Join Date: Jun 2008
Matt Smith interview - June 3rd 2011
Matt Smith interview - June 3rd 2011
Below you'll find an interview we did with Matt to find out what's going on in the Theocracy camp at the moment, future plans for the band and also what's been going on in the band during the last years. We hope you'll enjoy the interview!
Hey Matt, what's up?
Hello! Just working away on the new album mostly. Hope you're doing well!
Alright, let's go back a few years. The second Theocracy album "Mirror of Souls" was released in November 2008 and it received fantastic response from around the world. After many years of hard work with the album, how did it feel to read all the positive words about it?
It was truly a great feeling. We worked so hard on that album--to tell you the truth, I don't think I've still quite recovered from it. By the end of the process, I wasn't sure that I ever wanted to go through it again. So to read the overwhelming responses from people about how much it touched them and encouraged them was very rewarding, and made us feel like all the hard work paid off.
"Album of the month", "Album of the year", "One of the best albums ever" are just few of the superlatives used by people to describe "Mirror of Souls". From an artist perspective, how do you react to that kind of praise?
Well, it's certainly nice to see that people like what you do, especially after all the blood, sweat and tears to create it. I was mostly relieved that people seemed to take the time to "get it." It's not a one-listen album; it's a grower, and especially the title track takes several listens to get into, I think. It made me feel good to see that people were really digesting it and appreciating it on a deeper level. All the accolades can be intimidating when trying to work on a new album, but I try not to think about that too much. All we can do is give our absolute best, which we will, every time.
In March 2009 Theocracy performed in Europe for the first time, at the Elements of Rock festival in Switzerland. What kind of expectations did you have before this trip, and how was it?
We were all very excited about it, but we could not have been prepared for how amazing it was. I would probably list it as one of the five greatest experiences of my life, haha! Everything about it was fantastic: the festival, the people who run it, the fans, everything. It was our first experience playing to a large crowd that actually knew our music. Looking out and seeing the people singing every word was amazing, especially after being used to nobody caring here in the States!
At the end of October 2009 you travelled back to Europe for a 9 date long tour through Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Norway. Can you please tell us a little about it?
It was great. And tiring, haha! It was a lot of driving, and a lot of long days. But the shows were awesome, and quite a nice variety, which kept us on our toes. We played everything from tiny club shows with a small number of fans to big festivals, so it was great experience for us, and we were very thankful for the opportunity.
You also did some shows in the US during this time, some shows supporting quite big bands. What was the highlight? Any memorable moments from the shows?
There were a lot of great moments, but probably the most memorable for me was being able to open for Sonata Arctica. They are one of my favorite bands, and Tony is one of my favorite songwriters, so it was quite a thrill. It was also at a venue in Atlanta where we've seen several of our favorite bands, so it was cool all around. It ended up being probably the best crowd we've played for in the States; it reminded us of some of the shows in Europe. I think they were probably expecting the normal kind of local opening band for Atlanta shows, which is usually a screamy garage band or something totally unrelated to the headliner's style. So once we started, the Sonata fans really dug us and we went over well.
Since the release of "Mirror of Souls" Theocracy were joined by two new members; Val Allen Wood and Jared Oldham. Can you please tell us a little about them?
Absolutely. Val is our new lead guitar player, and I can't wait for people to hear what he can do. I'd always wanted to be able to just be a vocalist and not have to worry about playing guitar live, and when he joined I was finally able to do that. Our live shows are so much better now, and his knowledge of musical theory and guitar is amazing. He really added a new dimension that we were missing.
Jared and I had been friends for awhile, and he's played various instruments in various bands and has a real natural talent for music. So when the bass position opened up, he jumped right on it, and it's been a great fit! He's also a good singer, so he tackles some of the higher harmonies at the live shows. As soon as those two joined, it felt like we had found the ultimate Theocracy lineup.
So, let's move forward! A couple of weeks ago you started the recordings of the third Theocracy Magnus Opus, what's the status right now?
