Back in 2003, guitarist/singer Matt Smith unleashed his then 'one-man' act Theocracy on the progressive metal world to plenty of acclaim from both fans and critics alike. After fleshing out the line-up and actually becoming a band, Matt and his mates in Theocracy have released the follow-up, titled Mirror of Souls, which has generated a ton of buzz this year from fans of both the progressive & power metal camps. Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Scott Jessup recently caught up with Matt to talk about the band and their exciting new CD.
SoT: First, I'd like to say congratulations on the great new CD Mirror Of Souls and the positive feedback. How much time went into putting this album together?
Matt: Thank you very much! It took a good 2-3 years total.
SoT: I was really impressed with the vocals; obviously a lot of effort went into this side of the album?
Matt: It definitely took a lot of work, between trying to get the best vocal takes possible, and all the big layering for the choir parts. Thank you for the compliment!
SoT: Did each member have input into the final product, besides their impressive performances that is?
Matt: Sure, they each contributed with ideas for a couple of the songs, and we worked on some of the arrangements together. And as you said, their performances are great, and I really feel like they brought a great new energy to the band that you can hear on the recording.
SoT: How do you feel about this album, did the band achieve what they aimed for?
Matt: Oh I'm very happy with it. Obviously any musician will be able to nitpick things they would like to do better after an album is released, but overall I'm pretty thrilled. I don't feel like we had to "settle" for anything. We felt like we had strong material, and I'm just relieved that the production, artwork, and other presentation details lived up to that quality as well.
SoT: Now that Mirror of Souls is out what tour plans do you have and will you be performing the title track? I imagine your material would be a lot of fun to perform live.
Matt: It is fun, but kinda tricky since I have to play guitar and sing. We have played the title track all the way through once, and it was a lot of fun. We've also played sections of it at other shows. There are no tour plans per se at the moment because we're still trying to find a new bass player, but we do have some individual shows lined up, including the Elements of Rock festival in Switzerland next May, which will be our first trip overseas. So we're very excited about that.
SoT: If you could pick any, which bands would you like to tour with in the future?
Matt: Well, it would be fun to play with any of our musical influences like Sonata Arctica, Edguy, any of those bands, but hey...any band that is bigger than us and would like to take us out would make us happy!
SoT: Can you see more metal bands changing styles, say to a more straightforward/less technical sound in the future as some have already done? I for one hope they don't, metal never really seems to date and fans are some of the most loyal around, unlike many other genres they are not just short term fads. I suppose one of the things that makes Metal so special is hearing the effort that goes into a recording such as Mirror Of
Matt: Well, it all goes in cycles, and right now the fancier and more technical playing has come back into vogue, largely thanks to Guitar Hero. So if anything, I think bands will try to capitalize on that more than go back the other way. But, down the road when the next incarnation of punk/grunge comes along and makes musicality "uncool" again, well, who knows. I agree with you though; that timelessness is one of the things that makes Metal so cool. Some would probably call it stagnation, but hey, a great song is a great song, and a classic Maiden or Metallica track from the 80s still sounds as killer today as it did back then.
SoT: Who are some of your influences, as in bands and musicians?
Matt: Well, the aforementioned classic Metal bands (and many others), as well as a lot of Euro Power Metal stuff (Sonata Arctica, Avantasia, etc.), some Progressive Metal bands (Fates Warning, old Dream Theater, etc.). I also like film soundtrack composers (Zimmer, Horner, etc.) and some random pop/rock songwriters.
SoT: Could you tell us something about Theocracy and its member's history?
Matt: Well, the most frustrating thing is the fact that we've been through three bass players in the time between the albums. I don't know what it is about bass players! But Shawn is a fantastic drummer who actually lives five minutes away from me, so he was an amazing find. He's great on a technical level, but he plays with so much personality—his drumming is very memorable. And Jon has a good ear for guitar and just an innate musical talent; he plays piano and keyboard as well, and writes music.
SoT: What would you like to achieve with the band in the future?
Matt: Just to put out great albums with no filler and continue to take Theocracy to more and more people. And, of course, a solid lineup that will allow us to develop into a strong live presence.
SoT: Besides metal what other music do you enjoy listening to?
Matt: Hard rock, classic rock, occasional pop, sometimes film soundtracks, every once in a while classical.
SoT: Which are your favorite music releases from 2008?
Matt: I think either Avantasia's "The Scarecrow" or Metallica's "Death Magnetic" will end up on top of my year-end list this time.
SoT: Thanks for your time, I hope Theocracy enjoys the success the band deserves and we look forward to future releases.
Matt: Thank you very much for the interview! Sea of Tranquility has been very supportive of Theocracy since the first album, so I really appreciate the kind words and your taking the time to feature us!
(Click here to read our review of Mirror of Souls)