THE AGONIST – An Interview with Vicky Psarakis


Interview by Miriam Cadoni

Photo by Erik Sanchez Photography

Even though the exciting album “Orphans” by Canada’s Extreme Death Metal power force The Agonist was released exactly one year by Rodeostar Records/Napalm Records, in occasion of the release of their self-titled single published a couple of days ago, we get in depth in their last release with an interview collected sometime ago. Enjoy!

So, first of all, I’m so happy that you’re back here of Femme Metal Webzine after a long time because I recall that our first interview was back for your project E.V.E

Yeah, [laughs] I remember that, I remember that…

It’s incredible that you still remember that…

Yeah because at the time I didn’t do a lot of interviews. So, this one stood out for me.

It’s really an honor for me because… 

[Laughs] No worries…

It’s really an honor that you still remember this interview because I was a bit worried to interview you once again since your musical development that your career faced. I’m really happy to see you in another phase right now. The question that I’m about to ask you is: how your life has changed since then and does it means to be part of The Agonist means for you?

So, my life has immensely changed, the day I joined the band I moved to Chicago and I left Greece. You know, it became like a full-time job and in the last five years we recorded three albums, we shot something like 10 musical videos while touring the world. It had been a crazy ride and it definitely means a lot because joining The Agonist is the opportunity of a lifetime. And now fast-forwarding to five years later, we are like a family now and things keep getting better and better. Literally, I feel really blessed, very happy and lucky to be here.

On September 20th 2019, The Agonist has unleashed their sixth album “Orphans”. What you can share about its overall production process?

The way that we worked on this album was pretty similar to any other album we have done, so we did your demos at home by ourselves and we kept exchanging ideas back and forth. And then when we were ready, we hit the studios with Chris Donaldson who has mixed all our albums to the exception of “Five” and of course, we recorded with him. The process was really really smooth and it really felt like there was any stress like everyone was finding its part. Actually, we were ahead of schedule: I can say that we plan to record the drums in 4 days instead they were recorded in just 3 days and for example, the same happened with the vocals, instead of 10 days they were done 1 week. So, for us it was really a good sign the fact that it felt easy to record this album and it was also a positive vibe thanks to Chris‘s work, knowledge of our music and our constant team improvement. It was a great great experience. 

Photo by Eric Sanchez Photography

So, at a certain point in this process, I’ve heard that The Agonist ended up without a label and now I see that “Orphans” will be released by Rodeostar Records and not anymore by Napalm Records. I mean, it’s a bit confusing this, what’s really happened?

I know that after “Five”, we weren’t signed with Napalm at all. The reason that I say ‘we don’t have a label’ is because when we entered the studio to record “Orphans” we didn’t have a signed contract and the contract that we had was for one album and it naturally comes to an end. We simply decided to do “Orphans” on our own and then, try to find a label. In the end, it was a long process that ended up with us finding Rodeostar Records. And about the recent comments [by Alissa White-Gluz], there isn’t much more that I can or want to say about it. That’s pretty much it.

I won’t further investigate because I don’t like to delve into gossip and I’m much more interested in music. So, I’ll ask you now about the title album. If you allow me to say it, “Orphans” as a title album is quite straightforward. In this case, who are the orphans that you take in consideration in this full-length? 

Actually, the reason why we chose that title, it’s mostly related to the fact that we have a song with the same title and we were discussing how to name this album. However, we realized that we never never named an album off a song title. After all, we were looking through the tracklist and for some strange reason, the song title “Orphans” popped up to my eyes and I thought: “Whoa, this would be a really really really good album title as well”. Then, I suggested to the band and they really loved it too. Personally speaking, the main reason of using that title is really representative of the emotion that you get to listen to the album because the word ‘orphans’ is usually portrayed in negative context such as sadness and loneliness and used for people who were raised in that way but then, out this terrifying experience they succeeded in life and create something despite their difficulties during their childhood. Even if you can sound a negative word, it has this positive light: sometimes, if you push yourself that way, so I thought our album and our songs are talking about negative things, sad stories, difficulties in life. In general, negative things but there’s always a moment in the songs where there’s a sudden positivity, a little ray of sunshine coming up and I think it’s important to have this element in music because I feel like people can connect with it and it empowering to let people know that at the end of the day you’ll be ok, that you can overcome everything. 

