Cynic – a band that has made albums that are landmarks in the history of metal, and have defined a separate sub-genre of their own. Today we present to you the brains (and guitars) behind the complex sound that we have grown to associate with classics such as Veil of Maya and Textures (yes, that is where the bands got their names from). Here is the Headbangers India interview with Paul Masvidal and Tymon Kruidenier as they prepare to treat Indian metalheads to a concert at IMC, Goa on the 20th Nov, 2010.
HB: Hey Paul, hey Tymon, greetings from India! How’s it going?
Tymon: Hi Ankit, things are good here, cheers from Los Angeles.
HB: First of all, I’d like to congratulate you guys on your latest EP, Re-Traced. New Cynic material is always welcome, but you’ve shocked fans and critics alike with the latest release. Anything you’d like to tell us about how Re-Traced happened?
Paul: In a nutshell, we had a month window between a couple tours and decided the best use of that time would be re-visiting some of the songs we’d been touring for a while. It was a way for us to hear the songs again with fresh ears and also give Cynic fans a taste of what the roots of these songs might sound like. Essentially it was an exploration and an experiment, kinda like our music in general.
HB: A question with a bit of nostalgia, when did you pick up the guitar, and what made you do so?
Tymon: I got my first guitar from my dad when I was 16, I grew up listening to rock bands like Aerosmith and Skid Row and I always felt a connection to the guitar. I remember it turning around my life, right away the guitar became a big part of my life.
Paul: I picked up my first guitar at around 10, having been exposed through my brother and a friend of his who was a decent player. They were into blues and classic rock, like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix which impressed me sparked my interest.
HB: Both of you have your side projects – Exivious and Aeon Spoke. How easy/difficult is it coordinating and maintaining such a distinct and varied sound for each band, not to mention allotting time to each one of them?
Tymon: Both projects were our full time bands before the Cynic revival happened. I don’t think it was a conscious decision we made to quit both bands but after we started touring for Traced In Air it just made sense to dedicate all our time and energy to Cynic. As for keeping a distinct sound, I think that’s just a contextual thing. All 3 bands have a different concept behind them which demands a certain approach.
HB: Musically, whom would you describe as your biggest influences?
Tymon: It’s really all over the place, but to give you some names that had a really big influence on me over the years: Allan Holdsworth, Björk, Claude Debussy, Imogen Heap, Tribal Tech, Radiohead, John Coltrane, Steve Vai, Ozric Tentacles. Recently I’ve been into bands like Karnivool, Alice In Chains and Mastodon quite a bit. But I can also appreciate my dose of metal with bands like Decapitated and Psycroptic.
Paul: Probably my biggest influences come from classical musicians and classic songwriters. From Bach to Debussy to Samuel Barber (check out Agnus Dei) and then off to Lennon & McCartney, Cole Porter, Neil Young…the list goes on.
HB: Could you tell us something about the current song writing process in Cynic, and how it differs from your other bands?
Tymon: The main idea behind it is pretty straight forward; Paul writes these folky songs on acoustic guitar, once those are done we transform them into what we think a Cynic song needs. The current process is a little different because I’m more involved than I was before, which I’m really psyched about! The difference between other bands, especially in the world of metal, is that Cynic is really song based instead of copy/pasting riffs and ideas like most bands do.
Paul: I like building tunes up from a very simple, strong foundation. Once that’s solid, it seems you can go just about anywhere and make it work. I slowly reveal these ‘core’ songs to the guys and let the creative process naturally blossom out of that root to find it as a band. We let the tunes tell us where they need to go, which means stepping back and giving the creative process some room for perspective.
HB: Cynic has a unique sound, and also distinctive guitar tones and patches, and some of the trippiest vocals in metal. This leads to the obvious question – What gear do you guys use?
Tymon: Guitar wise we mainly use Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX which is an amazing amp modeler and effects processor. You can create the craziest synth like sounds but also great, convincing tube amp tones. Of course we’re known for using the headless Steinberger instruments and we still love and use those all the time.
Paul: Much of the lead melodic vocal sound consists of customized vocoder type patches designed with a TC Electronics unit.
HB: Paul on clean vocals and Tymon on growls. Ever thought of switching the two?
Tymon: We are thinking of trying new things, we’ll see how that works out on the new album.
Paul: I don’t think I’ll be growling in the near future, but we are exploring other avenues for Tymon to explore in terms of vocal layering and harmonies.
HB: You guys have been touring quite a lot, what has been your most memorable experience playing live?
Tymon: It’s hard to just name one thing that stands out. We’ve made so many new friends with the bands we’ve toured with, had so many killer gigs, played for the most dedicated and loving fans out there. The whole idea of going out and sharing your music with the world is just a blast!
HB: How did the gig with IMC (Indian Musical Conference) come about, and how do you feel about playing to a whole new kind of audience, all of whom will definitely not be metal-heads?
Paul: The usual methods…a promoter reached out to our agent and asked if we’d like to play. I’m excited about first vibrationally being in India itself, and second playing in a country where much of Cynic’s lyrical inspirations have been directly inspired from.
HB: What are Paul and Tymon up to when not involved in their respective musical endeavours?
Tymon: Most of my life is dedicated to music but outside of that I enjoy geeking out quite a bit with new toys and computers. I also love riding my bike to the beach, I enjoy being in quiet environments, being surrounded by nature and of course spending time with friends and family.
Paul: Yoga, meditation, reading, hiking, friends, family, being in nature, doing nothing at all…
HB: Though the EP managed to stir up the fans, they are undoubtedly still hungry for a full length album. Any clue as to when they can expect it, and how it might sound compared to the previous three major releases?
Tymon: It will take a while for us to come up with a full length album, we don’t like to rush things. I think it’ll sound different than the previous releases, naturally we keep growing and evolving as musicians and we have some new ideas for the new album which are pretty fresh and exciting!
Paul: I think we’ll hit the studio sometime early next year. It’s hard to describe where it’s going other than that it’s expanding and experimenting more than ever. I think the new record will be more dynamic, moody and modern than anything we’ve done before.
HB: Have either of you dabbled in Indian music, metal or otherwise? Any artists you’d like to collaborate with?
Tymon: Sure, I love traditional Indian music! I’d love to take lessons with a trained Indian musician who can teach me the basics of Indian music theory. Something I’ve wanted to dive into for a long time actually, it just never happened so far.
Paul: I love Indian music and have always been curious. A friend of mine plays a dilruba which I’m fascinated with as an instrument. At some point I’d like to study it with him. There’s lots of artists out there that I take a lot of inspiration from. I recently thought about putting together an ambient music album around the poetry of Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa with an old friend.
HB: Is there anything you’d like to add to what has already been said that the headbangers out there should pay attention to? (Feel free to rant or philosophize, it’s your space).
Paul: See the infinite in the obvious. Life is an ever unfolding adventure that has no endings.
HB: Thanks again guys for this absolutely smashing interview, hope you have a great time in Goa!
Tymon & Paul: Thank you Ankit, we’re thrilled to spend some time in Goa and perform in India, see you soon!