Markus Pfeffer

Barnabas Sky

Every album is its own journey, every song has its own identity, and every time, Markus Pfeffer, the mastermind behind the Barnabas Sky project, has a lot of ideas that he wishes to accomplish. You can call it busy bee, or rather a riff machine, or simply a person that wishes to express himself more by the sounds of new tunes. Pfeffer's will be done and his new album with Barnabas Sky, "What Comes To Light", shows just that. Steinmetal once again took the time to talk to Pfeffer about what is going on under the ruins.
February 26, 2023
Barnabas Sky's Markus Pfeffer: "No darkness without light
Hi Markus, here we are once again, for yet another talk about one of your hot steaming projects, Barnabas Sky, how have you been sir?

Very well, thank you very much. The feedback for the current album is overall very positive and that of course gives impetus to continue on the chosen path.

No doubt that you have been quite busy, whether pandemic or not, you keep pushing forward, and here we are with another Barnabas Sky album. It can be also referred to as another joint operation with a multi-vocalists lineup, and it keeps expanding. Is that a Rock / Metal opera or what?

No, I'm not a concept album kind of guy. For me, every song is created as its own little "work of art". Nevertheless, during very creative phases I always keep in mind the overall picture I want to "paint" with an album. But that's more an emotional thing, not a thematic one.

I can't recall if I asked you this before, and if so, please indulge me again. You invest yourself quite a lot in what you do, and it is also noticed from your Lazarus Dream project as well. I have to know, from where do you get the energy, as it seems to me that there is no rest for the wicked?

Haha, well, I'm just like that, especially in the last three years I'm overflowing with musical ideas. Of course, there is probably also a certain self-therapeutic aspect to it. Music is a channel for me to let emotions out. I don't write so many songs because I absolutely want to, but because I can't help it.

The sophomore album of Barnabas Sky was awarded with the title "What Comes To Light". Please take me through it if you may, are keeping ourselves positive here or rather showing the darker edge of the state of mind, yet with a shred of hope to accompany it?

The title and cover artwork are, of course, very complex. No darkness without light, no joy without suffering. Since most of the songs were finished just during the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, it was of course obvious to depict a war scenario - hoping that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

After taking on the title, let's talk about the overall perspective of "What Comes To Light", even though it is not really a concept album per se. What were the main influences that engulfed you while coming up with the texts for the record? How much of you, meaning on a personal note, is involved within the lyrical end?

I let the singers write all the lyrics, quite deliberately. I only provide the music, and the respective singer may be inspired by it to write a suitable text. Only sexist, racist, or too political topics are excluded. Otherwise, the singers are allowed to write what they want - and above all what they feel.

You brought in a series of amazing vocalists, whether the experienced and known, and those that are considered rising in their field. That is tremendous. Did these vocalists have any hold of the lyrics for the songs? If not, were you advised by them given the chance?

I want the singers to write the lyrics themselves, because that way I can be sure that they are wholeheartedly behind it. And I think you can hear that in the final result. Here everyone sings his own words!

The album's artwork, made by Stan W. Decker, shows that after humanity goes down in a way, or a total war, there is something that is "What Comes To Light". Meaning, out of destruction there is a hope to build, restart of sort. How do you find this artwork by your own definition and opinion?

I wanted to depict the war scenario for the reasons I mentioned earlier. However, the cornflowers are in the foreground, which in many cultures stand for hope and confidence. In France, by the way, for war victims - interestingly enough. By the way, I grow these flowers myself over the summer, which is where this idea came from. And Stan has implemented this simply stunning.

In matters of the present day, out of the, let's call it, fictional world of "What Comes To Light", how do you think a listener would perceive it in relation to being a better person, in the line of being good to your friend and neighbour?

I  think one can interpret the sentence or also the lyrics of the song rather in such a way that humans are often able to achieve surprising things and one sometimes surprises not only one's environment, but sometimes oneself, "what comes to light". So, it's also about faith in yourself, and self-confidence.

You have always been a Hard Rocker, and previous works showed your devotion. The tastes of Metal and AOR are also no stranger to you either on the other hand. I believe that through "What Comes To Light" you proved how well you ability to blend between the soft and melodic, to the hard and crushing is well displayed. Even with your experience, how did this new record take you forward musically? Do you call it progress?

Absolutely! I've recorded well over 100 songs since the Pandemic. Of course, you notice when you repeat yourself and I was looking for new inspirations and new elements for my songs. So, I've experimented very extensively with guitar synthesizers and worked with them especially for this album. I think that was addressed in the review as well, even if the reviewer couldn't quite place it. The synth strumming on "Take A Ride," for example, is all guitar played through synth sound pedals. This opens up completely new worlds for me both sound-wise and arrangement-wise.

