Artists from Europe have had a big impact on 80’s rock, 90’s rock with blues-rock bands coming from England, Germany, Sweden, etc. Cynation, a popular Australian rock band, is becoming more famous in Europe, with the recent release of their new single “Dancing Devil“. The song has been featured in many European radios including Austria, Germany, Albania, Kosovo, and UK.
After achieving commercial success in Singapore during 2004-2006, and reaching international acclaim in 2017, the band hopes for a strong break into the American and European markets and tour in Australia, US and Europe in 2019. Currently Cynation is working on their next single “Go Louie Go”.
Prishtina Press Exclusive Interview with Cynation rock band
Prishtina Press: How would you describe your style?
Josh Mak: Our style is predominantly Rock based. However, we are also huge fans of other genres such as Funk, RnB, Hip Hop, Dark Wave, House, Jazz, Blues, Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock.
Elements of these other styles organically weave their way into our music. Therefore, we don’t concern ourselves too much with these labels and focus on just creating music.
Shah: Musically, I am so much in love with hard rock and heavy metal in general. My guitar playing is very much into these styles I would say. But, as a guitar player, a musician, I am always looking out for things that I could use to inspire myself to develop into the next level. More likely, I am always looking to sail into unchartered waters.
I love to challenge my guitar playing all the time so I love to hear other musical genres which I can fuse them into my current playing styles. I am so in love with the fusion rock (a.k.a jazz rock) movement these days and I am learning more just by listening to this style.
Simon Lai: Predominantly Rock based, as our taste of music varies in different genre such as pop, to funk, to jazz, to metal, to progressive rock. All these somehow found their way into the way we write and shapes the melody that’s in our heads, creating our own brand of style.
Andrew Teo: My approach to crafting bass lines for songs generally comes from what the rest of the band is doing and how the vocals are sung. I normally have an idea of what I want to play but I usually change it once I know what Shah or Simon are going to do. I like to give the song a nice base so the guitars and vocals can shine. I see the bass guitar like a thread that weaves all the different parts together so I will normally work around the different parts and compliment them.
Prishtina Press: What inspired Dancing Devil? What is it about?
Josh Mak: Dancing Devil is a song written about the adult entertainment industry, namely strippers. But it also explores society’s struggles with temptation. Being irrevocable drawn towards it yet never openly admitting to it in public. We often hear people make the comment: “sex sells.”
Yet we never ask the question: “who’s buying?” The song also depicts the deplorable attitude that many men have towards these women. Thinking that just because they are paying them, that they have the right to disrespect them.
What we hope to achieve with this song and our music is to tell the stories that never get told. Thus giving a voice to those who don’t have one.
Our message with the dancing devil song is: Be brave, be who you want to be and never ashamed. Own your body and mind for it is yours and no one else’s.”
Shah: In my perspective, it has a deeper meaning. I remember reading the words when Josh sent the lyrics to me. And I interpreted the song from a different angle. It’s more than about strippers and I think everybody has their own way of interpreting to what they see, read or hear.
Prishtina Press: Introduce us to the members of your band. Tell us about the history of Cynation.
Shah: Well, we are Josh on vocals, Simon on guitars, Andrew on bass guitar and me. I play the guitar too. Josh, Simon and Andrew have been buddies since their schooling days while I hopped in the bandwagon after an audition in 2002. We used to play heavy metal back in the day. Later we discovered that the current style, rock, is really what we are about; this is the musical style which we really love to play.
Prishtina Press: What inspires you to continue to make music?
Josh Mak: The infinite possibilities and the endless learning are some of the things that continue to inspire me to make music.
Art should be free of restrictions and limitations. It can both be eternal and fleeting at the same time. At its essence it is the purest form of human creation and expression.
Shah: My mind is filled with music. It is like some kind of a melody generator. Everything I do, it will be best to complete it in a musical form. So, I can actually say that; music inspires me to continue to make music.
Simon Lai: The interaction that we get internally as we feed off from each other musically creates a musical banter. And I love to get a reaction from the audience because it makes me happy seeing them dance or just nodding to our music. These kind of vibes allows us to be continuously inspired and make music to share it with everyone.
