kind of music has inspired you, I hear some Fates Warning (old),
Iron Maiden, Helloween, Symphony X even some folk music mixed in
- Well, I must admit that folk
hasn't been an influence at all, so it's interesting that you
mentioned it...but I have definitely had a whole lot of influences,
including lots of the bands you listed. I'm also influenced by film
scores, etc., but most of my major influences have been various
heavy bands; everything from classic Metal to prog, power, thrash,
etc. I've learned different things from different bands, and
incorporated these things into my own writing style. I certainly
didn't try to invent some new style or go out of my way to be
shockingly original or anything, but at the same time, I don't think
I sound just like any one particular band.
ended up being a one-man project – howcome?
- It actually started out with me
playing guitar and singing, and a friend of mine playing bass. We
would jam with various drummers, etc., and we played a couple of
little shows here and there. But the bass player eventually went to
college in a different town, and other people moved or didn't have
the time to devote to it anymore. I guess that's bound to happen
when you're at that age, and soon I found myself on my own. So I
just started concentrating on writing and recording more (and better)
songs, and did one or two little demos. Deron Blevins from MetalAges
Records heard some of the stuff and contacted me while I was working
on the debut album, and he said he wanted to release it. And
here we are!
plan to put together a band or will Theocracy continue as a one-man
- I would love to put a real band
together and go on tour; that's certainly a dream of mine. I have no
intent for Theocracy to remain a one-man project; we'll see what the
future holds, I guess. Besides, I don't think I could handle doing
the second album completely by myself again... I don't think I'd
survive through it a second time!
Your album has been recorded using
programmed drums in your own studio, was that due to lack of funds
or because you couldn't find a suitable drummer?
- Hmm....that's just kind of how it
happened, I guess. This album was originally going to be a demo that
I was going to shop to various labels, and I had just been using the
drum machine as I went along. By the time Deron contacted me a lot
of the album was done, so I just basically finished what I'd started.
Of course, if I'd had access to a drummer of that caliber and a nice
studio to track drums in, I would have tried to go that route, but
it just never happened. Hopefully next time.
I can see that you start your thank you list by thanking God; do you
consider you a Christian metal band or a musician with a Christian
backgound? And why?
- Both. Theocracy is definitely a
Christian project, and will always be. I'm very proud of that fact.
It's what I believe, and it's the message I choose to deliver in my
songs. I don't understand some of these bands that kind of act like
they're Christian, but then deny it, but then flirt with it again to
keep people guessing. That's not me. I am a Christian, and I
consider Theocracy to be a Christian project. At the same time, I
chose to operate outside of the Christian "scene" if you
will, because my brief interaction with some of those labels, etc.
left a bad taste in my mouth. So instead of trying to work inside
some sort of marketing framework, I chose to step outside any of it
and present my music at face value. "Here's my album, here's
what I believe and what I stand for. Take it or leave it." It's
not exclusively aimed at a Christian market or a secular market or
any market. It's there for anyone who may be interested, which is
the way it should be. Deron is also a Christian, so we're on the
same page with everything, and it has worked out great so far. I
certainly don't think you have to be a Christian to enjoy the record;
I've gotten many great comments from people who aren't Christians
who still love the music. I don't think it comes across as preachy
or accusatory or anything at all; that is absolutely not my intent.
At the same time, I don't back down or shy away from what I believe
in. It's just approached in a personal manner most of the time.
What has inspired you in your
lyrics besides the Bible? Is there a hidden message in a track like
"New Jerusalem"? A perhaps bold wish for a happy
solution in Israel?
- Not at all, but that's an interesting
take. The Bible refers to heaven as the new Jerusalem sometimes,
which is basically what that particular track is about; sort of
describing dreamlike visions of paradise, if you will. As for other
lyrical inspirations, it can really be anything. Some may be
inspired by historical accounts, and some by things I've thought
heavily about or situations I've been in. Some are also inspired by
situations that various friends of mine have gone through. There
are lyrics on there that have completely different meanings to
certain people, outside of the surface meanings of the tracks. So
it's really just about whatever inspires me enough to think it will
make a cool song, and that could be anything.
The album cover is done by acclaimed metal cover artist Mattias
Norén - how did that connection come about?
- Well, it was kind of funny, actually.
I was a big fan of the layout of Evergrey's "In Search of Truth."
