Paul Masvidal of Death and Cynic
Interview by InfamousButcher
Photos by SheWolf
Interviewed on April 25, 2013 at the Death to All show
(Death To All Tour live at the Theater of the Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA, April 25, 2013)
When you think of Chuck Schuldiner and Death, your next thought is usually of gifted guitarist Paul Masvidal, who played on the classic HUMAN album and did various tours with Chuck. An extreme metal veteran with over 25 years of experience and a style all his own, Paul continues to play with his own band Cynic and has recently taken part in the Death To All tours, a celebration of the late Chuck Schuldiner’s music. Paul was kind enough to grant me a few moments of his time prior to the Death To All show in Philadelphia.
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s been great. The shows have been really great. High energy. Good show. Anciients are a lot of fun. Some locals bands in some different cities but last night was New York and it was over the top.
I went to the Irving Plaza show last year. They had air conditioning this year, I hope?
Yeah It was cold in there. It was nice, yeah.
How would you say the tour is different this year from last year?
Well cause it’s just the HUMAN lineup it’s a tighter show. Ya know we’re focusing on the best of leading to HUMAN and then a bunch of HUMAN material. So it’s more the early Death catalog and it just feels really good cause Sean and I have a lot of chemistry from playing together a long time from Cynic and everything. And Steve who is just kind of one of us too, so it feels like really cohesive, it feels tight and we’ve been able to make it the kind of show that feels like a band show versus the last one. Which I think was a little bit more fragmented cause there was a lot of different musicians and it was kind of all over the place. So this feels tighter ya know.
Sounds great! HUMAN is my favorite Death album and it is also the first extreme metal album I ever heard, way back in April 1992. Other than the DEATH TO ALL TOURS, I only had the opportunity to see Death once on the INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS tour in 1993.
This is as close as you’ll get and Max bears a slight resemblance if you squint your eyes. It’s kind of interesting. And he sounds like him too. It’s pretty crazy but, yeah it works, it works well.
Max also plays guitar in Cynic sometimes.
Yeah he growls and plays guitar with Cynic when we tour.
I saw you with Cynic in 1994 (tour with Cannibal Corpse, Sinister, and Cynic) and actually there was a female singer with you.
Oh yeah Dana. Dana Cosley. She was with Demonomacy. She did the growls and stuff. Yeah she was vicious. A lot of people didn’t even know she was a girl, ya know. She was hiding behind her hair and stuff. Yeah it was cool. It was definitely kind of cool to have a girl up there doing it, ya know.
I know you played on the HUMAN album which is from 1991. When did you first meet Chuck? How did you start playing with Chuck? Why do you think Chuck kept changing the lineup?
I think first I met him as a penpal from the underground scene. I think he wrote me, before even MUTILATION demo. We were writing, ya know and then I got MUTILATION demo, and ya know he lived three hours north of me. I was in Miami and he was in Orlando. We were penpals and we became closer and closer friends and eventually at one point when he kicked Rick Rozz out he asked me to do a little tour with them so I did some dates with him. And then also when he fired (James) Murphy, so I kind of became his fill in friend for those records. Inevitably it just made sense that we would end up making a record together cause I knew him since my teens. We made HUMAN when I was a teenager, but I knew him like pretty young.
That’s awesome! So when he was touring for LEPROSY and for SPIRITUAL HEALING….
I did some dates. Yeah, yeah. So it made sense that we would lead up to doing a record and I think when he made HUMAN it was one of those things where he was trying to keep this lineup thing together and it felt like it was difficult to do. I think really with HUMAN it was the first moment he thought you know what I’ve got two guys who are part of their own band Cynic and I’ve got this guy Steve from a band called Sadus and I can still carry on the Death name. And I think it set his model from that point forward to kind of have different musicians and kind of keep that kind of motif in the Death catalog. What he discovered was that he was having different musicians bringing different ideas to each record so that it just helped his sound evolve, ya know, and to change because they were kind of bringing themselves to each of the records. So I think it was in some ways a way of him kind of perpetuating his music and having it evolve in a unique way by bringing in new musicians ya know. He couldn’t do it all himself.
That’s really cool. Most of the albums it looks like he wrote most of the material. But you guys collaborated and did your own solos and stuff like that.
Yeah I did a lot of different things. Some riffing stuff I think it was. As I see it the metaphor was we colorized a black and white picture. Ya know we added a lot of color to it. But yeah the foundations were his and he kind of had these root songs, that he would have these crude demos that we would take and turn inside out. By the time we made HUMAN we had known him for so many years, me and especially Steve even longer than me, but he was really comfortable with us so there was a lot of trust there I think to kind of be more adventurous and try different things. So I think that’s partially why the record was a step up from other stuff in terms of sonically and musically.
Every album has a different lineup and a different sound to it, but it is all still death metal, it was still brutal.
Still Chuck’s voice and sound. He had a real sound ya know and you can’t escape that.
Was Chuck a perfectionist in the studio? Did he do a ton of takes?
No, he was kind of into just getting good performances. Not too neurotic. I’m probably crazier than he is I think in some ways. He was pretty, at least with HUMAN, he was really at ease I think cause he was confident in the musicians he had. So it was a good time because he felt great about the music and we were relaxed. No it wasn’t too strenuous really when we made that record. It was just more fun.
Some of the Death catalog has been re-released, and some of those have also been remixed. INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS actually sounds a lot heavier remixed. Do you think Chuck would have been happy with the new sound on the remixes?
Hard to say. I don’t know. I think he was happy with what they were but ya know giving them a facelift and making them somewhat more current based on today’s production values. Ya know it’s still happening with the Beatles. It’s certainly a marketing tactic but I think a new generation is used to a certain sonic quality and more digital and whatever. It’s just kind of doing it for the times more so but there’s always gonna be people that resonate more with the original cause that was what they first heard.
INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS seems to be the first record that had a lighter sound and got a lot of exposure. I remember a video for “The Philosopher” being played on Headbanger’s Ball and Beavis and Butt-Head. Do you think that was what the record label wanted?
I think it was because he was just getting older. He was mellowing out a little bit ya know. I think the height of his aggression essentially was HUMAN and he was really pissed. Also he had something to prove. Sean was at the height of his aggression, ya know at 18 or 19 years old, a lot of energy so he was pushing everything as a drummer and that kind of went over the top ya know.
If Chuck were still alive today, what do you think he would be doing? Do you think he would still be performing?
I wonder, you know, because he kind of stopped growling and everything. He’d probably be doing some other melodic type project. I don’t think death metal. I think he turned the corner on that. He kind of moved on. Other than maybe reunion tours.
Yeah that’s kind of the impression I got with Control Denied. Thank you very much; it was good to meet you.
Thank you and it was good to meet you as well. Enjoy the show!