DATE OF INTERVIEW:
22nd November 2008
METAL DISCOVERY: How big an influence is John McLaughlin on your playing style and song writing because there’s a lot of jazz fusion inspired parts in your music, and you’ve covered ‘Meeting of the Spirits’?
MD: Have you ever seen him play live?
PAUL MASVIDAL: Yeah, he’s definitely in my top five of guitar players. It’s funny, I just had to do a top ten CDs of all time and I put McLaughlin ‘My Goals Beyond’ which is one of my favourites. But Mahavishnu, and even the Shakti stuff, I mean McLaughlin’s one of those people that, not only as a musician, but the fact that he brought spirit together with music, and kinda found those two worlds, he was like a mentor to me. It was like, wow, look at this guy, he’s just got it all so balanced with these things and he’s just…and he really communicates through music and it’s kind of this whole language. Yeah, he’s definitely one of those people that I would just probably fall over the floor if I met him, you know! [laughs]
PM: Yeah, sure, yeah, I’ve seen him a few times, but just to kind of be in his presence…but yeah, a huge fan, he’s definitely up there. He’s a big influence.
(Paul Masvidal speculating how he'd react were he to ever meet legendary jazz-rock fusion pioneer John McLaughlin)
"...he’s definitely one of those people that I would just probably fall over the floor if I met him..."
Cynic in their dressing room backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, 22nd November 2008
Photograph copyright © 2008 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Cynic Website:
Official Cynic MySpace:
Traced In Air (2008)
Season of Mist Records Website:
Thanks to Hannah Sylvester for recording the interview.
Thanks to Gunnar Sauermann at Season of Mist Records for arranging the interview.
Cheers to Paul Masvidal for taking time out to be interviewed.
MD: Are your musical influences now pretty much the same as when you wrote and recorded ‘Focus’ or have you found inspiration from any other musicians or genres of music over the years?
PM: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think over the years, especially post-‘Focus’, I got into a lot of other stuff. First, I got deep into jazz, like I went back to school and I studied with Joe Diorio and Scott Henderson, and a just got even the way I was like should I become a jazz dude? You know, and I was like wait, I don’t know if I’m good enough, you know. And also just that’s probably harder of an existence than anything, and one of my teachers said that; he says you have to want jazz more than anything in order to take this as your path as a musician, because it’s maybe the hardest of all, because it’s such an underground, you know, to make a living as a jazz musician. But I think also I got into song writing big time. You know, I went through a period where I was just playing acoustic guitar, and I wanted…I kind of got obsessed with The Beatles, and I just wanted to learn how to write beautiful, simple songs, and so that whole thing came into the picture, and trying to kind of develop myself as a singer.
MD: Is that where Aeon Spoke came in?
PM: Totally. It was like…’cause I felt like, okay, I can do technical, progressive stuff, how about deconstruction; can I still say, you know, just as much with less information, which becomes the new challenge. You know, it’s like minimalist painting or something, but you learn how to have a similar level of depth, but there’s just less junk. But I do find it hard that I’m a huge fan of layers [laughs], and colours, and just a lot of stuff, it’s…
MD: You can hear it in the Cynic music!
PM: Yeah, it’s a tapestry, you know, that’s really the funnest thing for me. But yeah, all kinds of stuff - getting into world music and kind of, you know, different variations of like pop, and jazz, and fusion, and of course rock, and then there’s the metal stuff, and kind of…I still find I’m like probably a bigger fan of the early nineties, you know, metal scene, just that whole wave still resonates with me deeper. But there’s some new stuff that we’ve been kind of listening to on the bus that I’m getting turned on to - man, there’s some great things happening now too, it’s definitely…
MD: Inspired by yourselves!
PM: Yeah, I mean there’s just like another wave now it seems…I mean, as much as there’s an inundation of junk, there’s some great stuff too.
MD: Definitely. When did you become aware that your band hadn’t been booked for Wacken Open Air this year and it was in fact a small English metal band?
PM: Yeah, that was a mistake the promoter made, and I was kinda shocked because I was like, wow, like is the other Cynic that popular?! You know, I was like, man, we’ve got competition! I didn’t realise, you know, and then somehow we got an email from someone through another agent, and they’re like “oh, he made a mistake and booked the wrong Cynic, and he was supposed to get hold of you guys, and he didn’t know that you were your last band or whatever and…”. But the Brit Cynic were really cool. You know, they emailed us, and we’ve been in touch with them I guess over the years - even in the older Cynic days, I think we met them once and they’re just really cool guys. They were just totally cool about everything and said “oh yeah, they made this mistake”, and I guess they sent them an apologetic email too.
MD: They didn’t keep quiet about it when they were booked and thought, ah, we’re onto a good thing here, the main stage at Wacken!
PM: [laughs] I haven’t really even heard their music I don’t think. Have you heard them before?
MD: I think it’s old-school metal, New Wave of British Heavy Metal, like NWOBHM.
PM: Ah okay. Yeah, they’re older guys; they’ve been around, right.