I also noticed the location of the video of both your new three singles “In Vertigo”, “Burn It All Down” and “As One We Survive” looked quite similar. Can you tell me more about the narrative of the videos and/or do they form one storyline together?

Actually, the first two videos were shot in the same location while the last one, it was a different one but I sense what you are meaning, it might be an indoor building with ruins and stuff like that I guess then, it looks like “In Vertigo”. However, the first two videos were shot in the countryside, particularly in a farm while the performance shots in “In Vertigo” are all inside the same building and the scene where I’m coming out of the dirt in the cornfield are the same location present in fire scene in “Burn It All Down”. It was just a lucky coincidence because we were planning on using that location for “In Vertigo”, the way we achieve our videos is that we try to think about the storylines first and then what we want to shoot and what kind of emotion we want from that. Only at this point, we begin the search for finding a location, so, it just happened that location was perfect for both those videos. Obviously, we didn’t shoot them on the same day but we went a month later to shoot “I’ll Burn Them Down”. Instead, for “As One We Survive”, we just wanted to keep it simple, just a performance with the limited involvement of a storyline and we filmed that in the basement section of that structure. Basically, that’s it. 

Your previous album “Five” dates back to 2016. In hindsight, where do you feel that the band has greatly improved since then?

Even though the songwriting process was the same, I think the main difference with “Five” versus “Orphans” is that before we began the songwriting process for our latest album, a lot of people in the band felt that we had to change musical direction and attempt to make our music more accessible and even radio-friendly, I guess. I personally didn’t feel this at all, maybe because it was the second album with the band while for them was the fifth so, they were a bit nervous in that and they thought like “You know, we’ve been doing this for over 10 years and perhaps we need to change something”. Unfortunately, we did listen to these people who were suggesting a radical musical change and that this will have brought us a band growth. I personally love “Five” because it has some really good tracks on it but I do think that taking out the attractiveness and the aggressiveness of the instruments was a mistake because what The Agonist is about the combination of the heaviness, the intensity, the aggression, blast-speed with a lot of melody. So, removing the first part has made the sound more bland to people and to us as well. In hindsight, for “Orphans”, we did even overthinking and we just did what was natural and we have just written music how we want to write music. In the end, “Orphans” was a big eye-opener because we understood our musical direction and how we should sound like. It doesn’t only feel better but it sounds better like people are enjoying it more too. 

I know that during this upcoming European tour will feature the Ukrainian band Jinjer, so, what are you looking forward to?

I know, it’s gonna be a great tour because we had the pleasure to play a show together with Jinjer back in 2016 and that’s during this occasion that we met each other and we instantly clicked off as people that we were already hanging out together after the show. Since then we have been talking about touring together but it’s not only like we want to do it but it has to make sense too and as soon as we heard that they were planning an European tour in order to promote their upcoming album, we instantly contacted them also accidentally, we kind of were releasing in the same period as them and none of this it was still publicly announced but we’re really enthusiastic about the timing so it just worked out perfectly. I know it’s gonna be a lot of fun because we already know and as said before, we get along with them but also musically speaking, it will be awesome for our fans because even if we share some similarities, we are so different. I’m sure for someone at the show, it will be a breath of fresh air because you don’t want to listen to identical bands in a row and we simply complement each other in that. 

So, Vicky, this was my last question and we’re almost at the end. First of all, I want to thank you for your time and now, it’s your space to say hi to your fans and our readers. 

Thank you so much for inviting me again after all this time. Naturally, it’s a pleasure. I just want to thank the webzine and thank all the fans out there for supporting us throughout all these years and we cannot play to come back soon in Europe to play for you guys. I also would like to thank your readers and if you don’t know who we are and you are reading us for the first time, please go and check out “Orphans” and I really really hope you’ll love it.

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