Andrew Teo: The thing that inspires me to continue performing and making music would be the passion for performing and learning new things. I recently picked playing synth bass and I have been listening and learning new techniques. It’s like going on a journey when playing music. I don’t like to stay still and be contented I love to explore new ideas and concepts.
Prishtina Press: What is your dream place to perform?
Josh Mak: There are many iconic locations around the world that are dream venues for musicians to perform at.
We however, like to go off the beaten track and perform and discover new beautiful countries and venues that are seldom seen.
One such venue would be Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania.
Shah: There are so many great places to perform, such as Donnington, Budokan and great big arenas all around the globe. But for me, I’m happy to play anywhere as long as there is a connection with the audience, that is my dream place to play.
Andrew: My dream place to perform would be at the Madison Square Garden.
Prishtina Press: What is your vision for the band? What do you hope to accomplish by 2018?
Josh Mak: The ultimate vision for the band would be to tour and record our own music full time. 2018 will see us complete our debut album and begin promoting it with an Australian tour.
Shah: Continue to make great music, that what matters the most. By 2018, we will have a full record out and go do some great shows.
Andrew Teo: My vision now would be to get all the material we have on hand now recorded. In 2018 we would want to kick off our first tour around Australia.
Prishtina Press: When did you start writing/producing music and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Josh Mak: I started writing music shortly after I began learning the guitar, around age 12. At that time my main influences were Oasis and Third Eye Blind.
As I matured as a song writer and composer I grew to admire masters like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman.
Shah: I started writing my own stuffs as soon as I learnt 10 chords on the guitar! I always wanted to do my own thing. I came from a broken family when I was young so I am kinda weird in a few ways. Writing music to me is the same thing like some people write diaries.
My early passions and influences were classic rock bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones etc. They were essential in my musical foundation in the early days. Those dudes were so badass and they appealed to me.
Then the 80s came along with more exciting and badass bands like Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Skid Row, Bon Jovi to name some. And, I would say I love mostly everything which they called Hair Metal. I am still listening to them today and they are all on my regular playlist in my music player. I learnt a lot from their works, and still learning.
Simon Lai: I would say it started at the age of 12. Where we would gather together to just jam songs we love to listen to. After which it was followed by us just writing a few melodies which would slowly evolve into a song. But for me personally, as I have spent a lot of time into honing my guitar skills. I personally seriously started writing/producing my own music when i was in my early 20s. With influences like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Metallica, Dream Theater and many more… I started off writing short riffs and licks which in turn lead to a string of ideas which created a song or two for myself.
Prishtina Press: What can audiences expect from your performance?
Josh Mak: Live performance to me is about energy and making a connection with the audience. It’s not about being perfect and hitting all the right notes.
Audiences can definitely expect to be entertained and most importantly have fun at our shows.
Simon Lai: To me, live performances is about the interaction you give as a performer and also the way you energy you receive as a audience. To me, its a two way street, where you got to give before you want to receive. So audiences that come watch us, be prepared for a high energy, rocking performance.
Andrew Teo: Be prepared for highly energetic performances. We love to have fun on stage, be prepared to experience Cynation.
Prishtina Press: What song changed your life? How has music influenced you?
Josh Mak: Music changed my life by giving me purpose. Many people go through life never finding their individual purpose and I am always grateful for this gift that music has bestowed upon me.
Shah: Well, believe it or not, when I was like 6 or 7 years old, it was the King of Pop himself; Michael Jackson which actually made me felt some connection with music. Listening to his music made me really happy as a kid and it was from that stage onwards, I felt in love music. And his song Beat it was the song I played and dance to mostly every day at that time.
Okay rock n roll folks, please don’t get mad alright, I’m just being honest (lol).
Music has influenced me in many ways, probably everything that I do has something to do with the music I loved. Like how rock music in my opinion has made me face the world in certain ways, to be bold, confidence and energetic that kind of stuffs. Often times my head will play melodies which sometimes I don’t know where the heck they were from that kind of thing. It is hard to explain in words to be honest. It is a spiritual connection, like that.
