Hi Matt, you were actually one the first persons I ever interviewed for Powerofmetal.dk, and now eight years later we are back… Theocracy has been your child from day one, and now you are finally surrounded by actual band members. And you have a new album coming out…
Very cool man, thanks so much for not forgetting us! It's a pleasure to do an interview with you again.
New album - do tell us – what kind of feelings do that bring up in you?
Theocracy – It's exciting. It's always weird, because you spend so long excited about the new songs and ready for people to hear them, but you realize no one will hear them for another year or more. So now it's finally here, and we're glad! So far the reaction has been amazing.
If you had to pick one song off the album that represent the essence of Theocracy today, which one would you pick and why? Personally I would pick the opener “I AM”.
Theocracy – Me too. That song encapsulates pretty much everything we do. Maybe not the speed part of it, but that's represented on other songs on the album. But the epic feel, the heaviness, the big choruses, the progressive moments, and the counterpoint vocals are all there, so I think it's a pretty good representation.
What’s the biggest difference between “Mirror of Souls" and this one?
Theocracy – The biggest difference is the addition of two new members, bassist Jared Oldham and lead guitarist Val Allen Wood. I think the full-band energy and vibe is apparent on this record, and has brought a new dimension to the sound—it’s most noticeable in the guitar solos. As for the songs themselves, my goal was to write a Theocracy “greatest hits” album of sorts. After Mirror of Souls, which revolved around the 23-minute title track, I wanted to write an album where there wasn’t really a centerpiece song, but where every single song could realistically be someone’s favorite. Judging from the reactions so far, it seems that we pulled that off.
Now that your focus is on the vocals, how has that changed the writing process in the band? Is this still a Matt effort, or has it turned into a regular band?
Theocracy – It's definitely a band. This album would not have come out nearly as strong as it did without all of the other guys. I wrote the songs, but Val and Jon contributed some great riffs and sections as well. Then we collaborated on the arrangements together and rehearsed the songs a lot. "Altar To the Unknown God" was a particularly great collaboration--I had the main riff, verse and chorus, but the most of the music in the middle section was written by Val. He had some great riffs that worked perfectly with what I had, and he, Jon and I worked the song out together at Jon's place.
Tell us a bit about the artwork – who made it etc. and how important do you feel it is to have a cool artwork?
Theocracy – Oh I think it's very important. The artwork is the listener's first impression of an album, and I often see the cover in my mind when listening to an album. I also often think of albums in terms of colors--the colors of the cover. Beyond than that, it just says a lot about how much a band cares about quality, I think. We like to present a whole package to our fans: the music, the lyrics, the production, the title, the artwork...it's all important, and we work hard to make it the best we can. When I see cheap-looking or badly-done album covers, it makes me feel like the band or record label just doesn't care. The cover this time was done by Felipe Machado Franco, who did the interior booklet images for us on Mirror of Souls, and has done covers for big bands like Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, etc.
Who and what has inspired you musically on this album?
Theocracy – I can't think of any new inspirations this time around, but I'm constantly inspired by my favorite songwriters: Neal Morse, Tobias Sammet, Tuomas Holopainen, Tony Kakko, and others. There are so many great writers that constantly leave me shaking my head in awe.
Could you give a brief introduction to the lyrically ideas behind “As the World Bleeds”? Are the ideas still founded in your Christian background?
Theocracy – They are. The album covers a variety of lyrical topics, but I think the initial spark of inspiration behind the title track came from hearing someone say, “If God exists, then why are things so messed up?” My reaction was, “Well, I mean, we’ve done all this to ourselves,” and that’s basically what the song is about. There’s no big mystery in the state of things; there are plenty of instances throughout scripture warning “if you do things your own way, this is what will happen.” So don’t blame God—humanity collectively said, “We don’t need You, we don’t want You telling us how to live. We can do this ourselves.” And here we are.
What’s next for Theocracy, any tours planned, work on your next album…?
Theocracy – We actually just got back from our second European tour, which was fantastic. We're playing the Vappugospel in Kouvola, Finland in April, and the Pathfinder Metalfest in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) in July. We're currently looking at some other show options, because we hope to play a lot this year, but that's all we've announced at this point.
If you had the choice to pick your ideal touring partners, who would you pick and why?
Theocracy - Really any band that's bigger than us and plays a similar style. Edguy or Sonata Arctica would be fantastic.
What does heavy metal mean to you?
Theocracy – I love it. To me it's the best kind of music because of the range of power and intensity at my disposal as a composer. It's like being able to paint with a full palette of colors instead of just a few.
Thank you very much for answering my questions. Do you have any last rants for our readers?
Theocracy – Just a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us! We appreciate it so much, and you're the only reason we get to do what we do. If you haven't checked out As the World Bleeds yet, I really think you'll dig it!
Interviewed by Kenn Jensen