An Interview with Theocracy
Written by: Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music.com
So tell me a little bit about your band, how you formed, how long you’ve been playing and all that jazz.. How did Matt start musically?
Well, for me it’s the old “music was always a huge part of my life” cliché. My family was very musical, so there was always tons of music around the house, plus I grew up singing in choirs at church and school. I just always had a knack for it and developed a love immediately. The band thing is a little more tricky to pinpoint the start of; I mean I’ve been writing songs forever and some of those were Theocracy songs, but the first album actually came out in 2003 (as a solo project) and then the other members joined gradually after that.
What does the name of your band mean to you?
It’s all explained in the title track to the first album. The phrase I used is “Theocracy within.” It’s nothing political or controversial, it just has to do with choosing God’s way over our own way in daily decisions. We’re a Christian band, so that theme is pretty prevalent.
I just got into your band with the “Mirror of Souls” album which is quite excellent I must say. I’ve heard you had a debut before this album. How do the two differ? How have you guys improved as a band with the addition of new members?
Thanks so much! I’d say they’re pretty similar in terms of style and scope; it’s the same type of melodic, epic Metal where the focus is on good songs and hooks. Mirror of Souls is just a lot more refined in terms of the quality of the performances, the production, the singing, and things like that. Shawn and Jon brought a huge new energy to the sound, as opposed to me just cutting demos with a drum machine. They really lifted the material to a higher place.
You guys are signed to Ulterium Records out of Sweden. How has that arrangement worked out? Is it difficult being a U.S. band on a European label? Are there any other Ulterium bands that you dig?
It’s been great so far, simply because the label loves our music and believes in the album 100%. That’s one of the good things about the information age and a smaller world: the fact that things like this deal with Ulterium work out so smoothly. It’s all about the people, and they’re great to deal with. As for other bands, I really like the stuff I’ve heard like Harmony and Darkwater. Ulterium has aligned themselves with a certain level of quality so far, and we’re honored to be among that lineup.
The lyrics on “Mirror of Souls” are deeply spiritual, especially on tracks like “Bethlehem”. Is it difficult being a spiritual band in the general metal scene? How receptive have the crowds been to your faith rooted lyrics? Any negative feedback that’s bothered you?
It doesn’t bother me when people don’t like it or bash us for what we write about; that comes with the territory, and in a way, it’s an honor. What does bother me is when people make assumptions without listening. They assume the album is a certain way when they haven’t heard it, or they assume that our lyrics are repetitive and trite. In a sense I understand that, because, let’s be honest, there is a lot of terrible Christian music out there. But I sometimes wish people would be more open and give bands like us a chance instead of closing us off without even listening. That said, I’m always encouraged by the number of people who love our music, even among non-Christians. Some of the feedback we get is pretty amazing!
You guys are just starting to break out and establish a name for yourselves. Have the “Christian” kids been pretty open to your music? What are your crowds typically like?
Very small, haha! That’s something we’re hoping to start changing this year, especially with the addition of new guitarist Val Allen Wood to the lineup. Metal’s just not very big here in Athens, GA; at least not the melodic stuff like we do. The people who come to see us are definitely open to the music and love it; it’s just a matter of getting people to actually show up. We have shows at different spots around the country this year though, as well as Switzerland and maybe more of Europe, so we’re hoping to expand our live following quite a bit.
How does your Faith impact the music you write? How does Faith play a role in your band? Any personal testimonies you’d like to share with us?
Oh, it’s a huge influence. Many of the songs are about vastly different subjects, but it’s all seen through the lens of faith in one way or another. And that includes everything from praise songs to very real struggles. A personal example that ties in directly to the album is the song “On Eagles’ Wings.” My wife had a cancer scare, and my dad had a life-and-death close call with some health issues, and that song is basically just me being thankful to God for bringing them both through and giving me more time with them. I have so much to be thankful for! I don’t focus on it like I should, but I try to let it come out in songs like “On Eagles’ Wings” and “Absolution Day.”
You guys play a powerful brand of melodic power metal and you know that comparisons to another big time power metal band are inevitable. How do you feel about Dragonforce fans being into your band? I know you guys share a lot in common with other prog metal/power metal bands but Dragonforce have established themselves as a high profile big selling power metal group and they have lots of little teenage fans from Guitar Hero. What would you like to say to noob Dragonforce/power metal fans who are searching for other similar groups?
