Feelin’ Minnesota: Exclusive Interview with Scott MacDonald of Arcwelder


They may not have made the majors like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü did, but Minneapolis-based band Arcwelder were more than a perennial local favorite, cracking John Peel’s Festive Fifth countdown in 1992 and getting crowned NME‘s “Punk Rock Single of the Week” by none other than guest editors, New Order. After four excellent albums on Touch & Go Records, the band seemed to mostly retire aside from a 2002 invitation from Shellac to play All Tomorrow’s Parties and a 25th anniversary concert for Touch & Go.

KEXP is Feelin’ Minnesota this Wednesday, June 7th, as a celebration of what would’ve been Prince’s 59th birthday, as well as a salute to the winner of the first-ever KEXP State-to-State challenge. From 6AM to 6PM, you’ll hear from artists like Hüsker Dü, Brother Ali, Poliça, and The Jayhawks, leading up to a four-hour extravaganza on The Afternoon Show with DJ Kevin Cole, former Minnesotan, featuring exclusive interviews, rare finds, and more.

If you could play one song from one Minnesota artist that encapsulates the state, who, which song and why?

“Baby Heartbeat” by The Suburbs. The Suburbs were the first local band I heard on the radio in 1979. “Baby Heartbeat” got a respectable amount of airplay on local AOR station KQRS. As a teenager living in the suburbs myself, they made me aware that there was a local scene. And that I might be able to be a part of it. At that point, The Suburbs bristled with energy and played high speed almost punk, but with a piano to make it beautiful. They encapsulate the state because they did it themselves. They took a whole bunch of energy and desire and helped jump start a local original rock scene. They weren’t the very first, but they were early, and they helped spread the word to the mainstream.

What Minnesota artists are most meaningful to you, and why?

The Replacements were the first local band I really got obsessed about. I read about them in Sweet Potato/City Pages, and bought their first album, Sorry Ma. I fell in love with it. They played fast, which I liked, but there were great songs lurking below all that speed. I saw them live a whole bunch of times. Audiences weren’t sure what tomake of them, but I was smitten. Not long after, I got obsessed by Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum, and saw tons of their shows, too. I would see these bands enough that I would know most of the new songs before they came out on the albums. In some cases, I would be disappointed by the album version. “Why did they slow down ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ and put all those horns on it? They just ruined my favorite song!”

What is it about living in Minnesota that informs your art?

There’s enough of a music scene that you’re encouraged to make your art and it’s supportive enough of individuality that you can put your own personal stamp on it.

Why does music matter to you?

It’s a place to go to find sympathy, to find joy, to find solidarity. In bad times, a song can make you feel that you’re not alone, that others feel the same thing. In good times, it can reinforce your feelings and underscore them. Also, it can open your eyes to experiences that you didn’t experience first hand and wouldn’t know about otherwise. Like a sonic documentary.

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