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Barnabas Sky’s Markus Pfeffer: “It was like a little trip back in time and I also consciously tried to dive into my world of thoughts and feelings from back then…”

Interview with Markus Pfeffer from Barnabas Sky
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 29 October 2021, 1:22 AM

To be able to follow your dreams is one thing, but to actually share a record with your past idols, that is an achievement even greater. It starts with a simple idea of a song, and from there on the will and motivation to gather around those who made their mark and let them have it, to become one with the idea. Markus Pfeffer has always been a busy bee, looking for an opportunity to come out with his strong sense of vision of the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal mixture. Under the Barnabas Sky moniker, he created an album with his past vocal heroes, releasing “Inspirations”. Steinmetal had a good talk with Markus on the development of the band and more…

Hi Markus, it is a pleasure of mine to have you again for a conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, what is up on your end sir?

First of all, I am very happy that the Barnabas Sky debut will be released soon. With Pride & Joy Music, I know the release is in the best hands and the feedback so far it's really amazing. Apart from that, I have an incredible amount of new song ideas at the moment.

After reawakening Lazarus Dream, I guess that you wanted to keep yourself busy, and therefore the birth of a new project, slightly different in nature, entitled Barnabas Sky. Has this idea for this particular been sitting with you for quite some time, only to be fulfilled lately?

No, the whole thing really came about spontaneously. I had a new song idea and thought directly "This sounds like TYKETTO", so I asked Danny Vaughn. After he was first on board, I contacted several other heroes of my youth and then composed the songs explicitly for the respective singers.

I usually don’t like to ask this type of questions, and I know that some artists are even annoyed by it, yet you chose a really interesting name for this project. Therefore, I allow myself to ask, what is the meaning of Barnabas Sky?

"Barnabas" etymologically means "son of consolation", in combination with "Sky", which for me is the metaphor for "inspiration from above" . I find that very meaningful. And it sounds good too. :-)

Truth be told, when I noticed that the title for your debut album, “Inspirations”, I thought to myself that it is probably going to be a kind of a cover album, displaying the artist’s influences, spread upon various orchestral arrangements. However, I was baffled, and there I was listening to originals. Before we enter the circuit of vocalists that found their way into the album, how do you view the philosophical vision behind it?

My vision was to record an album with singers from bands that had influenced me during my musical beginnings. Hence the title.

Instead of influences by bands, you portray your musical legacy upon a series of vocalists that you feel inspired from, most of them veterans. It is obvious, yet quite logical, to ask, how did it feel to work with musicians that have been influencing you for years? This is quite different from being a merely influenced musician, am I right?

Absolutely right. The first singer I got vocal tracks from was Zak Stevens with "What Lies Beneath". When I heard his vocals combined with my music for the first time I got goosebumps right away and I had to spontaneously stop and really enjoy the moment, because it felt almost surreal, in a positive sense. This is a dream come true, which I would not even have dared to dream until recently.

When you approached these vocalists, didn’t this entire recruiting process bring back memories of you as a youngling, a newcomer musician perhaps, listening to these people do their best back in the day?

Absolutely. It was like a little trip back in time and I also consciously tried to dive into my world of thoughts and feelings from back then. At times I succeeded quite well.

In your opinion, what is the main narrative that subjects the songs on “Inspirations”, or rather a common ground that binds the tunes? Would you say that this record also shares a rather darker vibe under a cloak of melodies?

The singers were largely free in terms of the content of their lyrics - I had only explicitly excluded "Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll", overly clichéd heartbreak stories and right-wing extremist ideas. In fact, some singers had pandemic-related themes thrown into the mix, and I found that very interesting. Rob Rock's "Yesterday's Gone," Danny Martinez's "In My Mind" and Danny Vaughn's "Say Farewell To Darker Days" all touch on this theme, each in very different ways.

Essentially, “Inspirations” is a sort of your calling card so to speak, showing what you are able to do within the vastness of both Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. There is also an intention, which takes the listener through a journey through your musical maturity. Is that the case for “Inspirations”? Are there additional artists that inspired you that didn’t have a recognition on the record?

