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Lazarus Dream's Markus Pfeffer: "I have the feeling that on the one hand we have found our "own sound", but on the other hand no song is like the other"

Interview with Markus Pfeffer from Lazarus Dream
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 12 July 2022, 9:27 PM

At times there is a feeling that something needs to be showcased for everyone to experience, and that is outside the studio. However, there are too many attachments that need to be made in order to make that happen, and for a lot of people, it is quite the loss. Nonetheless, it is hard not to understand the deliberations going on within the mind of guitarist, Markus Pfeffer. Being busy with projects, other than actual live bands, have its advantages. Lazarus Dream's new album, "Lifeline", proves that there is something good going, yet there is a slight chance that it would see a stage. Steinmetal had a great talk with Pfeffer about the album, his relationship with Carsten Schulz and more…

Hello Markus, you are rapidly becoming a regular at Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing kind sir?

Fine, thank you for asking. I used the seemingly never-ending pandemic to be creative, recording a good 100 demos and arranging about 70 songs. It was like a liberating blow and felt really good.

Following the latest Barnabas Sky effort, it was bound that something new would come from the Lazarus Dream camp. Your sophomore release, “Lifeline”, has been out for nearly two weeks, how has it been received by the band’s followers? Would you say that you were able to find your way to new hearts out there?

After the debut was very highly praised, I was indeed a little nervous whether our second album would get as many good reviews. Fortunately, without reason, the vast majority of critics praise our second album in the highest tones and the fans also seem to be enthusiastic.

Continuing with your amazing partnership with singer Carsten Schulz, aka “Lizard”, it is no doubt the core element behind the moniker of “Lazarus Dream”. Now with a second album under your belt, what can you tell about the development of your relationship as two musicians, two songwriters?

I would say we understand each other even better now on the creative side of things. Carsten now knows pretty much which melody lines fit my compositions best and I know exactly which of the countless songs I compose are predestined for Lazarus Dream. With about 70 songs and three ongoing projects (Winterland, Lazarus Dream, Barnabas Sky) you have to be clear about which song "belongs" where.

I have to ask this, and I know that we talked about it after the debut album, and also, I believe that we mentioned it while talking on Barnabas Sky, is there no chance in the world that Lazarus Dream will be finding itself as a live band? Isn't your material, which can channel itself easily to a variety of Metalheads, and rockers, alike, worth the stages?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that our music has a lot of power and energy and would definitely bang live without end. No in the sense that we would have to hire and pay a drummer, bassist, second guitarist, keyboardist and actually two background singers for the extensive choirs, and that would result in fee demands that no promoter would meet. There are too many young bands that perform for a penny.

Let’s talk about inspirations for “Lifeline”, what were your leads for the sake of writing the material? What were the main incentives the led you eventually to the songs?

It varies from song to song. I usually "only" compose the music, then Carsten is asked to find a suitable text and melody. Some songs come from a guitar riff (e.g. "Don't Look Down"), others from a drum-bass arrangement ("Love Without A Net"), others from a melody in my head (e.g. "Still Running"). What I actually wanted to say with that (laughs), I don't only write songs on the guitar, but also consciously like to go other ways.

Judging by the artwork of the album, made by Stan W. Decker, the term “Lifeline” was taken literally, making it actual, but in outer space. Furthermore, there is the womanly touch to it, for just a tad of 80s related topics, with a smooth AORish attitude in a way. How do you find the artwork and the vision behind it?

Stan's artwork turned out just stunning, and I'm very, very happy with it. However, the idea came from Carsten, who deliberately wanted to illustrate the lifeline theme metaphorically, with a hint of sci-fi attitude.

Musically, “Lifeline” is yet another twist and turn, and I have to comment that it is even more diverse than the debut. Nevertheless, there is a storm gradually forming up, at least this is how I feel the tracklist. Is there a path to anger within the album, or perhaps a heavy dose of criticism on your part?

Wow, that's as thoughtful a perception as it is a great question. In fact, I give a lot of thought to the order of songs on my albums. Usually, I start doing it once 8-10 songs are done and I make mp3 mixes in the imagined order of them. The tempo has to vary from song to song and so does the key. Otherwise, in addition, I try to build up an arc of tension, and apparently it worked well.

The previous question leads me to trying to understand from you, how did you express yourself through the lyrical mannerism of the album? In your opinion, what is the morality that stands behind “Lifeline”? 

