Cynic’s Paul Masvidal Talks ‘Kindly Bent To Free Us’ Album, Sci-Fi Fascination + More
Cynic's Paul Masvidal was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. The guitarist-vocalist spoke about the band's new album, 'Kindly Bent To Free Us,' as also opened up about his upbringing, influences and love of science fiction. If you missed Jackie’s show, here’s her full interview with Cynic's Paul Masvidal.
It’s Full Metal Jackie bringing you two full hours of metal each and every weekend. On the show with us for the very first time, guitarist and vocalist for the band Cynic, Paul Masvidal. How are you?
I’m doing great.
Thanks for being on the show with us. The new Cynic record, 'Kindly Bent To Free Us' is out in stores now. The new album is a gigantic leap for Cynic on so many levels. On first listen, it’s understandable that some people might think it’s not even metal. What makes 'Kindly Bent To Free Us' metal, musically and also in terms of attitude?
We’re probably one of those bands that never quite -- we always broke the rules. We never really fit in in any particular traditional way to be metal. We were part of the death metal movement in Florida, so we started that whole scene. We definitely have metal in our blood. I think with this record, when it’s heavy, it gets really heavy in terms for us. It’s more of a sludgy kind of heavy, but of all our records this album probably has more distortion, more distorted guitars than any of our previous. We usually have a lot of breaks with clean sections and what not, but this one is overall heavier.
I’d say conceptually, what’s happening lyrically, it’s always kind of heavy. It gets in there, man [laughs]. There’s some pretty intense stuff going on in terms of what we’re writing about. I actually spoke earlier to someone about a song that caught their attention called 'Gitanjali.' I was telling the story of it, which is a story of a 16-year-old girl who secretly wrote a book of poems right before she passed away. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her mother found her poems, and they’re these Emily Dickinson level -- really mature old-soul kind of writings coming from a 16-year-old. It’s probably one of the more dark songs on the record. It’s funny, the guy that I spoke to, the journalist was going, "Woah, I didn’t expect to hear that.”
I was saying at the end of the day it’s actually a great story, because it was what she left that inspired more art. It was her coming into and enduring this painful experience and letting go, it inspired another artist to make something beautiful as a result. I feel like that all of our jobs. It’s the duty of the artist, to inspire others. I guess this didn’t get very metal, did it? [laughs]
Paul, this latest record is very sci-fi. What is your favorite sci-fi movie, book or TV show? What is your classic go to sci-fi work that continues to inspire you musically?
I’m definitely a sci-fi geek. Probably all time favorite would be 'Blade Runner.' That kind of turned my world upside down as a kid. Plenty of stuff since then, but that definitely goes down as the classic. TV wise, 'Twilight Zone' was the coolest stuff ever, the original. Books, I was a sci-fi kid. I read a lot of Ray Bradbury, I was just one of these sci-fi nuts. I remember my mother at one point, my mom was a new ager. She took me to an occult book store, she told me to buy whatever I wanted. She said I needed to figure this out. So i bought a book on black magic, sorcery, witchcraft and the Satanic bible.
I was a rebellious kid, I was 13 and just stepping into my metal boots. It was great that she just let that happen and didn’t judge me and knew that I was just curious and trying to figure out what was going on. This was my way of doing it.
Paul, what cultural or musical influences from your youth in Miami found their way into this record?
I grew up in a Cuban household. My parents are first wave of Cubans who fled Communism. Although my mom is a new ager and my dad is kind of an eclectic intellectual kind of person, their tastes varied a lot. My mom was really into folk music as a kid. I remember my earliest memories, hearing Simon & Garfunkel. Some of the stuff that really moved me, songwriting wise, it was like, "Ooh, I want to write songs." But then I think the more complex components of Cynic’s music, the prog side, especially rhythmically came from Cuban music. They have that Afro-Cuban thing going on.
It’s really complex music. When you break it down as a musician, rhythmically it’s groovy, and there is a lot of interesting things happening. I think -- I have that going on whether I realize it or not. There’s this gene in me or some kind of little information that’s formed my musical upbringing that’s lent itself to something more inherently complex, and it comes natural. I don’t think there’s Latin rhythms all over our music but it definitely -- that relationship of making something that has more, it’s just not a straight groove. That, I guess, the songwriting thing is what really drove this process. To this day, I’m just interested in writing a good song. That’s the goal. [laughs]
You seemed immersed in music, all styles. Writing or playing with Cynic, studying music or composing for television and film, what is the most valuable thing about being multi faceted? Not only as a musician but as a music fan?
Well, for me, what I love is - Cynic being an ‘art for art sake” project, it’s no rules and do whatever you want. No one telling us how the songs should be, it’s completely liberated. But then when I go and write for television or I did this children’s book with Jim Carrey last year and it’s like -- you get to wear these different hats. I produced a record for him, for the children’s book. You get to be somebody else and serve someone else’s vision. Especially with TV and film, it’s about serving picture. You’re trying to be as transparent as possible and make it work. Enhance a visual environment.
It’s a completely different head to do that. Just because it’s no longer this auditory world that’s liberated and free, it’s more like ‘oh, you’re kind of meaningless in the context of what’s happening.’ You’re trying to just serve a greater image. I think that’s healthy for me. I like to play that role. I was a session musician for years with network sitcoms and I just liked being a cog in the wheel sometimes. Just another dude being told what to do or play and being a part of something larger. It’s nice to be that guy and put on that hat. Then stylistically, you’re stretched in ways you normally wouldn’t be with your own work.
From what I can tell the only live show you have this year is the Heavy Montreal Festival.
Yeah, we’ll set up a tour leading up to that. A Northeastern run, just to get warmed up for it. We’ll probably do a West Coast run. We’re looking at possibly as soon as May going from Vancouver all the way down to San Diego. There’s stuff coming together but none of it has been announced yet. We’ll be touring more.
Thank you, Jackie.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome on her show Triptykon's Tom Gabriel. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.