was in college – and there was just something about music and certain songs that elevate me. They literally give me a physical high. I find a lot of times now I use my iPod like unlike an I.V. unit. If I am in a certain state of mind, whether it's nostalgic or sad or elevated or energized or just excited, there are certain songs that will sustain that buzz for me. There is something about "Heroes" that is so romantic, slightly dark, just tragically satisfying about the song. In that third verse where he basically screams the lyrics, right when you know that's coming in – if you know this song – you should get a full body high.
There is just something about the build of that song that gets me off, but there is also something heartbreaking about this song. Even reading the lyrics I get that feeling. It's a heart swelling feeling.
There is something about the romantic nature about this song. I think I started to listen to it in college. And if I'm troubled now I was more troubled then – more heavy-hearted and more crazy. Any relationship I was in at that time, not unlike now, was plagued with drama and insanity. There is something about this song that celebrates the nature of difficult love and the romance and tragic love for me.
MC: Alright so that was "Heroes," by David Bowie here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. We're running down a bunch of classics here with Marc Maron. You also picked an Elvis Costello track. What did you pick here?
MM: This is "Beyond Belief." Again not unlike "Heroes" there is just something about the build of this song. They kind of swell my heart. Usually people feel that as a feeling of joy, but when my heart swells there is a heaviness to it – some sort of dark longing to it in the sense that any relationship, any romance…so much of it is something we are manufacturing in our brain. It's something that we want it to be or or something that we want to see it as or something that literally kind of takes you out of time and space. Certainly "Heroes" and "Beyond Belief" do that for me. They sort of identify how I see myself or how I see my sadness or my feelings and then put it into context or that romantic idea. I don't know that "Beyond Belief" is really a romantic song but there is something about the frustration of being a prisoner of your own feelings that I can identify with.
MC: Elvis Costello's "Beyond Belief" here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Now this track is a pretty romantic track I think. A lot of people have strong associations and/or memories with Tom Petty's "American Girl." Why don't you tell us why you picked this one?
MM: There is something so traditional and American about Tom Petty and his consistency, how sweet his band is and just how stripped down and tasty the [guitar] licks are. Again, this song has sort of a build to it and a sort of longing to it.
Petty is a very consistent go-to for me. There is something about – not small-town romance – but just "townie romance" that he captures. It's not a patriotic feeling but I guess as music goes I'm patriotic when it comes to Tom Petty and the worlds he creates. I can identify with them – growing up in a small city in this country. There is something so rooted in the type of romance he talks about that is uniquely American that I just sort of indentify with that.
MC: That was Tom Petty's "American Girl" here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. I'm Mario Cotto sitting here with Marc Maron. Now we're getting a little bit more raucous – a little more party style.
MM: I'm ready!
MC: What is this next track you pulled for us?
MM: The Rolling Stones, "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," is one of the greatest sayings. I think they coined it on some level. They certainly made it popular. I'm a Stones guy. There is something about rock and roll that is very important to me. It defines a lot of who I am. The line "If I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on the stage, would it be enough for your teenage lust, would it be enough to ease the pain." That teenage intensity – that male/female is what rock and roll is built on.
We live in an age now where if I say "that's rock and roll" – you're dating yourself. The idea of rock and roll is obviously rebellious and to me pushing the limits. And what anyone does to push the envelope in their particular creativity – it's all rock and roll to me in a sense that rock and roll can be both entertaining and uplifting but there is that release there. That release to me, in the spirit of rebellion, is definitely apparent in my comedy and the spirit of rebellion is definitely apparent in my comedy to some degree. Although to my comedy has gotten a little more personal. I don't know if I would say sharing my neurosis in an honest way is rock and roll, but maybe to me it is.
MC: "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" by the Rolling Stones here on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. We're pushing the pedal to the metal here at the end with AC/DC. Tell us a little bit about this track.
MM: This is "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be." I would have hated myself if I didn't include AC/DC. First of all, I do not think there is enough AC/DC on KCRW. I think some part of me is doing this as a direct reaction to Morning Becomes Eclectic. There is some part of me that just wanted to pound on that door. I saw AC/DC when I was in high school. Journey was opening for AC/DC and sadly I went to see Journey. I'm a little ashamed about that. But that was the first time I saw AC/DC. Bon Scott was still alive. I didn't know what I was seeing or listening to. The consistency of these guys and their ability to rock hard is amazing. And it's clean too. We're not talking about metal or anything confusing. Angus Young plays very sweet, lyrical beautiful blues and country riffs in the middle of this pounding crunch of his brother's guitar. There's has a drive to it. Bon Scott was so dirty, and it was so crass. It was just pure dirty to me.
To this day, more so than most other music to just blow out energy, I will listen to AC/DC. This is not necessarily my favorite AC/DC song but I thought it was representative of what AC/DC is. I just wanted the lyrics to be a representation of what they were [about] without being too specific. The devil is in it, and hell. I just had this feeling in the earlier part of my life you're like, "I'm going to hell man! Hell is going to be great!" So this is the song.
MC: And that was "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be" by AC/DC, as selected by comedian Marc Maron for KCRWs Guest DJ Project. Thank you so much sir.
MM: Thank you man. Good times.
MC: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to: KCRW.com/GuestDJProject
Banner image: Seth Olenick