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Exclusive Interview with Matt Smith: Theocracy’s Journey to ‘Mosaic’ Revealed!

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Join us for an exclusive interview featuring Matt Smith, the visionary leader and vocalist of the renowned band Theocracy, as he delves into the eagerly awaited album, “Mosaic.” Discover the intriguing journey behind this upcoming release, gaining insights into the creative process, the wellspring of inspiration, and what fans can anticipate when it officially launches on October 13th via Atomic Fire Records. Don’t miss this thrilling glimpse into Theocracy‘s world!

The interview is available in both video and text formats below for your enjoyment.

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Interview by Jorge Pozo

Matt Smith: I am sorry for my voice, I’m very sick at the moment . I am glad we’re not on tour, that’s when it’s really scary. So it’s all good. Thank you for talking to me.

LotsOfMuzik: No, no problem. I’m really honored to have this opportunity to talk to you and talk a little bit about the new album and everything else <laugh>, so let me know if you’re ready and let’s begin.

Matt Smith: I’m ready. Let’s go.

LotsOfMuzik: Cool. Cool. Matt, thank you for joining us. You have a new album “Mosaic” coming up in a few weeks. Could you provide some insights into the inspiration behind the album and the creative process?

Matt Smith: Sure, the album, first of all, sorry for my voice, everybody. I’m very sick at the moment, but the album is called “Mosaic” and it’s not a concept album. It’s an album of 10 different songs of all different subjects, etcetera. And it came about over the last few years. We took a little break after our last album, Ghost Ship, and then, once I started writing new songs, it came together. And then, we started recording and we had a lineup change, and then we had a record label change. So, once all the Covid and all this stuff. So once all these things happened, it took a little bit longer then we had planned on, but, but we’re excited that it’s, it’s finally almost here.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah. yeah, definitely it took longer. <Laugh>, we’ve been hearing that the album has been in process since like 2020 or something.

Matt Smith: Yeah, it’s been a while. Yeah.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah. And the title track “Mosaic” is described as one of your personal favorites in the album. Could you share what makes it special and the message it conveys?

Matt Smith: Yeah. What I like about that song is that I think it captures kind of everything we do, in one nice little package. It has a, a quiet intro and that it kicks into a, a power metal gallup, and it gets kind of thrashy in the middle and, and big, sing-along chorus and, and great solo and, and things like that. So it’s not the longest song on the album, but it’s a nice, nice package of what we do. And, and, and yeah, as far as the message, it’s, that’s almost kind of about the, how we can only see as we go through life, we can only see the individual little scenes of our life, and we don’t have the perspective to see the big picture, of what those, those individual scenes are combining to create, which is sort of, you can sort of see that in the art artwork as well, all the little vignettes that combine to create this big “mosaic”. So that’s what that song’s about. And I thought it was a great title for the album as well.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah, definitely. Could you tell us about the overarching themes and lyrical content explored in the album?

Matt Smith: Yeah, sure. There’s quite a variety. I think I was at a point where I was thinking a lot about mortality and death and legacy and sort of, what we leave behind when we leave and what we live for and, and while we’re here and things like that. And that probably came from just things in my life, between the last two albums, losing my grandparents and other family members passing away and things like that. So, I guess these things were on my mind. So, you’ll see that that topic comes up a bit in songs like Return to Dust and songs like The Greatest Hope and so forth. And then man, beyond that, it’s kind of, there’s, there’s quite a large variety, which is, which is what we always try to do.

There are songs like Flickr that are more sort of personal and honest and kind of, questioning things. And Insidious is another song like that. And then there are kinds of historical songs like Liar Fool or Messiah, which goes through what we call the Trilemma,  written by C.S. Lewis. And that’s kind of a long, longer kind of epic, with some progressive moments and a big catchy chorus. And then there’s a huge epic called Red Sea, which is kind of split in half. And the first half sort of looks at the story from Genesis of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, and then the second half kind of equates that to the Blood of Christ in a modern sort of spiritual, personal, equivalent mm-hmm. So, that’s that, yeah. And then there’s plenty of other songs that I’m not thinking of at the moment, but it’s like we always try to do, being a Christian band and sort of everything falls under that umbrella, but I always just try to write about whatever’s on my heart at the moment. And so, hopefully other people will be able to relate.

