Ghost Cult scribe Duncan Evans chatted with music legend KatieJane Garside recently on the release of her new project, Liar, Flower, and her new release Geiger Counter (One Little Independent Records). You may know Garside from her immense career credits with groups such as Daisy Chainsaw, QueenAdreena, and more recently Ruby Throat. Far removed from her early rumblings, the wisened and more poetic chanteuse discussed her new album, the decision to recast the group under a new moniker with her partner Chris Whittingham, her many travels around the world living on a boat, mindfulness meditation, the music video for ‘i am sundress (she of infinite flowers)’, the care and creativity she takes for the expanded versions of Geiger Counter and much more. Purchase the album and keep up with all of KatieJane’s happenings at this link, and listen the chat below.
Ghost Cult had the distinct pleasure of chatting with the one and only Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth recently. In a wide-ranging chat with our Chief Editor Keefy, Mikael discussed the new album, In Cauda Venenum, due out September 27th via Moderbolaget Records / Nuclear Blast Entertainment. We discussed his creating both English and Swedish language versions of the album, using an orchestra and choir, concept records, progressive rock artists he likes such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, working at Park Studios, philosophical lyrics, and why he treated this album like it was the final Opeth album. Continue reading
Power Trip has released one of the undeniably great albums of 2017 thus far with Nightmare Logic, out now on Southern Lord Records. While on tour with Iron Reagan, Ghost Cult’s Keith Chachkes caught up with front man Riley Gale at Webster Hall in New York City to discuss politics, radical philosophy, metal and more. With inspiring music and a chaotic live show, Power Trip are one of the most impressive bands on the scene today. Continue reading
The Truth of Revolution, Brother: An Exploration of Punk Philosophy (Situation Press) is an interesting look at many of the common philosophies within the rebellious genre and it also acts as a biography for some of its key figures. Through a series of interviews authors Lisa Sofianos, Robin Ryde and Charlie Waterhorse, have crafted an insightful and at times dense examination of the personal beliefs that fuel the music, particularly in anarcho-punk.
Culled from over 20 different interviews with subjects including the likes of former Dead Kennedy’s vocalist Jello Biafra, producer Steve Albini and firebrand Gavin McInnes, The Truth of Revolution, Brother feels like a great documentary that hasn’t been shot yet. Punk isn’t just music, for the faithful it’s an unshakable bond that informs all of their daily decisions. It was an artistic liberation because it wasn’t the usual prog and arena rock that permeated the 1970s. If you had something to say now you can now express yourself even if you can’t play your instrument very well or have a record label to back you up. All the weirdos were allowed.
“Punk changed the whole world for me,” says Albini. “Punk changed all of my friends. Everything that I do with my life. This studio. All of this that I am doing for a living. Everyone I know. Every significant friend I’ve ever had. Every significant life experience that I have had, I owe that to the Ramones.”
However, it is also quick to point out that while punk was the undiscriminating genre when it came to musical prerequisites, age or sex; it is also very much steeped in hierarchy as you are allowed to come in and participate only if you wear the right boots and black shirts. The prevailing Do-It-Yourself ethos acts as the backbone that allows punk to stand, but also means that there is less focus on quality control as anyone can come in and take a swing at it. Doing it yourself can sometimes lead to doing it badly.
But for me what was most interesting about this tome is that so many of the interviewed always pointed to anarcho-punk trailblazers Crass as one of their main inspirations and the reason for adopting the punk lifestyle. The consensus is that they were the first punk band to adopt the DIY mantra, foster pro-environmentalist habits and call for everyone to drop competiveness out of their nature in order to improve the community.
“What is so deeply emotional for me about Crass, in particular, is that when I was sent to the correctional boarding school I was completely alone” says Jon Gnarr. “And I was so afraid that I carried a knife. I felt so alone, and there was nobody to tell me right from wrong, there weren’t even teachers at that place, so at a very difficult time in my life, Crass was there for me.” Feeling dissatisfied with his government’s handling of the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis, Gnarr would use some of that punk influence and form the satirical Best Party. In a shocking upset Gnarr ran and was elected mayor of Reykjavík in 2010.
