As this is my first interview with THEOCRACY I wanted to know as much as I could about them. Thankfully they stepped up to the challenge and provided me with some really good answers. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Every band has to introduce their music to new people. What is it that you want people to get from listening to you guys?
-Songs that they will hopefully love, but beyond that, we hope to encourage people, challenge them, and make them think. We are a Christian band, so we try to present things in a more thoughtful way than people seem to expect from Christian music (whether justified or not).
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
-It took me forever. I spent years trying to think of the name. I didn’t want to just choose a name because I couldn’t think of anything better, and then be stuck with it. Fortunately, I was writing a lot of songs and recording demos at the time, so I had a lot of time before I finally had to name the project. The word “theocracy” means a government ruled directly by God instead of men, but we use it in a different way: instead of a governmental system, it’s an individual life. So it’s personal: Theocracy within. It made sense for our music, and also sounded really cool for a band name!
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play? What inspires you today?
-There were so many, but for me Queensryche was the big one. They were doing things that were so much more intelligent and complex than most metal bands, and that had a big influence on me as a youth. From there it was everything from Metallica to Iron Maiden to Edguy. As long as the songs were great, and the music was powerful and melodic, I was hooked. Today I’m still influenced by great songwriters more than anything, and as we’ve put out more albums it has become a challenge to continue to live up to the level of song quality we’ve tried to maintain.
When you formed did you do so with the intent of knowing what to play or did you do so from the point of having a band name and then picking a sound? How did you settle on the name/sound combo?
-The songs were first. And that’s stayed true through everything we do; everything always comes down to the quality of the songs, and the secondary things come later. I just wrote the music that I loved that came naturally to me, so I didn’t overthink or overplan it. Of course, like any writer, my earliest compositions were basically ripoffs of my influences, and then eventually I developed my own style. Then, around 2002 I had finally written a group of songs I was happy with, and decided to record demos of them. After that came the band name, the first album, and so forth.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
-I hate it. There’s no way to talk about this without sounding like the grumpy old guy, but oh well. I think art is meant to be consumed in roughly hour-long segments (give or take a bit). From symphonies to plays to albums, it’s been a format that has worked for hundreds of years, and for some reason there’s a sweet spot that seems to work with the human brain. It makes me sad to lose that. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a songwriter was my love of the album format—since I was a young child, I would make up fake albums, tracklistings, song titles, and bands. I spend forever agonizing over the perfect running order—in fact, having grown up with cassettes, I still think of things in terms of “Side A” and “Side B”! I just love the journey of a good, well-sequenced album of the perfect length. There’s a mystery to it. Even aside from song quality, there’s a reason you want to play certain albums again as soon as they’re over, and others drain you and make you feel like you need a break. But, it seems we old-school album lovers are a dying breed. Theocracy has released individual singles for Christmas songs and that can be fun, but I’ll always be an album guy.
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
-It’s hugely important for us. I don’t really think of it in terms of catching people’s attention, although I guess technically that’s the point. But for me it’s just an extension of what I was saying about the album as an overall experience. What artwork best gets across what I was trying to say with this song? Does this image “feel” like the album? Or does it not quite fit, for some reason I can’t explain? We try to do everything to the utmost quality, and our fans expect that now. We put so much work into the music that we can’t throw in a two-page booklet with no lyrics or whatever. A ton of thought and discussion goes into layout, artwork and presentation to make a classy package that hopefully feels like part of the music.
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
-Sure it has. Thankfully, our label handles a lot of the promotion and that side of it, because I just don’t have the interest or knowledge. I’m the type of person who was probably happiest writing songs for myself and my friends before all this blew up, because I’m a very shy and reserved person. So it takes a lot of nudging for me to think about promotion, and even playing shows or whatever. I just want to write songs, and everything else is kinda stuff I have to do that comes along with it. Now don’t get me wrong—I’m extremely thankful and blown away that Theocracy has grown into what it’s become, and I adore our fans. I still can’t believe people care about my songs. I just mean that the stuff that happens after the album is done is a little more difficult for me, because it’s not as natural.
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
-Well, I think we are in a bit of a unique situation. It’s a difficult thing to explain, especially in print, because I know things can read differently than intended. I really don’t in any way mean this in a bragging or “look at us” way, because it really has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God and the hearts of people. But I really do feel like we’re part of something bigger and grander, because of the subject matter of our songs. I think it’s a connection that goes deeper than “normal” bands. And again, please don’t think I’m saying that we are in any way better, or superior, or more important than any other band, because I do not think that and that’s not what I mean at all. But because of the spiritual nature of our songs, people associate our music with the highest, or lowest, or most important and most extreme moments of their lives. The songs speak to them on a deeper level than just “a cool tune I like.” So when people come to me in tears talking about how a certain song helped them decide not to commit suicide, or helped save their marriage somehow, or real, tangible, life-or-death moments, it definitely makes us feel like we’re being used for a more important purpose than entertainment. I’m blown away by this. It’s the thing in my career I’m most thankful for.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
-More and more. We aren’t a band that goes on year-long tours, because we all have dayjobs and it’s a difficult thing to schedule. But we’ve done four European tours, several one-off festivals overseas, and this year we’re finally concentrating more on the U.S. and playing places we’ve never been here at home. People have been asking for more U.S. shows, so hopefully it will go well!
What will the future bring?
-I could never say. Hopefully this year more shows and meeting more people, more music videos, and continuing to ride Ghost Ship for awhile longer!