est known for their session
work with some of death/thrash metal's most respected and
talented acts, Miami's CYNIC aren't, nor do they wish to be
perceived as, a typical group. Easily some of the most proficient
musicians within the genre, the quartet - composed of guitarist/vocalist
Paul Masvidal, drummer Sean Reinert, guitarist Jason Gobel,
and bassist Tony Choy - are constantly pushing themselves
to excel in their act, creating in the process some of the
most technically-involved and musically-advanced material
ever put on tape by a metal band.
Through the individual members
recent involvements with such internationally-recognized
acts as DEATH (Paul and Sean played on the "Human"
LP and are currently touring with the Schuldiner-led combo),
PESTILENCE (Tony performed on "Testimony Of The Ancients"
and is also currently on the road with the band), ATHEIST
(Tony wrote material for and played on "Unquestionable
Presence"), MASTER (Paul laid down most of the guitar
parts for the "And On The Seventh Day God Created Master"
album) and newcomers MONSTROSITY (Jason guested on the "Imperial
Doom" LP and has played live shows with the group),
CYNIC have already established quite a name for themselves
in the metal underground, resulting in an imminent, long-term
contract with Roadrunner Records and the projected recording
of the group's debut LP during the summer of '92. I recently
spoke with Masvidal and Choy as the duo were preparing to
complete their present touring commitments with the aforementioned
Most of the attention
given to CYNIC over the last few months has been a result
of your contributions to other bands rather than your own
achievements as a group. This will surely raise some doubts
in people regarding your ability to get a record deal on
your own rather than having to rely on other bands for exposure.
"We haven't relied on other bands for exposure,"
says Paul. "We've taken advantage of the opportunity
given to us by other groups for exposure. And we used it
to our advantage knowing that it would benefit us in the
long run, and it has."
Yeah, but your main
reason for playing with all these bands was in order to
get exposure, correct? "We want not just the exposure,
but also the experience, travel and income," states
the guitarist. "We're trying to survive as musicians
more so than anything else. CYNIC is just where our hearts
lie musically, and it wasn't just for the benefit
of CYNIC that we did all this. There was a lot of personal
and individual reasons. It just worked out for the best."
Do you think, in a
way, that your involvement with these other bands has also
overshadowed, to a certain extent, your position within
CYNIC? By that, I mean, if someone hears the name Paul Masvidal
now, they're more likely to think of DEATH rather than CYNIC,
and by the same token, if they were to hear Tony Choy's
name, they would more likely associate him with PESTILENCE
and ATHEIST than with his full-time band. "That's cool,"
reckons Paul. "The whole thing is, they know, and most
of the kids know we're not full time members. They know
that CYNIC exists. That was the whole point behind it -
almost to take advantage of it, this opportunity to be able
to do these other records while these kids still know that
we have something else and that we're not fully commited
to these bands. They don't think, 'Paul Masvidal: member
of DEATH.' they just think, 'Paul Masvidal's played on the
record and is touring with them'."
"As for me,"
adds Tony, "Patrick (Mameli, PESTILENCE guitarist/vocalist)
says it every night at every show, he announces me as a
member of CYNIC and a guest session player playing with
them. Everything relies, too, on a good friendship kind
of a thing, helping them out while helping us (CYNIC)."
"Yeah, we're all doing each other favours," continues
the guitarist. "They're helping us out with the exposure
and the income and all that shit, and we're helping them
out musically and performance-wise, so it's kind of like
an equal thing."
Now that you've had
a chance to realize your basic goals in terms of recording
albums and touring the world, do you feel that the time
has come for you to leave these other projects aside and
concetrate fully on CYNIC, so that you may give this band
the chance that it deserves? "We definitely intend
to once all this stuff is put aside," confirms Paul.
"Because CYNIC is always gonna be priority after this."
But you do acknowledge
that the last twelve months have basically been spent in
relative inactivity, with you in essence working around
other bands schedules rather than your own? "If you
look at it that way, in some ways it did hurt CYNIC,"
conceeds the six-stringer. "Because we haven't practiced
as a band for the past... whatever - I mean, we went almost
a year without really being a band, but it seems as though
that much more separation is what's bringing about that
much more dedication within us. It's like, us being that
much further away from each other, all these other bands
making us realize how much more we wanne be coming back
to CYNIC. It was, like, almost a necessary lesson for us,
'cause we were getting almost bored with everything. At
the time when we took all these opportunities coming to
us, CYNIC was a complete standstill; we couldn't get a deal,
everything was just hanging there, there was nothing going
on. And then all the shit happened, and we got all involved
in it, and held on to the idea of CYNIC and kept it going,
and now that we've been away from it for so long, it's like
we're all that much more into coming back to it. It hurts
us to a degree, because we haven't been writing material,
we haven't been... like, that side of things, but again,
in the long run, it's gonna benefit us, because we're gonna
have a lot more opportunity as a first-album band, because
of all this other shit."