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LotsOfMuzik: Yeah, hopefully. And by the way I love Red Sea, it’s my favorite song on the album, and man, I’ve been cracking this <laugh> album for the last few days non stop. I know for sure that your fans and the fans of the band will love this album for sure. It’s gonna be a favorite for many, if not for all.

Matt Smith: Wow, thank you so much. That’s so great to hear, because working so hard on it and being so close to it for so long, it’s hard to have any perspective, so I’m glad to hear you say that.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah. What would you say about “Mosaic” and how it represents the evolution of Theocracy sound in style compared to your previous albums?

Matt Smith: That’s a good question. Those things are sort of hard for me to really see in the moment while I’m still close to the project. I’m getting a little distance now. So, I think from judging from what the reactions have been so far and kind of what I’m seeing,I think it takes what we’ve always done, and maybe goes off into a little, some more extremes. We have a very quiet ballad. We have some very intense thrashing moments and, and sort of the typical power metal stuff. So I think it’s a nice journey that kind of encapsulates sort of all the things we do, which is great, because at least when I write, I don’t plan these things out, I need a song in this style, and I need this kind of song, and I need this song. I just write. And then it comes out as it may, and then maybe at the end of the project, I’ll look and see what I have and say, okay, I’m missing another fast song, or I’m missing a mid temp post song or something. So I might write one or two just, to complete the overall journey. But so it’s hard to say it’s hard to have that perspective when you’re close to it. So I think it’s nice to be able to step back and see that it has, it kind of covers everything that we’ve done in the past and, and maybe pushes a little more extreme here and there. So I think it’s a nice ride over 66 minutes or whatever it is.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah. and talking about (the song) Red Sea that we did talk about a little bit a couple minutes ago . It’s the epic of the album, but I wanted to know what inspired you to revisit and rewrite this song? I know it was written like when you were in your almost twenties, and what, what was the reason?

Matt Smith: Well, I’d always, all the stuff from the archive of songs that I wrote before the first album had kind of, all those ideas had kind of come out now,like Martyr was like that, for Mirror of Souls. And there were other songs and other ideas that were so old, and that was kind of the last idea, the last old idea that I was still hanging onto from the archive. And it was because I wrote that song when I was 19. So, it was kind of juvenile and in a lot of ways, it just needed a lot of work to be good enough to be on a Theocracy album. So I always had that in the back of my mind, as am I gonna re revisit that someday? I knew it was, some of the stuff there was really strong. So I didn’t wanna just just throw it away, but I knew it would take a lot of work. So then when Covid happened and we had a little downtime I pulled it back out and I listened to it, and I started rewriting parts and I threw some parts away, and I kept the good parts and added stuff and rearranged stuff. And I made a demo of this new arrangement and sent it to the guys. And to my surprise, they all just loved it. They said, yeah, we’ve gotta, we’ve gotta work on this. We’ve gotta put it out. So, that was a nice moment, because then, then it felt like, all right, we’ve got a, we’ve kind of got an album now, we’ve got a big epic and we’ve got other songs. And so it was really just down to time, this was the first time that I took the time to really, wood shed as they say, and, and sit down and pull the song apart and put it back together.

LotsOfMuzik: Could you share any memorable moments and or challenges you encountered during the recording and production of “Mosaic“?

