Interview: Max Pfaff (Pfaff/Don’t Drop The Sword)

As you know, we want to use our blog first and foremost to introduce you to talented young artists. One of them is undoubtedly Max Pfaff, guitarist of the German epic speed metal band Don’t Drop The Sword. Last year, he dedicated himself for the first time to solo projects under the name Pfaff, which stylistically have nothing to do with epic metal, but are so good in quality that we would like to deal with them on this platform as well. That’s why Max, a very nice lad, is now ready to answer your questions.

André: Hi Max, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us on this blog! How are you doing?

Max: Thanks for having me I’m great. Just came back from an awesome gig in Oberhausen with Don’t Drop The Sword so things are pretty good.

Yes, your performance at our Epic Metal Night was amazing. But you can read about that in our live report… What is the last album you listened to before our interview? And which album did you buy last?

The last album I listened to was the Eagles latest live-album Live From The Forum. The last one I bought was Sob Rock by John Mayer.

Are you a vinyl freak? Or are you quite indifferent to the format?

No I’m not a vinyl freak. I don’t own a record player but I have some vinyl LPs cause I like the idea of vinyl in the modern age. It’s a much more premium product than a CD and the whole ritual of picking an album and listening to it in one piece creates more awareness of the music as a form of art. Plus I’m very much into vintage aesthetics.

When we asked the bands before our Epic Metal Night about their favourite songs, you mentioned Queen – “Somebody to Love“, among others. Queen was my first musical love: our music teacher had played a few numbers from Greatest Hits I in 5th or 6th grade – and it blew my mind, a year later the entire discography was in my kids’ room. I think we both agree that Queen is one of the most versatile bands of all time in terms of style. Two questions: 1) Which Queen albums do you particularly like? 2) Did Queen‘s stylistic openness perhaps even encourage you a little to release songs that are far removed from the metal cosmos? Especially on Poppourrii – the name suggests it – the versatility of the compositions is amazing…

First of all thank you for appreciating the wide stylistic spectrum on Poppourrii. Queen is one of my favourite bands too and it’s hard to choose cause I like pretty much everything they did but I absolutely prefer their 70s rock sound so I will pick A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races and The Game. I listen to so many different kinds of music so I wouldn’t say it was Queen who encouraged me to make music outside the boundaries of metal but the approach of combining multiple genres in one album or even in one particular song is definitely something Queen are well known for. I try not to repeat myself and I really admire this band for reinventing their sound all the time and being popular for it.

Looking at your Instagram profile, one quickly realises that you are a full blooded musician who – it seems to me – probably has music on the brain 24/7. When did you start playing guitar?

I started playing by the age of seven. And yes I can’t help it. I study jazz-guitar at a conservatory of music and work as a guitar teacher beside writing and performing music with Don’t Drop The Sword and Pfaff. So music is basically my whole life and it’s always been.

Which guitarists have inspired you the most? I really admire David Gilmour and Mark Knopfler, for example, followed by Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and Criss Oliva.

First of all I use to differ between the composing and the pure playing style of a certain guitarist. In both aspects definitely John Mayer for me. But Mark Knopfler would also be a possible choice. I enjoy Joe Bonamassa, George Benson or Josh Smith for bluesy stuff but when it comes to metal the playing/composing question is way more important cause there’s less improvisation. Regarding guitar riffs definitely James Hetfield, Mark Tremonti or Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth. Slash used to be very important to me too. The problem of enjoying so many styles is that I could go on and on but these are some of the essentials.

With Don’t Drop The Sword you appear as a guitarist who contributes some backing vocals. So I was frankly surprised how good your voice is. So I’ll continue with the second-last question: When did you start singing? And did you also take singing lessons?

Thank you. I basically started singing when I picked up the guitar. I learned all the classic rock songs from my childhood (the ones you can play with a bunch of chords) and sang along. I didn’t understand the lyrics of course. No I’m fully self taught.

On Poppourri and Home you make music with an open mind – the music is very personal and one gets the impression that you open your heart enormously. Was the need to do this in this form the main reason for making music under the name Pfaff?