So many other of the interview subjects continuously cite the short lived anarchist bent Essex unit, that it starts to feel like that you are getting an oral history of the band. Adding to that feel are insightful chapters directly from former Crass members Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher.
Something worth noting is that with so many citing the same artists and similar philosophies as vital the book can begin to feel a tad repetitive towards the middle, but all things considered it shines a bright light on the inner machinations of one of rock’s most extreme wings. Now if we could only get that complete Crass biography.
Muse, whose Drones (Warner Bros) album came out today, have released a video for the track ‘Mercy’. You can watch the video below:
Front man Michael Bellamy commented on the concept of Drones, which figures heavily in the ‘Mercy’ video treatment:
“To me, ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behavior with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. Drones explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors.”
Swedish progressive metallers The Great Discord are one of Metal Blade’s best signings of late. Their album Duende is out today, combining the artfulness and intelligence of classic 70s prog rock with the heaviness and skill of Meshuggah or Dream Theater. In chatting with singer Fia Kempe and drummer Aksel Holmgren, we learned that they are cognizant that even in these times of broad musical palates, their band does not fit into such a neat box, since they joined the roster at at Metal Blade.
Sofie: “We weren’t sure at first! (laughs) It all started when we had some demos and we sent them around, and among other labels, to Metal Blade. Kelli (Malella) was the first one to become intrigued with us. We started talking in an email conversation, where she wanted to learn what our aims were for this band, how we wanted to be represented, and what we wanted for the record. She got really interested in us and fought for us. And we were really surprised that when we got the mail that they wanted us to be signed there. It was a great experience! We thank Kelli so much!”
Aksel: “Metal Blade is traditionally well respected and they have done so much for metal. They are so legendary as an established name for the metal scene. And our sound, at least a big chuck of it, is metal. And it seems the label have signed more progressive bands like Between the Buried and Me and Native Construct, which gave us the hint that this label that wants to invest in this type of music. We have nothing but great things to say about them.”
Fia: “It was also a bit of a challenge for us too. We can tell straight away now… releasing a few of our teasers how polarizing a band like ours can be. If you are a true Metal Blade fan, and you are into Cannibal Corpse and Goatwhore, I can really understand how you would be at least surprised (laughs) when you hear our kind of music and how differs a lot from a Cannibal Corpse, for example. We also think its a good effect, because it gets people talking. It gets people to turn their heads, which is always a good thing in this business. We welcome all reactions, that is the discordance in life. It’s been a blast to read all the comments (laughs)!”
As much as the band is sonically impressive, one thing sets them apart is the existential themes in their lyrics throughout the album. We wanted to know what role these heady ideas played in the context behind the story of Duende.
Fia: “When we look back at it now, we think of the album as ten short stories: ten examinations of the human condition. I am a Social Psychiatrist professionally, so I have always had a great interest in psychology; and meeting people daily who are in a great amount of pain and suffering, dealing with depression; going so far as Autistic, bi-polar, or even schizophrenia. It’s always been an interesting subject for me; the psyche of the human mind. All people around the world suffer from a morbid fascination of these kinds of conditions, so we wanted to explore a little further how the music makes you feel, and then how you can get the music to match these emotions. So the music always came first and then we tried to match the lyrics to these kind of emotions and psychiatric conditions.”
“It can be things people feel every day in their lives like the sorrow, sadness, pain, power, joy; to the more extremes: the cannibal, the necrophiliac, the massive paranoid schizophrenic killer. And we know those are not the most common states of mind of people in general, but they do exist. They are there and we know it, whether we want to think about it or not. But there are all of the scary, almost unknown conditions. Even if you don’t want to admit it.”
Aksel: “This aspect is well represented on album in a more general sense too. In contrast just more general philosophical concerns of why are we here? What is the meaning in life? What do I do if I have regrets when I die? How do I deal knowing that I am a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being. This is the theme essentially behind The Great Discord.”
