The newest Cynic record Ascension Codes was sadly devoid of fretless bassist Sean Malone after his death by suicide in 2020. Instead of trying to find a new bassist, Cynic vocalist and guitarist Paul Masvidal recruited keyboardist Dave Mackay. In an interview with Overdrive, Masvidal said he had no interest in replacing Malone because the recording took place too close in proximity to his death, and that trying to find someone like Malone was simply impossible.
Masvidal praised Mackay's playing as well, saying that it was so close to a performance on a physical bass guitar that a lot of people mistook it for one.
"It was impossible for me to replace Sean. First of all, the gift of being able to work with a musician of that level – I feel like he's one of the great bass players of our time, I don't think people realize the scope of Malone's skill, or how ridiculous he was as a bass player, to the highest level. When Malone would work on music with you, he would give you so many ways to interpret a song. He had such a vast and deep vocabulary, and he would say 'we could do this,' or, 'we could do that,' so, I was always spoiled by having the best bass lines ever.
"I thought; 'I can't possibly get another regular 4- or 5-string bass player, this is not going to work, it doesn't make sense'. Not only was it too close to Malone's loss, but anyone I tried to put in his seat to try make sound like him, just wouldn't be fair to the bass arrangements. The only way that could get turned on its head, was to get a different instrument to replace the bass.
"I had known Dave Mackay through Plini and mutual friends. We had performed together in the past and had a good connection. He had done some acoustic gigs with me in LA. I noticed with his left hand he has this certain groove that is like a bass sensibility. Like a pianist, they have the left hand playing bass and the right playing the upper register – he just got that left hand groovy bass thing going on which is part of his style. It was like; 'wow,' this guy has the vocabulary and he is a beast of a musician, and I thought; 'this could work'.
"He's deep into the Moog synthesizers – these analogue vintage synths that have a very organic sound to them. It's funny, because I feel like it's one of those things where if I hadn't have said anything about it being a synthesizer – you know, if I just said; 'Dave Mackay – bass' on the record, and didn't specify ‘bass/synthesizer,' I'd say half of the record sounds like a really killer bass player! You know what I mean?"
Masvidal also mentions later in the interview that he's finally starting to work on new music again after the deaths of both Malone and drummer Sean Reinert in 2020. Whether that's for Cynic, his solo Masvidal project, or otherwise, I think it's safe to assume it'll be great.
Check out Ascension Codes below if you haven't already.
And if you were somehow unaware of the inhuman bass wizardry that was Sean Malone, you need to watch his performance of the song "Veil Of Maya" below.