S= Tony Eyres
G= Renegade, Bad Attitude, Son Of Spock, Slack Granny>>SHAUN GRANT>>Bad Attitude, Son Of Spock, Slack Granny - Health Warning, Bad Attitude>>DOM HEPTINSTALL>>Bad Attitude
B= Barry Pedlingham>>Tyga Myra - Son Of Spock, Slack Granny>>GARY CURTISS>>Slack Granny, Son Of Spock
D= Renegade, Tom Sawyer, Before The Storm>>TIM BATKIN>>Tom Sawyer, Before The Storm
Cynic was formed in 1979 in Worcestershire and recorded the Do Or Die demo in 1982. This was followed by Suicide single in 1983, which apparently has become a pricey collector’s item. The releases that followed were Rebel Eye demo in 1987 and Right Between the Eyes compilation of 1989, which was released in 2003. The group decided early '90s is a good time to call it a day. The reformed band issued an album called Suburban Crisis in 2008.
Tim Batkin is a fan of Rush and was thrilled to record Suburban Crisis at Rockfield where Rush had recorded A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres. The Cynic album was recorded with Producer Matt Butler, who had worked with Rush on Power Windows and Hold Your Fire, while the album’s design, cover art and photography was done by Hugh Syme. Batkin had a hand in organizing Rush conventions and played in a Rush cover band. He is also a drum session artist.
Wacken Open Air booked Cynic to play in 2008 thinking the Brits were the US Cynic, which was funny given how the promoter had not picked up the English accent on the telephone. Suburban Crisis’ front cover has a number plate on a rubbish dump, with the name Florida written on it and a number, which is the catalogue reference for Cynic US’ Focus album. Funny. The band’s CD was out on vinyl in 2009. It was mastered at Abbey Road studios, with Steve Rooke and Matt Butler, with cover art once again re-designed for vinyl by Hugh Syme. In fact, the Canadian artist was going to contribute art and keyboards to the band’s next album, which was due in 2010. The Cynic (UK) track, No Time At All, from the B Side of the 1983 Suicide Single vinyl release, was selected in 2010 to be part of a 12-track promotional CD (which also featured Tygers Of Pan Tang, Witchfynde and Raven amongst others) that was issued with the Slam Media GMBH magazine special, The Roots To Metallica. The band claimed a similarity between the Suicide Single and Metallica’s Master Of Puppets.
CYNIC - SUBURBAN CRISIS - VERGETTE
Tim Batkin is the drummer of NWOBHM band Cynic, a band that has just compiled its vintage material into one disc. Said album, Suburban Crisis, not only harkens back to a time when music contained music and depth, but is also the odd rarity rearing its head for the collector. Scattering the sands of time, Ali “The Metallian” meets with Tim, who along with singer and guitarist Shaun Grant, bassist Gary Curtiss and second guitarist Dom Heptinstall, are re-introducing us to the Cynic. - 18.10.2009
METALLIAN: Where did the name Cynic come from?
BATKIN: We all have a pretty dry sense of humour, and love to take things not too seriously. Dom especially”¦ I remember one band telling Dom that their drummer had a drum riser and he replied, dry as ever, “pity you don’t have an IQ riser”
METALLIAN: Why was the name chosen?
BATKIN: I think we all felt that the lyrics took in and described a cynical perspective of life, which maybe typifies Shaun, the main song writer, and I think we liked the slightly different approach to band naming at the time, being different to the mainstream type of names which was all a bit 'Satan’s Blood' or 'Axe Attack' type of thing.
METALLIAN: That was Satan’s Blood on the telephone. You’re toast.
BATKIN: Bring it on! That’s why we have Fingers for band security to sort out these problems. He will just have a quiet word in their shell like, visit their kids on the way to school, meet the wife while she is shopping, a little bit of verbalising, no more trouble. Get it?
METALLIAN: I think so! Was there a monicker before Cynic?
BATKIN: We toyed with the name 'Thanitos’ or something like that, which if I remember is Greek for 'Earth Shaker', but in some early review someone mentioned the band as 'Sanitos', which sounds more like a toilet cleaner, if it actually isn’t already, so that binned Thanitos.