MD: Yeah, so nothing like your Cynic - I think there might have been a few disappointed people turning up expecting to hear ‘Focus’ songs, and hearing Iron Maiden type stuff!
[we both temporarily pause as someone starts sustaining high notes loudly just over the way]
PM: Vocal warm-ups! [laughs]
MD: Ah, of course! Did you receive any criticisms for using Tony Teegarden’s death-growls on backing tracks when you did the first shows?
PM: Sure. And I think it was one of those last resort options that we had because we intended to bring Tony along and Tony, when we finally told him what we could pay him, it was like hey, this isn’t about money, this is a kind of labour; we’re doing this to bring the music out there, but we’re not making a killing or anything, we can’t guarantee much more than this, and he’s like…well, Tony’s not in the music business anymore. He has a desk job, and he sells…I don’t know what he does…like legal advice or something for some…and anyway, he makes a lot of money, and he’s just like “I don’t know if I wanna go rough it and do that, you know”…and he kinda said to me that he’s really out of being a musician ‘cause musicians mostly…you know, you don’t count the cost of an opportunity to see the world, and even if you don’t have to spend a dime, but it just wasn’t enough for him. And then we had this last minute thing where who are we gonna get and oh, we didn’t really have any options. We even had to cancel this Milwaukee show we were booked for. So then it was like, oh well, let’s do a backing track. [laughs]
MD: I understand you held a competition for fans to perform death vocals on one track at some shows - how did that work out?
PM: It was great. It was really great! It was kinda the first time I think we gave fans an opportunity to interact with us because Cynic’s been always so removed and isolated, and kind of, you know, hard to find out things about, and we thought here’s a chance to kinda…and we got so many responses! I was amazed at how many growlers are out there! It was like tonnes, and we had them do an audition to ‘Uroboric Forms’ and there was just a shitload of emails from people. And some produced them really well - I was like god…it was obvious who had a home studio and who didn’t, but some of them were really good and it was a great way to kind of connect with fans and pull ‘em up on stage, and have ‘em yell their eyes out to a tune, you know!
MD: I guess a question you get asked the most - how long do you anticipate the reunion carrying on for?
PM: Erm…in terms of what’s going on now?
MD: In terms of do you anticipate more albums and…
PM: I think so. I mean, I’m trying to just stay present with what’s going on, but as far as I can tell, it seems like we’re just gonna keep moving forward and trying…Sean and I just figured we’ll just sleep less and do everything - all the different things that we do as musicians and Cynic, it feels very real right now; it feels really honest, and like a pure thing, and I just…I don’t see why I should inhibit that. You know, it’s a really…even kind of writing and doing the music it’s a return to this childhood kind of thing where it’s so pure, and it’s like innocent, you know, it feels real, it’s like yeeaahh. And I’m kind of digging getting up there and doing this heavier stuff again, you know, it’s just kind of there’s something in my bones that has been aching for because I’ve been doing such mellow stuff for so long. That visceral kind of thing has just something about it that is speaking to me again so we’ll see. It seems like we’re gonna keep moving forward and just…
MD: Yeah, hopefully for many years to come.
PM: Yeah, I hope so too.
MD: It’s like with the Atheist thing when Kelly Shaefer originally, when the old Atheist albums got reissued, he was like there won’t be any live shows, blah, blah, then they got back together, toured, and now there’s gonna be a new album.
PM: Yeah, right, one thing led to another.
MD: You seem to have had a faster progression than Atheist though, you know, tour, album.
PM: Yeah! I was amazed that I said to Tymon, ‘cause I was trying to figure out what happened, you know, we were talking about something and I was like it’s been two years, right, and he was like “no, it’s been a year”, and I was like holy fuck, it’s been the busiest year of my life between the touring that we did and then writing a whole new record. But it kinda said a lot to me as a musician how much my chops have grown as a songwriter because I know how to write a song, you know, and I know how to make it work and create the shape. I feel like it’s like I’m more prolific now; my skills are better.
MD: The ‘Focus’ songs are pretty fucking flawless though!
PM: Yeah, even then, but you have…as they say, you have your whole life to write your first record, and ‘Focus’ was the accumulation of all those demos and whatever, and then finally this final vision of all that, but it seems like this record was really written in nine months. I mean it was just non-stop, twelve hour days…I literally just had to show up to my studio every day and put on my guitar and kind of…it felt like literally the record wrote me. I didn’t feel like…I had laborious moments where I was killing myself over one word or one line or something but, for the most part, it felt like it was not me that wrote it, you know. It felt like it came through, and just how things were so obvious to us like oh, of course we’ll do this, you know, it was just so instinctual. And I know when you make art that way, it’s just like you don’t second guess; it’s like it’s coming from a purer source so it feels…and I’m like yeah, I know we did everything to make this record as potent and as kind of honest as possible, and I think we captured it.
MD: Cool! Thank you very much for your time.
PM: Thank you.
MD: That was very insightful!
PM Ah great, thank you!