Danny Marino (The Agonist) interviewed

** A vocalist change is never easy. Now that Alissa White-Gluz is fronting Arch Enemy, The Agonist have in their ranks a multi-faceted replacement in Chicago-based sensation Vicky Psarakis. Found by The Agonist on Youtube doing a variety of metal and non-metal covers, along with originals, Psarakis represents a new chapter for the group. This is none more evident than on upcoming The Agonist album, Eye of Providence, where Psarakis and her agitated Canadian teammates level the modern metal playing field. Decibel and The Agonist mainman Danny Marino fire rapidly questions and answers.
A vocalist change is a big deal for bands and fans. How do you think you’re weathering the change?
Danny Marino: The change has actually been quite smooth overall. Part in thanks to Vicky’s [Psarakis] ability to rise to the occasion and our fans open mindedness. I think the fact that the Agonist has often gone outside the box musically has attracted fans that welcome change and new things pretty easily.

Where’d you find Vicky?
Danny Marino: On Youtube. Her channel was full of cover and original material giving us a good sense of her range before even auditioning her.

Was a male vocalist ever an option for The Agonist?
Danny Marino: Not really. It was thought about but never seriously considered. Besides the image, although Alissa covered a wide range of vocals many of the singing parts were clearly feminine and I don’t think a soprano male would have had the same effect.

Do you think The Agonist fans will accept Vicky? She has big shoes to fill.
Danny Marino: They already have.

Will The Agonist lyrical center change at all now that Vicky’s onboard?
Danny Marino: We are embracing a number of new topics. The Agonist still wants to be a voice for change. However, there are many socio-political and personal topics that we haven’t yet covered. We get into some of those on this record.

What was it like writing Eye of Providence compared to previous albums?
Danny Marino: It was a whole new experience and the most enjoyable we’ve ever had. There was an air of full collaboration like never before. It was a good balance of group effort and individual composition and understanding that balance. While Danny and Vicky were the main composers every member composed part of this album and this was the first album where lyrical content was also shared between Vicky, Danny and Simon.

How do you know when music is right for The Agonist?
Danny Marino: One way we differ from a lot of modern bands is that we still do the majority of our writing live. We will pre-prod songs but we first work out the riffs and structures in a live setting. I think that’s a good way to know when the music is right. If it can be translated live. Sometimes you record something and thanks to the manipulations of modern recordings—it can sound great but then it doesn’t have the same clarity live. Our songs need to pass that live test before being put down on a recording.

Any fun stories while recording Eye of Providence?
Danny Marino: While tracking “Disconnect Me” Paco punched a wall. [long story] He ended up breaking a bone in his finger but he still had to write and track his guitar solo. Since picking was very difficult he ended up writing the whole solo using tapping. The solo ended up really cool and like nothing he’s really done before. So in the end it was a good thing he punched that wall!

What do you want fans to walk away with after hearing the new album? It should be more than accepting Vicky, right?
Danny Marino: I want fans to walk away feeling like this is what The Agonist has been working towards all along. I think this is the best thing any of us have done to date and so far from the clips we have released many fans are seeing it too. A lot of work went into this record. But also a lot of pain and I think that is what makes a lot of great rock/metal albums. There needs to be a struggle.

Where do you think The Agonist fits in today’s metal scene?
Danny Marino: I don’t really know exactly. I think it’s cliché to say we can’t be categorized but I do think that is true of Prisoners and Eye of Providence. I feel like we have come into our own sound especially on Eye of Providence. I am influenced by artists like Devin Townsend and Mikael Åkerfeldt. Not to say that our music sounds like those bands per se. But I am inspired by artists with the courage to take a listener to many different places in one album and make it work somehow. That’s what we have been trying to do since our second album. I think with Eye of Providence we were able to find that balance.

** The Agonist’s new album, Eye of Providence, is out February 24th on Century Media Records. Pre-order links available soon HERE.