Human is, without a doubt, one of the most influental albums within death metal genre. We had an opportunity to do an interview with the legendary Paul Masvidal, mastermind of Cynic who helped Chuck Schuldiner on his musical journey. In this interview, Paul recalls his time with Chuck, Leprosy/Spiritual Healing tour, Human era and much more!
Paul Masvidal: Chuck was always looking for ways to expand his artistry!
Agoraphobic News: When did you meet Chuck for the first time?
Paul Masvidal: I can't recall the exact date, but it was probably somewhere around 1987 just before Scream Bloody Gore was released. We were pen pals in the tape trading scene and because he lived about 3hrs north of me (by car) I eventually drove up and we started hanging out, developing a friendship.
Agoraphobic News: You missed your high-school ceremony to join Death on tour in Mexico in 1989. I mean, who wouldn’t do that? How did that happen? How did you get into the picture?
Paul Masvidal: We had an established relationship by then, and were in touch. So, when he was touring Leprosy and parted with Rick Rozz, he contacted me asking if I could fill in for the dates in Mexico. I also toured with Chuck for some dates on the Spiritual Healing tour after he had parted with James Murphy.
Agoraphobic News: Steve DiGiorgio, Sean and you had an honor to play on one of the most influental death metal albums of all time, Human. But still, Chuck’s demanding musical style made you focus less on your own project, Cynic. I guess that Cynic’s Roadrunners demo strengthened his decision to ask you and Sean Reinert to join him, right?
Paul Masvidal: Chuck had asked me to join Death since the Leprosy and Spiritual Healing period, but I was reluctant due to my own aspirations and dedication to Cynic. Eventually when I brought Reinert in for the Human era, we both decided we would try and give it a go and do both projects for a bit.
Agoraphobic News: As a person who toured with Chuck during the Leprosy era, I must ask you how big of a leap forward Human really was in your eyes?
Paul Masvidal: Enormous. Chuck was always looking for ways to expand his artistry and it was that quality in him, that allowed for such an expansion in his work.
Agoraphobic News: The fact that you and Sean were only 20 when you played on Human is striking! What was the biggest factor those days - talent, practice or drugs?
Paul Masvidal: I was actually 21! The biggest factor was a combination of hard work and dedication to the music itself. Not much has changed. I was 17,18 when I toured with Chuck for Leprosy and then about 19-20 for the Spiritual Healing tour.
Agoraphobic News: In Human inner sleeve, you gave a warm hello to the late Roger Patterson of Atheist. I know that you Cynic guys were influenced by Atheist, but was that the case with Chuck?
Paul Masvidal: Was Chuck influenced by Atheist? I'm not sure. I know he was familiar with their music and admired their originality. I suspect some of his progressive sensibilities that manifested were partially informed by intensely original groups like Atheist.
Agoraphobic News: Chuck stated: This is much more than a record to me. It is a statement – it is revenge! So what was Chuck’s state of mind during Human era? I guess that his creativity was boosted by hate, anger and mistrust towards other people (which is totally true for Individual Thought Patterns record as well)
Paul Masvidal: There's an interview on youtube with Chuck on Headbangers Ball MTV that explains his state of mind better than I ever will. But essentially, he was pissed about what unfolded with his ex members and felt driven to make a statement and a powerful piece of music as a reaction to it. There was obviously more to the record than this, but a lot of the emotional angst that drove the vibe of the album came out of his previous experiences with ex musicians he'd worked with and people in his life.
Agoraphobic News: Did you, Sean and Steve have an impact on Chuck’s musical views? Did you guys broaden his musical horizons a bit?
Paul Masvidal: Chuck was open to trying new things and looked to us to get there. We were ultimately in service of doing whatever necessary to articulate Chuck's vision with the songs, and certainly played a role in how we contributed and performed on them. In other words, it would have been a completely different record had three other musicians played on it and he was expanding his musical palette during this period.
Agoraphobic News: What was it like to be in the studio with Scott Burns?
Paul Masvidal: Fantastic, as always. Scott's a good, patient man and a consummate professional.
Agoraphobic News: Were there some songs on Human that you recorded in one take?
Paul Masvidal: It was recorded on tape, so yes, most of the performances were through takes with very little punching.
Agoraphobic News: And what music were you listening to at that time?
Paul Masvidal: At the time I was listening to a lot of jazz and other extreme musical art forms like noise and some world music.
Agoraphobic News: Was Chuck more concerned with musicality rather than technicality?
Paul Masvidal: I think so, yes. The song always came first.
Agoraphobic News: Did you leave Death because you had to focus on Focus?
Paul Masvidal: Indeed.
Agoraphobic News: Would Focus suffer in the case without your experience with Human?
Paul Masvidal: Hard to say, but I would think Focus in some way was informed by my experiences with Death. I always a big fan and you can hear some of it in our music.
Agoraphobic News: What did Chuck mean to you as a person and a musician?
Paul Masvidal: He was a friend first and then a colleague. I'm grateful to him and the opportunities he afforded me as an aspiring young musician. He gave me my first break into the business and I learned a lot from him. He had a great sense of humor and we shared a love for animals. As a musician, I appreciated and was inspired by his discipline, perseverance and dedication to the work. He created something truly unique and offered it to the world. I'm grateful for the example he set in that he stuck to his guns and kept at it through the thick and thin.