Paul Masvidal of Cynic

Cynic

Nick: Hello Paul. How are you doing?

Paul: I’m well, thanks.

Nick: How was the European tour you just completed? It’s good that you are back again and I hope there will be another leg of that one, so you might come and play Serbia again. You played here last year for the second time in three years, if I’m not wrong, so what are your memories of the Serbian crowd, Belgrade, etc? I know you’ve had a lot of fun here, right?

Paul: The Euro tour was fun. We love Serbia, had some great shows there with wonderful fans.

Nick: It’s interesting that the upcoming US tour will be your first headlining tour over US, which is really weird, because Cynic is from there, which makes me wonder why you guys didn’t do a headline tour after Traced in Air came out. Would you tell us something more about it?

Paul: We chose to do some support tours and re-establish the band by playing for new and larger audiences with other groups. We knew we’d eventually do a headline run, but were waiting for the right time.

Nick: Let’s talk a bit of your latest musical achievement, an EP called Re-Traced. Why did you decide to re-do some of the original tracks from Traced in Air? Did you just think the songs needed better versions than the originals?

Paul: We had a month off between tours and decided that would be the most productive and creative use of the time. The EP was an experiment and opportunity for us to show Cynic fans another side of the album. Showcasing more the roots of the songs. It also told us we can do lots of different things and still  sound like Cynic.

Nick: If you ask me, I could say that you guys are doing a great job with these “RE” projects the band is working on lately. It’s not common that bands work on retrospectives like this. Have you feared that your final product will bring disappointment to Cynic fans?

Paul: I trust our instincts and know that if we’re meeting our own standards, we shouldn’t disappoint the fans. Ultimately we have to be truthful with our own creative process and then I think everything works out fine.

Nick: I like to compare this EP with the original songs, if you know what I mean, as I have an opinion that you’ve successfully established differences in these remixes, while still keeping them recognizable. And as an example of it, I could add that in Space (which is in its base The Space for This) the fusion rhythmic nature is successfully changed by beautiful harmonic work. How did you see that re-creating process?

Paul: I really enjoyed the process. We had a lot fun making the EP and rediscovering the songs for ourselves. It was going straight into the unknown and yet completely trusting in the work because the songs were intact to begin with.

Nick: Wheels within Wheels is a completely new track, written specially for the EP, so can we consider Re-Traced as a prologue of sorts for something fresh from Cynic, or is it supposed to hold up on its own for a while?

Paul: Wheels was actually written before TIA. We revisited the song when making the EP and decided bring it on when in the process. I think the EP stands on its own as a body of work.

Nick: Integral presents an acoustic version of Integral Birth and it seems to me that this piece might have been used to create the original, but I’m probably wrong. Do you consider that if songs created on acoustic guitar sound good, they will sound even better if they are played electrified – with a full band?

Paul: The EP version of Integral is much like the demo version that was originally written. I think if you can write a convincing tune with just voice and guitar, it will be easier to elaborate on the tune and turn it into a compete arrangement. I like working with bare bones foundations and then build from there.

Nick: The artwork for Re-Traced is also sort of a reinterpretation of the sort of figure that’s been used for other Cynic album art. Could you tell us about the meaning behind this symbol, or whatever you want to call it?

Paul: The cover angel is essentially a human / animal / alien hybrid in transformation. It represents the self between earth and cosmos. The reinterpretation is the core of this painting, kind of like what happened with the EP’s songs. It’s the root of the music, naked and exposed.

Nick: How would you compare Focus and Traced in Air? How was it back in 90′s when you were working on making Focus and how was it 2-3 years ago when you were making Traced in Air? How did your approach change in between the two albums?

Paul: TIA for me is a more mature work since we’re in a different place as artists now. I think there’s more melodic continuity on TIA. Focus has the exuberance of youth and discovery tied into it an a really unabashed free way. TIA has more wisdom and density that’s come from life experience. Both are viable works, just different sonic spaces.

Nick: Focus is one of the best albums from the 90′s certainly and one that basically traced your way, and at the other side Cynic is one of the most influential bands. But, do you think that you do not enjoy all the attention you deserve?

