Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

Exploring Spirituality: An Interview with Paul Masvidal from Cynic

Julie Frish: How’s the tour so far?

Paul Masvidal: It’s good so far, still new. This is only the third stop in the tour so far. We have had plenty of days off.

JF: What influences your music, especially to create such a unique sound?

PM: I am kind-of all over the place musically. I always say I am a fan of great artists instead of calling it by genre.

JF: Who are some of your favorite artists?

PM: Probably a lot of folk artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. My mom turned me on to a lot of cool stuff. My older brother got me into classic rock like Pink Floyd. Those are my roots. But I got into jazz in college where I studied classical guitar. Thus, I got into classical music, I really enjoy ambience too. I am really all over the map, really modern, and in a way, pop too. Jazz to classical to world music.

JF: How was the transition from Death to your current, jazzier sound [with Cynic]?

PM: Death was a result of Chuck, the lead singer, who was almost like an older brother to us. He knew we were really into progressive music…so he brought us in to bring something new to it.

JF: Do you play any other instruments?

PM: I do some piano, a little of everything, but guitar is my main one.

JF: Why such a transition in Carbon-Based Anatomy from the first album, which has a much harder sound?

PM: It wasn’t intentional. I just try to stay true to a process. The creative process does itself, you just kind of show up and whatever happens. This is where I am now.

JF: If you weren’t doing music, what else would you do?

PM: I would probably paint or write or some other art form.

JF: Why do you use vocal processing?

PM: At first, I started using it for a couple reasons. At first, I didn’t just want to have a regular voice, I wanted to have something unique to it. At first I thought it was really cool, I thought it made me sound like an alien, kind-of like this trippy alien feature. I think I was also hiding behind it a little bit because I was insecure about my voice, so it made me discover who I was. Over time, it relates now because it’s futuristic and has an interesting aesthetic to the band. Now it’s part of it, a piece of the pie.

JF: You use the same artist, Robert Venosa, for all your album art. What is the story behind this?

PM: When I was 10, I had his postcards around my bed. When I signed a record deal when I was 18, they said you needed art for your cover. So I contacted his publisher and I thought he was just some fantasy dude from 100 years ago. They said you can contact him directly and I totally freaked out. He became this mentor for me, but he passed away his past year. It’s like our music is trying to sound like his art.

JF: Why did you choose Cynic as a name, especially with being so spiritual?

PM: Well, actually, the origin’s of “cynic” actually a misnomer. Cynic has gained a negative connotation over the years. The roots of cynic were from the ancient Greeks. Socrates and Plato and all these ancient guys said that happiness was not an external experience. The main [cynic] was Diogenes. He used to walk around broad daylight with a lamp. When asked why, he said he was trying to find an honest man. That’s the roots of cynicism but it got spun out to someone who questions the truth of a situation, kind-of looking for trouble. The real cynics were just people seeking truth, the words of any spiritual teachings. The words meaning changed over time. But it’s okay, we are a metal band, we need a little darkness.

JF: Dooes you daily life relate to your spiritual life?

PM: You know, it’s right in front of us. It’s not over there, not behind you, it’s right here. I feel like it’s everything that’s happening; it’s all one thing. This music we create is almost closer to the truth than all these words. It’s mysterious to think of what a musician does. You’re sculpting sound molecules, creating these vibes. It’s trippy you know.

JF: What makes this EP special?

PM: Yeah, this one is really special because it was recorded and written over a six-week period. It was the summer 2011 album. It was a very interesting year. Our whole lives were turned upside down. We started to take care of each other. There was a lot of pressure and things falling apart and so there’s a lot of life in there. It’s very concentrated. It’s probably the most honest thing we’ve done.

JF: Why did you choose Carbon-Based Anatomy for the new title of the EP?

PM: We are carbon-based creatures and it is a very human record, mounted in human-based things. So I really felt like it was a scientific way of saying this is a very Earth-based music album.


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