The Faceless Messenger: An Interview with Vicky Psarakis of The Agonist

Photo Jeroen Aarts

It’s never easy to replace a singer. Ask Blaze Bayley about trying to replace Bruce Dickinson, or Anette Olzon about trying to replace Tarja Turunen. Fans are possessive and they really hate change.

It takes a lot of guts to tackle such a challenge. Clearly, Vicky Psarakis has them in spades.

Having been chosen to replace Alissa White-Gluz as the singer of The Agonist, Vicky has spent the last year proving that she was the perfect choice to continue with the band’s dramatic rise in popularity and bring them to new heights.

Metal Blast: When I was preparing the interview I stumbled upon your videos on Youtube, where you covered Iron Maiden’s “The Clairvoyant” and Nightwish’s “Slaying the Dreamer” and I just wanted to congratulate you on those. You come from completely different musical backgrounds, and those were you just great.
Vicky Psarakis:
Thank you very much!

MB: The last year must have been a rollercoaster for you, since you were picked to replace Alissa White-Gluz as the singer for The Agonist. How did you come to join the band? I’ve heard that it was a “different” kind of process.
Vicky: They found me on YouTube! That was the first step; Danny Marino [guitars] contacted me and told me that he liked my voice, he didn’t mention anything about The Agonist or about Alissa leaving, since he wanted to get to know me first. He sent me some new tracks, that are actually on Eye of Providence, and I sent him back some of my ideas. I guess they liked them, and so they decided that they wanted me to be the new lead singer.

Photo Jeroen Aarts

MB: Did it shock you? It’s pretty amazing to go from YouTube to an established band.
Vicky: It is, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had a hard time believing it in the beginning.

MB: It also shows how the music industry has changed, because you were even quite apart from each other. They’re in Canada and you’re in the US, right?
Vicky: Actually, when they found me I was in Greece. So, even worse! [laughs] I only recently moved back to the States.

MB: Joining a band like The Agonist, which has a fairly established and committed fanbase, must be a challenging prospect, especially considering the “loyalty” towards a singer like Alissa. Were you nervous about that in particular? About how people react to a different singer?
Vicky: Not really; I mean, I expected it, because it makes total sense, but I was just too happy and excited about everything that was going on to really care about the negative stuff. To this day I don’t let it bother me, because I know that some people will never accept change, and I know that you can’t please everyone, so I just do what I can and what feels right music-wise. As long as the band and I are happy, and the fans that have accepted it are happy, that’s all that matters.

MB: So far the reactions that we’ve seen from the fans of The Agonist are great, people seem to be welcoming you with open arms.
Vicky: There has been a lot of positive feedback; it’s great and inspiring. Most fans were instantly supportive when I joined the band (others needed a bit more time to accept the change) and so things are looking up. We are touring very soon and it’s one of the best feelings in the world to play to a crowd like that.

MB: As a singer, and just in terms of style, how do you see your voice, compared to that of Alissa?
Vicky: I feel that the way that I sing and my technique are very different from that of Alissa. I’m definitely more comfortable with singing than with screaming, since I’ve only been screaming for about a year and a half, so it’s something that is relatively new to me. I’m very comfortable when it comes to singing, because I’ve had time to explore different ways to do it, and one sing that you see in Eye of Providence, and that is very different from previous albums by The Agonist, is a diverse range of singing, from soft and sweet vocals to very aggressive, yet clean, singing. I think that’s the main difference.

MB: So right now you’re not so comfortable growling?
I’m more comfortable with singing in general, it’s easier for me, since I’ve been doing it my whole life.

The Agonist (from left to right) Simon McKay, Chris Kells, Vicky Psarakis, Pascal “Paco” Jobin, Danny Marino

MB: Since there isn’t a lot about you out there, what can you tell me about your background as a musician?
Vicky: I wasn’t doing anything on a professional level before, just vocal covers and a few local bands in Greece. It was a hobby, it wasn’t full time or demanding, like it is now. I always knew that I wanted to be a full-time musician, and I’m very happy that I got that opportunity.

MB: So let’s talk about Eye of Providence; Alissa used to be in charge of the lyrics, did you take over that role as well?
Vicky: I wrote most of the lyrics and most of the vocal lines on the album, but there are a few songs that were co-written with Danny Marino. It was a very collaborative atmosphere.
The lyrics are very technology-themed, based on how it affects society, both the positive and the negative aspects of it, and how it’s a matter of time before we are infused with technology in our bodies and brains. There are also a few songs that are more personal, either by me or Danny, but they mostly deal with how technology affects society.

MB: For Eye of Providence the band once again worked with Chris Donaldson, of Cryptosy, to act as producer. What was this process like for you?
It was great, he is an amazing producer and amazing musician. He really knows his stuff; even though he’s not a singer he has a really good ear and really pushed me and rest of the band to get the best possible results. It was a great experience to work with him, and I would definitely do it again in the future.

MB: Hopefully you will and this wasn’t a one-time job and we’ll see you in the next album!

MB: Since we are, sadly, out of time, any final words for your fans?
Vicky: I would just like to thank all of our fans because we would be nothing without them. I can’t wait to start touring and meet a lot of them on the road!

Eye of Providence is out NOW, on Century Media Records, so make sure to get a copy.

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