Cynic’s Paul Masvidal on ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us,’ Late Death Frontman Chuck Schuldiner + More
Cynic will release their highly anticipated third full-length album, ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us,’ on Feb. 18. Any hardcore fan of the progressive pioneers will want to analyze every section written by frontman Paul Masvidal, drummer Sean Reinert and Sean Malone, so we interviewed Masvidal for a deeper look into the album and Cynic itself.
Paul Masvidal is one of progressive metal’s most revered players. Cynic released one of metal’s all-time most influential albums, ‘Focus,’ as their debut effort, completely breaking the Floridian death metal mold by fusing together genres few bands would dare to even attempt. The album has not aged one day, and Cynic stunned fans once again with the 2008 sophomore full-length ‘Traced in Air.’ Finally, we’re getting a third studio album from Cynic, and in this exclusive interview, Masvidal talks lyrical concepts, musical spirituality, how ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ differs from past releases + more.
Check out this exclusive interview with Cynic’s Paul Masvidal:
Is ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ a concept album? Either way, what are the album’s lyrical themes?
Not in a literal sense. It evokes a conscious continuity lyrically and musically which invites concept. It’s a very personal album looking at the mind and how it works. It’s a journey into the dynamic nature of thoughts and how I’ve learned to live more in the perceived rather than the conceived.
The title ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ gave me visions of someone bending the bars of a bird cage to let the animal fly away. Was this the desired message? What is the album title’s significance?
"The title is representative of the mind itself being the source of our suffering but also our liberation."
That’s a beautiful image. In this context the cage could represent the mind and the bird, our true nature which is free and without boundaries. The title is representative of the mind itself being the source of our suffering but also our liberation. It’s the paradox of mind and spiritual truth. Each song explores a relationship to life through this lens. The observer and the observed and how ultimately there is no separation between the two.
Although the craftsmanship of ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ reminds me a lot of your previous works, the album sounds much lighter and more hypnotic than your other full-lengths. How would you compare ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ to ‘Focus’ and ‘Traced in Air’?
Hypnotic is a nice description. The album is more raw and real than any of our previous works. It’s a true trio album that feels like us distilled to our essence without ornaments or extras. It vibrates at a new frequency and has it’s own unique energy that represents who we are now.
‘Focus’ was extremely ahead of its time. It took almost two decades for metal acts to release ‘Focus’-like albums and also receive massive praise from the metal community. What are your thoughts on bands such as Between the Buried and Me, The Ocean etc. and their current success?
I dig and encourage any band that is interested in trying something new and pushing the envelope musically and conceptually. For me, that is the creative mojo that drives the universe and speaks to something real in all of us as listeners. Both BTBAM and The Ocean are great bands in that they seek to expand and explore. Their success is our success. We’re all in this together and it’s awesome to see more challenging music reach more people.
Do you think ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ is written in a way that will immediately connect with a massive amount of fans in a way that ‘Focus’ did not?
"We are certainly in a time now where a band like Cynic is honored and appreciated more."Hard to say. Every record seems to have it’s own journey and relationship to it’s audience that I can’t predict. We are certainly in a time now where a band like Cynic is honored and appreciated more. I just spoke to a journalist today that felt like ‘KBtFU’ is our most challenging album, but that once he got over the initial hump it’s also become the most rewarding. I thought that was a nice compliment. The ears go through a bit of a learning curve getting Cynic’s musical language with each record (as do our own creating the record). Once you get past the breaking the ice / familiarity stage, the music can really be heard. Usually the listener earns that phase of appreciation through multiple listens. Like an acquired taste.
What are the biggest challenges associated with self-producing an album?
Objectivity is always a challenge with one’s own music. The nature of technology these days has created a whole new school of musician that often self produces. There’s a certain degree of intimacy that’s attained that wouldn’t happen otherwise unless producing. Cynic has always self-produced it’s records. For me it’s a combination of going for something very clear and letting go completely and starting over again … an ongoing relationship to assembly and disassembly. I find the challenge to be part of the creative process. It’s crazy making and also exciting. I’m also not opposed to working with a producer as well. Anything’s possible, at this point.
Last year you were a part of the ‘Death to All’ tour. Chuck Schuldiner was such an incredible songwriter. Did the experience give you a deeper understanding of composition in any way?
Chuck’s songs are quite simple and direct. That’s what I appreciate most about it. He’s very literal with his ideas and the arrangements are often similar in that sense. What I like most about his music that Chuck was interested in writing a song that was memorable and catchy. Something that had more than just brutality or shock factor associated with it. It was driven by song, which in the end is all that matters and people really resonate with.
"I don’t feel like I need to surpass anyone as much as gather inspiration from so many living and passed on artists who have created beautiful work."
As a musician, there are always going to be those personal heroes who you put on a pedestal. Regardless of your skill and the critical acclaim you’ve received, are there any musicians that, in your mind, you’ll never be able to surpass?
For me, music isn’t a competition or about necessarily attaining anything. Each artist has his own expression that’s uniquely theirs, not to be compared with others. I don’t feel like I need to surpass anyone as much as gather inspiration from so many living and passed on artists who have created beautiful work. Lets start with Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheney, and John Lennon….the list goes on. I’m in awe of great art and musicians that communicate something real from their hearts. Anyone who makes art from that perspective is my hero.
What is the overall goal for Cynic at this point in time?
Goal is to show up for this little album that is now being shared with the world and give it our love and support.
Stay tuned for our upcoming exclusive track-by-track breakdown of ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us’ written by Paul Masvidal himself. To pre-order ‘Kindly Bent to Free Us,’ click here.