Considering the fact
that you basically had to take a year off from CYNIC in
order for you to properly see these projects through to
the very end, how are you preparing to handle potential
future situations that may involve a clash in touring/recording
activity between DEATH and CYNIC, or PESTILENCE and CYNIC?
"It's like I said before - when it comes down to it,
CYNIC is our priority," confirms Paul. "That's
the deciding factor for us - PESTILENCE or DEATH - if they're
willing to wait or they can go ahead and find somebody else.
It's up to them, really - whether they're gonna be patient
enough to think that our services were that good that they'll
say, 'OK, we'll wait for 'em no matter how long it takes.
It was worth having them and we'll wait.' It's up to them."
So, you would have
no problems with it if these two bands were to look elsewhere
for other musicians if you weren't available to play with
them during a specific time period? "No, not at all,"
insists Tony. "We came in at the beginning just helping
them out. It was always their option to look for other players
if they wanted to. We were just there 'cause we had the
opportunity, and we took it. CYNIC was our priority, and
our priority's gonna start taking in soon. I guess, they
will have to either wait, or find somebody else. They've
talked about it a couple of times already..."
What is it that CYNIC
offers to you that these other bands, like DEATH or PESTILENCE,
or ATHEIST, can't offer you, that makes you so dedicated
and committed to this one project? "It's the most free-form
expression possible with absolutely no limitations musically,"
says Paul. "It's just something there musically and
personally that we'd like to hold on to and don't wanna
throw away. We all have the same ideas, we are just on the
same level when it comes to music and things like that.
It would be stupid to abandon it, just like the whole idea
of this income of these bands that we're working with, that's
almost stupid to abandon. As far as I'm concerned, CYNIC
is in another world next to PESTILENCE and DEATH."
"It's also the
getting-used-to point of things," continues Tony. "We're
so used to each other as far as working overall, it's like,
I can show Paul a rhythm, and right there, he can show me
another rhythm, and Jason can come in and whatever. It just
clicks very quickly, as far as writing."
It's clear that the
two of you and Sean have kept quite busy in the last year
doing these other projects, but it appears that Jason has
been left somewhat in the background almost. Has this lack
of activity affected his outlook on the band and his dedication
and commitment to the group? "He's just very excited
and envious of us that we're in this situation," reckons
Has that created any
tension within the band? "Not at all," states
the guitarist firmly. "He, in his own way, has been
just as productive, practising and working and playing with
some other bands locally around here, he's doing his own
thing. So, it hasn't been like a waste of time for him at
"We're all really
anxious to get the CYNIC thing going," adds Tony. "We're
just waiting for everything to end, just so that we can
get our stuff going, and see what CYNIC can really do."
You stated earlier
that you were basically appoached to play with DEATH and
PESTILENCE as, more or less, hired hands. Do you perceive
yourselves as hired hands? "Yes, we still totally consider
it that," admits the guitarist.
Is that the way you
approach it - as a job rather than something you fully enjoy
doing? "It's not like we're onstage going through the
motions, as you made it seem in your live review,"
says Paul making reference to my writ-up of DEATH's New
York show in the last issue. "It does get a bit monotonous
sometimes (the live performance), but it's not something
where you say, 'Yeah , my job, I gotta do my job.' It is
completely work, but it's something we wanne be doing, so
to a degree. At least it's involving music, and we're getting
paid for it. That right there is the bottom line. As long
as those two things are happening, then it's not that terrible.
But with Tony, there's not as much separation on the business
end of things as to where it is with Skott (Carino, current
DEATH bassist), Sean and I, as opposed
to Eric (Greif, DEATH manager) and Chuck (Schuldiner, DEATH
guitarist/vocalist). There's two different things going
on there. Tony is just in on it with them."
"Yeah my deal
with PESTILENCE is totally personal," states Tony.
"I'm very good friends with all the guys, that's how
it all works."
Anybody that's fairly
familiar with CYNIC's music and that knows what you guys
are all about would probably find it difficult to believe
that you would find DEATH and PESTILENCE material to be
musically-challenging and interesting to perform. Do you
personally get bored playing these songs night after night?
