Thursday, February 12, 2009

CYNIC UK - Interview with the NWOBHM killers!

It may be fairly safe to say that a good many metallers know about the reformation and return of the American band CYNIC, from Florida, who came back after a 15 year hiatus to deliver the creditable album, “Traced In Air” (see January ’09 blog). However, I’d say it’s even a more solid bet that a lot of y’all had no idea about the return of another CYNIC, this one from England. This unit has risen from their NWOBHM past and turned this writer on his ear with their smashing ’08 release “Suburban Crisis” (once again, see the January blog). Drawing on some killer inspiration (Motorhead, UFO, Legend...Christ how can you go wrong there?!) they add a generous slab of their own originality in songs like “Dark December” and in the process issued one of my Top 10 discs of the year. I recently had the chance to converse with Shaun Grant (lead guitar, vocals) and Dom Heptinstall (lead guitar), chewing the metal fat about CYNICAL times past & present.

RAY - It’s funny, most of the bands I interview these days, I ask them to go back to the beginning…and the beginning for them is something like 2003. With you guys, it’s what, 1979? But that’s cool because that was the beginning of the NWOBHM, eh? So go ahead, tell us in detail what was going on then, both for you guys in particular and the scene in general? I’m so curious about that era. What was it like, being in the middle of all that? Or was it not as exciting as I might think?

DOM - Well, it wasn’t quite as exciting as people might think! The NWoBHM is more visible as a movement in hindsight than it was at the time. All sorts of bands have ended up under that umbrella as the years have gone by. We were all just rock bands at the time.

RAY - If you’d like, take us through the following years with what happened with CYNIC, what you guys were involved with in the meantime and what led to the band reforming and, ultimately, this godly piece of plastic in my hand called “Suburban Crisis?”

SHAUN - After Cynic split around 1990 Dom and I played together in another band called Bad Attitude for about five years. After that I joined a band called Sons of Spock and played with them for around 6 years. After that I formed a band called Slackgranny with Toad Seabright on vocals and Gary Curtiss on bass (who went on to play on Suburban Crisis). On drums for Slackgranny is Mark Simon who played for Grim Reaper in the eighties. Tim played in a band called Before the Storm and also a Rush covers band, both with Neil Orgee on bass, ex of Cynic.

DOM - About three or four years ago we started to hear about the fact that Cynic had a following on the Internet with people paying a lot for our single and that it was regarded as a bit of a cult classic. So – we decided to get back together and see how people liked the sound of Cynic 20 years on.

RAY - I like “Suburban Crisis” for a lot of reasons, but one thing that I love is the way you bring a lot of vibes together without ever losing the overall flow of an album. I’d like to touch on a couple songs in particular. “Suicide” has a distinct NWOBHM feel and yet there’s something about the vocals and production that make it immediately viable as a bnd in 2008. Any commentary?

DOM - Shaun wrote Suicide for the single and it was right in the middle of the NWoBHM period so maybe that’s why it particularly has that feel to it. With the album we were trying to achieve that eighties NWoBHM sound together with a more up to date production feel. Basically we went into the studio, plugged in, turned up to eleven and recorded live. Hopefully we managed achieve a slightly more modern feel without sacrificing the hard rock sound we love.

RAY - The title song gives me some of the feelings I used to get when I listened to UFO and then vocally, I’m also reminded of the late, great Bon Scott. Lyrically he was a genius in combining a clever trick of the tongue with deft vocal rhythm. Am I right on any of this, or am I just an aging rock critic who doesn’t have a fucking clue?

SHAUN - UFO and AC/DC were influences on us, both lyrically and musically, so it’s not surprising that there are traces of both in there. Bon Scott was a fine singer and top nutter and is sadly missed. Another influence you might hear is Led Zeppelin.

RAY - One of my favourite tracks is “Dark December.” I’m not sure if you’re familiar with a NWOBHM band from the Channel Islands called Legend. This one remind me of the wa they would create a dark atmosphere and an epic-length song, yet never let it get boring or allow the mood to kill the energy. Once again, your comments are welcome!

DOM - We’ve never heard of Legend but as we sound similar we will check them out. In fact Dark December nearly didn’t make it onto the CD. We only decided at the last minute to include it. We recorded it having only played it twice in the last twenty years! It seems to be many people’s favourite track on the album.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Have you ever seen an American hit by a car when they don’t look the right way crossing a street in England? Shit, when I visited there in 1995, I was paranoid as hell because of the traffic going the other way!

DOM - Have to say we haven’t seen any Americans run over under any circumstances Ray, never mind looking the wrong way crossing the road!

RAY - Ok, I’ve got a few more questions about this “Suburban Crisis” release, because I think it’s notable on several levels. To begin with, how did you end up at Rockfield Studios in Wales and get the Rush engineering guy?

