Rising band on the Czech rock scene, THE AGONY is composed of four wimin who will rock your socks off with their heavy riffs and grunge vibe.
Could they be a Czech version of GIRLSCHOOL?
I interviewed Niki Kandoussi (rhythm guitar and lead vocals) over the internet.
1) You started THE AGONY in 2013. Who is in the band with you? How did you meet them?
There are three other fabulous women in the band with me, first of them being the wild intellectual red-headed beer-drinking and always-smoking Katie Skatie who plays bass. My ex-flatmate gave me Kate’s contact details as I was growing desperate – I’d auditioned or asked 6 female bass players with no result. I rang Kate with no expectations, but even on the phone I liked her instantly, then we met and rehearsed, and she turned out to be just the one I needed - she could play, looked good and became my best mate.
Terka Pšenčíková (read it as Pshencheekhova! Czech is funny) plays lead guitar and joined the band in April 2013 being the last member of the original line-up. We couldn’t find a decent lead guitarist so, desperate and out of ideas again, we simply put up an ad on the internet to which Terka replied. At first, we didn’t think she’d fit in, but it only took a few band parties for Terka to open up a bit and we knew she DID fit in perfectly.
Martina ‘Kajda’ Balcarová is our 3rd and last drummer. I’ve known Kajda forever, it was my Mum who introduced us as she knew Kajda from local bands, and from the beginning I wanted to be in a band with her. There was an attempt when I was 16, but nothing good came out of it, we had one rehearsal and it was awful. Then we kept missing each other – I played in another band, she was free, then I was free but she played elsewhere, then I was free again and she... goes to play a cruise ship?? It took years and our original drummer leaving the band due to pregnancy, but Kajda did join The Agony eventually, thank goodness!
2) "A bit of Motorhead/Girlschool meets Motley Crue with punk and grunge vibe, heavy riffs and catchy choruses". Who write the songs? Where does the inspiration come from?
It’s usually me writing the songs or at least coming with the main structure, riffs, chorus, melody, title or a piece of lyrics – something that gets it started. Katie’s written one song so far, but I know she’ll come up with more. The songwriting process has changed in the three years of us being together; most importantly, it’s not all about me anymore. I used to record full demos and tell the girls exactly what to play, like a dictator. With time, I realised the girls ought to have an input too. They do now and, since we all have different influences, the music suddenly gets quite different and colourful too, even though I still like to be in charge of arrangements. Nevertheless, with all of us involved, it's then The Agony and not just Nik’s songs, although I gotta say there are still a few songs I wrote in my teenage years (Evil Angel, Rockin’, Waiting) that we still play and they work amazingly.
When it comes to inspiration, I’m no different than other musicians, because my inspiration comes from feelings and emotions. Desire is an incredible and pivotal driving force, and so is pain; the more unhappy I am in my personal life, the better songs I write. It’s like therapy when you turn all the struggling, letdowns, sadness, anger, frustration, longing, boredom or whatever else into music… That’s why more than a half of The Agony’s song catalogue probably wouldn’t exist without my ex-partners or lovers; most of them have an AG song, some of them two, bless them.
But we also write about partying, good times, stories, darker stuff… it depends.
3) What's the rock scene like in the Czech Republic?
Good question. As everywhere, there are good things and worse things. We have a lot of bands here, some fab musicians, great deal of music, and competition too – this is a small country. We’ve got some great venues, studios, professionals who help bands so that’s all good. What I’d say is worse about our rock scene is that it’s a bit behind (but it’s getting better), and quite polarised and torn in two. You have fans who prefer the bands that sing in Czech, then you’ve got other fans, usually from younger generations, who can’t stand Czech bands and root for English-singing bands. Some bands here have been going strong for 30 years, but none of them sing in English. They sell out each gig of their tour here, but have them play abroad and they’ll be back to square one. So I think the language thing is a big deal here.
4) One E.P. released in July 2013 ('Loud and Furious'). Followed by a debut album in June 2015 ('Dirty and Dangerous'). How do you (the band) relate to you fans?
Our fans are great and crazy sometimes, just like us. And from the beginning, we want them to feel they’re a part of our mad bunch, and that we appreciate them and are happy for their support and attention. It’s good you mentioned Dirty And Dangerous, because we’d started crowdfunding campaigns prior to the recording, and that was a prime example of us relating to fans and the proof of the fact it works. We knew we wanted to do the album for them and with them… we let them be a part of it and it was a win-win - THEY gave us their time and money, therefore a chance to record the new material, WE gave them the new material and some nice merch. And our eternal gratitude!
5) You perform a lot in Prague and the Czech Republic. What about Europe and the UK?
We’ve got some Germany gigs under the belt as we play there every year since the beginning; we’ve also played Slovakia. The second part of your question is on the agenda in August of this year, we’re setting off for the first tour in Netherlands and the UK. I’m setting it up on my own with a little help of my friends which is sometimes harder than it sounds as venues tend to ignore me thinking nobody gives a damn about us abroad. But we’ll prove them wrong, so please check our website and Facebook for upcoming NL / UK tour dates, we’ve got a few by now and there’ll be more :)
What I’m really happy about is sharing the bill with Jax from Girlschool who will also play the festival Women In Rock with her other band Syteria. I love Jax to bits as she’s a great mate of mine, so I’m looking forward to seeing her and the girls, and we’re chuffed we’ll be sharing the stage with them.