Indeed, the singers are only some of many inspirations, also they are "only" parts of bands that have influenced me. TYKETTO's founding guitarist Brooke St. James has certainly been a big inspiration for me, as well as Eddie Van Halen and Gary Moore by the way. Without the latter two, I certainly would never have had the desire to learn how to play guitar.

Since you have been dealing with various individuals, meaning the vocalists, were there conditions of sorts, material wise, who is all for Metal or all for Rock? Was it a mutual decision between yourself and the artists on both lyrical and musical creations?

My approach was different. After I knew that Danny Vaughn was on board, I wrote to a number of possible singers. And if one of them said yes, then I composed the material expressly for him. For example, I quickly realized that I wanted to hear Jesse Damon's voice in a ballad just as much as I wanted Rob Rock to sing in a heavy song. The ideas then came naturally.

As both a guitarist and songwriter, and I refer to mainly the latter, what form of experience do you believe that you gained while working on “Inspirations”?

That I am able to compose a suitable kind of music for certain singers. I have never done that before and it was a completely new experience for me.

What form of lessons from the past did you learn from while “Inspirations” was underway, under the blade of the songwriting process?

That I should always listen to my gut feeling when composing. For me, a song idea either becomes the foundation for a whole song in one or two days, or the whole thing ends up in the trash because the last "kick" is missing. A half-finished idea doesn't survive a week for me and that was very obvious again with Barnabas Sky.

In a way, you managed, all by yourself, a lineup that is mostly comprised of vocalists, in order to achieve the record. Didn’t it give you enough headache to actually continue?

No, not at all. The singers were all very approachable and very nice. Absolutely no stress.

What did feel like a challenge while “Inspirations” was underway? How were you able to overcome this challenge, or challenges?

For me, the sequence of songs on an album is immensely important, so in that respect the order of the songs was a real challenge. On the one hand, I wanted there to be variety in listening with the different singers (that's why I never have two songs with the same singer right after each other), on the other hand the "flow" of the album should also be natural and feel organic. In the end, I managed to do that quite well, I think.

The “What Lies Beneath” is a song that wishes to share experiences of others, those who are a little unfortunate, such as predictions or relations to the worldwide pandemic, a cause effect by psychological issues. How close is this subject to you? What can you tell about the song’s intensity, since it is one of the heavy weights of the album?

Like many others, the pandemic had a strong impact on me and kept me busy. However, I also learned a lot from it, in both a positive and negative sense. "What Lies Beneath" focuses on the darker side of the experience, and the music fits perfectly with the text and vice versa.

When I saw the title of that old TV show you mentioned, “Timm Thaler”, I had no idea what you were talking about. Nonetheless, the way you formulate the instrumental into a Gary Moore style guitar and arrangements, now that elevated the excitement about it. How did it feel to record lead guitar efforts, which in mind stands the fact that Moore used to be one of the greatest guitarists? Did you feel any form of pressure?

No, I didn't feel any pressure at that point. I knew right from the first time I played the melody that I was getting 100% of the feeling across. You have to play a song like that with your heart, not with your mind.

When you listen to the end result of the record, the final product, what does it make you feel? Where do you find yourself exploring while one by one, the track advances forward?

A few days ago, I listened to the album in its entirety again after a long time and I must say I was thrilled and proud of myself. Each song for itself is its own little work of art, and the whole album is also a varied and yet coherent compilation of everything I stand for musically.

From where I am sitting, I believe the Keyboards for the band are a must, in order to intensify the bellyful of emotions spreaded around. Is there a consideration to recruit a full time keyboards player for this project?

No, because I usually need the synths to combine with new riff-ideas while I'm composing and arranging, so I usually have to do it myself. Nevertheless, just a few days ago I have worked on a very guitar-heavy new song idea, for which Thomas Nitschke, the keyboardist of my cover band BILLY BOWIE, may think of something. He also contributed the cool string arrangements and effects on "What Lies Beneath."

Is there a chance that Barnabas Sky would become an actual live band one day?

Realistically, unfortunately, no.

Markus, I wish to thank you for your time, and for the second time, thank you for the great music, I wish you nothing but the best, waiting for the next album. Cheers.

Thanks a lot for your support!


 



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Edited 05 December 2022
 

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