I’m really happy for Dragonforce and the niche they’ve found. Guitar Hero is the perfect vehicle for a band like that, and the timing was awesome. I think we’re a bit different, in that we’re obviously not as flashy players and the subject matter’s different, plus we have more variety in our music. But yeah, I can hear some similarities, so if kids discover bands like Theocracy through Dragonforce, that’s fantastic because there is so much great music out there. Too much to keep up with nowadays, to be honest! So I guess I would tell any new fans like that to read up on message boards and talk to fans, because there is a tight group of people into our kind of music and there are a ton of bands out there to discover!
Can we expect to see a Theocracy tour any time soon in the United States? Are there any bands that have expressed an interest in touring with you guys? You guys should go out with As I Lay Dying, that’d be a cool show. What bands would you love to go out on tour with?
Any band that’s bigger than us and would like to take us out, haha! There aren’t plans for any full-on tour at this point, but we do have shows lined up from San Antonio to central Illinois, so we’ll be seeing more of the States for the first time. So far the only bands who have contacted us have just done so for smaller, one-off shows as opposed to tours.
What music are you guys into lately? What are your top favorite albums that were released last year? All time favorite albums? What do you guys jam to while on the road (when you get there)?
Last year, I really liked the new Avantasia album, and also thought Death Magnetic was a nice comeback for Metallica. I listened to Extreme’s new one a lot as well. As far as all-time stuff, well, for me it’s the classics like Mindcrime, Awake, and stuff like that. We all like different styles of music, though of course we all share a love for Metal in some form.
I notice that you have a new guitarist in your band. How has that transition come off? Is he as stoked about your music as the rest of us are? You’re now a 5 piece right?
He’s probably more stoked than anyone! Val is a truly amazing talent, and I can’t wait for the next album so people can get a taste of what he can do. The transition has been incredibly smooth so far. I’m finally able to just concentrate on singing live, which is what I’ve always wanted to do and is so much more fun for me. We’re all very excited about the way the addition of Val has kicked our live presence up a couple of notches.
Have there been any interested U.S. record companies looking to score a deal with Theocracy?
Well, there was one well-known label that said they were signing us and then strung us along for a year without doing anything, which was one of the reasons the album took so long to come out. But that was the only one. Our U.S. distribution is through Nightmare Records, however, and they’re based in the States.
Tell me about the title of your new record “Mirror of Souls”. What does it mean to you guys and how important is its title?
It’s very important, and the album obviously got its title from the track of the same name. The Mirror of Souls, as revealed in the song, is basically the holiness of God that allows each of us to see our true selves in its reflection.
Your last song on the album is a 22 minute metal masterpiece. Was it difficult recording such a long song? What has been the reaction by fans to that track?
Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I was afraid people weren’t going to give it enough listens to sink in, or weren’t going to pay attention to the lyrics and “get it.” So far people really seem to love it though, and that’s an honor. And yes, it was indeed a beast to record!
I’ve noticed all the positive press and reviews your band has garnished over the past few weeks due to “Mirror of Souls”. How has that positivity impacted your band on a personal level? Do you feel it’s easier or more difficult to win the approval from the Christian market? Or is it easier getting acceptance in the general marketplace? Where would you like to see your band the most?
Well, I don’t know that the positive reactions have impacted us personally; I think it’s just been a relief that after putting years of such hard work into something, people are appreciating it. As for the differences in markets, I think we’re still too small for me to have really noticed anything like that. I would hope we have a lot of appeal for both regular Metal fans and Christian music fans, but that kind of thing is the furthest thing from our mind when we write music. Hopefully people like it, but if not, well, we’re still proud of it!
Well that about concludes our interview. Are there any last words you’d like to say to our readers? Any prayer requests for your band? Thanks for your time gentlemen and the rest of you make sure to check out Theocracy’s latest record “Mirror of Souls” available worldwide on Ulterium Records!!
Thank you guys so much for giving us your time for this interview, and to all the readers out there, thanks for reading this and supporting Mirror of Souls! We hope you give it several listens and absorb it fully. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and we travel and continue to try to make our live shows better and better, and we hope to see you on the road!