Metta Mind Journal with Cynic’s Paul Masvidal: Hair Identity and Being Yourself
[Welcome to Mettā Mind Journal, the new MetalSucks column by Cynic guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal. Expect a new entry every Wednesday from Paul about life, art, music and the world at large. -Ed.]
One question that comes up a lot during interviews is, “So, how did the band start?” Sean Reinert and I met in elementary school at Gulliver Academy, in Miami, Florida. The principal was a lady named Mrs. K. who I severely offended time and time again just by being me. One day, in 6th grade, as I was walking to class, I ran into Mrs. K., who took one look at my hair that hung just below my shirt collar, and said, “Your hair’s too long. You need to come into my office.” I followed her down the hall, took a seat in her office, and staring me in the face was a plaque of the famous “Christ at 33” image. And out of my mouth came this:
“Would you have him cut his hair if he were a student at your school?” This pissed her off and she threw me out of her office, saying I wasn’t fit for her school. My mother came in and tried to reason with her, “Do you ask the kids to cut their nails? It’s just hair, another natural part of their body…and it’s not that long.” She didn’t like my mother, either.
I made it through 6th grade (it was the tale end of the school year) and went to a school called Riviera for 7th grade. It was smaller, more liberal, and they let me grow my hair out past my shoulders. I remember not liking how straight my hair was when it grew out, so my mother took me to the hair salon and got me a perm! It actually became embarrassing because I went from straight hair to spiral curls overnight, and most of my fellow classmates weren’t that impressed. I didn’t particularly like it, either. It was too much too soon. Luckily the curls relaxed quickly and I grew to appreciate what I had naturally. One of my fondest memories at that school was my suspension trick. I’d break a stink bomb in the corner of the classroom and the stench would be so horrid that we’d have to evacuate and sit outside. Of course the teacher would need someone to confess to the dirty deed, and that would be me… heh heh. I would then be sent home (mission accomplished!) where I could play my guitar in peace.
Back to Gulliver Academy for 8th grade. By this time I was discovering my punk-rock leanings, bleaching my hair completely white and going for a medium-length, spiked, messy deal. My mother knew I was in for trouble, so she bought me these cheap hair-color deals in a spray can that I would apply every morning and wash out when I got home. It only worked for a short while and got really messy during P.E. class. Once my hair grew out enough, I eventually cut my hair punk-rock short just to get the bleached portions out and go back to a natural, dark brown. Since I no longer had aesthetics to exploit, my new weapon at Gulliver became gas. We all loved farting in Mr. C’s math class because you could really rip some good ones right after lunch. How could you not laugh at a huge fart explosion in the middle of an exam? It was stressful being a teen at a conservative school and I think any comic relief to lighten our load was welcome.
Ron Rivchin was a mutual friend of ours and one day, in the cafeteria, Ron introduced me to Sean as “the only other serious musician” in school. He announced, “Sean’s a drummer who’s going to forfeit getting a car this year for his 16th birthday so he can get a brand new drum set with Octobans!”
Sean then grabbed a pepper shaker, poured some into his hand, and blew it directly into my face. I wasn’t thrilled and immediately responded with something like, “What’s wrong with you, dude?”
We forgot about that incident fairly quickly and by that same afternoon, Sean and I got together and played. I lugged my Gibson Flying V guitar and Peavey amp to his house and we started jamming Metallica and Slayer covers. We even found phone numbers for underground metal dudes and cold called them! I’ll never forget phoning Tom Araya and telling him that I could play the “Crionics” track off their first record, Show No Mercy. He was cool and said, “Play it for me!” I put the phone up to my amp and busted out the first riff to the song. He was really nice and laid back, but the other guys in the group weren’t as patient with a 13-year-old fan.
After a couple months of jamming at Sean’s, neighbors started complaining about the noise, so Sean eventually brought his drum set over to my mother’s house and we started playing a lot, since we didn’t have neighbors to compete with. Soon after, we auditioned our first bass player, fellow classmate Cal. He plugged in his bass and asked Sean to hit his kick drum so he could tune. We were a bit confused by that, but went along with it anyway. Soon enough we realized he wasn’t right for us, so we kept hunting for the right musicians to form a band….