Like their influential brethren in Atheist, fellow legendary technical death metal pioneers Cynic have recently announced their reformation. Formed in November 1987 Cynic is often quoted as "...the most popular underground act to never record an album" due to session work of many of its members in popular acts as Monstrosity, Pestilence, Atheist and Death. In 1993 Cynic's only album "Focus" saw release through Roadrunner Records, which would become a benchmark in the technical death metal genre years later. With a selected number of US and European tour dates being scheduled for a not too distant future, we caught up with Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal to talk about the formation of Cynic, the early Florida scene, his time in Death and the Portal sessions.
I'm doing ok. Yes! I'm encouraged about the Cynic reunion.
Please tell us how this reunion came to be. Was it Tony Choy's involvement in the reformed Atheist that got the ball rolling again?
No. It was numerous synchronicities that directed our attention towards the reunion. Eventually we surrendered to the message and knew it was time. One of the synchronicities was a phone call from Kelly Shaefer.
I understand Jason Gobel and Sean Malone were asked to join this reunion - but couldn't be involved due to their respective job commitments. What are both doing these days?
Jason is a manager of a big marble and tile company in Oregon. He also has a family. Sean is a full time teacher at University of Florida and busy with his own projects.
Will this just be a short term reunion for a selection of US and European dates or can we expect another record to be released under the Cynic moniker in the near future?
Not sure yet. For now we are 'Focused' on these upcoming shows...anything is possible in the future. We'll see what unfolds.
Paul, you are fully immersed in the teaching and practice of Yoga, Buddhism and meditation. How did you get into this particular subject and how has it affected your mindset, outlook on life and work ethic?
I've been interested in understanding the workings of my mind since early childhood. I've always been an avid reader, thinker, and curious about life and its purpose. Over the years of practice, I've gotten better at being present with my experiences. Having faith in the way things are. Being more compassionate to others and myself. Letting go of judgements... craving less. Appreciating the simple things. It never ends as long as we're humans on earth. My work ethic has always been pretty good. Although, I suspect, through meditation, my ability to concentrate has improved over the years. I enjoy what I do, and find myself consumed with creative ideas and thoughts on a constant basis. It's all interconnected...the creativity, work, life, and love.
Tell us a bit about the early Florida death metal scene and how it was that Cynic for first formed.
The early scene was potent and alive. All of the bands knew each other and would run into each other at shows and parties. You could feel it in the air. The determination and force with which the bands were bursting forth their creative determination and impulse was palpable. I had incredible experiences being in the heart of it, playing with Cynic and Death. The history page on cynicalsphere.com says it better than I can. But briefly, Cynic formed in late 1987 by Sean and I. We were schoolmates. We eventually found other musicians and began writing and recording what would become the first Cynic demo.
During the mid/end '80s the Florida scene really started to blossom and boom. Tell us a bit about the people, supporters and bands of the scene in those legendary formative genre days.
Although there were many bands, the scene felt small and intimate. Everyone knew each other. We were close to bands like Atheist, Rob and Solstice, and Chuck with Death. Morrisound was the recording home for most of us, so we would often meet other bands through the studio, or at local shows and parties.
Florida was the centre of the early death metal movement at that time. What elements would you say made it that central nucleus of the genre?
It is difficult to predict what made it work. Perhaps the isolation that many of the central Florida bands felt was part of it. Also, a healthy yet competitive atmosphere inspired bands to work harder. Genuinely the bands felt like they were just doing what they did. The beauty of that whole era was the freedom and natural approach the bands brought to their own music.
Can you tell us a bit about the three major periods of the Cynic's existence, namely 1987-1990: demo days, 1990-1992: progressive era and the last period is the "Focus" era and the many guest contributions Cynic members did with bands like Monstrosity, Pestilence, Master, Death, etc. How do you remember all these different eras of the band?
They all feel like a blur to me... running into each other with no separation. We were working and producing music constantly through all those periods and one just led to the next without thought. Again cynicalsphere.com says it better than I in terms of analysis. I can say that the creative process is ever unfolding as long one keeps working. Who would have guessed Sean and I would be making the music we do in Aeon Spoke today, after years of Death and Cynic? The path of an artist is an 'ever expanding sphere'.
You and drummer Sean Reinert also are featured on Death's seminal "Human" album. On what basis did Chuck Schuldiner choose the both of you for this session? Were you friends prior to those recordings?
Chuck and I were friends for many years prior to working with him. We hung out during the 'Death' demo days leading up to Scream Bloody Gore. I toured with Chuck for Leprosy when he parted with Rick Rozz and Spiritual Healing when he parted with James Murphy. I was kind of his backup friend ready to help him when he needed me. By the time Human came around I kind of sold Sean to Chuck from our demos. I knew a rehearsal would convince him without a doubt. It was just a natural progression from years of friendship.
The constellation of that particular Death record seemed to almost unreal. Not only had it both Cynic members, but also the grandfather of technical death metal to front it all. Was there a certain electricity in the air at the time? Did you feel you were writing history as the sessions and rehearsals progressed for this album?