METALLIAN: Thanitos or Thanatos?
BATKIN: I don’t know mate. It’s all Greek to me. But with a bit of edification now I think you are right with the latter! There is nothing like a bit of education and that was nothing like a bit of education.
METALLIAN: Can you say a few works musically/stylistically about each of the band's releases, perhaps even compared to the other releases before or after it?
BATKIN: I think, for me at least, I can hear a lot of what I was listening to at the time replicated in the drumming I was doing, bits of Ian Paice, bits of Brian Downey et cetra, and I am sure that is typical for all of us, bringing our influences together to make the music.
And you can see and hear that change over the years, as we broaden what we are listening to, and respond to the changes generally in music through the '80s.
METALLIAN: Why has the band not given up?
Shaun is the same, always playing, Dom is a bit more fortunate and can take some time away from playing, and keep all his chops rust free.
METALLIAN: Any fond memories of those heady days? What was the atmosphere of the day like?
BATKIN: Very fond memories, watching and supporting Grim Reaper, Virgin Star, Tyga Myra, Wrathchild et cetra. Seeing bands turn up in buses where the tail-end had been welded up and acted as a store for instruments, and all of us working hard and getting either singles out or albums, and unbeknown at the time creating the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
I was talking to Shaun the other day, having read a recent review of Suburban Crisis, which like most point to the fact that we sound like an '80s metal band, even though the album was recorded in 2006 and released in 2008, and said, “I feel Cynic is a bit like Austin Powers, having being frozen in time in the '80s to be thawed out in the 2008, but still bring all the past to that time.” It is all we know! Yeah Baby, we still have our mojo
METALLIAN: Were you jealous of Wrathchild’s hair?
BATKIN: For a long time I wished I had Lance Rocket’s hair! Shaun and Dom were OK. They had long hair anyhow. That was then though this is now. Do they still have their own hair?
METALLIAN: Did you/the band ever expect to be around 30 years later?
BATKIN: I figured after thirty years of playing I would have my own Caribbean Island, jets and yachts and be enjoying the fruits of all those labours. I think we were all pretty much convinced that this was the way it would be. Never let God know your plans. It is the quickest way to make him laugh
But it is still a blast to play better than we did 30 years ago. The only difference is it is harder to see where or how you make a living out of playing music these days, with digital music being so easy to pirate. Doh!
METALLIAN: Let's talk about your religious instincts or beliefs. I am referring to the song Faithless One of course. Is the band 'older and wiser' now or do the lyrics stand?
BATKIN: Shaun wrote Faithless One way back in 1979. He was 17 and had been brought up in an Irish Catholic family. Attending church every Sunday was compulsory for him. I think he wanted to kick back a bit about this. The song Dark December remembers his mother who died Christmas day. Neil Orgee, who played bass before Gary was very religious and in fact had personal difficulties playing the song.
I am sure for Shaun the lyrics stand, either older and wiser, for the rest of us it is a great song, which we like to play.
METALLIAN: Did Neil know what the name of the band was? Who was Anne Marie?
BATKIN: I think this would have been one of Shaun’s girlfriends, although I am not entirely sure. Funny how you can play a song for years and not really know who or what the song is about. But as soon as we finish this I will give Shaun a bell and ask him. My money is on a former girlfriend.
METALLIAN: The band has dropped quite a bit of coin into Suburban Crisis. Why? What is the idea or goal?
BATKIN: Suburban Crisis started as a realisation of a dream for Shaun and I. We loved Rush’s Hemispheres and A Farewell To Kings albums, both of which were recorded at Rockfield recording studio about 40 miles southwest from where we live in the beautiful Welsh countryside at Monmouth and we wanted to record at least something there.
When we finally got the booking at Rockfield's, and with them realising we were big Rush fans they appointed a local freelance engineer called Matt Butler. Matt had of course worked with Rush on Power Windows and had been with them at Montserrat, where Matt was chief engineer, when Rush were completing Hold Your Fire.