“We live a very intense life. Not just with the band, but keeping together families and things like that.” The deep, dulcet tones of Fernando Ribeiro are unmistakable, coated in this thick Portuguese accent, it is little wonder the forty year-old front man of Moonspell still attracts much attention from swooning nubiles. These days the Goth Metal lothario has a young son to raise which is perhaps a factor on the more mature direction Moonspell have adopted on new opus Extinct (Napalm Records). “We like to delve into the unknown. It is important to be creative when we feel inspired to do so. We had six months of touring left for Alpha Noir and Omega White, but we needed to write when we felt the need to express ourselves, to feed that hunger!”
One thing that immediately noticeable about Extinct is the concept is rooted in reality both on a global and personal scale. As Ribeiro explained, the concept came together relatively quickly. “We did not want to split our direction as we did on the preceding albums. The concept came out very early. I was thinking of extinction on a global scale which affects animals but also how human beings place a higher value on their own existence and will often sacrifice other species and the planet to serve our own selfish needs. Sonically, we have been influenced more by electronic music and used more clean vocals. It is a very desolate album.”
Extinct is indeed a dark affair, not least for the shocking image of a mutilated amputee which adorns the cover which is the work of Septicflesh bassist and frontman Spiros Antoniou a.k.a. Seth Siro Anton. “He worked on ‘Night Eternal’ for us.” Ribeiro mused on this comrade’s work. “We feel an affinity with Septic Flesh and look forward to touring with them this year. His work recalls that of Francis Bacon or Joel- Peter Witkin to me. ‘Extinct’ is an album about imperfections. That figure on the cover looks raped and mutilated but it is about the fear of what could happen and the damage that has been done. Amputee’s feel their limbs long after they have had them removed so it seemed to fit with the concept we had.”
In addition to its gruesome cover art, Extinct also has some of the most personal lyrics Fernando has ever penned. “Gothic metal has always been very fictional but we have gone through many changes in our lives. ‘The Future Is Dark’ is one song which exemplifies this. Jens and Pedro opened the studio up specially one night for me to do the vocals. It had been a difficult night at home for me and I wanted to get the lyrics on the track straight away.”
The track in question see’s Ribeiro addressing his son with the brooding chorus refrain ‘Without you there is no tomorrow’ it’s a touching moment. “Jens told me it was one of the best personal songs he ever recorded. He is a workaholic who never gave anyone a day off but he was a real team player and supportive of everything we did.”
Adding further depth to the seductive melodies on ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’ and ‘Medusalem’ is the use of a Turkish orchestra. “It was a big challenge to get them involved because they do not speak English nor I Turkish so we had to have a mediator in between! Portuguese music has always been influenced by the Arabic scales so we wanted to incorporate that. We didn’t go for these big Wagnerian arrangements most Metal bands use we wanted something more seductive.”
Another highlight is album closer ‘La Baphomette’, a track which sounds positively vaudevillian with its swing feel and elegant piano. “Our bass player Aires wrote this piece with the brass section but Pedro helped with the arrangement. When I listened to the melody I thought of Burlesque and Tom Waits – I love French poets like (Charles) Baudelaire. I was at the French quarter in New Orleans on our last tour and I wrote the lyrics about a burlesque dancer who evokes cosmic chaos. It is a very romantic song and a great way to end the album.”
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER
Goatwhore conjures a musical sound to mind the minute read their name or say it aloud. You know what it stands for, before the words roll off of your tongue. Few modern bands have the grit and the greatness to remain consistently heavy in the face of rising popularity. They are in many ways the Motörhead of their musical generation: without compromise and weakness…. a band that can do no wrong for fans across all of metals fiefdoms and cliques. Certainly there are no Goatwhore haters, only people unaware of them, yet. Maintaining the balance of their message and the quality of their songcraft is the likely secret to their success, beyond some sacred pact with dark forces. Every album is different from the last, yet they never went soft or sold out like some others have. On Constricting Rage of the Merciless (Metal Blade), their sixth album in their 16-year career, Goatwhore rolls up their spiked-sleeves and smashes you in the mouth once again. And you will love it!