A special moral is not addressed, if you ask me. Carsten writes the lyrics and has all imaginable freedom, so I can only answer as an "outsider". As a lyricist, I think he responds to each song individually, there are very personal lyrics ("Your Voice Inside My Head") as well as more socially critical and almost dystopian lyrics ("Dead End Symphony"). In the end, the whole life is illuminated, with all its facets. Hence the album title.

Earlier I mentioned the diversity of the album’s musical aspect, even though the songwriting is mainly steadfast behind the quest for the right hook. This is rather interesting, and it made “Lifeline” become special in its own way.  Would you say that a step forward musically was made within the record? In your view, does this album prove that you are able to reach anywhere between the respectable border of Metal and Rock?

Many thanks for the words of praise first. Indeed, I also feel that we have "found" ourselves stylistically with the new album. And indeed, my own influences range from melodic bands like TYKETTO to heavy bands like IRON MAIDEN and it's great to make people hear these different influences in our own material.

Let’s focus on the musical vision behind the songs of “Lifeline”, was it intended to find that right segmentation between making it a heavier album and making that there is smoothness, and softer efforts?

No. I usually don't have a "master plan" for the stylistic direction of an album, but approach each song on its own. In the beginning I also had the feeling that the songs were heavier on average than those on the debut, but maybe that was due to the pandemic and the pent-up feelings that just had to "get out".

In regards to the songwriting process, although I mentioned that finding the right hook was no less than a guide, in your opinion, what was made differently this time around as you two worked on “Lifeline”?

In principle, nothing. I write the music; Carsten finds a suitable text and melody. Whereby a story is definitely worth telling. After I had a short, ballad-like guitar instrumental on the BARNABAS SKY album, I wanted to do the same for the LAZARUS DREAM album. The song was already largely arranged, but after I had slept on it once or twice, I suddenly didn't like the guitar melody at all. So, I deleted the guitar melody and gave the basic arrangement to Carsten in the hope that he would come up with something. That was Sunday. By Wednesday, "Love Without A Net" was in the can.

I can’t just let it slide without making a comment, and a positive one, about Schulz’s vocals on “Lifeline”. He masters the helm of the vocals, and its choir vocal arrangements are spectacular. In your view, how did Carsten’s vocals entangled, and expressed, with your musical vision of the songs? What is your appreciation of his vocals overall on the record?

Carsten's arrangements and melodic arcs are EXACTLY how I want the vocals for my songs. We have EXACTLY the same preferences and ideas, which is perfect for a songwriting duo. I'm totally into the fat arrangements of the backing vocals, however, I decide from song to song whether or not I sing along myself.

The album’s major guest is none other than ex-Dream Theater’s Derek Sherinian on keyboards for the opening track, “Dead End Symphony”. No wonder that he was chosen to take part, as the song itself has a distinction to old Dream Theater tunes, along with the Lazarus Dream influence. Was the song written around his performance or was it the other way around?

The song was actually finished, but I had the feeling that something was missing - especially a Hammond. So, I contacted him and a few days later he delivered. And pretty awesome LOL

Taking on a heavier form, while keeping the fusion of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal alive and well, is pounding “Crack The Hourglass”. It also created a wonderful 80s driven atmosphere that it is hard to ignore. What do you make of this track? How do you perceive its impact on your efforts on the album?

"Crack The Hourglass" is also one of our declared favorites on the album. The "Cossack Choir" after the second chorus is of course a conscious reminiscence of IRON MAIDEN. It may be that we will also shoot a video for it. The fact that the song was not one of the first two videos is due to the fact that it doesn't have a real guitar solo and is therefore not quite representative of the rest of the album.

If I hadn’t checked, I wouldn’t have known that “I Engineer” wasn’t your song, but rather a cover for Animotion. Covering a Synth Pop band, and providing it with a dosage of electricity and great vocals, works for me. Were you a follower of the band? How did the idea for this particular song come up in the first place?

That was Carsten's idea, he always wanted to cover the song and since I've always liked the song as well, I was immediately hooked on it. In the end it was only a few days of "work" and the song was in the can.

After proving that the work between yourself and Mr. Schulz worked once again, and even further developed, what can you say that you learned from this entire process surrounding “Lifeline”?

I learned from it that we found a clear stylistic line with Lazarus Dream and that we will definitely write more material in the future. I have the feeling that on the one hand we have found our "own sound", but on the other hand no song is like the other.

Markus, I wish to thank you for taking the time again for this interview, and I am also glad that “Lifeline” manifested itself to become a great record. All the best

Thank you very much Lior!


 



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