SHAUN - For many years my and Tim’s ambition was to record at the same studio where Rush recorded A Farewell to Kings. Finally Tim decided enough was enough and booked a week at Rockfied Strudios in Monmouth, Wales. Having Matt Butler engineering the album was pure luck in that he was the guy provided by Rockfield. We were just incredibly lucky to get him as he understood immediately what sound we were after and helped us to get it.

RAY - How much money did you have to lay out to get the unbelievable packaging job done on “Suburban Crisis?” Most big-label acts would probably give their left nut to put out a product that looks as fantastic as this damn thing! How did you manage this? I guess it’s a case of, “If you want to do something, find a way to do it right,” eh?

SHAUN - Not sure exactly how much but it didn’t cost as much as you might think as the people involved worked at a much reduced rate to help us out because they believed in what we were doing. Matt and Hugh (Syme) both did a great job to give us a great sounding and looking album.

RAY - What is up with this black CD, what’s the difference, if any, technology-wise? I’m not a tech-geek at all…Not saying you are, or anything. Ha ha.

DOM - I don’t think there’s any technical difference between an ordinary CD and the black one we’ve gone for. We like the black vinyl effect as it fits in well with the concept of an album rather than a CD, which is what we were after. We made it album length so that we could release it on vinyl at a later date, if there’s demand.

RAY - You guys have been called CYNIC for a long time. Have you heard the Florida death-fusion band CYNIC? Oddly, they issued their first album in 1993 and have just now put out a new one. I guess Jboth band proved the “cynics” wrong this year, eh?

SHAUN - We’re aware of the other Cynic. There has been banter from some of their fans on the internet that we should change or name but there are no hard feelings between the two bands. Their music is totally different to ours style wise – I don’t think anyone would mix the two bands up.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Do people really eat sausage & tomato sandwiches a lot in England? I heard KK Downing mention them once, so is this maybe just a Judas Priest delicacy?

DOM - People do eat those over here but not exclusively. I’m more of a bacon sandwich man myself. We mainly spend our time drinking large amounts of beer!

RAY - What’s up with touring for CYNIC? Do you guys do many shows where you’re from in England (where exactly is that, if we don’t already have that answer?)

DOM - We’re from Malvern, Worcestershire, which is about 30 miles from Birmingham. We’re not doing a lot of gigs at the moment as we’re mainly concentrating on writing new material. We’ll give you a shout when we do our next one. Maybe you can come over and eat sausage sandwiches and drink beer with us.

RAY - How are things going for the promotion of “Suburban Crisis?” Any chance of getting bigger distribution, say a label like Italy’s Cruz Del Sur? Any advance work happening for a follow-up to “Suburban…?”

SHAUN - We’re writing new songs for a second album currently, which is keeping us pretty busy. Sales of Sub Crisis are picking up as people get to hear about it (with a lot of help from guys like you Ray!) We haven’t approached any distributors really, we’re pretty much letting word of mouth do the selling for us. We’ll check out Cruz Del Sur.

RAY - You guys have been around a long time, so I’m guessing there have been more than a few incidents, oddities or strange goings-on in the history of the band. Tell us a story from the band’s history that would crack us up, shock us into having to get therapy or simply make us smile in bemusement.

DOM - We’ve forgotten most of what happened in the eighties! One odd thing was how Sub Crisis was plagued by what seemed like a climatic conspiracy as if it was never supposed to be completed. We did the main recording at Rockfield but some mixing and vocal stuff was done later at Yellow Shark Studio in Cheltenham. On one occasion Tim, Shaun and Gary were over there when we had the worst flooding for a generation. Tim’s car was flooded and washed away and they had to abandon ship! Only the hard drive with the album on it was saved! We tried again a few weeks layer and were beaten back by arctic snowdrifts. Oddly, one of the names we rejected for the album early on was biblical flood.

RAY - Any final comments, cynical or otherwise?

SHAUN - We would like to say thanks to everyone who’s bought the album and to the people who’ve given us good reviews. Someday it would be great to get out to the States to do some gigs as I know there are lots of fans of NWoBHM out there.

No matter how many bands/artists I talk to over the years, there’s always a special feeling I get when I look to the, that’s not it...! Sorry about that...there’s a special feeling I get when I talk to NWOBHM guys. It’s a period of music that’s always been very important to me, in my own development as a music fan and it produced some of my most treasured music. Moreover, when a band from that period has continued on in this modern day and is still doing work that’s fresh, forward-thinking and gleans the vibe from that era, well, I’m onboard. You get your asses there too!

1 comment:

Cynic (UK) said...

Nice one Ray - thank you!

Keep on rockin!!

Cynic (UK)