Where 2012’s Blood for the Master was a little more nuanced and throwback focused, Constricting Rage of the Merciless kicks you with jackbooted foot and maintains the savagery all the way through. The new album has more than a pointed step towards their blackened death metal history, but also carries with it the continued evolution of the sound of recent releases. Opening track ‘Poisonous Existence in Reawakening’ will crush your ear holes with extreme prejudice. Unrelenting blastbeats, deathly sick riffs and the masterful vocals of Rev. L. Ben Falgoust III will make you smile, unless you are dead. In typical fashion for this act, most of the tracks are tight, average under four-minutes each, and have zero B.S. about them. The majestically brutal ‘Unraveling Paradise’ has no less than four different riffs in the song, all of them amazing. Sammy Duet doesn’t rely as much on thrashy pedaling this time around, coming up with some inventive licks and whirling motifs, all that would shame some of the best tech death bands by the way.
As was the case on the last album, drummer Zack Simmons demolishes expectations and his kit on every song, inspiring much headbanging and fist-banging. If you have seen the band live, you know Zack is a machine who plays equally well on wax. Tracks such as ‘Baring Teeth for Revolt’ and ‘Reanimated Sacrifice’ are a drum fanatics wet dream. ‘Reanimated…’ as on several tracks herein, sees Rev. Ben switch up his style and make use of different parts of his register vocally. Impressive stuff. Also chipping in with a great chopping riff and a slick, short solo is Duet once again, who continues to enthrall listeners year after year.
The bleak and harsh ‘Heaven’s Crumbling Walls of Pity’ flexes the bands black metal muscles again, with a little extra something grim on top. It’s almost like a proggy black metal song you might expect from Ihsahn’s solo work. The ending stanzas are full of cool chords and grooving beats. ‘Cold Earth In Dying Flesh’ is another in a litany of standout, mid-album cuts. It has an eerie intro to set the mood. Not unlike a horror movie soundtrack theme, this slow to simmer beast machine of a song is a great change of pace. Falgoust again just bellows with some of the best vocals he’s ever done. It’s also the longest track on the album; not an epic in length, but with high quality grooves more associated with their other swampy NOLA brethren. When it finally launches into breakneck death thrash territory mid-song, it takes the track to another level without losing the story.
‘FBS’ was first played live on the Behemoth tour this spring and is a typical, circle-pit inducing song if there is one on this album. Full of rawness, with two more sweet solos from Sammy. It’s almost punk without being punk, or punk without too much crust. ‘Nocturnal Conjuration of the Accursed’ continues the trend of heady lyrics, and heavy on the evil sounds that is the bands trademark. There is even a little classic metal fun of galloping riffs and thematic soloing. ‘Schadenfreude’ is another gruesome masterpiece. Black metal, death metal and thrash all come together, but in a sensible way you could almost call it American Blackened Thrash. As a style, this would be a worthy counterpart to the Death `n Roll of Scandinavian bands, but much, much more brutal. ‘Schadenfreude’ is also a lyrical masterpiece, with the title defined as enjoying the suffering of others, in this case those whom most deserve it. The album closes with the fitting ‘Externalize this Hidden Savagery’ and sums up the entire album’s intent quite well before its final notes ring out.
Goatwhore has made an album nearly worthy of the best work of their career, even though it’s on the short side at under 40 minutes. I doubt you will find a more righteously hostile, fun, and well made album from another heavy band in 2014.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
Ever since the emergence of their debut Lucidity in 2006, has their unique blend of catchy melodies and heavy riffs made Dutch symphonic metal outfit Delain a force to be reckoned with. Originally planned as a studio project only, nowadays they are a successful live band and about to release their fourth, highly anticipated full length studio album The Human Contradiction (Napalm Records). Front lady Charlotte Wessels charmingly reveals the idea behind the mysterious title.
“The name is actually taken from one of my favourite books. It’s a trilogy called Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler, and it is a post-apocalypse story. It’s kind of sci-fi, which is funny, cause I never really took to sci-fi before, so this is the first time where I really appreciated it. Basically they introduce the human contradiction, as a theory which explains why humanity didn’t last. According to the book, the contradiction is that as a species we are both intelligent and hierarchic. The fact is though that successful intelligent life forms are not hierarchic, because this hierarchic thing makes for this ‘us versus the others-mentality’, which makes us rank things by random qualities.”