There was excitement in the air, but otherwise we were just doing the work and quite mellow about it all. We knew this was Death's strongest material to date and felt great about the songs...the rest was in the universe's hands.
I understand it was initially planned to have some of you returning on Death's "Symbolic" album. But that didn't work out due to scheduling conflicts. How would you say the album would have turned out if you had the opportunity to be involved again?
The album would have probably been quite different. The essence of Chuck would always be at the core of any Death record, but the musicians he surrounded himself with would have an effect. As an old friend of Chuck's, I had a comfort level with him unlike many of the other musicians that worked with him. I was able to push him in other directions and explore new things. We really felt like a band during the "Human" cycle, and it probably would have gone even deeper into band like participation had done another record. The relationship a main songwriter has with his own musicians will dramatically affect the performance of the work.
Tell us how it was working with Chuck Schuldiner - he was a man of incredible vision, perseverance and talent.
It was enjoyable most of the time. We were very comfortable with each other and shared many of the same ideas and aspirations. Chuck was a hard worker and a true music lover. He had a great sense of humour when he let his guard down and opened up. It took a lot to gain Chuck's trust, and not a lot to lose it. But that's what made him so unique. He was sensitive and sought out peaceful experiences. The business was brutal then and Chuck persevered in the midst of it, always returning to the music.
Tony Choy also contributed his bass talents to Dutch technical death/thrash metallers Pestilence on their "Testimony Of the Ancients" album. Did this collaboration come from the touring both bands did together?
You'd have to ask Tony, but I think Tony met Pestilence while in the studio recording with Atheist. Tony C. never toured with Cynic.
How did the relationship with Roadrunner Records start? I understand Kelly Shaefer from Atheist put in a good word for the band?
Kelly helped spread the Cynic word in many ways. One of which was exposing us to Borivoj Krgin (the writer) who thankfully enjoyed our music, and ultimately helped us get the deal.
Both yourself, Death, Pestilence and Atheist were really pushing the envelope of the death metal genre back in those days. Do you feel that you were all a bit misunderstood back then, while you were essentially paving the way for the technical metal genre, that would blossom years later?
We had our share of fans, but it was an incredibly difficult road. Not many people understood what we were doing. We were creating this music without any result in mind, and that's why it worked. We never saw it as paving any road. We just created music that we enjoyed. Curiously it made an impact, and that we're grateful for.
In 1993 "Focus" was released through Roadrunner Records, whom also financed your 4th demo. The album became a righteous classic and benchmark in the technical/progressive death metal scene. Can you tell us a bit about the songs, lyrics and concepts you were pursuing on that record? Any interesting facts/trivia about the recording/touring for this album?
The vision for Cynic came together on multiple levels for "Focus". We felt like the songs had arrived into a new place that was finally accurate to what we were hearing in our heads. The lyrics evolved from intense personal spiritual practice over the years past and the songs captured that excitement. Our lives were changing at an incredible rate during the time of "Focus" and the album expressed the intensity of that period. Prior to recording "Focus", we made pre-production demos that helped us get organized for the studio. I'll never forget the synchronicities that beautifully unfolded when ideas were needed. The tours were a rollercoaster ride. Although we had a handful of US shows that were memorable, European audiences really got into the details. I remember a show in Germany where a kid had a music note pad and was transcribing our music while watching. He literally jotted down guitar riffs and a solo mid-performance. He showed me after... I was amazed.
The first ever Cynic track - 'Uroboric Forms' - appeared on a Roadrunner Records compilation named "At Death's Door II" - which was meant to promote and raise awareness said labels latest signings. Did any particular reaction come from the scene of that?
From what I remember, Roadrunner received much positive feedback about Cynic from the compilation.
In November 2004 Roadrunner Records re-issued "Focus" with three tracks from the "Portal" sessions. Was this done with the band's consent and involvement?
Yes, but Roadrunner strictly released what we gave them. Sean and I actually paid out of our own pocket to have three songs remixed along with creating the historical picture collage and re-mastering the entire record, including the "Portal" tracks. They plan on re-releasing the reissue in 2007 throughout Europe.
I understand you had about 10 tracks written and were heading into ambient pop and ethereal soundscapes with that "Portal" session. Have the remaining 7 tracks ever seen official release in one form or another?
No. We may release the entire "Portal" demo in early 2007.
During that time you had the services of female vocalist Aruna Abrams. What has come of her and her further career after her work in Cynic?
She is a solo artist living in Los Angeles. Check out arunamusic.com for more info. She's a very talented pop songwriter and musician.
For a number of years there have been talks/speculations about a Cynic DVD. Will that still see the light of day anywhere in the near future? I read you had tons of footage available for that.
Yes. A live DVD and a making of "Focus" will appear sometime in 2007.
Thanks a lot for filling us in on all these questions, Paul. If there's anything else you would like to say to your East-European fans, here's the space!
Thank you for the interview and to all the European fans for the incredible support. Please stay tuned for upcoming Cynic live dates through cynicalsphere.com and for your mellower half, come support Aeon Spoke. We have a new record coming out in March of 2007 on SPV Records. Check aeonspoke.com for updates and join the mailing list. Love and light!
Edited for Empty©Words 07-02-07