Matt Smith: Sure. It’s always such hard work, but as far as those things go, it went pretty smoothly, the recording and things like that. I mean, it was nice, we had Ernie, our drummer lives in New Jersey, and the rest of us are in Georgia here in the US. And so, he flew down and, and we booked a few days in the studio to track the drums and be all together in there. It was great. We were excited about it. So it was really good. Good feelings and good memories. I mean, the biggest challenge was that we got a new guitar player, Taylor Washington. We brought him in midway through the recording. So, that was one of the reasons that it got pushed back a bit further. But he was just beyond awesome. I mean, he’s so professional, and he knocked all the solos out, and they’re all spectacular and all his guitar parts. So it was, it was a challenge in the way that it just takes time to incorporate any new member. But it wasn’t a challenge in the sense that he made it easy, and he did such a great job.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah. And how do you anticipate “Mosaic” resonating with your longtime fans, and what do you hope the new listeners take away from it? 

Matt Smith: That’s a good question. I hope that, I just hope with the longtime fans I know people have really waited for this album. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since Ghost Ship, it doesn’t seem like it’s been as long as it has, because I think because the album has been ready for so long, and then, and then with the changing of record labels and things like that, it just took so long to finally come out. So so I guess just like always, I hope that after so much anticipation that they like it, it’s always a little nerve wracking, it’s on the one hand, we always do the best that we can do the very best as always, and it’s kind of out of our hands what other people think about it, so we can’t really worry about it. But at the same time, I know how much people have been building it up and building it up, the anticipation. So I hope that they find it worth the weight.

LotsOfMuzik: Definitely. The new album is also releasing on a new record label, Atomic Fire Records. What prompted this change?

Matt Smith: Well, there were a few things. Our last three albums came out on a Swedish label called Ulterium Records. And the president of that label, his name’s Emil, he’s a great friend of mine, and he kind of reached a burnout point where he just said, I can’t do any more big new releases. I have to step away, for family and time and things like that. So he said, if you guys want to self-release or if you want to sign with a new label, I’m happy to help you in any way I can. And so we kind of, it took a while, because we had to weigh a lot of options of what made the most sense. And we were fortunate enough to have several good offers, from different labels. And Atomic Fire (Records) was one that we all felt really good about because some bands that we really like are already on that label. And they had Marcus and some of the guys there came from Nuclear Blast. So they had, kind of that cachet and that muscle behind them, but they were also still small enough to where they didn’t have 300 bands signed to the label and putting out 20 albums a week where you just get lost in the shuffle, like some of these labels. So, it was perfect, ’cause, and then we talked to ’em and, and, some of the guys from the label said, “I bought two copies of Mirror of Souls when it came out”. “ I bought the Japanese version so I could have the bonus track”, so they were fans and they loved the music, and once they heard the new album, they just loved it. So it made sense. And, so far it’s been great. 

LotsOfMuzik: Is this partnership with Atomic Fire Records limited to just one album? Or have you signed for multiple records?

Matt Smith: I think we signed for two, I think. I’d have to look back at the contract, but I think it’s two, maybe two or three. Yeah.

LotsOfMuzik: Nice. <Laugh>. Yeah. Congrats. Because we’ve been waiting for this album for so long, as I said previously. But I wanted to ask how do you keep the rest of the band engaged with such long periods between albums? Do you all have regular jobs? Do you. What do you do?

Matt Smith: Yeah, we all have regular jobs, and a lot of us travel for work and things like that, so there’s always so much going on. The harder challenge is to work everyone’s schedules out to where we can get in the same room at the same time. Because four of us live in Georgia. Three of the guys live in Atlanta. I live in Athens about an hour away. And then Ernie, our drummer, he lives up in New Jersey, so he has a fly to get down here. So it’s almost a full-time job to arrange everyone’s schedules to where we can do things together, and beyond that, even when albums aren’t coming out, we’re still playing shows or on the road or doing something. So it doesn’t feel so much like downtime and not combined with everyone’s jobs and families and everything. It’s a full plate, for sure.

LotsOfMuzik: Matt, any plans to tour?

Matt Smith: Yes. We don’t know the specifics yet. We’ve got the only thing that’s set in stone right now is we’re playing a festival in Germany called Loud and Proud, which we played last year, that’s on the same day as the album release on October 13th. And then beyond that, we’re discussing if we want to do a full European run again, or a US run, or what. So it’s, it’s back to what I was talking about, about, talking about aligning schedules and, and sort of seeing what the offers are and what makes sense. So, so I, I’m sure we’ll do something. I’m, I’m just not sure exactly what or where that’s gonna be yet.

