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Lazarus Dream: Songs In The Key Of Life

Lazarus Dream: Songs In The Key Of Life

Photo Credit: Christian Esche

Lazarus Dream: Songs In The Key Of Life

The German hard rock band Lazarus Dream has returned with a thrilling new album entitled Imaginary Life – now available worldwide via Pride & Joy Music!  Consisting of multi-instrumentalist/composer Markus Pfeffer (Barnabas Sky, ex-Scarlett) and vocalist Carsten Lizard Schulz, (ex-Domain/Evidence One) – the duo recently added drummer Markus Herzog (Double Crush Syndrome, Cherie Currie/ex-The Runaways) into the ranks. In addition, on the title track, Vanden Plas guitarist Stephan Lill shines with an impressive guest solo!  Lill was Markus Pfeffer’s guitar teacher in the late ’80s, so this is life making a true circle around the passages of time!  Highwire Daze recently interviewed Markus Pfeffer to find out more about Imaginary Life, happenings with his other band Barnabas Sky, as well as news on his upcoming Atlantis Drive project with the one and only Mark Boals of Yngwie Malmsteen infamy!  Read on…

We’re here with Markus from Lazarus Dream. First of all, is there any overall story or concept behind the album titled Imaginary Life?
Yes, and no. The yes would mean we try to have album titles which include something which has little to do with life itself. The debut album was Alive because of Reborn Lazarus. It’s a more spiritual or religious thing. The second album was Lifeline, and the third album is Imaginary Life. There is no overall concept behind it, but we just thought it might be nice to have an overall theme a little attached to each of our albums so far.

What is The Sweetest Chaos?
Love. Very short answer. The longer answer would be, it’s also not only the album opener but also the second video for the album, and I think when the interview will be published, the video will already be released. Of course, the storyline outside of showing the band members, like me posing with the guitars, is a love storyline.

It was a very hard one to finish because, at first, I had the impression that Carsten does not find a way into the song, and after his first recording session, it was the first song I rejected from him, and I think it made him really sad. A few days later, he contacted me and said, Please give me a second chance. I felt bad for rejecting what he recorded. After he did a second recording session, I have to admit to say that I was wrong because it turned out absolutely great. So I’m really glad that Carsten did give it a second shot to see what he will do with the song overall. At first, he sang on the parts where I thought he was not supposed to sing, and he did not sing on parts which were meant to be like the verse or the pre-chorus, so he did not get what parts I wanted him to sing on. I never tell him because he usually initially knows when I send him an instrumental demo, but with The Sweetest Chaos, it was completely the other way around.

Let’s talk about My Prayer and the inspiration behind it.
At first, I thought, also based on the lyrics, that it might be a religious or a spiritual song. In fact, it is not. In fact, the basic meaning of the song is a person is always there for other persons. Like everyone comes to me, help me with this, help me with that, and listen to my problems, but this person himself has no one who listens to him. The title My Prayer is this person asking for God to say, Why I am there for everyone else but no one’s there for me? It’s more like a cry for help than a religious thing. In fact, that’s quite a deep meaning within this song, and I think the whole music is perfectly fitting to the subject because the music is more quiet, and the verse – it’s like you’re drowning in waves. The guitar delays. It’s a little bit like drowning in a wave and letting yourself go with all what comes from other people and what people want you to do.

That’s why we chose this song to be the first single to be released because it’s very unusual, but also, I think you hear the song, and within the first 10 to 20 seconds, you just get the feeling, this somehow is special. It is such a special song, and I really love it.

Select any other song from Imaginary Life, and what was the inspiration behind it?
I’d say Rebel Again, but not necessarily because of the subject, which is a little midlife crisis subject. I turned 50 this year already, and Carsten is one year older than I am, if I’m correct. When we go to some heavy metal concert, we are young again, and we can be some kind of Rebel Again, to cite the song title. But I like Rebel Again because of the energy. I’m usually your more mid-tempo or slow-tempo kind of songwriting guy. When I write 200 songs, only five will be fast riffing or fast songs. So any time when I have an idea, which is a fast and up-tempo song, I’m so glad this idea comes from wherever it comes from. Therefore, I really love Rebel Again because it’s one of those very few up-tempo rhythms that just came to my mind within the last 35 years of guitar playing.

Tell me how Carsten became involved with Lazarus Dream. He was in Domain, of course.
This story is quite an interesting one because Carsten and me met in the late 1990s because I was a student at university, he was a student at the university. I was having my main band called Winterland, and Carsten was writing music reviews for a local music magazine, and he was reviewing my band, Winterland, very first demo tape, which was called Under the Flood. I somehow got in touch with him and got to know that he is a singer. When Winterland was on hold very shortly after, I just found out his phone number and said, Hey, what would you think about writing a few songs together? In 1999, Carsten and me wrote three songs together and called our project Lazarus Dream. Almost 25 years ago.

Very shortly after, he got the possibility to join Domain. Domain were active in the late 80s, split up, and got a revival in the late 90s with another singer, who was Carsten. So Carsten joined Domain, toured the world. I got back to Winterland and we did not work together anymore. However, when the pandemic came, I called him up and said, Hey, we are sitting at home; what about recording the songs we wrote in the late 90s together with the knowledge and the time we have today? The three songs became three albums.

