Theocracy is one of the absolute best new melodic metal bands that have popped up the latest years. Some time ago I did an interview with the band's founder Matt Smith for the Swedish Christian Metal magazine Noizegate Here is what he had to say:
Tell me how Theocracy came to be and the band's history so far.
I started writing songs in high school. Hooked up with a bass player friend and we jammed a lot and wrote some songs. That fizzled out, but I kept writing songs and recording demos, and basically some of these demos became the first album, which I did on my own. Was signed by MetalAges Records before the release of the album, so that's the label that the debut came out on. Recently gained two band members, Shawn Benson on drums and Seth Filkins on bass. We're currently writing songs for the next album, which will hopefully be out later this year.
What does Theocracy mean?
A theocracy implies total control and reign by God. It's usually in reference to government, like if God came down and established a government here on earth with Himself as king, it would be a theocracy. We use it more in a spiritual sense however, as the the title track states. "Theocracy Within."
How long did it take to record the album?
I think it was about a year and a half from start to finish.
How has the response been?
How many copies about has it sold?
I really have no idea what the latest figures are; I haven't heard in forever. I know it's moved a few thousand at least, but I really couldn't tell you any more than that.
It seems like you put a lot of energy not only in the music but also in the lyrics, that I find very wellwritten. Are lyrics very important to you?
Absolutely. I take them extremely seriously and try to work very hard on them. There's a lot to be conscious of when writing lyrics; obviously first and foremost is getting across what you're trying to say and making sure you cover all the bases you meant to when you first got the idea. That's harder than it sounds sometimes. Also, it's important to avoid cliches and to learn how to phrase things in a way that fits the power of the music.
What do you want to achieve with Theocracy?
Whatever God will allow. I don't dare try to predict the future. I just want to continue to give my very best and pray that God blesses it. I hope people continue to be touched by our music, as that's the most amazing feeling. I'd love to be able to make a living at this someday, but who knows if that will happen. I really want to make a series of classic albums, the kind of albums that you can go back to 20 years down the line and not find a single weak song. If the well runs dry, so to speak, and I don't feel that I can continue to write at the level that I demand from myself, I don't think I'll have any interest in continuing.
Some time after the release of the cd the band got two new members. It would be nice to know more about the new members so why don't you tell us more about them. Who they are, what kind of musical background they have etc.
Shawn, the drummer, has played in a lot of bands and is just a ridiculously good drummer for any age, but especially for such a young guy. I mean, he's really just incredible. I think he's going to blow people away. He's a hilarious and crazy guy, there's really no other way to describe him. Seth, the bass player, is my cousin and has all kinds of musical experience on different instruments as well as vocally. He has a very strong natural talent, so he's great to bounce ideas off of as far as chords or harmonies or whatever. He'll definitely provide some strong background vocals in a live setting.
Do you have any plans to do gigs and tour?
Not at the moment; I'm totally immersed in writing right now. I'd love to eventually, though.
Could you please comment and explain each one of the tracks on the cd. What they are all about and the story behind them.
OK, really quick:
What do you know about Sweden?
Well, I know that you guys pop out awesome bands left and right! What do you have in the water over there? And is it OK if I take some of that water and add it to the water supply here in Athens, GA?
Tell us something interesting/funy/absurd/strange that you have experienced recently.
How will the new album sound compared to the selftitled?
It will be in the same style, but hopefully 2 years more experienced and wiser. There are some very aggressive parts that may surprise some people. But there's also a total 80s half-acoustic power ballad as well, so we will try to have a nice balance of material once again.
When do you think it will be out?
Lord-willing it will be later this year.
Are you familiar with any Swedish Christian Metal Bands?
No, but I'm sure there are some great ones!
Is there anything God has put on your heart recently that you want to share with our readers?
Well, right now I'm just very thankful. My wife just had a cancer scare because the doctors found some pre-cancerous cells, but they were able to get rid of them all and now everything is clear. Prayer works! We were praying very hard for her and we're so very thankful that God blessed us as He did. I just feel very blessed.
You are on a small label. Has it worked well with distribution?
No. Being on a small label doesn't have much advantage to doing it all yourself if you have the time and resources, honestly. Unfortunately, I had neither!
How has nonchristians reacted to your lyrics?
There's been a lot of hostility from some, but you know, there have been a lot of people who have really been touched by the lyrics despite not being believers. That's a great thing. I'm glad such a vast array of people have gotten into the record.
What are your future plans with the band?
Finish writing and start recording, and take it from there.
How would you describe your sound?
I usually just say something like epic, melodic Metal with progressive tendencies if someone wants specifics. Otherwise, "Metal" is fine.
Your music has plenty of hooks and harmonies (which I love!) and you are really good in writing music. Does it take long time to write the tunes? Do you have any advice for songwriters when it comes to writing music?
Thank you very much. Yeah, it takes a while to put it all together. I'm not a really fast writer like some people, though occasionally they'll come together really quick. Writing totally drains me and consumes me; it's such hard work because I hold my work to pretty high standards. It takes a lot for me to think something is good enough to be released. I love writing though (usually, at least-sometimes I hate it!).
As for advice, I guess the main thing I can say is to always remember that the vocal melody is the most important thing. Make your melodies interesting and memorable. A great riff or a cool rhythm does NOT make a great song by itself.
At last, what do you want to say to our readers?
Just a big thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoyed the album, and I can't wait for you to hear the next one. If you've never heard us, or you want to find out more, check out www.theocracymusic.com. Thanks and God bless you all, and thanks so much to Johannes and Noizegate for giving me the opportunity to do this interview; it really means a lot!
Theocracy hails from USA and consists of Matt Smitt on vocals and on all instruments. And he does a fantastic job! In fact many bands with full setting doesn't even come close to what he has managed to do on this album. Very tasty power/progressive metal with tons of hooks and guitar solos. The music is also very powerful and well thought out. Fantastic that there can be so much talent in one person! The lyrics are topnotch as well. They are both Christcentered, thoughtprovoking and inspiring. It's crystalclear that Matt really wants to honour God with his music. This cd is without a doubt one of the absolute best albums that was released last year. One of the few letdowns is the drum machine. Eventhough they are programmed very well they still disturb somewhat. With a real drummer this band there is no limits to how good this band can be. The Healing Hand and Sinner are also too progressive to my taste. But all the other tracks are very enjoyable indeed. To sum it up I can highly recommend this cd! It's definately a must have to anyone into melodic/progressive metal!
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© Johannes Jonsson 2005  e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org