Cyn Collins Q&A

July 6, 2020
Cyn Collins documents the history of Minneapolis indie rock in her seminal oral history.

“Sub Pop founder Bruce Paviit told me that Minneapolis was notable as an early punk scene, and that when bands such as Hüsker Dü and the Replacements toured Seattle, the teens went to see them and became inspired to form the bands who would form the grunge scene there.”

You did 105 interviews for Complicated Fun. How long did you work on it? 

I worked on the book for two and a half years. I also used some interview material from a radio documentary I produced for KFAI, so more like three years. It was very tough making decisions for cuts as there were so many great stories. The editing process toward the end seemed very long and painstaking.

You gave such great historical context to all those great venues from a generation ago. Is it safe to say Minneapolis had an equivalent scene as New York back then? 

I think it may be safe to say Minneapolis did have an equivalent scene as early New York with CBGB and those other clubs once the Longhorn was established, booking major acts from New York City, Detroit, L.A. and London, and other places. I got the sense from the interviews and hearing about the booking and the growth of audiences, getting more and more major touring bands, that Minneapolis was a key area for early punk. Sub Pop founder Bruce Paviit told me that Minneapolis was notable as an early punk scene, and that when bands such as Hüsker Dü and the Replacements toured Seattle, the teens went to see them and became inspired to form the bands who would form the grunge scene there.

You highlight the Suburbs as a key band that transitioned from punk to indie rock. Do you think the band’s legacy is undervalued?

Yes, I definitely think The Suburbs legacy is undervalued. I’m not sure why, but there are many — journalists, record store staff, bookers and musicians — who would agree. They perhaps didn’t get the right breaks or perhaps didn’t have a manager that supported them as well, back then. It’s hard to say.

It was great fun learning all about the first bands of established stars. How fun was unearthing that history for you?

That was very revelatory, exciting and fun to learn about. A favorite part of the book project was hearing so many stories about bands I never knew existed, and the musicians who would go on to form established bands we know today.

Are you itching to get back to shows? In a normal year how many shows do you hit in a month?

Yes, I’m really itching to get back to live shows. I miss seeing live music in person so much. There is nothing like experiencing shows live, experiencing them viscerally and enjoying them with friends. In a normal year I likely see 20 to 40 shows per month, depending on if I hit two or three in one night as I do often, and sometimes there is only one to two nights per week I don’t see shows.

How long have you been at KFAI? 

I’ve been with KFAI 15 years now. I just celebrated my 12th anniversary of my KFAI “Spin With Cyn” show.

Did you always envision your book being oral history? It reminded me of Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.

Yes, I did. It was important to me to let the people share their own stories, in their words, without editing or commentary, especially since I was not there. I was strongly influenced by style of the fantastic book “Please Kill Me” and enjoyed reading the stories in the people’s own words. It was fun getting to meet Legs and Gillian, too.

It seems with the right breaks Curtiss A could have been a big national star.

I absolutely agree. It would’ve been great for him to be discovered and supported on a broader level.

Are you working on another book?

I have a couple ideas but nothing I’ve begun the work on yet. I’m hoping to continue my work as a historian in some vein, possibly as another book or radio documentary or museum exhibition work or education. I’m not sure yet what is next.