Cynical Smile Interview

So you found us safely then. Let’s pick up the story shall we.

Well, after finishing the Prawn interview, a quick chat with Al ends, and it’s off towards the bar. On the way there, I meet Ed, vocalist for the next victims, Cynical Smile. He kindly agrees to an interview as well, and rounds up Dan (drums) and Matt (bass). We retire to a different corner of the pub and settle down. Word of advice. Don’t give the band a copy of your zine which has your review of their album in it. Cos suddenly you feel, well, kinda dumb as they’re sat there reading it. It’s bad enough them reading the ‘zine (are they going to laugh or gag), but the review. Anyway, enough.

After reading the review, I say that it’s a good album, which it is. Matt starts agreeing, but saying the album was one directional. The reason would emerge.

Yeah, it’s alright. I think the next one will be a hell of a lot better, but it’s a good start. These things are hard, you have to set yourself a direction. So it could be really easy to put in a lot of changes. We did kinda stray on a few things, maybe some of the later stuff we wrote, we made sure we kept it a pretty straight direction, for that record anyway. It’s really really one directional. The guy in Metal Hammer, when he reviewed it, put it best. He said, Injecting your penis with steroids. The only problem is you may get a permanent erection, but you may get a chance of going limp.” Even the thought is a bit much for me. But I think, do what you do and stick with it.

So what kind of direction do you think that one was. The so called new metal, hardcore?

I think with doing that first album, the band got tagged with a fairly heavy image, which is good in a way.We didn’t necessarily think, make the album like we’re a heavy band, I think it was like, the sheer intensity, and the sheer, sometimes I think the word is misunderstanding, of people looking at our band. And sometimes I think frustration is a good word, especially like you say in the review, nothing against American bands, I mean I truly believe there are a lot of American bands who are much better than British bands, and the problem is, the size of their country is so big, it produces so many bands. England is just like an island compared. So I think the scene over here is pretty healthy compared to how many bands you could get compared to the size of a county like America. So, I think that’s why the album sounds pretty angry, cos we were at the time. No British bands were really cutting it. That’s definitely the reason. I don’t think we said “oh let’s write a heavy record or let’s do this” and I know for a fact that a lot of the newer stuff is still keeping our sound, the intensity, but the songs are improving. There’s a lot of new influences coming in. I think on the first record, we’d been together over 3 years or so, and we’d sort of got our own sound at the end I feel.

There’s been a lot of talk about you sounding like RATM. The first time I saw you, was down in London at the Voivod gig cool show and having not heard anything before, it sounded good. Afterwards I read about the band, and there were all these RATM comparisons, but it just didn’t strike me, even listening to the album. Do you think it’s valid? And if you were American and sounding like RATM, do you think you’d be accepted more for it?

I don’t think so. There are people that say that we are like RATM and that doesn’t bother me at all. We’ve been compared to so many different bands , you could say RATM, Stuck Mojo you could say so many bands. And then it’s the same question, does any of them bother me, and no, cos if you can relate to it then you’re half way there.

But do you think if you were an American band sounding like that, that you would then get more attention and recognition for what you do?

Probably be able to answer that in a couple of years. If we’re in the same position as this in two years time, then yeah. We’ve got some American labels looking at us now, some strong interest over there. And America, I think they’re more maybe into putting money into bands than maybe British labels, who are really scared. I mean, they like bands that chart because there’s not really a lot to offer on the touring side of things. But in the States, you’ve got to tour. With bands like us you have to tour, we won’t get in the charts. So labels out there put more money into them.

With the Rage thing again, a lot of the time its come up in the press where the comparison with Rage has generally been the worst reviews we’ve had and it’s been by jouranlists who I know aren’t into our music and they’ll walk into the venue, quick glimpse, “oh, RATM bollocks” and then walk out again. But a lot of the people who’ve bothered to look into it and listen to it, have said quite the opposite, which is yeah you know, we’re doing this style of music and I think the intensity of the live show comes across very RATMy, but we’ve always been quite energetic on stage y’know.

You mentioned the touring aspect, particularly in the States. This seems to be the first real tour that you’ve been able to do in the UK since the album was released.

We’re going to be touring more, this tour, and then we’re going to be out again soon. And writing the second album now.

But it’s been about 6 months now since I got the album, and the first time I’ve been able to see the band touring. Is that time frustrating?

Not at all, cos we deserve it man, we deserve a break laughs Dan. We’ve had a lot of stuff on. When the album actually first came out, we did a lot of gigs but we didn’t really go out around the country, and at the time we thought we’d put the album out and work on the press a bit more, which paid off, cos we did have a lot of press with the album. And we thought we’d wait un til the next year, wait for the right tour and the places where we want to go and this came up and is the strongest one. We want to go to a lot of smaller places to start off with and then we’ve got the tour with like Stuck Mojo. We’re playing the London date and then the dates in June. These things all cost money. It’s all very well going out doing gigs and touring, but sometimes you can miss the point a little bit y’know,. You’ve got to be sensible about it y’know. It costs a lot of money to get out there and do it.

