Interview: Cynic vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal talks about the band’s return after a 15 year hiatus

Cynic, with Paul Masvidal (right)

Cynic, with Paul Masvidal (right)

In 1993, Cynic, a member of Florida’s flourishing death metal scene, released “Focus,” an album that is largely considered one of the most influential progressive death metal albums of all time.  But just one year later, Cynic dissolved and the band members went on to other musical projects.

That should have been the end of the story – and indeed, vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal considered Cynic a finished chapter in his life. But in 2006, Masvidal and co-founder Sean Reinert reformed the band for a reunion tour – a move that rekindled Masvidal and Reinert’s enthusiasm for Cynic. The renewed passion led the almost entirely reformed Cynic – with all but one of the original members of the “Focus” line-up – back into the studio. The band released the critically acclaimed “Traced In Air” last year.

Cynic’s renewed life has been a welcome surprise for Masvidal.

“I didn’t expect to ever return to this place again,” Masvidal said in a April 10 phone interview. “It was the last thing on my mind.”

Masvidal said he and Reinert were seemingly led by fate to reform the band, after having shared dreams of playing the band’s music live again. At the same time, Masvidal received an e-mail from a fan in Russia, who had dreamed of seeing the band live.

“I forwarded it to Sean,” who also perform together in the band Aeon Spoke, Masvidal said. “At one of the rehearsals I shared a dream I had with him and he said, ‘I had the same dream last night. We were playing Cynic songs at a festival.'”

Adding to the energy, Masvidal said people – apparently out of the blue – began asking him about Cynic and the possibility of a reunion. The sudden surge in comments indicated the stars had aligned for Cynic’s return.

“If the universe has ever communicated directly … there were too many clear signs,” Masvidal said. “All of the sudden, it felt right.

“It was my reminder to keep letting go,” he said. “It’s a wonderful life lesson, and it has been working great.”

“Traced In Air” was lavished with praise by the likes of Blabbermouth, Metalsucks and All Music Guide. The album was again another progression for Cynic: Instead of simply copying the formula from “Focus,” the band incorporated different vocal styles and less blatantly metallic elements into the music.


 As Blabbermouth reviewer Scott Alisoglu wrote in his review of “Traced In Air:” “Some layer music for the sake of complexity. CYNIC does it with purpose and with an ear to allowing the listener to discover new treasures as the digging gets deeper. “… Traced in Air” is most worthy of being considered one of the year’s best albums. ”

Masvidal, a classically trained guitarist who once considered a career in jazz before turning his full attention to songwriting, said his work in the years between “Focus” and “Traced In Air” opened up new avenues of musical exploration that he incorporated into Cynic’s new songs.

“I think what influenced the writing of the album was what we’d been doing for the last 10 years, writing music in television and film” and for Aeon Spoke, Masvidal said. “Just trying to write very effective and simple songs became my new challenge.

“(With ‘Focus’), we went into this complex, technical form of writing as young musicians,” Masvidal said. But working writing less intricate songs for Aeon Spoke, Portal and for the television and film industry, helped him hone his craft, he said.

“That was what influenced ‘Traced In Air’ – the deconstruction process,” he said. “… It’s a perfect marriage for me, because it feels like the realized Cynic. We’ve matured. The songs are coming from a more experienced place, yet they’re incorporating the (identity) that shaped the group.”

Although Masvidal and Reinert continued to work together in Portal and Aeon Spoke, the dissolution of Cynic was bitter. The reunion, the recording of “Traced In Air” and the continued appreciation for “Focus” in the metal community has been a healing experience, Masvidal said.

“When I reopened the door – and I had pad-locked it – when I reopened that door, I was shocked because I got to see impact of what (‘Focus’) has done,” Masvidal said. “It was in some ways really humbling because, for us, that record never did anything (in terms of) record sales, but it had this underground, cult thing.”

The band didn’t intentionally set out to break genre boundaries with “Focus,” Masvidal said.

“We weren’t conscious in the sense of, ‘we have to do this to prove a point,’ but we were conscious in having a diverse set of influences,” he said. “I always, if I had two ideas and one felt safer, I’d go with the one that felt less safe. ”

Performing as Cynic again has been wonderful, Masvidal said.

“For us, I feel an old wound has been healed,” he said. The band toured Europe with Opeth and the United States with Meshuggah and The Faceless and is now setting out on a trek with DragonForce and Daath. When the touring cycle for “Traced In Air” is complete, the band will likely reconvene to write another album, Masvidal said.

“It’s hard to go beyond this moment, but I think (there will be a new album),” he said. “It’s definitely one of those things were it feels pretty natural. I don’t feel this record is a reunion record – it feels like a real release.

“I feel (a new album) is kind of there,” Masvidal said. “It’s at my finger tips: I just have to sit down and do it.”

Cynic will peroform with DragonForce and Daath on April 24 at Pop’s in Sauget, Ill and on April 26 and Bogart’s in Cincinnati. For ticket information, visit the Upcoming Regional Concerts page. 

To hear full songs from “Traced In Air” visit the band’s MySpace page here.


1 Comment

  1. Cynic Is really Awesome.

    Traced in Air is one of the Most Solid Albums Ever.

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