Very early on Matt persuaded us that we should record an albums worth of material, and so with no particular goal or idea in mind we recorded the eight tracks, which make up Suburban Crisis. A lot of these date back to the Do Or Die demo of 1982, and the Suicide single of 1983, so it is challenging and enlightening to revisit and play these songs over two decades later. Can we still play them like we used to? Have we got better, worse or stayed the same in our playing? What the hell would a former AIR Montserrat engineer who has worked with Rush, Dire Straits, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Gary Moore think more importantly? Even though we were effectively the client, if the goods weren’t up to scratch Matt could have lowered the faders at worst or not given his name to the credits on the album. I think Matt’s encouragement enthusiasm and support, and later with equal measure from Hugh on the cover art more than anything created Suburban Crisis and it is the album I am proud to refer to as the one we would have released back in 1983 if the A&R departments had bothered to listen to Suicide or got off their backsides and travelled out of London to see some of the Midlands bands live!
METALLIAN: What is Vergette and what is their involvement?
BATKIN: Vergette is a private limited company in the UK. Named after William Vergette who, during the persecution of the Protestant Huguenots by the French Catholics, escaped France to England and created William Vergette Limited. The company motto is “Sans Venim”, which means 'without poison,' which could also be meant to convey free from poison or free from malice.
A descendant of this Vergette was another William Vergette who although English, fought on behalf of the Canadian army during World War II and, although wounded, returned to France during the Normandy invasion, and was sadly killed with many of his fellow Canadian Rifle company men in action against a German Panzer division. Sorry, digressing a bit here, but coming back to the question... Vergette is the family name of my wife and a company which both my wife and I own and are directors of, and in normal operations provides management consultancy, but fortunately can speculate in other markets like music production and promotion and to which we are all grateful for their support and investment in the album.
I would guess there are not too many heavy metal drummers who also happen to be company directors and are MBA and MCIPS
METALLIAN: How did you get hold of Hugh Syme?
BATKIN: After all the work we had put in with Matt at Rockfield and Yellow Shark we were convinced we had created a worthy album, which needed to be completed professionally in terms of cover art for the product, and released.
There were so many linkages with Rush in the manufacture of the album, and I am fortunate to have a postcard of Neil from way back in 1992 and for a time played in a Rush covers band, that more and more I began to think of how brilliant it would be to approach Hugh to assist with this.
Again, Shaun and I had long been fans of his work and one day I logged onto Hugh’s web site and spent a spellbinding afternoon admiring his work. For all of us Hugh is an absolute genius.
Anyway, I approached Hugh, spoke to him a few times - could have spent hours talking to him - a really charming, engaging, intelligent and brilliant man. I think Canadians have a certain affinity for Brits, and of course Hugh spent much of his formative years in the UK, making him perhaps even more attuned.
A long story short, Hugh agreed to support us with the album, and what more can I say? We have been fortunate enough to receive some great reviews for Suburban Crisis, without exception the work of Hugh, is always mentioned, along with Matt with his tremendous work in re-creating the early '80s sound. Hugh, Like Matt, pushed us hard to create the perfect album packaging, insisting on the digi Pac and 16 page booklet et cetra all of it adding cost, but as he said at the time, “sorts the men from the boys.” We really hope to do more with Hugh in the future, with especially some keyboard playing on the next album.
METALLIAN: Oh no! Keyboards the bane of later albums.
BATKIN: Fingers, this bloke needs a word... runs a heavy metal web page, being disrespectful to the very great Hugh Syme - sort it will ya? No, this will be great. Think of John Paul Jones keys on No Quarter or other Led Zep songs or John Lord with Whitesnake or Purple and what about the very great Rush? Brilliant atmosphere can be created with keys. There will still be more guitar solos than you can shake a stick at anyhow so don’t worry!
METALLIAN: Cynic recently released a vinyl version of the compilation. Could you talk about that?
BATKIN: Most of the fan base of Cynic seem to fall into the 35 to 45 demographic, who were fans of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and loved what came out of that era, and the media in which it came out, namely vinyl so we knew we had to respond to that demand and eventually deliver a heavy weight vinyl album, gatefold, with printed inner sheet as it would have been in those good old days.