In the last couple of years Charlotte has been especially interested in the whole idea of otherness, both on an artistic as well as on an academic level. “This topic was of course already very present in our previous record. With The Human Contradiction we actually continue this idea lyrically. There are many songs which are about otherness in one way or another.” The topics Delain address in their songs seem to have become much more diverse and rooted in current social and political happenings than at the start of their career. Charlotte agrees with that. “I have definitely become more political myself. In the past we had some discussions about this in the band, because first and foremost we are making music and just want people to have a good time when they come to our shows and rather forget about their problems than take more home with them. So there is no agenda behind our music, I simply write about what’s on my mind by default.”
Nevertheless,The Human Contradiction contains some songs whose lyrics are quite complex. For example the song ‘Tell Me, Mechanist’, tells the captivating story of a dispute between the philosophers Descartes and Voltaire. Charlotte is still fascinated by the subject. “In the 17th century you had this philosopher and scientist called René Descartes. He was very famous and had a lot of ideas where he was really ahead of his time and one of his ideas was that all things on this earth are made up of small mechanic parts, like a clock. This was quite a smart remark, because of course they hadn’t discovered DNA yet, or atoms and his idea that the world was made up of smaller parts is kind of were science went later. But his statement had a lot of negative implications also, because he claimed that humans are the only ones with a God granted soul. So basically he said if you hurt animals, you cut them open, and they scream, this is just the spring that you have touched that is attached to screaming, it’s not that they actually feel pain, cause humans are the only ones that feel pain. And this was very convenient, because it was the time when they started to really get interested in human anatomy and they opened up animals to see how the heart works, how the lungs work, when they were still alive so they could see the blood flow et cetera. People who still believe in this mechanistic world view today are called mechanists. Then Voltaire, another philosopher, replied to Descartes theory by saying, and this is actually were I shamelessly stole my lyrics from, Voltaire said: ‘You cut open this animal and you see in him exactly the same veins of feeling as in yourself, tell me, mechanist, did nature arrange all the springs of feeling in him in order not to feel?’ And I thought this was so beautiful. However, I’m very much aware that this song especially is kind of more abstract and hard to get when you do not know the theory behind it. Of course the lyrics in the chorus go ‘If we could go back to the stars, we would see we are not that far apart’, if you don’t know that it’s talking about evolution and stuff, then it could just as well be a love song, which I really like about it.”
Charlotte is a real animal lover and has recently made some significant changes with regards to her lifestyle. “I’ve become a vegetarian recently and I’m cutting back on my entire animal intake. I cannot call myself vegan yet, because I have to cheat still a little bit too much, and the actual vegans will become upset. So this is one of the recent changes I’ve made and I try to make our house eco-proof. I live in a house from the 1600, which means that we have only one layer of glass everywhere and basically for years we thought that is okay, but we are heating so much that it is not in line anymore with the ideals that my partner and I have.”
However, she doesn’t want to impose her own values on other people in any way. “Everybody should decide for themselves what they want to do. When I talk about these matters in our songs, I just want to address things I care about, but never suggest that I know all the answers. Whenever you make big changes in your life, you really have to believe in them yourself. I will never say ‘you should do this or that’ that is simply not my style.”
The talented musician has just completed her master’s degree in Gender studies and is now standing at a crossroads in her life. “I was doing my studies and Delain, and now I don’t know what I will end up doing in the future, so this really isn’t the right time to ask me about it, because now of course I fall into this black hole,” she says jokingly. Then adds: “Actually Delain is becoming more and more of a full time job, so the next year is really going to decide whether I can do this full time or whether I have to do something next to it.”
Asked about the writing and recording process of the output, Charlotte has a lot to convey. “We always write the songs with, what we like to call the ‘Delain writing team’. It consists of keyboarder Martijn, me and Guus Eikens. Guus Eikens is actually not in our live band, but he has been involved with Delain from the very beginning, so he feels like a band member to us. The rest of the work on The Human Contradiction was very different from our previous album, because for our last release we were involved with three different labels. First it was Roadrunner, then it was Warner Brothers and we were moved to another office on top of that. After that it was the label which actually released the album, so we had a lot of people involved, a lot of opinions involved. So that’s why at this point, we thought that we are just going to make music by ourselves and are only going to include other people when we really need to. As a result, this is undeniably an album were we took matters into our own hands again and purely relied on ourselves for both the writing of the songs and also the production. Martijn was back as a producer which he had done for Lucidity and April Rain as well and I think that has created a very creative and free atmosphere within the band.”