"As far as me and PESTILENCE, these guys wanna progress,"
says the bassist. "They wanna get better, they're getting
in the same thinking mode as far as the challenge (aspect
of playing). They're willing to do the same shit. Like,
they're getting into the same music that I am. Everybody
is progressing. I don't find PESTILENCE boring (to play)
at all. As far as PESTILENCE goes, I'm still a fan."
"Yeah, it's just
fun to play," adds Paul. "And Chuck also, in particular,
intends to progress, too, and has that whole idea - musicianship
and becoming more involved and all that - whatever. But
the thing about DEATH's live show, for example, is there
is so much more space and stuff in the music that allows
for a lot more improvisation, it's just challenging in that
way, to just have not everything so structured, to just
be able to be free and... just be able to go on
spontaneous things at moments, like, with leads, and drums-
Sean's constantly doing different stuff - it allows more
space for improvisation, which, live, is great to do."
Tony, prior to your work with PESTILENCE, you were working
with ATHEIST, and it was even mentioned that you had become
a full-time member of that band at one point. However, it
appears that there's been a turn of events in the meantime
which has resulted in them getting another bassist (Darren
McFarland) into the group. What exactly happened to cause
the split betweeen you and the band? "I can't say I
should have never been so enthusiastic (about playing with
ATHEIST), 'cause that was my reaction," says Tony.
"I was giving them my 100% dedication, which... that's
what kind of screwed things up in the thinking mode kind
of way, I led them to expect too much of me, while I should
have drawn back and told them from the very beginning, 'No
big expectations.' I guess I was doing a good job for them,
and they were giving me exposure with this album and all
this stuff. But, I should have never... I can't say 'promised',
'cause everybody promised everybody a lot of things, which
weren't delivered at the end, obviously. The whole thing,
the enthusiastic part, it got too crazy, it got too involved,
and just talking and..."
Can you be a bit more
specific? "Basically, the reason was, ATHEIST didn't
have a tour lined-up," elaborates the bassist. "But
PESTILENCE had this U.S. tour, and it was very benficial
for me, 'cause I was touring with Paul and Sean (PESTILENCE
suported DEATH on the first leg of their recent U.S. tour),
we were all gonna return at the same time, we were all together,
Kelly (Shaefer, ATHEIST guitarist/vocalist) still tells
me, 'face it dude, you wanted to make money, and you wanted
to tour, it wasn't a personal (friendship) thing,' but it
was, I wanna make that clear. Sure, it was very convenient,
but also, it was personal, too. PESTILENCE are great friends
of mine, as well as ATHEIST. That's all that happened. I
guess they only saw their side of it until now, when everything
Recently, there was
an interview in Metal Forces with Kelly Shaefer,
in which some statements were made regarding CYNIC and your
long-term future as a band. More specifically, it was implied
that CYNIC really didn't have much of a future beyond the
first album, and that your families are financially stable
enough to where you really are not concerned about having
a career in music. If you want to clear the air on that
and set the record straight, this is your chance... "The
money thing and all that, not being concerned with money,
is ridiculous," states Paul.
"Yeah, that was
really ridiculous," agrees the bass player. "I
don't know where that came from. But, as far as the one-album
deal, the only way I could see Kelly saying something like
that was 'cause our expectations and seriousness about our
music was towards college and stuff. But we know... we have
a lot of desires for CYNIC, we want CYNIC to grow , there's
nothing that we want more. School's always gonna be there,
and we're just gonna do what we can with CYNIC. But as far
as the other stuff, like the money..."
"I don't even
know where that came into it," continues Paul. "That
was just out of reference, really, because one of the main
reasons, besides exposure and everything, of us doing all
this outside stuff, was for the financial aspect, to actually
receive income as a musician, so that we could somewhat
think that we could maybe survive one day. Like, to have
the hope, or the inspiration to say, 'Maybe I can make a
living out of this', I would love that, I wish that was
true, that I could just not have to think about it and just
be able to hang out and write, and to have income coming
from families.That would be great, but unfortunately, it
isn't true, and we are more serious than ever about our
music and making a career out of it."
CYNIC's music contains
the aggression and lack of vocal variation that is common
in thrash/death metal bands, but it also features a variety
of tempo changes and complex musical passages that are probably
more synonymous with more progressive forms of music. As
a matter of fact, your material has been described by some
as a bit of an acquired taste - meaning that it will only
appeal to a selected group of people rather than the general
heavy metal fans. How much of a future do you, as a band,
see for the kind of music that you are playing? "We
don't even wanna place a label on it, 'cause there's no
telling what we will sound like by our second record,"
says Paul. "At the rate we're going, not just musically,
but also listening-wise and everything, there's just so
much we wanna do and aren't even capable of yet, but intend
to be eventually. Metal isn't even in our heads anymore.