LotsOfMuzik: I also wanted to ask, what is the future of Project Aegis?

Matt Smith: There’s nothing planned, butI would like to revisit it at some point. I think I’ve really enjoyed all three songs that we’ve done, and they’ve all been very different and they’ve all been for different charities and that’s worked out well. So that’s actually a good question. I should talk to Emil, from Ulterium (Records) about that, because that was initially his idea that he ran by me. So, that would be a thing that we would do together if we did it. But I would love to do something else, if the right cause or charity comes along and, and the right song idea or cast of characters, it’s funny because it’s, those are always a lot of work, it’s different from how Theocracy is, it’s easy on my end, but man, to get the singers, and get the right people to agree to do it, and then to kind of stay on to get their tracks in time, it takes some, some effort. But I would love to do another one. Hopefully something that continues in the tradition of them all being slightly different.

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LotsOfMuzik: Fingers crossed here that it comes up pretty soon. Matt  with two new members of the band. How much did that impact the recording process on this album?

Matt Smith: It did (impact the recording of the new album), but only in good ways. I mean, both those guys, Ernie Topran, our drummer, he has been with us since right after Ghost Ship was released. So all the touring and the shows for Ghost Ship and ever since then he’s played drums for us. And so he was more than ready to finally have a recording  with his name on it. So, for him, it’s kind of a big moment. And I’ve known him for years, even before he was playing with us, his previous band Halcyon Way, they’re from Atlanta. We played with them a bunch and they’re friends of ours. And we kind of went, traveled in the same circles and he’s just been on so many tours and played on so many albums. He’s just a pro. He knows his parts. He knows how to get what he wants, and, and it’s a real honor to work with him in the studio. It was great fun doing those drum tracks. And then Taylor Washington is the other new member on lead guitar, and I knew Taylor from recording and producing the debut album from his band Paladin at my studio. And he is just a monster guitar player. And also a singer, ’cause he is the lead singer for that band. So being able to harmonize on vocals with him live and hear that voice, it is just, it’s amazing. So yeah, the word that comes to mind when I think of what both of those guys brought is just professionalism. I mean, they just knocked both their parts out, like so quickly. And I know Taylor was a Theocracy fan before joining. And so I think he felt some pressure with the solos,you’ve heard ’em, I mean, they’re just so good and they’re different from each other. Each one has its own style, so yeah. They’ve both made a big difference.

LotsOfMuzik: Lemme go back for a moment because I’ve been waiting to ask this question to you for, I don’t know, for many years, <laugh>. Okay. In the song “The Master Storyteller,” there’s a speech about God during the solo, but it’s somewhat obscured by the guitars. Could you share what it says?

Matt Smith: Yeah, I’d have to listen to the song to remember the exact wording, but I can tell you basically what it is, what it says. ’cause that’s actually a guy named Chuck Garner, he’s my best friend from high school, and he’s a pastor now. And the concept of that song is about how we can see God or God’s hand everywhere, even in various forms of media or songs or movies or music or whatever, whether it’s intended or not, sort of, we come at it from that perspective. And, nature even, I mean, if you know where to look. So that’s it, I’m trying to remember if Chuck had the title for that song, or if I had the title first. But we talked about it together. And, at his church that he was at the time, he preached a message about that topic. And so I got him to send me a recording of it, and so that’s what’s in there. So it’s the same topic as the song.

LotsOfMuzik: I want to talk for a moment about Mirror of Soul. Can you go into detail about that song?  I’ve always been curious.

Matt Smith: You mean as far as meaning and things like that?

