How are you? Do you feel the release of 'The Portal Tapes' as a title in the Cynic discography stimulates you creatively to be allowed an even broader orientation on how you approach what Cynic might mean to you?
Hi Bart, I'm doing well, thanks. Yes, it absolutely does. Officially releasing those demos, helps educate the Cynic fan in a broader sense about our backgrounds. I'm discovering that Cynic has always been about exploration and taking our listeners on a journey, and Portal certainly does that in a nostalgic way.
Aeon Spoke also seems to be becoming merged into the Cynic universe. Do you feel these things might happen spontaneously, or is it giving you hard thoughts what to do with the monikers with which you (used to) work?
I don't think about the creative process much, for me it's more about just being honest with myself and believing in the work. Ultimately both projects are birthed from the same vehicle, which is myself and Sean. And the emergence of more heart and spaciousness in Cynic's music (in relation to Aeon Spoke), is a great thing. Cynic is an evolving entity that has a sound of its own, and it seems the more people try and relegate us to our past or future, the harder it will be for them to just enjoy the freedom that we seek through music. It's about not having boundaries and discovering new horizons and never looking back.
There seems to be some confusion, different sources saying different things, as to if Portal was created after the split of Cynic or not. Could you clarify who were involved, and at what point(s) in your musical career Portal existed?
Portal was created essentially when Cynic was actively writing post Focus. As the band felt less and less connected to the music industry at large, we went further inward and I think the name change was part of that attempt at reinvention, of letting go of our past and falling into something new. We existed from around 1994-1995.
Listening to 'The Portal Tapes' I hear something distinctly different from both old and new Cynic material. And although the material often is very pleasant and intrinsically intriguing, the unity seems to be not as strong as with other outputs of you. Could this be in part because you were only shortly working with yet again (an)other musician(s), with whom you did not really have time to get an intuitive bond? Or do you feel I am talking in a different reality now? In any way, how do you look back on what you wanted to create and did create back then?
It certainly has a sound of the musicians we worked with. Portal was myself, Sean and Jason of the Focus era Cynic, along with Chris Kringel (who toured with Cynic), and Aruna being the newest member. It seems we were exploring a totally new space, and had no idea where we'd land, much like any creative process that is going into the unknown. We just captured some songs that were reflective of that period for us. It was inspiring and challenging to deconstruct and build these songs and hear what was coming out. When I listen now, I hear a collection of demo songs, recorded quickly and spontaneously, with lots of unique ideas and images. Ultimately, this work represents a collection of material that was never intended for public consumption, so it's a bit vulnerable as an artist to expose work like this when it feels so raw. But, at the same time, I trust in this release being an accurate snapshot of where our musical hearts and minds were at this time, and that the raw, imperfect aspects are actually very human and make it all the more unique.
It is refreshing to hear your clean vocals from back then; is it true that in those days you'd hold back in showing your voice unaltered (by for example a vocoder), or is that just some gossip on the internet?
I was always insecure about my singing voice, as a reluctant singer. Guitar has always been my forte and singing happened because I heard melodies in my head and wanted to get them out, somehow. I became a singer out of necessity, so the vocoder was a fantastic way of hiding behind a sound, and curiously bringing a futuristic, modern production component into the work, which I connected with. I was able to be more courageous behind a vocoder and also do something interesting. So, with Portal, again the stripping away of this vocal processing was a vulnerable and intense step for me. I seem to do this a lot on my creative journey...going into the unknown and balancing that with some illusion of safety while in it. The reality I've learned now, is that there's nothing to hold onto, and that I don't need a parachute or wings to pop up when I jump off the cliff... I can just leap before looking and know that it's gonna be ok.
When creating Portal back then, was there a conscious plan to reach out to a different and perhaps broader audience, or did you simply roll into the possibility to do something different from what you did before?
We were rolling, floating and exploring, as we are now. We were certainly listening to more commercial forms of music, but I think the art that came through was just the by-product of who we were at the time. It seems when an artist tries to reach a broader audience intentionally, they're essentially trying to manipulate a creative process, which for me would be very detrimental. Or perhaps one approaches the art of making of music with more of a business cap, we've never been very good at that. Our approach has always been more about genuinely capturing something we like. I can be conscious of including more repetition in an arrangement, et cetera, but I can't do much more than that when it comes to personal songs and the kind of music Cynic creates.
Right now a lot of listeners seem to have a hard time appreciating the beautiful piece of art that is 'Carbon-Based Anatomy'. Did you expect many conservative reactions, even when people could by now know what to expect from musicians with your service record?
I guess I'm a bit disconnected from that world. I rarely read reviews and/or pay much attention to the reactions, if possible. It seems better for my health to just do the work and let go. In terms of 'Carbon-Based Anatomy' responses, overall from what "I've heard", it's seemingly been very positive, from what the record company tells me. I think Cynic is a band that will have our hardcore loyal fans and lots of shifters along the way, because we will challenge our listeners to move outside the box and take a journey. Some people want to keep orbiting around the same solar system, and somewhat build a cocoon around their favourite band. It's a tough predicament for the artist, since that kind of fan essentially wants the artist to build a sound that is close to what they know with little updates or subtle changes. But for the band to drift into new horizons, one has to let go of previous reference points and hear things anew. It's a lot to ask of a fan, but it's the kind of fan I am. My favourite groups have always taken their listeners into unexpected places, and yet somehow retained a thread of who they are throughout that process. I love that. I know that if you exclusively listen to metal or even pop, Cynic is not gonna please you, it will take ears that appreciate more than one form of music to get us.
Could you give a hint about future creative outlets by Cynic or its members? And talking about the future, has it always been a conscious decision to couple the old-Greek Cynic to often futuristic-sounding music?
We are in a new album process now. I'm very excited about how the material is sounding, hard to explain, but it's certainly a new chapter for us. For me the "old" Greek Cynics were actually quite modern thinkers which influenced many schools of thought. Just to start, Cynics believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, which is a way of thinking we could certainly apply and use today. They were interested in taming the mind, which is quite Buddhist and timeless. So, for me the Cynics are still really modern and relevant and in some ways, perhaps we're referencing their timelessness by creating the sounds we make.
I will stop the list of questions here. Thank you for taking the time to work through them, and I wish you all the best in your creative future. Anything you wish to say or add, and a last message to your fans: feel free to do so below!
Thank you Bart! Much appreciated. Check out cyniconline.com for further info. Peace. Surrender. Joy.