Some bands just conjure a frame of mind as much as a sound when you think of them. Just the name Cynic calls to mind a unique and bold sound the band has laid down in their storied career. Few too many bands these days challenge you mentally and spiritually, they way this band has. One of the leading lights of progressive metal and prog rock, their influence on two generations of bands is undeniable, and they are gladly back with us, making new music again. Their new album, only their third full-length, Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season of Mist) takes the listener on a mental and metaphysical sonic journey. Chatting with Ghost Cult chief editor Keith Chachkes at length about new music, the process of creating art, lyrical inspirations and many other topics is guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal. Paul casts a striking figure as a person who is more than just a creative force, but a an enlightened, modern artist who is trying to get us all on the same wavelength.
Since Cynic’s rebirth with 2008s Traced In Air (Season of Mist), the band has been slowly building up to another full-length release. From the experimental Re-Traced EP, to last year’s Carbon Based Anatomy, the band is not interested in repeating itself in any way. Paul goes on to discuss at length the process the band goes through to make a new music: “This is a record that has been a long time coming. We released a couple things in-between our last full-length, and we did a lot of touring, but I think the real buckled down days were this past year. Essentially, we delivered it last summer, after the last official tour ended, which was December of 2011 for Carbon Based Anatomy. So, it’s been a couple years. Maybe eighteen months since we’ve had this tunnel vision, delivered the record, and just trying to get it done. For me it’s just another chapter in our story. It’s hard for me to speak objectively about this music, because I just feel way too close to it. I’m excited about the songs. It’s a great collection of material. It has everything that we were going for. It does what we wanted it to do. It took a while for us to reach that place for it. When we go into the studio there is an organic way we cultivate something, that just has to happen for us. I don’t know what else to say. In terms of the art in general, it’s so subjective that it is always odd for me to try and talk about it, first person.”
There are bands, and then there are bands making artistic statements. Cynic certainly takes it to that level with every element of their beings. Paul of course, embodies this spirit fully, and while he is mindful of the process it takes to create this music, he doesn’t do it for the accolades: “It is just one of those things, you are doing this regardless of what all of the outcomes are. At the end of the day this is really just pure in process, driven by art. The feeling that comes from making art that drives the whole thing. It’s not the best sounding thing to say from a promotional standpoint. (laughs) That metaphor that goes ‘it’s not about the goal, it’s the journey’. It’s the nature of where this stuff comes from. We are all kind of in that head space. It’s nice to have it be loved and shared, and I want as many people as possible to hear it, but at the end of the day, that’s not what drives the process. So it feels like it’s all icing, it’s a nice thing, but again especially when the response is all positive, I try to avoid all research and reviews. I just get a sense of stuff occasionally from a friend, or someone that is filtering things for me, of how it’s going, but this isn’t going to effect what I’m doing. I just try to keep my head. I’m doing it because I love doing it, and not to get caught up in results or outcomes. Obviously there’s aspirations, but it’s not dictating the process or based on that. You just want it to have a healthy life. These songs, the music you write, especially to a songwriter, these songs are like your children. You want these kids to be loved, and for the world to accept them. To do something, not for some reciprocal process. It benefits us, just making the record. Really it’s the idea the genuine interest in having it be appreciated. As appreciated as any artist would want with their work to be, but again, that’s not the end goal. It’s just a by product.”
