Paul Masvidal has played in some of America’s most intense heavy metal bands for more than 20 years. Visit his Echo Park home, however, and it’s clear he’s finally found peace.
The 43-year-old singer-guitarist, sinewy and gently graying at the temples, lives in a royal-blue Craftsman with a wide view of Echo Park Lake. The bookcases are stacked with thick references on esoteric spirituality. Photos on the fridge show sweet, fading scenes from an old relationship; a tuckered-out Australian cattle-dog mix plonks itself at his feet.
His closets overflow with boxes of vinyl LPs of the new album by his band, Cynic, released in February to metal-scene acclaim. In the early ’90s, the group he co-founded with drummer Sean Reinert mixed ferocious distortion with jazz-inspired musicianship that helped establish the genre of progressive metal. Two decades later, they’re one of metal’s coolest influences.
Most musicians would murder for a resume like that. But there’s one thing that Masvidal and Reinert have stayed quiet about in their public lives, until now.
Both men are gay and stars in a music scene where bands can wear corpse-paint makeup and leather S&M garb while singing about Satan and dismemberment — yet genuinely nonconforming sexuality hasn’t always been welcome.
Though they’ve been comfortably out for years in their private lives, the two haven’t yet spoken about their sexuality in the context of their music.
As artists, they’ve pushed the edges of heavy metal music for most of their lives. Now they’re ready to challenge old stereotypes about sexuality in one of music’s most aggressively masculine genres.
"I see all those old dudes out there just banging their heads to our records," Reinert said, wearing an imposing goatee and extra-large Miami Dolphins jersey. "And I have to think — ‘That stuff you’re banging your head to? That is some gay, gay metal, man.’"
Masvidal and Reinert have played music together since meeting in middle school in Miami.
Even before they came out, they were outsiders in a city known for rowdy Latin and dance music. The barrel-torsoed Reinert was a music-theory nerd; Masvidal’s Cuban American parents went through three marriages apiece by the time he was 10.
"My parents put me in therapy at 5. They did all these Rorschach tests, and I decided to have fun with it," Masvidal said. "Like, ‘Oh, that’s a giant bloodstain, and that’s Satan’s head.’ That quickly got my parents to pay attention."
They channeled that disaffection into their instruments, becoming some of the most technically ambitious musicians in the Florida metal scene.
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