en by Notes of a Self-Exiled American /  Jason Mashak, 11. Nov 2009

Jozef Spodniak playing the theremin. Photo: Miroslava Nacinova

At 33 years of age, his "Jesus Christ year," Slovak experimental musican Jozef Spodniak has a difficult time describing himself. Educated in Brezno, Slovakia, he hails from the small south-central Slovak village of Liesnica, in the Poltar province. Spodniak moved to Prague seven years ago with his band Ohour, an "intuitive improvisational" endeavor that has participated in various multi-genre experimental performances over the years.  I caught up with Spodniak at his rehearsal space near Prague's Old Town Square, where he was reluctant to separate himself from a briefcase full of glowing tubes and oscillators known as a Theremin.

How would you describe your experiences when you first moved to Prague?  Were there particular places that made you feel especially welcomed?

Wall-painting of Bohumil Hrabal in Liben. Photo from

Prague felt really free, freer than Slovakia.  I don’t do it anymore, but you could smoke marijuana without having to hide or hassle with the police… so Prague offered an authentic bohemian atmosphere [the Czech Republic has two major historical regions, Bohemia and Moravia – thus, the term ‘bohemian’ serves a double meaning here]. Klub Ujezd was one of the first places we hung out when we got to town; we had pretty good experiences there.  I’ve since lived in five different Prague neighborhoods, and so far Liben is my favorite – it’s where the writer Bohumil Hrabal lived for a while.

When friends visit from elsewhere, what places do you like to take them?

Extra Action Marching Band at the Roxy. Photo: Dizznan

It depends who it is, what they’re into. Velryba is a great café with lots of books around, but U Sudu has underground tunnels leading like a labyrinth of bars… I like Roxy NoD a lot, as it combines concert venue, experimental art space, café, bar, etc.

Where's the eternal party? What about best places for solitude?

Milada Squat

One place there’s always something going on… I can’t remember the name of it, but inside it has a sign that says “Smallest bar in the world,” with only one table and room inside for about five people, maximum. Prague’s got lots of places tucked away like this. For solitude, Unijazz is quiet, small, and relaxed, and has a music and bookshop, as well. But I also like to walk the dogs on Libensky ostrov (Liben Island), on the Vltava River. Near there is another cool place, Milada Squat, which has a lot of live music and experimental stuff passing through.

What towns do you like to visit for an inexpensive day trip out of Prague?

Karlstein Castle. Photo: Jason Mashak

A village called Dobrichovice, near Karlstein Castle … it has great old villa-style houses and beautiful nature.  I’ve got a friend who lives there, which is how I found it.  But there are places in Prague’s outskirts I go, like Radotin or Zbraslav, which have great parks (some for hiking) with small pubs, music festivals, concerts… you bump into a lot of folks from the old underground scenes in Czechoslovak history there.

U Pigiho

Hospoda U pigiho (Bar at the Piggy), if you can find it, is a great pub in Zbraslav.

What is the strangest encounter you've had with any of Prague's crazy characters?

Each day brings another one.

You spent the summer of 2008 on the Black Sea in Bulgaria... what did you miss most about Prague while you were there?

Bohemian culture… small pubs with a homey atmosphere to hang out in… a lot of places don’t have that the way Prague does.

The interview was conducted in Slovak, interpreted (and translated back to English) by Miroslava Nacinova.

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