We chatted about the perception of the band, and how much the band is debated about in the public sphere of heavy music fans. If somehow Cynic has changed too much from its earliest efforts, being measured against your past, and the sometimes unfair expectations of fans, Paul has his own feelings on this:
“I mean it’s funny, because it’s the same attitude I have right now, the mindset I have right now, this is the same person that created Focus. They want us to to recreate a sound would have never happened had I not been this person. It contradicts the very nature of the band to try and play it safe, do something familiar, repeat a pattern, stay in a cocoon, of “we found a sound, let’s just recycle it”. That goes against everything this band represented. Especially at the beginning with Focus, we were going against the grain. Everyone was offended and everyone was confused, we had a really hard time back then. It took a while for people to come around and realize there was something there. And now they want to keep you in the same place. It’s the eternal dilemma that every artist goes through, that has a work that maybe it’s received well. It represents a time and place, and has a sort of historical reference, and people want to keep you there. They are forgetting, we change too. We evolve. Art is not a static thing. It is alive. The very nature of Cynic is to honor that process of being open and having skill as a musician, enough to develop a voice that keeps expanding and exploring. For me anything but that, would be the death of this project. It is all about a platform for freedom and exploration. Art is not a thing, it’s changing. That is how I view it. I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Acknowledging that we are at a zenith of popularity and relevance for progressive rock and metal, Paul took some time to reflect with us on his peers, and other bands that Cynic has inspired across several sub-genres. He remains as humble as ever and bristles at the notion that he somehow he should take a little more credit where credit is due: “It goes back to… there was an article, and this was years ago, where Meshuggah mentioned us in Rolling Stone, maybe ten tears ago. And Mikael from Opeth telling me “there would be no Opeth, if it wasn’t for Cynic.” I’m not trying to take credit, but it’s obvious that there was a mutual respect and admiration as colleagues. When I follow these bands that are doing well, like an Opeth or Meshuggah, or even the next generation of bands; like Between The Buried And Me, The Ocean; some of these new, experimental progressive bands that are almost post-metal hybrids, but very schooled; it’s an honor. I think it was Emerson who said “the end goal of any artist is to inspire another artist.” That is really the greatest gift you have and opportunity you can give as an artist. That is the job of art, to help inspire others to make more art. If we achieved this to even a slight degree, it’s pretty cool. I am in awe of that. I never imagined it would turn out this way. I never thought about in those terms, I just wanted to make cool art. It’s awesome. It’s a testimony to following your gut, against all odds. Trusting your instincts. Just being a weirdo, and knowing it, and just believing okay with that. We never fit in anywhere. We were outcasts, nerdy kids, living in south Florida, who didn’t belong in any particular scene. We went with whatever we were doing, and I don’t know how it happened except our own stubbornness and willingness to just go off on a limb. To put everything aside and say this is what makes us feel alive. We’ve all had odd jobs and other things to make a living, but this is the thing fuels our existence and gives us a better sense of purpose. Against all odds, we gave this everything we had. We really have been lucky to be able to do what we love. The rest will take care of itself. The end result of this seemingly selfish endeavor helps and inspires artists to make more art. To me, what greater honor is there, really? It’s pretty damn cool.”
Although since reforming, Paul has clearly been leading the vision of the band, as a whole the songwriting process is a collaborative as ever between the players. The contributions of Reinert and Malone in creating the music cannot be understated either: “Since Traced In Air, we’ve generally stuck to the same process. I flesh out songs on an acoustic level, just like a little folk ditties. I could play them all right now. Once I am content with it, I make a demo. I make a lot of demos for the guys actually, and we filter those demos and see what they organically gravitate towards. We usually write a lot of songs. And we basically filter as we go. Usually we start off with a lot of songs and narrow it down to what sounds like an album. And this could be lots of songs, whatever I am working on, because I am writing constantly. Then we basically we curate these songs, and we generate an album based on existing material. Once we do that, we’ll jam and we will flush out rhythmically the aspects and tempos to do another layer of refining and editing. Once we get past that, we cut another demo, at least two or three preproduction demos. Once we all feel like we have pushed it until we have what we going for, or a state of wholeness, since we never really feel done. (laughs) But we find out where everyone feels solid about what they are doing individually. Then we book a date and go cut a record. These things take time. The big thing with me in the context of writing for Cynic, is giving it space. I like to write, and step away and then take a look back. Tweak this and tweak that. It’s like the weather. The mind changes like the weather. Your mood changes like the weather. It’s nice to reference it through those moods. If it survives what I call the “mind weather experiment”, if it survives those waves, you have something substantial. I put it through that process, even at the demo stage, before the guys even hear the songs. It a constant, on-going disassembly and assembly process, deconstructing and reconstructing on multiple levels. It’s art! Trying to understand what it is, you never understand what it is. I don’t know what’s happening here. We are just showing up. You just make it. It’s pretty abstract. We’re not German about it! (laughs) There’s no manual. It’s very free and messy. My studio turns into a fucking pigsty every time I make a record. It’s a mess, there’s papers every where, and it looks like crap. I just get lost in it. I just held a little party at my house as just my way of saying farewell to the album, and releasing it out into the world; and one of my friends emailed me and said “so that’s where you’ve been hiding!” I don’t even realize it. You just fall off the grid because you are caught up in your process. But it’s cool. What else is there to do?” (laughs)
Kindly Bent To Free Us isn’t exactly a concept album, but Paul’s own journey in his life certainly colors the themes that encompass his lyrics and stories.