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah, the inspiration about the song, yeah

Matt Smith: So the initial inspiration was that, for that song, I was thinking about how I, and I guess we as humans in general, tend to look at other people to sort of judge how we are doing, what I mean? As people, I’m not as bad as this person, so I must be a pretty good guy, or I’m not as good as this person, so I need to, to work on that or whatever, which is a flawed way to go through life, you And so I was thinking about that and thinking about what it would be like if we could see ourselves as we really are, see God as he really is, and sort of how that compares. And so that, first it was just that, that concept of sort of looking at others to judge our own kind of how we’re doing in life and our own worth or our own where we need improvement or where we feel like we’ve arrived and so forth. And so that’s what the first part of that song is about. And then and so I had the idea for that, and then I kind of wrote the whole story from there, in the first part where the protagonist is looking in all the mirrors and seeing these reflections of himself that make him look better than he is. And they’re all faults, which basically, which represents, what he’s seeing when he looks at other people and they look back at him. And so that was the song at first. And then I thought, okay, well there, it needs to go on and build to where, where he sees the big mirror and sees himself as he really is finally. And so then it became a whole story. And basically I wrote the story out and sent it to the guys. I remember sending it to Seth Filkins, who was our bass player at the time. And he wrote back, “whoa, this is really cool”, and so then I just wrote the song around that, and first I thought, all right, this is a cool idea for an eight to 10 minute song. And then it just kept growing and growing and growing, and before I knew that it was 23 minutes. 

LotsOfMuzik: Nice. Thank you. Matt, so some guys at the Dream Theater Forum and some others at the Christian Metal Realm asked me, can you ask Matt when we can expect a new Christmas song mayby by the end of the year?

Matt Smith: Oh, man, I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s gonna be time this year. I mean, maybe if I think of something quickly, but we’re about to start rehearsing for Germany in October, and then suddenly it’s the holiday season. So, I honestly haven’t even thought about that. Yeah. Probably, probably not this year, but,

LotsOfMuzik: No, no problem at all. We already have this new album coming up,

Matt Smith: Okay. Okay. Unless I get an idea that I just can’t, that’s too good to not do.

LotsOfMuzik: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I understand. By the way, all the previous Christmas songs were available for download at the Club of Souls but that’s no longer the case, is there any way we can get our hands on those songs officially?

Matt Smith: We’ve been talking about that. For the longest time there’s been people asking us to compile all those on an album. So, we may do that eventually, pull out the songs and master everything together or whatever needs to be done sonically so everything can sit in the same place and then kind of release them as a unit. So yeah, I’m not sure when that’s gonna happen, but it’ll definitely happen at some point.

LotsOfMuzik: Cool. Matt, anything else that you want to tell your fans before we finish the interview?

Matt Smith: Nothing I can think of aside from, thank you guys for your patience. I know the album took longer than any of us anticipated or wanted. So thanks for still caring about what we do, and thank you for being patient and being excited about the album. And I hope that you’re able to listen to it for what it is. I don’t know if anything can live up to the hype of waiting for seven years, but I hope at least you guys dig it.

LotsOfMuzik: I know for sure. People will love it. I know, thank you very much. Thank you, Matt, and hopefully you can come tour in Venezuela one of these days.

Matt Smith: I would love to. Thank you, Jorge. It is great to meet you. Thanks for the great questions.

LotsOfMuzik: Ok, bye-bye.

Matt Smith: Cheers.

Below, you’ll find details about the album’s artwork, tracklist, pre-order information, and the opportunity to listen to the two already-released singles, “Mosaic” and “Return to Dust.” Dive in and explore all these exciting features!

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“Mosaic” Track Listing:

  1. Flicker
  2. Anonymous
  3. Mosaic
  4. Sinsidious (The Dogs Of War)
  5. Return To Dust
  6. The Sixth Great Extinction
  7. Deified
  8. The Greatest Hope
  9. Liar, Fool, Or Messiah
  10. Red Sea

“Mosaic” will be supplied in various formats to Theocracy’s loyal followers worldwide on October 13, 2023 via Atomic Fire Records, and can be pre-ordered now

  • CD-digipak (EU)
  • Jewelcase-CD (US)
  • Various coloured vinyls (orange/black marbled | transparent/blue | crystal clear/black high melt)
  • Digital
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