Simon Lai: Music to me would be a little unique due to the background I am from. It has given me an escape as I was a kid. It has provided food on my table, a roof over my head, a learning opportunity for me to continuously improve in music. And last but not least, it has given me the opportunity/chance to be able to connect with so many people through music.
Prishtina Press: What do you think of the music industry today?
Josh Mak: The music industry today I feel is caught in the middle of a paradigm shift in the way society consumes and appreciates music.
For the first time in history the Record labels and the Independent artist have the same opportunities and resources available to them. Albeit the massive difference in capital each possess.
Industry disruptors such as iTunes and Spotify have drastically changed the way the music industry operates and the way music is monetised.
It’s neither better nor worse than it used to be. Just different and we all have to embrace the changes and adapt if we are to survive in this new market.
Shah: Good question There are several angles to look at actually.
In a nutshell, I think, the music industry of today is a much more dynamic playing field than it used to be before, with technology being the game changer. But with the buying patterns of today’s listeners, this too affects the artists. Internet or online music is the big daddy of record stores today and, nobody pretty much buy records or CDs anymore which is the major reason some artists decided not to put a record out, period. So, that could be easily the career-ending decision. But still, it is not really a bad thing because the Internet is a part of our lives now, if you have a great online presence, people can find out about you as clear as the balls hanging from a tall dog.
On the other hand, it is not exactly necessary to first secure a record label to present or distribute your music these days. Some artists turned DIY in which they literally record and market their music independently. That definitely changes the business model.
People need music and music needs people, so as long as people are involved, it is a business and the industry lives on.
Andrew Teo: The music industry has really evolved from cassette tapes to online music. I think this evolution is good for everyone and it has helped many artistes like ourselves get our music out to a wider audience. Back in the day I still remember I had to order DVD’s from overseas just to watch my favourite bands. Now I can go on Youtube and watch their music videos. Back than looking for music was difficult as well. Now we have Itunes and Spotify its a lot easier to get our hands on music.
Prishtina Press: What do you value about the history of rock music? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Josh Mak: Rock music to me has always been about being honest and speaking up where others dare not.
The legacy I wish to leave behind is not being afraid to have a voice and hopefully in the process have made a positive change.
Shah: Rock music has been phenomenal in the ways it has evolved. From what it was being perceived decades before as an ‘outside’ and offensive music and look and what it has become now. Man, rock artists are being labelled as icons and treated like Gods to some extent, right? Look at Elvis, The Beatles, Stones, Ozzy, Lemmy and the list goes on. So this goes to show that rock music has stood the rigorous test of times and every minute today, there is a new legion of rock fans everywhere. That is what I valued most about rock n roll, it is a bastard child of pop music but it is so stubborn that it refused to die.
Hmm..maybe one of the ambassadors of rock n roll perhaps. I would love to be remembered as a contributor to the rock music scene, if people love what you do when you are alive, they will continue to do so even when you’re dead.
Prishtina Press: What do you want to be remembered for in life?
Josh Mak: I want to be remembered for how I lived and not how Ii die. How I gave my best to everything I put my mind to and hopefully inspire a new generation to continue doing so.
Shah: Me, as the person I am inside of me. Not many people or friends even family members know me that well. I don’t really like to talk about myself that much to people. I usually keep my own opinions more than I would choose to talk about them.
So, if I am to be remembered for something, it has to be about my creative personality. Instead of talking about the bad effect that it has on others talk about the importance of having that honest criticism.
Simon Lai: That I have given everything I had into the one thing i dedicate my life to. And that is music. To be remembered as the person who inspires and motivates the next generation with the attitude of hard work, perseverance and also the act of passing it on.
Andrew Teo: I love to help out new musicians. I want to be remembered as a musician that was passionate about spreading the love for music and helping the young musicians. I feel it is very important to groom the next generation of musicians.
Prishtina Press: Any tips you can share with musicians out there? And what do you do to warm up your voice?