Do you have any expectations when you do these sort of gigs, expectations of the crowd?

You always get a response anyway y’know, whereever you go, whether there’s one person there or loads of people there reckons Ed. What I really liked about up North, if I can say that, is that I think people are well into their music y’know.

a lot more than probably down South. Being Welsh, i’ll leave the North / South discussion upto everyone else.

I mean, early on we did a lot of big gigs with bands like Manhole, Shelter, CIV, Scrap Iron Scientists, Baby Chaos. But in the end,we have to go back to again, cos a lot of people seeing those bands see our band, but if they’ve got 10 pounds to spend, they’re going to buy the headline bands album. So we had to go right back to the begining, put our album out, big shows down South to put our name out, get recognition within the industry, then we had to go back and get out there like we are now. sort of work up from the begining again, especially with the magazines sort of thing over here.

The final track on the album, “name”, the ‘95 demo, seems to me to have a real Rollins feel to it, especially in the vocals, which isn’t present on the rest of the album. Is the influence there, and is it’s absence a sign of development, changing influences?

I think it’s so interesting that that’s said, cos you’ve now named like 3 bands now.

I’m thinking especially in the vocals.

I dunno, cos when we did that, I wasn’t listening to Rollins until after we’d actually done it.I think we were a more basic band back then. I’d been listening to a lot of Chilli Peppers style stuff then, but Rollins came into it about a year and a half ago really, listening to it and seeing what he’d done, but I wouldn’t really say it had influenced it.

I just seem to hear these influences noone ever heres. Like interviewing Therapy? the other week, I said I thought one song sounded like Joyrider and from the reaction, they thought I was completely off the mark.

Like that Slayer thing. I can see where you get that from yeah. That’s in reference to me reckoning in YAZ previously, that Gunga-din had a Slayer like riff in it. Thank God someone can, or at least will humour me.

Time to be stupid now, but the meaning of the album title, Stupas. anything behind it?

Speak to this man here laughs Ed, and Matt gets ready to explain things.

You lot ready for this. Come on then.

Right, you ready for this. There’s quite a big meaning behind the whole record really. Saying it’s very one dimensional is a very good thing I believe, to set your direction with this record. The next one we’ll take it in a different direction, we don’t want to be a band that sticks to one thing, we’re going to be, not just experimentatl, but we like to think that over the next two or three albums that we do, that we’re going to grow a hell of a lot. But as far as Stupas, well Stupas is bascially, the Bhuddist temple ok, the highest point you can reach is the actual point in the roof, Stupas, and that’s their mental state, and to get to that point, Stupas, you are totally at one with yourself. And we called the album that, it was the name of a song, which was The Circle, but we called the album that, just to give a really good vibe. It’s basically if you can reach that point within yourself, then you can’t better it. So it’s basically a Bhuddist ritual, so the album is ritualistic ina lot of the titles and things we wrote about on it. So that’s it. It’s not a made up word. I think it’s to do with achieving really as well as like getting recognition around you, its more about what recognition you get for yourself, so even if you’ve done that record and noone likes it, you’ve done it and you’ve done your best, and as long as us four are totally happy with it, then that’s what it’s about.

Ok, I read in the last Org newsletter, that you’re planning on releasing a single, backed with remixes, and already planning the next album.

There’s a band called Vitro, they’re like a dance crossover rock band, and theyremixed a couple of tracks for us with likeloads of drum loops, and the last thing they did was Silverchair. So we hooked up with those guys, and they’ve done it for us, and I’ve not even heard the end result yet, but I’m told it sounds great laughs Matt.

Is that something that you decide to do, as I still have a problem with remixes, in that when they are so different to the original, why not just do a song in with that style and technology, insteead of including one word from the lyrics, or one portion of the riff and then using the song name.

The whole point of doing the remixes, was that we were going to put a couple on the album, but we decided not to in the end for that reason. We didn’t want to set out the record with our sound on it, and then confuse people with what we’re doing. But I did like quite a lot of the Pitchshifter Vs Therapy? and I’m quite into remixes, but we didn’t want to put it on the album, it’s on the single. It’s bascially a bit of fun and experimentation really. And if anybody picks up on it radio airplay wise, and plays it rather than something that they wouldn’t normally play off the album, then for us in the long run it’s good. It’ll be put out under Cynical Smile, but it’s really Vitro Cynical Smile, so really it’s down to them that even though it’s our single, it’s their baby y’know. So we didn’t have any input on it at all. We just gave them the track. So if you think it’s shit it’s not our fault yeah, laughs Ed.

According to the Org info as well, it was planned on having about 70 minutes of b-sides?

What is happening with it is, it’s a Cynical Smile single, we’re going to have a new track on it I think, from our new album. It’s going to have an A side of our first album, which’ll be The Circle, the Vitro remixes, and then it’s going to have a whole host of other bands from the UK, which can cut it. So it’s going to be like, no-ones ever really done that before, but it’s something that we’ve decided to do, and Sean really wanted to do. I don’t necessarily like all th e other bands on there, but if someone gets to hear them through our single, then fair enough y’know. It pushes the British bands a lot more, y’know.