This album is not a concept album, per se. The general running theme certainly is the nature of the mind, and our relationship to it. It’s mostly third person, some of it is personal and sometimes it’s first person. And it’s really looking at that dynamic. Essentially, this mind of ours is our greatest source of suffering and pain in the world, but also ultimately it can be the source of our liberation. It’s the paradox of the mind. Like Zen Buddhism. It’s just these meaningless riddles you keep asking yourself, like a mantra. Seeing beyond the intellect and beyond the ego and the self. Just a lot of that. Just looking inward and trying to make sense of what is going on. Each song is a varying degree of exploring that. They all explore the density of “who am I, and what’s going on here?” A lot of the album is about learning to let go. And learning to ride the waves. It’s like the metaphor of the album title, Kindly Bent To Free Us. A lot of it is from the Tao Te Jing (by Lao Su), the Chinese text, all those metaphors. Letting go, riding the waves, trees branches swaying in the wind. We must learn to bend. The stiff branches break. It’s a recipe for living. Whether we like it or not. It seems like the more unwilling we are to bend, the more we suffer, that is what is going on in your mind. It is going on around you, regardless. But we are forced to bend. We change. The nature of reality is that it is your friend. It is never conspiring against you. This war is in your mind. Being alive is a precious gift. We are lucky to be here. There’s more of that, it’s a state of mind. A state of gratitude. It’s just what is in my head right now. That is the closest I can get to it.
In and around writing and recording Cynic music, Masvidal and Reinert have spent the last few years with the Death To All tour and band, formed by Death manager/producer Eric Grief. The first iteration of the tour was an all-star cast from every lineup of the band. Last year’s tour focused on the Human lineup and album. The enduring popularity of the music of Chuck Schuldiner, and Paul and Sean’s tenure in the band certainly have brought some enjoyment in hearing those classic songs live and a little closure to the fans and the players from Chuck’s unfortunate passing.
We’ve done a couple of big US runs, a big city tour. Then we did a smaller tour, all the b-markets. And we’ve done Europe. I think we are going to do one more run this summer with a handful of big festival dates and that is it. Maybe South America and Asia too, but I’m not sure. I didn’t anticipate the reaction. Chuck’s work has grown and became bigger than ever since his passing. A whole new generation of people that want to connect with it. We are doing the closest thing to it. Three of the original guys and Max (Phelps, from Cynic’s live band) doing the vocals and singing. He nailed it. He feels and sounds a lot like classic Chuck. It’s pretty uncanny. I’ve been having a good time. It’s really liberating to get up there with a wireless guitar rig and play Death songs, which are fairly easy for me. It’s an unorthodox thing. For me it’s more of an endurance thing. Here we are… I made that record when I was 18-19, I never would have anticipated twenty plus years later, I’m touring it. Especially post- Chuck’s life. The whole thing is surreal. There is a sensitivity to it. You can only take this so far. You do the work, you spread his music and share it with the world, and that’s it. We’ll see. That is what is going on, we’re trying to enjoy it. They are quick runs. It’s fun! Not a gigantic commitment, since it is not an ongoing project and there is no new music. It’s fun to get out there and play this brutal death metal, since I haven’t been in that head-space for a long time. I find it therapeutic and cathartic. I’m in such a different place as an artist and musician, when I do that stuff , I get a weird sense of purging. Like an intense workout or some kind of vigorous exercise. A vigorous intensity that has been really healthy for me to explore, this other side.
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Keith (Keefy) Chachkes