Yeah the music is very personal to me because I write about autobiographical stories and emotions which makes Pfaff some sort of self therapy. I treat the songs as a tool to express myself and process feelings. And sharing those songs with people who then can relate because of their own stories gives me closure. But like I said before I enjoy many styles of music so being able to experiment with different sounds and genres was also a reason to have a solo project.

When were the songs written? And did you compose all of them yourself? Or are there co-authors to some extent?

Both albums were written throughout 2021. It’s been a crazy year. A lot of feelings, a lot of time, so the inspiration came pretty natural. I composed all of it myself and I also recorded all the instruments.

I know that artists don’t like this question very much, but I’ll ask it anyway: Which number is particularly close to your heart? Is there a song that, for you, sums up everything Pfaff stands for?

I actually like the question because I will probably answer it differently at some point. For now “My Way“. It’s the longest song which has the most intense development both lyrically and musically. It has cheesy Eagles-like vocal harmonies, a lot of percussion and an extended bluesy guitar solo at the end. An accurate summary of my taste.

How do Poppourri and Home differ on the level of content? You wrote on Instagram that the two releases tell a slightly different story.

The two albums were written in the two halfs of the last year. When writing Home I was in a serious relationship and pretty homebound. So the choice of country music and the whole theme of feeling stable and peaceful was really authentic to me. Poppourrii is the product of change. I had to face a breakup and create new perspectives which is reflected in the variety of styles on the album. The lack of emotional solidity is shown in the slightly darker lyrics and the fusion of genres signifies the confusion I dealt with.

Who actually designed the cover of Poppourrii? I like it very much.

The cover artwork is meant to be some sort of pop-art which indicates the modern approach of mixture and of course the title of the album. I made it myself as a collage out of paper and it’s supposed to be a self portrait which, like the music is a unity made out of pieces.

If I’m informed correctly, Poppourri and Home are currently only available on streaming services. Is a physical release also planned?

Yes, both albums will be available as digipack CDs by summer.

What is your general attitude towards streaming services? The topic was quite present for us recently when we switched our playlists from Spotify to Tidal.

Streaming Services will probably be the death of art. The value of music already suffers both in a artsy and a financial way. As an artist you actually get the chance from it to reach a bigger audience but making money with it is nearly impossible unless you’re already famous. But like all trends you have to follow it to keep pace. Privately I actually use it myself because of its convenience. I come across new music every day and I enjoy the recommendations. But like I mentioned before I still buy albums that have a huge impact on me or to support local bands after shows.

Since the Epic Metal Night was only a few days ago and we met there for the first time, I would like to ask you something about it. How did you experience this evening? I had the impression that Don’t Drop The Sword were well received. I also know from many of the visitors that they bought a lot of stuff at
the merch stand.

The Epic Metal Night was literally epic. We had so much fun performing in front of a very awesome audience and making friends with the other bands. Our set included two live premieres with songs from our upcoming album which were very well received. I loved the venue and the whole atmosphere of the evening and it’s been our first time playing in NRW. And yes we sold plenty of CDs and T-Shirts thanks to our ladies at the merch stand and the very supportive people at the concert. We’d love to come back soon!

When we were putting the line-up together, we realised once again how many strong German bands there are in the underground. Which band do you think we should definitely invite? You are also welcome to give us an insider tip.

If you’re looking for a true/power metal line-up similar to the Epic Metal Night I suggest Crom and Tulsadoom. We had the pleasure playing with both of them at the Cimmerian Pact in Braunschweig back in 2020. And for some awesome hard rock with influences of grunge and prog metal I wanna give a shoutout to JD from Munich. They are friends of mine and I really appreceate their style.

Last question: Which musician would you like to record a song with? Feel free to dream…

No doubt it’s gonna be John Mayer.

Max, thank you for this interview. We wish you all the best for the future – hopefully we’ll see you live again soon.

You’re welcome! And I’m sure you will. Thanks for the nice questions and see you soon.

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