Filip Topol

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Filip Topol is best-known as the leader of the Czech rock group Psí Vojáci since its beginnings in 1979, but he also leads a solo career. On disc, the nuance between group and solo efforts is often…
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Artist Biography by

Filip Topol is best-known as the leader of the Czech rock group Psí Vojáci since its beginnings in 1979, but he also leads a solo career. On disc, the nuance between group and solo efforts is often thin, since the Psí Vojáci musicians usually contribute, but in general the lyrics tend to be of a more personal nature. Topol also occasionally performs solo at the piano. His deep raspy voice, growling and howling outbursts, and intensity on-stage give him an unusual kind of charisma.

Topol was a precocious child, trained at the piano from a young age and introduced to the Soviet intellectual and artistic resistance while still a child. He made his public debut at age 12, at the first performance of the Plastic People of the Universe's Passion Play, in front of novelist and future revolutionist and president Václav Havel. Shortly after he formed Psí Vojáci with schoolmates Jan Hazuka and David Skála. The group performed in public for the first time at the Prague Jazz Days in November 1979. Its punk stance and acrimonious lyrics -- written by brother Jáchym Topol -- signed its name on the Communist regime's black list. From 1980 to 1986, Topol and his group kept to the underground. The pianist took organ lessons and completed high school. Around 1986, he found a legitimate endorser for Psí Vojáci, which meant the group could resume live performances (under the moniker PVO), even though its leader signed the petition Charter 77 (at the heart of the Velvet Revolution of 1989). All the while, Topol was unable to earn a living as a musician and went from job to job (he worked as a programmer for a while). This difficult situation worsened an early drinking problem.

After the democratic changes, Psí Vojáci began to release legitimate albums and Topol was quickly hailed as a leading figure of alternative rock. In parallel with the group's success, he began to give solo performances and write music for theater and silent films. He also played the lead part in Z. Tyc's film Ziletky ("razor blades"), titled after a Psí Vojáci song. His first solo album, Sakramilácku, came out in 1995 on Indies, the label that had Psí Vojáci under contract. The same year, Topol contributed to a live studio session led by Plastic People of the Universe saxophonist Vratislav Brabenec (Konec Léta). Heavy drinking led to health problems, and after having been sidelined for most of 1997, Topol underwent surgery on his pancreas in 1998. He was back in the studio and on the road with his group a year later, changing his lifestyle. The transformation is documented on his second solo CD, Strepy ("broken pieces"). In 2002, Petr Kofron adapted a whole program of Topol's songs for the new music ensemble Agon Orchestra.