Give me a little background on your new drummer Markus Herzog. How he became involved with the band?
Again, that was Carsten. Carsten knows him quite long, and since we want to show everyone that we might be playing live, we want to have a steady drummer because Markus Kullmann, who played on the albums before, he was a session drummer. Markus Herzog is a real band member, and he plays in local bands, but also… that’s quite interesting. He has been the touring drummer for Cherie Currie, the ex-singer of The Runaways.

=He is really a cool drummer and a very nice guy, also. Yeah, let’s see if we can play live with our third album. I already had inquiries for some festivals, and I was positively surprised at what people would like to pay for us. So, our market value is above what I would have expected.

Let’s talk about Vanden Plas, the guitarist, Stephan Lill. How did he become involved? Your guitar teacher he was?
I have played guitar for 35 years by now. In fact, in 1998, the very first rock band I saw live was Vanden Plas. I was doing athletics, and my athletics trainer at the time was the Vanden Plas‘ keyboard player at the time. Then I started letting my hair grow and said, I want to become a guitar player and a rock star. My athletic trainer, who was Vanden Plas’s keyboard player, gave me the contact details to Stephan Lill, who was my guitar teacher for the first, I don’t know; we are almost two years of playing guitar. He lives not too far from here. I’ve known the Vanden Plas guys for, like, 35 years. We have shared the stage on festivals and other gigs. Even my band, Winterland, supported Vanden Plas not too long ago.

When we thought about who could play a guest solo on our forthcoming album, I asked Carsten. We thought about people like George Lynch or whoever, but he said, Why don’t you ask Stephan Lill of Vanden Plas? You know him. He was your guitar teacher, that has a nostalgic and personal value to it. I said, Yeah. I don’t know why I didn’t come up with that idea. I called Stephan Lill and he immediately said yes, and his guitar solo is really, really cool.

Artwork: Art Aurelio Lara
Logo: Sledgehammer Graphix

Tell me a little about your new band, Atlantis Drive, with Mark Boals and how that came about.
My problem, it’s not a problem. My issue is, I just write way too many songs for one or two bands. Since the pandemic in 2020, I have recorded about 200 song ideas and arranged about 100 to 120 really complete instrumental songs. I only write music, not lyrics. I’m not a lyricist. I can do it if I need to. So, when last year I started to get some ideas which I thought have some kind of 80s vibe to them. I knew this would be something special. That’s not Lazarus Dream, and it’s not Barnabas Sky. So I started a different working because I said, I will keep focusing on the guitars and bass, and I want a keyboard player to write and finish the songs with me. I contacted Jorris Guilbaud from Heart Line.  We’realso on the same label, Pride and Joy Music, he’s a French guy and a really impressive keyboard player. I asked him, “Would you be interested to write and finish a complete album with me? Let’s say 80s melodic rock should clearly sound like the 80s but not be dated.” He was saying yes quite immediately.

We finished an album of writing music. Then I thought, whose voice and what vocals could fit to that and I contacted Mark, and the rest is history. The thing is, when Mark sent me his first demo, it completely blew me away. It’s such a strong album. Carsten Schulz of Lazarus Dream said he would not have expected Mark to have these kind of hooks and anything which he came up with, because people know Mark as a singer for neoclassical kind of music. But he’s way more singing and not screaming on these songs. He is singing. Of course, I did not force him to scream as high as he can for 45 minutes, like the neoclassical type usually do. I did not even tell him anything. I said, “Do what you want and find lyrics and the song titles.” I told him the song titles and the lyrical concept, which I see in each song, and he wrote lyrics for 10 songs and recorded. Absolutely mind-blowing vocals. I can’t express in words just how awesome of a vocalist he is. It blew me away, and I can’t wait to unleash that album to the public. It will come out on Pride and Joy in summer. We will see how people react. I have listened to it on repeat.

What is currently going on with your other project, Barnabas Sky?
It’s on hold for a while because I contacted quite a few singers for the third album.  It’s almost finished. I have recorded a song with Tony Harnell, an absolutely mind-blowing song! I have finished mixing a song with Dirk Kennedy of Hittman. A nine-minute epic progressive song. Also really cool. I have songs with Danny Vaughn and with Lee Small of Lionheart and the Sweet. But I had several songs circulating with other singers, and suddenly, several of them did not reply to any emails I sent. To be honest, I was a little pissed that, people don’t say, I don’t have the time; I have other things to do. They just keep me writing them, asking, When will you find time to reply to my emails? So it came to a point where I said, I’m just not spending my time on that. I put Barnabas Sky on hold for the time being.

Do you have any messages for your fans out here in the US who have been following all your bands?
Well, yes. I have one simple message: A very big thank you for listening to the music I write and release. We are in the underground, but I think people who listen to bands like Lazarus Dream, Barnabas Sky, or maybe hopefully soon Atlantis Drive – people listen to our music because they value that kind of music in their heart as much as I do, and all I can say is thank you for doing so.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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