Paul: I’m just doing my best to enjoy the journey of making music. It’s the day to details that make this life interesting, not where it ends, or what it’s supposed to do in the public sense.

Nick: The biggest (or most noticeable) change on Traced in Air in comparison with Focus are the vocals, both growls and cleans. Do you agree? Did that segment come as a consequence of maturing, different approach or something else?

Paul: Maturing is what lead to most of the decisions. We’ve grown a lot in different ways, since the Focus days.

Nick: What message do you try to show off in your lyrics? What do some of them mean? What does this phrase mean: “Om shrim mana, lakshmeyi swama om”?

Paul: No message other than of being in the present moment. The mantra you’re asking about is for lakshmi the goddess of abundance. Not necessarily material abundance, but just abundance as in living a rich and whole life. Abundance is a perspective and that song explores the physical and mental aspects of feeling beat up by the cosmos and trying to survive it with some esoteric wisdom.

Nick: Formerly, Cynic were signed to Roadrunner Records, but Traced in Air, as well as Re-Traced have been released under Season of Mist. Not that it’s big thing, but haven’t you been contacted by Roadrunner after your return?

Paul: Sure, and many other labels, but the deal we got with SOM was really good for us and made the most sense.

Nick: It’s known that you’ve been involved in making several albums for some of the cult bands from the death metal scene back in 90′s, but surely one of the most interesting contributions of yours was with Chuck Schuldiner’s Death and the album Human, which has been followed by a tour where you and Sean Reinert has taken participation as a live musicians. Would you mind telling us something from that period? How was it working with Chuck?

Paul: I knew Chuck since my mid teens, so working with him seemed inevitable. He gave us our foray into the music business and we received quite an education in the process. Working together on the album was fluid and fun. It was a natural and creatively abundant time for Chuck and the rest of us. Touring was quite an adventure and exposed us to a whole other side of the industry and our work together.

Nick: What happens with Æon Spoke? Will there be something new at some point in the future?

Paul: It’s possible. Not sure at this point. Soley focused on Cynic for now.

Nick: A track Emmanuel from Above the Buried Cry appeared in What the Bleep do we Know film in 2005. How did this come about?

Paul: The music supervisor saw us play a show somewhere in LA an contacted us after mentioning that he wanted to use that song for a film.

Nick: I’ve been wondering if the song Pablo at the Park explicitly refers to you, considering your birth name is Pablo and the lyrics say “I’m still Pablo at the park”. Is this true?

Paul: Yes.

Nick: Another of your involvements is writing music for television and motion pictures, you have been working for Smallville, Cry Wolf, Operation Junkyard, 3rd Rock from the Sun, That 70′s Shows, among others. You are my second interviewee, besides Alan Morse who has been or who is involved in such projects. How is it working on these? Do you find it different, funny, and more interesting?

Paul:  I had a lot of fun working on all those projects and still have a foot in that world. As a session musician or composer, I get to play a different role as a musician and that can be really cool because of being exposed to styles I normally wouldn’t approach on my own. It’s always an education.

Nick: Would you tell us something about the artists/musicians/bands that have influenced you? One of my biggest likes concerning Cynic is jazzy approach, especially when it comes to bass playing. Where did you get that from?

Paul: We have always been big fans of jazz. In regard to bass players, Jaco Pastorius has always been a favorite of ours for his melodic sensibilities and massive technique.

Nick: Are you working on some new patents? What could you tell us about your involving a device to assist voice-disabled patients? Are you still concerned with volunteer work?

Paul: I still do volunteer work and see patients when I’m home for longer than a month. I’ll have lots of time now to get back into it after this tour. I came up with the idea while working as a volunteer at a hospital. One thing lead to another and before you knew it, my business partner and I were seeking out a patent. It’s still going strong and growing. The board is now available in 17 different languages.

Nick: Is there anything you would like to add to this interview, as I’m out of questions?

Paul: Thank you. Peace and love to all.

Nick: Thank you very much for the interview, Paul. Hope you have enjoyed answering some questions. Best wishes.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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