Josh: Always be open to new ideas but know when to stand firm and not compromise your vision.
I don’t do any special warm ups as I’m self taught but I do use a little trick many vocalist use. I take two spoonfuls of Pei Pa Go (a Chinese medicine to soothe the throat) before any recording or performance.
Shah: Believe in yourselves and don’t listen to the naysayers.
Seriously, it is that simple. It is still about what you think works for you and then you go achieve that. Hard work still matters most in life and is exactly what you got to do. Learn to be self-motivated because they are always haters who will want to bring you down.
For singing, as I rarely do things with singing as the main role for now, but I sung in many of my musical projects before. You need to sing to be a better singer for sure. I took no vocal lessons so it is more like singing with the records as a practice routine for me. I do not have a specific warm-up routine before a show. It is always about getting enough rest or sleep the night before or something like that before I hit the stage.
Simon Lai: Learn and get your hands on anything that intrigues you. Stay humble, absorb and remember but throw away and forget everything when you play music.
Andrew: One piece of advice that I would like to share with young musicians is, never forget why you started playing music. At times this road that we choose will get tough, feeling lost and jaded is common. At those times its very important to remember why you started playing music. That passion and fire will keep you going.
Prishtina Press: Do you have any favorite artists in Australia that you’d recommend to us?
Josh: Bands like AC/DC and INXS are some of our favourites and probably need no introduction.
Another great Australian band who are also dear friends of ours are, GrandHour. On top of being an amazing band, Guitarist Jason Hawkins has produced and mixed all of our songs to date and Front woman Nicole Hawkins designed our band logo.
Shah: Well, I believe ACDC and INXS require any introduction. Right? There is this Australian band by the name of Grandhour that I really like.
Prishtina Press: What are your next plans?
Josh Mak: We are currently working on finishing a 5 track Ep due to be released by the end of the year. 2018 will see us complete and release our debut album and follow it up with an Australian tour.
Shah: Move on with the band, recording, gigging and stuffs. And, I am always busy with plans on performing music with other artists. I love collaborations with other artists, preferably from different genres and see what we can achieve musically together.
Prishtina Press: Where can we listen to your music?
iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play and Bandcamp.
Prishtina Press: Do you have any mentors who have supported you along your music career and what would you like to say to them today?
Josh Mak: My parents although not musical themselves have been an immense encouragement and source of support for me.
Both my Grand parents on my dad’s side were Chinese opera actors and my grandfather also played the violin. They definitely inspire me as an artist and if I could say anything to them today it would be, Thank You for the gift of music.
Shah: I am very much the self-taught musician, I took tips from other musicians by watching and listening. Not many musicians I know during my early days would care to share you their trade secrets. So I kinda depends on watching my heroes on audio, visual or instructional books or magazines.
So it is also correct for me to say that my mentors are Steve Vai, Akira Takasaki, Axl Rose, Nikki Sixx, Richie Sambora, Snake Sabo, Nuno Bettencourt to name a few.
If I ever had the chance to bump into them, I would first take a selfie with them and then thank them for being my inspirations.
Simon Lai: I would like to give a shoutout to my first guitar teacher, who is also a dear friend of mine till this day. Someone who is ever so willing to help and impart his knowledge to me whenever I call him up. Thank you Mr. Brandon Gan for all the years of sharing and guidance, and always looking out for me. If its not for you, I would not have techniques that would keep my hands in such good condition, and musical knowledge that would bring me through tough musical situation. But most importantly, being a role model not just in music but also in life. To Mr. Daniel Chai, whom i had the opportunity to work with and learn from, from my days(or rather nights) of playing in the same club we worked at. Thank you for imparting and sharing valuable insights of the world of music here, and never holding back whenever help was asked from you.
To Rosli Mansor, for ironing out my fundamentals in music and grinding me on the importance of basics in guitar. Without that, I would not be able to be fluent with my instrument.
Last but not least, to all musicians that I have worked with. It is through the experiences that I gained from working with them that also taught me a lot more about music as well as the path we chose in music.