6) What are THE AGONY's influences?
My top 5 consists of Girlschool, KISS, Crucified Barbara, Motley Crue, Metallica. But I also love more current stuff now, things like Biffy Clyro, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age. I’m sure the new material of ours will reflect this somehow.
Katie is into more weird and alternative stuff. She listens to L7, Arctic Monkeys, Kraftklub, Nirvana, GN’R, Led Zeppelin. As far as I know, the latest earworm of hers seems to be QOTSA’s Era Vulgaris.
Terka loves her classic rock stuff. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, Michal Pavlíček (the best Czech guitarist), King Crimson.
Kajda is a fan of Gotthard, Asia, KISS, Journey and mainly: 'TOTO!'
As you can see, it’s an interesting and a bit crazy mix, but (still a mystery to me) it works well with us.
7) And, please, tell me, each of you, about the instruments you play. Nik: the brand of your guitar and what you like about it. Katie: about your bass. Terka: about your guitar. Kajda: about your drum kit.
I’ve got the guitar of my dreams which is called NK Explorer Pro and it’s a custom-built guitar, thing of beauty. I’d have hardly gone for a custom-built guitar if I wasn’t forced to it by circumstances – I’m a lefty and every visit of a guitar store makes me wanna yell as for me, there’s nothing to choose from, so when I got a chance to have my own guitar built, I jumped at it :)) The brand is Kobrle which is a surname of Libor Kobrle, a well-known and renowned guitar builder from the magnificent Prague 7. The guitar’s body is smaller and therefore lighter than the classic Explorer (hence the Explorer Pro name); the mahogany wood and neck-through give the instrument an impressive sustain and the whole guitar is very comfortable to play whilst having a forceful sound, so suitable for heavy rock rhythm guitar-playing. Oh and it looks great too, I’ve never seen a more beautiful red in my life :)
Katie: I actually have two bass guitars, and though I didn't choose either of them, I don't want any other. Both with five strings. (I've never liked five-strings, but now, I'd never change.) First of them is Epiphone Thunderbird V, probably the biggest, heaviest damn bass in the world. I use Rotosound strings with it and I love it because it's mine. The second one is a Squier by Fender bass, I have no idea what type, because I bought it as a second-hand, and never found out what the hell it is. It looks like SbF never even made anything like this. I don't know. You can see it in our "Give it to Me" music video. But it has good sound too, so why not. I mostly just use it at rehearsals, (because it has weaker signal so it's less perfect for the stage,) or when I don't feel like picking up heavy stuff, which is almost never. Oh, and I don't think they still sell any of the basses I have, so you can't have it.
Terka: My guitar is American Fender Stratocaster with rosewood fretboard and two humbuckers, what is quite extraordinary for Stratocasters. This model is called "Fat Strat" or "Big Apple" and it has really wide range of sounds. The rosewood gives her warm honey sound, what I like about this guitar most. That was the reason I chose her. I have not played better guitar than mine yet :) I would say that choosing the guitar is like choosing a magic wand :)
Kajda: My drum set is Mapex Orion Burl Maple in Coffee Burst Finish. The set up consist of 22" bass drum, 10", 12" and 14" rack toms and 14"x5,5" snare drum. In combination with Remo coated heads I get a powerful sound that I need. And I love sound of Paiste 2002 cymbals. I use 14" hi-hat, 16" and 18" crash, 20" ride and 18" china Paiste 2002 and 10" splash Anatolian Ultimate. My double bass pedal is Yamaha 9500C.
8) Where do you get your inspiration from for THE AGONY's music videos? For example, 'TWS'?
'T.W.S.' was pretty simple and based on the storyline in the song’s lyrics. I wrote the script for it (that included the band members’ cameos) whilst the CCTV cam thing was Allan’s (our director) idea. He’s been great at coming with ideas on the spot, take 'Give It To Me' for an example; shortly before the filming started, Allan came out with the thought the fans should be writing on us, and it came out brilliantly. The latest vid, 'Waiting' was amazingly done by my Dad, and the idea of letting the fans and viewers see the whole process of theAG gig was his.
9) What's THE AGONY's status on the rock scene in the Czech Republic? Basically, how big is THE AGONY in the Czech Republic?
I think we’ve got a great status in the CZ. We’re not in the '1st league' of bands and we won’t be, because there’s the language thing I’ve already mentioned, but we’ve been around for three years and already have a very good reputation, some respect from our peers and press, and ever-growing fanbase. I’d also say we definitely are in the 1st league when it comes to all-female bands in the CZ. We’re one of the best here for sure, but we have to work more and be better so we can be bigger – and higher!
10) What are THE AGONY's plans for the future (besides the usual gigging and recording)? World domination, perhaps?
World domination indeed! We want to have fun doing what we love, be as good as possible, go as high and far as we can... remain friends and never become twats. Speaking from my personal perspective, the ultimate plan is making an impact and continuing the legacy. I saw Girlschool when I was 15 and immediately thought 'Blimey, women can do this?? I want to do this too! I want to have my own all-female band!' So more than anything, I wish for my band and music to have this influence on young girls the same way Girlschool (and others) influenced me. When a young woman comes to us one day and says 'I picked up the instrument because of you guys', then I can die happy, 'cos I’ll know all the effort, time, energy and whatever else I’ve ever put in or sacrificed for the music was worth it.
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