CYNIC Frontman: ‘Sometimes The Most Seemingly Negative Pieces Of Music Can Be Very Therapeutic’

Mark Holmes of Metal Discovery conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal the progressive rock/metal band CYNIC on December 5, 2011 in London, England. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metal Discovery: You have a new EP out, “Carbon-Based Anatomy”, which is quite an ambiguous title but is there a concept or motif which binds the songs together because the music and flow of the tracks seem to point towards that?

Paul: I don’t like to be too literal about concepts just because I want the listener to have their own journey with it but there’s definitely a thread there, a slender thread that’s bridging it all together. It’s kind of a journey about life and death which is pretty much what every CYNIC record is, to some degree. This one, in particular, is very earth-based and that’s why it’s that title because humans are comprised of carbon. It’s really a lyric taken from the first song, from “Carbon-Based Anatomy”, and then I just ended up titling the record that way. So, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t like to be too literal in breaking down concepts. For me, there’s a lot going on there but I’d rather everyone just get their own experience.

Metal Discovery: So do you hope CYNIC‘s music is healing in any way?

Paul: I can’t claim any of that, I just know that this is what interests me and I just feel like music in general, for me, sometimes the most seemingly negative pieces of music can be very therapeutic for certain people and vice versa. So, for me, that’s what it represents in terms of what we’re doing. And what we’re trying to do, at least to some degree, is help people maybe wake up a little bit, see a little bit clearer. I think, again, it’s always a self-reflective process so as long as I’m telling the truth to myself, the listener will get that also.

Metal Discovery: Based on the new EP, I’ve recently read journalists describe your music as “space rock,” which brings to mind HAWKWIND, I guess. Do you think that label over-simplifies your sound and might be misleading for some people?

Paul: I think labels in general and the moment you start deploying semantics to describe sound architecture, you’re limiting it already because it’s such an ambiguous thing, you know, music in general.

Metal Discovery: That’s what journalists have to do though — they only have the written word and musicians have the sounds!

Paul: Right, exactly. And there’s this subjective quality to music that makes it very mysterious because every each person has their own interpretation based on their own experience. But I definitely hear some space rock in there, for sure. That’s part of CYNIC‘s thing is, for some reason, it always ends up sounding modern and futuristic.

Metal Discovery: You get labelled as progressive a lot more these days more so than when “Focus” was originally released which I think can be quite limiting too for a band like CYNIC because progressive has unfortunately become regarded a genre. Would you say being progressive for you is more an attitude towards creating music?

Paul: Yeah, exactly, I like that. I like the more vague meaning of progressive which is forward-thinking music in general regardless of genre. There’s obviously progressive metal, progressive rock, progressive pop, progressive fusion… but, yeah, I don’t know, we’re pretty hybridised in that sense. You can’t really put us in any particular niche; we’ve always been outsiders in that sense.

Metal Discovery: Would you say being progressive for you is also about challenging yourself as a musician as much as trying to write innovative music?

Paul: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s always trying to push the envelope and explore and keep things moving, instead of staying in safe comfort zones. CYNIC has always been about getting out of our comfort zone and, without it even being intentional, I think it’s just the natural process for Sean [Reinert, drums] and I as musicians to keep it interesting. That’s just what happens; I don’t know why but I don’t like to stay in cocoons. Especially as an artist, you just want to keep breaking and pushing boundaries, and exploring. Thankfully, I think our first record set that up to some degree because it did cover quite a bit of territory.

Metal Discovery: So what’s been your biggest challenge as a musician and songwriter during your career in terms of pushing yourself and your abilities?

Paul: I don’t know; I think there’s this overwhelming aspect to just being a musician and the nature of music itself is so vast and deep and complex that I’m kind of in awe of it constantly. And I realise how I’m a beginner for the rest of my life and even if I just locked myself up and practice for twelve hours a day I’m not sure I’d still get to where… you know what I mean? You’re always reaching for something so it’s that endless task of trying to write the perfect song and execute everything. That’s just one of those things that is part of the tortured reality of being an artist and musician that wants to make everything right. You’re just consumed by it and it’s never quite there. But that’s the beauty of it too; it drives the whole thing.

Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery.

Photo credit: Mark Holmes