Songwriting wise, other than creating 80s driven structured songs, that tend to the hooks and choir vocals filled with emotion, there are a few tricks and traps that made the experience a little different, at least on some of the songs. What can you tell about your approach this time around while writing the songs for "What Comes To Light"?

I consciously try to include the one or other moment of surprise in songs, also to "wake up" the listeners every now and then (laughs). Here an abrupt break, there a chromatic-unmelodic guitar run. I think that's the best way to keep the listener's attention. And in the end, that's exactly what you want as a musician: to be heard. Also, I try to make sure that an album, as a whole, gives a coherent picture. On the one hand enough variety, on the other hand stylistically matching songs, and also a meaningful song order. So, you will never find songs in the same tempo or in the same key placed directly after each other on one of my albums. This must not be, if the listening pleasure is to offer variety.

Let's talk about influences while coming up with the musical end of "What Comes To Light". Have you been listening to anything new of late, or merely entrusting yourself to the artists that you hold dear?

During very intensive songwriting phases, I usually only listen to the respective current demos - in the car, in bed in the evening or during my fitness training. Beyond that, I usually listen to music that is somewhat similar to what I compose myself, from Skid Row to Dio and Whitesnake to current bands like Heat and Eclipse, but now and then also more progressive tones that I tend not to play myself like Dream Theater, Devoid, Vindictiv and Circus Maximus.

Now we come to the question of the vocalists' selection, and I believe that I also asked a similar question on the previous chat that we had about the debut album. With multiple identities of "What Comes To Light" as a fact, how did you know which vocalists you wished for? Judging by the list for this album, it looked to me that it was an open season for you.

Sometimes I had song ideas for which I had the right singers in my head (Doogie White, Dan Reed), sometimes I composed the songs especially for the respective singer (Danny Vaughn, Jesse Damon). It differed from song to song.

For one of the album's strongest tracks, "Isolation", you took on the unknown Deibys Artigas Venegas. A name that I believe that should be shouted so hard out there, until there is no voice left. The guy is spectacular, he has quite the presence and an amazing voice. What can you tell about him? How did you get in touch?

Journalist Stefan Glas from the German Rock Hard Magazine had reviewed the album by the German band Preincarnation, on which Deibys had sung. Stefan immediately recommended Deibys to me because he was also enthusiastic about his voice and vocals. Through his German bandmates I got Deibys' contact details (he still lived in Venezuela at the time, now in Spain) and the rest is history. No, wait - he's even penned a second song ("Over The Horizon"), a 7.5-minute track that might open the next album. And let me betray with said song he really upped the ante and delivered an INCREDIBLE vocal performance.

The track "Isolation" is one o– th' better mixes of the Hard N' "eavy with a flav"r of melody that is both AORish and traditional towards the Metallic edge. What can you tell about the song?

I think the song is 100% Markus Pfeffer. Groovy riffing, relatively modern drum arrangements, one or the other filigree guitar run - and I spontaneously wrote and recorded the music for it on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

With a performance by your partner from Lazarus Dream, Carsten Lizard Schulz, you created the darker heavier decimator, "A Dying Song". Lizard's voice is no less than majestic, however, this particular song, for me at least, is a kind of an anomaly on the record. And that is a good thing. It is beyond the hooking track but also eclectic. What is your take on that?

That's exactly why I wanted the song on the album, because it brings in exactly this variety, primarily because of the 8-minute duration, but also because of the progressive elements. Originally it was supposed to be a duet, but unfortunately that couldn't be realized.

I have been a fan of Alan Tecchio mostly from his Hades days, together you produced "One Or The Other", a slamming tune that shares both Metal and Hard Rock qualities. Tecchio is above the chart, and I never expected anything less. What can you tell about this song and its impact on the record?

"One Or The Other" has some guitar runs that reminded me of riffs and harmonies on Watchtower's "Control and Resistance" album. So, I contacted Alan, who by the way is a really nice fellow and had a lot of fun with the song - which I think you can really hear! His very own way of singing is also clearly different from that of the other singers, that's why the song is deliberately placed towards the end of the album to bring in a bit of a new element and variety here.

Markus, it was a pleasure this time around, thank you for your time for this conversation, I wish you all the best, and keep the Barnabas Sky machine working. All the best

Thank you for the support and all the best!

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