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In Words: Theocracy

- Matt Smith - Feb. 2009 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Theocracy band photo
© Theocracy

Matt Smith - February, 9th 2009 (by email)

Even if Theocracy isn't a new band, I think, many won't know them. Time to change this! Time to get a few answers from mainman Matt Smith!

As far as I know Theocracy was the way you choose to get your songs released in the first place... Or did you just haven't found the right people before recording your debut?

That's correct; I never planned on the first album coming out as a solo project, I just hadn't found other band members by then.

Theocracy started as a one-man-band, for the second album you gathered some musicians and it became a band, but it seems that you have a bassist problem... Already found a new four-stringer?

Not yet, but a friend of mine is filling in on bass for at least our next show, and we have some auditions lined up, so hopefully we'll find the right guy soon!

And what about a keyboarder or second guitarist / keyboarder to help you out live?

Well, that's some big recent news: we've just added a new lead guitarist, Val Allen Wood. He is amazing, and finally enables me to not have to play guitar live anymore, so I can just concentrate on singing, which is what I've always wanted to do. We're very excited about this development! I don't think we'll ever really need to get a full-time keyboardist since our keyboard parts are mostly intros and background parts, but we definitely need the two guitars.

Please enlighten us why it took 5 years to release your second album Mirror Of Souls?

There were a lot of different contributing factors. We got a lineup together and started playing a lot of shows, so that took a lot of time and focus. Also, I take a long time to write sometimes, because I want to make sure every part of every song is the best it can be. We built my studio and I spent a lot of time learning, practicing and working on audio engineering (both for Theocracy and for other local bands), because I wanted this album to sound great since I didn't really know what I was doing when I did the first album. And then of course the actual recording took quite a long time, both because the music is very layered and detailed, and because we all work full-time jobs in addition to Theocracy, so the time we were able to work on the album was limited. Finally, we had another label say they wanted to put the album out and then string us along for months before we decided tell them we couldn’t wait any longer and sign with Ulterium, so that was a lot of wasted time. The album had actually been done for a year before it finally came out.

The album is out for a few weeks and you already got some feedback, I guess.. Have it been a surprise to you that so many people remembered Theocracy? And how the album was received?

I was definitely surprised at how well it was received! I thought people probably wouldn't give it enough listens to give it time to fully sink in, because it's not an 'easy' album. It's very big in scope and takes a few listens to grow on the listener. But the reviews have been amazingly positive, and people have really seemed to get it!

Usually its said the eyes are the mirror of the soul... What is the mirror of souls for you?

Well, when you get down to the root of it, that song is actually about pride. It's about how we tend to look at other people to gauge how good we are. In the song, the people we meet are represented by the mirrors in the hall, and the giant Mirror of Souls at the end of the song represents the perfection of God and the shock of seeing ourselves as we really are.

Please tell us a bit about the lyrics... What inspires you? And which song is most important to you lyrically?

The inspiration for songs can come from anywhere, but it's usually pretty personal, stemming from something that I've gone through or that someone close to me has gone through. They're all important to me lyrically, but I'd say the title track, Mirror Of Souls, is probably the most special one just because it was my first time writing a long story like that in lyrical form. I'm proud of the way it came out.

Beside the long tracks you have some shorter ones. Do you find it difficult to limit yourself to 4-5 minutes?

Nah, not at all... it just depends on what the song is about. Some themes take longer to discuss in the lyrics than others, and I always try to tie the music to the lyrics so they fit very well together.

Are you sometimes surprised when you have finished a song about its length? Or are you aware of it while writing?

I usually have a vague awareness while writing, but sometimes once I get all the ideas down it does surprise me. For example, I remember I expected The Serpent's Kiss (from the first album) to be around eight minutes, and it's over 12. Also, I didn't plan on Mirror Of Souls to be 23 minutes long, but as the story took shape, it just took that long to get it all across.

How did you come up with Rudolph vs Frosty? Actually I enjoy it very much, lots of fun!

Thanks! That was a lot of fun for us, too. We didn't want to do the typical big, epic serious Christmas song like we'd done for the last couple of years; we wanted to change it up and do something fun and fast. I couldn't really think of a Christmas song that we hadn't done that I liked, so I wrote that one. We think it came out pretty cool!

I heard you already wrote the follow-up... How much as it a team effort? Or have the songs been written before you hooked up with the other guys?

Some of the songs are already completely written, but most of them are in an incomplete state. A lot of them have a basic shell written, but need to be finished out or arranged, so it's a nice spot for Val to step in and work with us on the solo sections, etc. And of course we'll work on the arrangements as a band to make sure everything feels right.

So I guess it won't take too long til we hear some new stuff from you, right?

I hope not! The plan is to get the third album out not too long after Mirror of Souls to help make up some of that lost time between the first two albums.

In May you'll play Elements Of Rock in Switzerland, any other shows are on the way?

We have several other U.S. shows already planned, but nothing else confirmed in Europe yet. Stay tuned though, because we have some other ones in the works!

It seems that these days more bands wear their believes on their sleeves... But there always were Christian metal bands. Do you recognized that the scene is changing? Becoming more open to Christian metal bands?

I haven't really noticed anything personally, but that's cool. I think it just depends on specific people; we run into a lot of people who won't give us a chance because we're a Christian band. And on the other hand, we have a lot of fans who aren't believers but love our band because they appreciate the honesty and love the music. So that's awesome.

Please tell us, how you got involved into Metal Bible! And have you got some feedback about your participation?

That was a really cool project! The founder of the project still hands them out at festivals and keeps us posted on their progress. The reactions have been shockingly positive overall; it's really a great thing.

Do you think a project like the Metal Bible will help to make people see the world differently? Do we need to be more respectful for others and their believes?

I think so. The problem is that religion has caused so much strife in the world that people are instantly closed off to anything that they view as religious (rightfully so!). The irony is that it's man's corruption of the teachings, and man's selfish nature that causes these things in the first place. And that's one thing I hope to do through my lyrics, to get people to maybe look at the teachings of Christ with an open mind, separate from what they think it will be, or what their mental concept of religion may be.

It looks like these days most conflicts are based on religious believes... Right we can see the conflict in the Middle East flare up again. There is no universal solution, but do you think we will see them live in peace one day?

I think there will be periods of relative peace, but unfortunately in the big picture I think fighting and wars will only get worse as long as there are people on the planet. Sad!

Do think that charity we should make part of our daily life? That we all should help the people around us? That selfishness is part of the problem?

Absolutely. Really everything bad can be traced back to selfishness on some level, right?

Music is an universal language... Can music influence people and change their mind?

Sure, I think it can influence people. As for changing their minds, that's just up to them and I don’t know that music can do that by itself. But I think honesty is very important. People don't like to feel like they're being spoken to from some pedestal above them, but if the message presented in a song is done in an honest way where the writer is saying, "This is what I'm struggling with, this is the question on my mind", and so forth, I think people appreciate that and are willing to get beyond their own prejudices a little easier.

Any thing you want to add? Something which I should have asked you?

I think that covers everything! Thank you for the interview, and for supporting Theocracy and the release of Mirror Of Souls. We hope you love it.

I have to thank Matt for enlightening us and giving a look 'behind the scene'. And hopefully they can play some more shows to convince metal fans live. I hope I can catch'em live in Europe - and continue this conversation in flesh... Keep your eyes and ears open!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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