Trouble is, only Abbey Road Studios remains as a vinyl mastering facility in the UK, so we had to master for vinyl there, which was no great hardship for us you understand
It’s funny, were we doing it again I think I would almost give away the music and images of the album on a memory stick, to help all those people who won’t consider buying anything and are all about free downloads. As we speak, Suburban Crisis has gone viral on a number of Russian free download sites. God bless 'em... and sell the vinyl to those who love to feel, see and touch the product, and recognise, to quote Neil Peart that “you don’t get something for nothing”. It goes back to my earlier comment on how do you make a living with music these days? Even though I don’t have a record player, the vinyl stands out as a superior product, to me at least, and of course on the CD itself, we went for the black vinyl effect CDs from Sony, which gives the CD a look and feel of vinyl.
METALLIAN: Can you recount the story of your indirect and direct run-in with the American Cynic? As well, it seems you have a sense of humour about their band and album.
BATKIN: The only similarity between Cynic UK and Cynic USA is the name. Shaun and I met singer and guitarist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert down in London when they were Aeon Spoke and they were really nice people. The music was certainly not heavy, I don’t even recall Paul playing any solos, which surprised us as we had read so much about them being heavy metal and axe shredders and drum destroyers et cetra. This obviously would refer to their work in Cynic and not Aeon Spoke, but having said that, I would not describe what they are currently doing as heavy or metal at all, presumably why they have the catch all, doom, thrash progressive, jazz et cetra describing them. In our day it was heavy metal, jazz, punk and popular or soul music. There were not these sub sets, like, erm.. the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
I think some of the issues have arisen from a small part of their fan base who went ballistic after the Wacken episode that we had dared to call ourselves Cynic, thinking we had just arrived at the scene and decided Cynic was a good name. The fact that we had been around ten years before them, I think, came as a bit of shock and then a further shock was we were still together, and had released an album. I was amazed at how quickly the Internet picked up on the Wacken situation, but how those web sites, quick to have a laugh at our, and Wacken's, misfortune, were slow or nonexistent in being so eager to report we had been around ten years earlier. Funny too, that when these sites get a copy of the album to review, they refuse to review it, and yet I bet if they thought it was useless they wouldn’t hesitate in publishing this fact. I know of a few sites where independent reviewers, who have loved Suburban Crisis, submitted their reviews for publication to the site, only to be told, “we are not going to run with that.” Funny really the Internet being censored? So when we worked up the ideas for the album cover we thought it would be fun to include some imagery which both nodded to, and also had some fun at our namesakes from across the water. I think it is Brit Canadian humour - never taking oneself too seriously.
A final ironic comment on the whole Wacken experience, although we were binned from the show, our biggest market in the world in very large numbers for both the CD and Vinyl is Germany. We get played on quite a few stations over there. Take the change out of that!
METALLIAN: The band has, in fact, borrowed the American Cynic’s album catalogue number. Regardless, what is up next for you?
BATKIN: Vergette has invested recently in a 48-track Pro Tools recording studio and we have been working up the demos, which will create hopefully the next album. It’s as heavy as anything, and really feels to us like Led Zeppelin. We all agreed that it is not a bad thing. This process will continue. Hugh has reminded us to leave space on the album for some guest keyboards and it is a done deal as far as we are concerned that we will work with Hugh both musically on the next album, by the way he too has a Pro Tools rig in Canada and better still Terry Brown to help him out, and artistically on the cover design. Need to figure out some more fun!
METALLIAN: Do you have time-lines?
For me, the sooner the better. We have a few numbers really taking shape and there is a load we could look at from the early days. Realistically though at least next year.
We look also to Germany, as our growing and biggest market to maybe play some concerts and show what a British heavy metal band can do, and let Wacken know what a serious cock up they made. In the meantime, we will keep rocking it is all we know how to do! Thanks for your time and best wishes.
For more information please see the band’s website at http://www.cynicuk.com. It even has imagery for those looking to visit Historic Britain.
If you enjoyed this, read Weapon