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 Wikimedia
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?
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.
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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