Indeed! Things are moving along; it's slow work but we're making progress. The drums have been recorded, and recently I've been going through all the drum takes and editing everything, which takes forever. We're about ready to knock out the guitars and bass and start vocals, so that's what we'll be doing this month. We're all working full-time day jobs, so it's really hard to get everything done; sleep pretty much becomes a thing of the past. But I'm super-excited about this album and can't wait for everyone to hear it!
Do you have any ideas/plans regarding this album that are different from your first two albums?
Well, I try to have some sort of vision for every album. Mirror of Souls was obviously centered around the title track, and while it wasn't a concept album, the other seven songs were sort of like planets orbiting around the big sun of the title track. This time around, my vision was to put together a Theocracy "Greatest Hits" type of album, meaning that I wanted every song to stand alone and have the potential to be somebody's favorite. Of course that kind of thing is up to the listeners to decide, but it really feels like we've succeeded in realizing that vision. One of the things we hope to do for this album for the first time--and of course it will depend on budget--is release a music video. And I was thinking about it, and we have something like six songs that would be excellent choices for a single or video. So that's exactly the kind of thing I was going for with this album--an album's worth of strong, standalone, iconic songs.
Will anything be done differently when recording/producing this album than "Mirror of Souls"?
Well, one of the things that took so long with Mirror of Souls was that I was learning so much. It was my first time recording an album on a computer, so I was learning new software, building a studio, getting better at engineering, and learning how to make an album at that level, from conception to delivery. This time around, I've been through it, so I'm prepared for the work involved. I set up a little computer at home so I can do a lot of the busywork there, instead of being locked in a studio alone and slowly going mad. Also, this time we had a little bit of advance budget, so we went to a studio in town to cut the drums, since my drum room is so small. We rented some nice equipment. And of course the biggest difference will be having new band members, so I won't have to play everything myself! We cut the drum tracks live off the floor with all of us in the room, so the live energy is really apparent. I'm very excited for people to hear the recorded debut of the full Theocracy lineup!
Do you have any specific goals with this album?
Well, in everything I write I have the goal to touch people and tackle subjects from maybe a different angle than most Christian music. So that's always there. Career wise, I just want to push things further and further. I'd love to finally be able to make a living off music and not have to try to shoehorn it in after being drained from working 40 hours a week. That's always a goal. This really feels to us like a "big" album, and everything seems to be lining up right, from the songs to the full band lineup to the tours, so hopefully this will be the one that takes us to another level.
In October you'll travel back to Europe for another tour, are you and the guys looking forward to it? What can the European fans expect this time around?
Man, we can't wait! I'm guilty of daydreaming about being back on tour when I'm sitting at work every day, haha. I'm not sure about expectations as of yet--we have to try to get this album finished on time first. But a couple of us have talked about playing the new album from top to bottom; I don't know if that will happen, but I enjoy that kind of thing, and this feels like the perfect album to do that with if we decide to. But if we do, of course we'll throw in songs from the first two as well. We don't want anyone to leave disappointed. Anyway, all that will be decided in the coming months.
You've released two critically acclaimed albums, played some great shows both in the US and abroad, worked with guys like Mika Jussila and Felipe Machado Franco. Are there any future goals? What's the dream scenario for Theocracy to achieve during the coming years?
Well, as I mentioned above, being able to concentrate full-time on Theocracy would be the ultimate dream. Artistically, I've always had this weird goal of releasing five albums without a single throwaway track. My favorite bands' great runs always seemed to be five albums long, so I've always felt like if we could release five albums of top-tier quality, that would be some kind of official career stamp, haha. So for now we'll just keep on doing the best we can, keep trying to get better, and hope that God will use our songs to help people.
Thank you so much for your time Matt! Any final words to the fans of Theocracy and other interested souls?
Just a huge thank you to everyone. It's such an honor to have people out there who are interested enough in our music to follow and support what we do. It really means the world to me. Thank you, God bless, and we hope you love the new album and tour!