An Interview With Paul Masvidal of Cynic

Cynic is back! Fifteen years after the band's seminal debut "Focus", the band returns with what can be termed a perfectly timed follow-up: The new album is "Traced in Air" and defies easy categorization, pushing the boundaries once again of the progressive metal genre. Steinberger's Kevin Sanderson recently spoke with vocalist/guitarist Paul Masvidal.

Q: When did you pick up a guitar and realize this was the instrument for you?

I got my first guitar as a birthday present when I was 10. By age 12 I was obsessed with the instrument and began taking it more seriously.

Q: Who were some of your early influences?

I had an older brother that was listening to classic rock, so it all began with Jimmy Page, George Harrison, David Gilmour and Eric Clapton. When I got into more experimental rock / jazz and fusion my influences expanded into players like Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheney, John Mclaughlin, Frank Zappa, Bill Frisell, Scott Henderson and Steve Vai. I was also really inspired by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Andres Segovia and still am a huge fan.

Q: Do you & Tymon get some strange looks when you break out the Steinberger's. It's not really known as a Metal guitar is it?

We do occasionally get a confused look, and we're often asked how the guitar is tuned. One of my early influential teachers, David Weissbrot played a Steinberger and I fell in love with the instrument through him. The fact that it isn't very metal appealed to me even more, since the guitar has a plethora of sonic colors available to it and it's more unique looking than your typical metal or classic rock guitar. The modern, forward thinking aesthetic of Ned Steinberger resonates deeply with me.

Q: You guys have some great technical phrases in your music. Do you still woodshed to keep your chops up?

I spend more time composing music than woodshedding these days, but I do try and keep a regular daily practice regimen and am always seeking new information and techniques. I just started taking classical guitar lessons again, which I haven't done in 20 years. The guitar is so amazingly complex and deep, that it's very easy to feel like a beginner in terms of how much one can do with it. There's so much work to do, and yet just being in the process is where the magic is for me.

Q: You have been playing Steinberger's for quite a while. You have some older models along with the new ZT3. Can you give us a little information about your Steinberger's and what you like about them?

GM4T - Black w/ white binding, TransTrem and EMG's. For me this is the classic Steinberger and it just feels like the equivalent to a Steinway Concert Grand in the piano world. A precious guitar that sounds and feels like a million bucks.

GR4R  - I customized this one with an internal Roland synth pickup and a Bareknuckle Miracle Man in the bridge and Trilogy Suite single coils. It's my 'Stein-Mod' guitar that's kinda of a constant work in progress. The guitar is really 'broken in' now and feels great. I have 11's on this one which makes for a solid rhythm instrument for Cynic's complex riffs.

GM4T - Hand painted swirl finish by Jim O'Conner '90, transtrem and EMG's. My first Stein child! I used this guitar on all my early session work with metal bands and it always sounded amazing. The clean sounds were especially bell like and crystal clear. It's kind of a museum piece to me now that I'm using exclusively for studio work.

ZT3 - Still setup with the stock parts, but will be updating soon! The new models are growing on me. I especially love the new tremolo and how it feels.

Q: Thanks for your time Paul. I know you are currently in a break between tour legs and appreciate your time and support. Any last words of wisdom or inspiration you wish to offer our readers?

Before going into 'default' mode, try to approach the guitar with fresh ears each time you pick it up and rediscover the instrument as something new. For those interested, please check out Cynic's latest release 'Traced In Air' and listen to Steinberger's in action!  A big cheers to all fellow Steinberger fans.

Visit Cynic on-line at


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