And the second album, any clue as to how it will sound?

I don’t know what it’s going to sound like yet. We’ve done our firstindependant releases, we’ve got a lot of interest from American labels, and we’re not going to go into it thinking about radio play, we’re just going to write the second album exactly what we want to hear y’know. We’ll be playing a couple of new tracks tonight off it. It’s got a lot more dynamics, the dynamics of the new one is huge compared to the first album. we’ll have see really, we’re just playing about a load of different ideas at the moment.

Any solid ideas of when it will be released?

We’re going to tour this first album for a while yet, and I think when we’re happy with it, whether we’re going to put it through Org, or sign for a major label yet, I’m not sure really. We’ve had a few offers, but it’s making that break isn’t it, from anindependant to a major label and generally, in my ideal world, it would be really nice to sign to a bigger label, like TVT in the States, or Century Media in Europe and thenstay on Org in Britain. Because I don’t really feel that the British scene is big enough for this sort of music yet. So what I think we’ll do is concentrate abroad a lot more, on building the band up a lot bigger over there and stay on Org over here, or maybe get Org to sign to a bigger label, so still have total control over what we want to do. It gets very political doesn’t it!

Yep, time to relate the warning of the HWP experience with a major label. Guess it’s one of my fears for a lot of bands within the current scene. It’s only supported while the main labels decide to. Then when they’ve had enough, they just find some way to start up another trend, or sub genre, and the carpet is pulled from under a lot of good bands.

It would be nice to stay in control as long as we can really. The new record is going to be a bit more accessible to a lot wider audience than the first one. And I’m sure we’ll pick up a wider audience as we start branching out a bit.

Would there be an ideal band that you could get on tour with?

Um, at the moment I think we’re so individual that a lot of bands I think I’d be a bit scared to say go on tour with. I could name loads of my favourite bands to go on tour with so that I could watch them every night, but I think we’re still finding our feet still. What bands to play with is such a hard thing, I mean at the moment, I’ve mentioned Stuck Mojo, Deftones, these kinds of bands. In England, can’t think of any British bands ... Motorhead he laughs. The British scene’s picking up though reckons Dan.It’s a cool place to be, and I’d rather be a British band than an American one.

I’ve asked a few American bands about the difference between crowds here and in the States, and they reply energy. But when you see a British crowd watching a British band ...

British bands can’t just go out there and expect to be adored or expect people to go nuts. And sometimes the American bands, sometimes purely through the hype maybe from the magazines, but even then, you can’t doubt that they are really good bands. And I think a lot of british bands tend to look at the American bands and think, “well they’re doing this, we can do this” and I think they should step back and say “well, let’s do our own thing” in some cases. I mean, I’d like to think that we got into our thing 4 or 5 years ago, and i’m hoping it’s paid off and we’ve got a lot more original sound for ourselves than maybe a lot of other bands who signed a couple of years ago. But we want to be associated with as many good British bands as possible, we’re not just up for saying “yeah, yeah, American bands are the best” . At the end of the day, we can all give them a run for their money.

Now, I didn’t say this at the interview, but as i’m typing this up, I thought I’ll add it. It ok saying they shouldn’t exect to be adored. Fair enough. But they should expect some kind of equal treatment, which i don’t think they get from the media or the public alike. As the guys said, they’ve been doing their thing for years, but they still get the RATM comparisons, instead of the respect for being a good band in their own right. It’s lazyness in part in my opinion. But, whatever.

I think it’s down to the money that can be put into bands. Anyone can ring up and take out a page in Kerrang!, but a lot of the smaller labels that have got the louder, more aggressive bands can’t even afford to do that. But hopefully if the bands build over the next few years, and the fans really stick to the bands and get into them and build them up as well, then I think you’ll find its going to change.

Well, I’m running out of questions, so I’ll try and bring it to the end. But I’ve still not figured out the right way to end these things (laughter, bastards, just cos i tend to be inept at these things!). Final thoughts someone told me.

Yeah, that’s alway a hard one as well though (maybe, but at least it does appear to be the one to use, I’ll have to remember for the future) . Comments were passed about the zine, but we’ll not dwell on that! I think the more people like yourself who are doing independant magazines, the whole scene. Well yeah, it reaches the underground scene. Which is what counts.

So what better reason could you want for starting your own zine. Believe me, if I can put something together, then anyone can. Do it.

So that’s it. One more mob to go, don’t know if my brain can cope with it all, and then it’s the compartively easy part of watching the gig. Which was ‘kin good. The new stuff sounded alot groovier than the old, and everything ends with Ed doing a headstand for what seemed like a lot longer than he should be able. I’ve seen people a hell of a lot less stable on their feet than he was on his bonce, but maybe thats something to do with being in a pub!

Contact Cynical Smile at

Org Records, Unit 205, The Old Gramaphone Works, Kensal Road, London, W10 5BZ.

And they’ve now got an official web site. Ooooh.