I just loved the look of it, and kind of had that in mind when
thinking about a cover/booklet design. Of course I didn't want to
rip it off or anything, but I just wanted a cover with that kind of
vibe. One day I saw something Mattias posted on a message board or
something, and this was before I realized it was the same guy. I
went to his site and was like, "WHOA! This guy could
totally pull off something in the vein I'm looking for!". Then
I kept looking through his online portfolio, and discovered that it
was actually the same guy. No wonder I thought he'd be able to
nail that style, heh heh!!! So I sent him an e-mail, and he agreed
to do it. Mattias is the nicest guy in the world, and he was
invaluable in helping me with ideas for the cover. This album ended
up being somewhat unorganized because of the way it happened,
whereas I normally would know everything in advance: "This is
the way the cover will look. These are the songs. This is the order,"
and so forth. I like to visualize the big picture, because to me an
album is an ALBUM, not just a random collection of songs. But since
this album was originally going to be a demo, that was all thrown
for a loop a little bit and it wasn't quite so organized. This
translated to the cover; I had some random ideas, but I wasn't sure
how to fit it all together. For instance, the serpent/earth sketch
was something I knew I wanted to do, and my friend Renee' Perro (a
wonderful artist in her own right) did that for me. At the same
time, I didn't want that to be the only thing on the cover, because
I had some other ideas as well. I told Mattias what I was thinking,
and he immediately knew how to make it all work together. The end
result is literally one of the best album covers I've ever seen;
it's just beautiful. He took my fragmented ideas and created
something with a very natural unity. I really hope we can work
together again in the future.
Matt I know you are on various metal mailing lists; how
important is the internet for spreading the word on Theocracy?
- I owe almost every bit of success I've
had to the Internet. It's especially important in this kind of music,
which is not "cool" enough to be on MTV or the radio or
whatever. That's one thing I love, because the fans are real.
They're here because they love the music, not because they want to
follow some stupid trend. Because of that, it ends up being a pretty
close-knit community of fans, and the Internet is the easiest way to
find other fans, other bands, etc. And word spreads like wildfire.
It's really a very exciting time to be a budding musician, because I
think we have it a lot easier in some ways than people used to. Word
of mouth spreads so much faster and so much farther. I mean, most
Theocracy fans seem to be from Europe, and I've never even been out
of the US! That's an awesome thing.
Could you pls. make a Top 5
all-time list or the 5 most important albums in your opinion?
- Oh my goodness. I love lists, but
that's a hard one! I had to expand it to 8 instead of 5, and aside
from the #1 slot, this is not necessarily in order. Plus, I stuck to
one album per band, whereas if this were my real top 10, there
probably would have been a few bands with more than one album listed
(and some of the others would have been bumped down a little bit).
Instead, I wanted to list different bands/albums that I love or that
have influenced my songwriting in some way.
1) Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime
- What can you say? Many of us doing this kind of music
wouldn't be doing so if it wasn't for this album.Or at the very
least, there wouldn't be the audience for this style that there is.
Musically, this album literally changed my life; it made me realize
there was so much out there beyond the garbage played on the radio.
A timeless masterpiece.
2) Iron Maiden - Powerslave
- I could have chosen from several of the classic albums, but
I chose this one because "Aces High" in particular made me
fall in love with that sound. It's not hard to hear Steve's
influence on my writing, especially concerning the soaring vocal
melodies and harmonized guitars. "Somewhere in Time" is
probably a more consistent album, and maybe my favorite. But I'll
stick with "Powerslave" for the sake of influence.
3) Edguy - Mandrake
- Another big influence on my writing, especially concerning
the choirs and the speed. I think Tobias Sammet is one of the best
songwriters the world (or at least this kind of music) has ever seen.
I am constantly in awe of his work and looking forward to his next
move. This is probably my favorite album of theirs.
4) Dream Theater - Awake
- One of my all-time favorite bands, and to me this is their
best album. I was hooked immediately. It's another classic for
the ages; nice and heavy. Also one of the most well-produced and
best-sounding albums of all time, in my opinion. It's pretty much
5) Metallica - Master of Puppets
- Of course this album is going to be in any list; its
influence can't be denied. Hetfield was my "teacher" when
it came to rhythm guitar playing and lyric writing. I developed much
of my style as a guitar player from him, and also learned how to
best phrase my lyrics for maximum power and effect.
6) Skid Row -
Slave to the Grind
- The most underrated band of all time. It's such a shame that
they were dismissed by some because they came out during the glam
period of the 80s; they were the real deal. An incredibly energetic
offering from a great band. This was the album for me and my friends
back in high school.
7) Savatage - The Wake of Magellan
- Many would argue (or even take offense), but for me this was
easily their peak period. These guys were another huge influence on
my writing, especially in terms of the counterpoint vocals (at the
end of "Twist of Fate," for example). I love that stuff. I
love the whole epic, powerful, theatrical feel of it all.
8) Symphony X -
- This actually is not my favorite Symphony X album (I love it,
but I think "V" is probably the most consistent, while
"Twilight in Olympus" probably has most of my favorite
songs), but I had to put it on here because of the title track.
"The Odyssey" is, hands-down, my favorite song of all
time. It is a true work of art, and it encompasses everything that
is great about this kind of music in 24 minutes. This track has it
all. Romeo's orchestration is mindblowing, and Russ is the best
vocalist out there, in my book.
So there you have it! I could add so many more, but those 8 have
influenced me in some way, so I think that's a pretty good list.
Thank you for your support, Kenn, and thanks to the Theocracy fans
who have bought the album and are helping to spread the word! God
bless you all!
you, Matt for taking the time to do this interview for my
site, and the best of luck to you! Also a kind thought to Deron for
setting up this interview.