It's just music, and that's it. Just putting out music that
we're writing at the time and not concerning ourselves with
what style it is or what label you can place on it, it's
just not even a concern. There's no telling what this band
will sound like by our second or third record, if it comes
to that. It might be a whole other thing. Like, the first
record might sound like one band, and the second might sound
like another - it's just really hard to describe, because
we're so spontaneous when it comes to putting across an
idea musically and not holding back. There's just no limitations,
so it's hard to even predict."
In sharp contrast to
your music, however, the vocals thus far have been pretty
one-dimensional, wouldn't you agree? "Yeah, that's
the one thing that almost holds us back," reflects
the guitarist. "Though the vocal style keeps everything
pounding and keeps that edge to it, there are other things
vocally that we could touch on that would make the music
even more exciting, instead of just the same growling style,
not stuff that I necessarily could do, but that we can do
as a band."
Do you forsee yourselves
getting a more versatile singer, or will you be keeping
the formation as it currently stands? "Not necessarily
getting a singer, but just doing something bizarre and different
instead of the same death metal thing," reveals Paul.
"Just something new, and totally putting our music
in a whole other dimension, so that we're just not even
next to anybody."
Listening to your latest
three-song demo, which was recorded specifically for Roadrunner
Records, it appears that there's a bit more of an emphasis
on making the music accessible than has been the case before
- the material is still highly complex, but the riffs come
across as a bit catchier and melodic in places. Has all
the criticism regarding the uncatchiness of your songs made
you rethink your approach somewhat? "To a degree, I
think it has," admits Paul. "But we never really
seriously concerned ourselves with that."
"It was our own
criticism, also, our own judgement about the music, as far
as everything went," adds Tony. "It's like, I'm
saying, 'This needs to be better,' and 'This needs to be
more attractive,' just fixing up things - I guess, just
maturing in writing."
"Yeah, we got
better at structuring the songs," continues the guitarist.
"But I think that, if we were really concerning ourselves
on the public-eye level and all that shit, we would just
go all out and produce ear-candy cheese for the sake of
ear-candy cheese, to have a product that would make money,
and that isn't very hard, I don't think."
One of the criticisms
that you've already heard and that you will continue to
hear is that your music is written strictly to be as complex
and intricate as possible, without much attention being
paid to the feel of the song. "The thing with that
is, there's definitely not a conscious effort at all to
try and write in that style or anything," states Paul.
"This is just how we write, just like if we were writing
what somebody considers a simpler, cooler groove riff -
maybe we did write riffs like that at a particular time,
but at this time, what we write is just what we write and
it comes out as naturally as does anybody else's riffs that
they feel are cool. There is no conscious effort to make
it any more technical or involved than it actually is, it
is just completely natural."
But do you find that,
in general, it's the more intricate, complex material that
you find particularly appealing, as a listener? "You
know what it is? It's more entertaining to our ears,"
reckons Paul. "We are more entertained by something
that's more involved musically. Though, there are plenty
of bands that we listen to that are very simple and that
have two changes in their songs, that are just totally get
into also, but yeah, there's that whole technical side that,
it's just so intense and so amazing to our ears. It's, like,
entertainment. It's like watching a killer flick or something."
I know that you've previously stated the fact that you're
very much against the idea of repeating ideas within the
context of an individual song, as far as repeating riffs
and stuff like that... "That's just saying that, basically
we're sick of the standard format that's been done time
and time again, and we're just tired of it," states
the guitarist firmly.
So how are you supposed
to achieve that element of accessibility, to where people
will be able to remember your riffs and melodies having
heard your songs only once? "You realize that it isn't
ear-candy and that it's not designed for that," states
Paul. "There's a lot more to it in that it has a more
long-term, lasting effect than just the initial, 'Cool,
I got the chorus,' you know? We'd like to think.. 'OK, man,
let me rewind it and hear this again.' Entertainment for
the ears is just like, drive-in-your-car-and-whistle type
"There's video games that are, like, let's say, Donkey
Kong," adds Tony. "And there's people that
wanna get into the intricate shit, like... whatever, Dungeons
And Dragons. There's far more complex for people that
are willing to dig, really dig into this stuff. Unfortunatelly,
there's less of them, there's more of the Donkey Kong
Finally, when can we
expect to see the debut CYNIC record in the stores? "Hopefully,
when we finish the DEATH European tour at the end of March,
we're gonna set aside at least two months probably to get
our shit together," reveals Paul. "We're estimating
the end of summer '92 will be the release date. That's if
everything goes as planned, which is a hard thing to say."