Interview conducted December 12 2015
Interview published December 26 2015
"As long as I can squeeze
something out of my throat I won't stop, because I like it too much."
Tobbe: You have only a few more gigs to
play on this tour, so what has come out of this tour so far?
Kai: So far it's been going very, very well.
We jumped into this without knowing what was gonna happen, because we
don't have a new album. It's just an extra tour and we didn't know what
to expect in terms of visitors and of course especially since we have
a new singer [Frank Beck].
went so well. We've had such a nice tour. So much acceptance by the
people and we've had good visitor numbers. It's been going great. We've
had a great crew and we had sunshine almost everywhere, except for here
[Stockholm, Sweden]. [Laughs]
Tobbe: You released a double CD best of
album in January, so what's the deal with releasing a best of album in
2015? I mean, all people download specific songs from the internet anyway.
Kai: I know, but still you do it. It was something
to start the re-release campaign in some way and maybe give people,
that are willing to buy something, but that are not like particular
Gamma Ray fans that wanna have everything, some cut through, through
maybe the highlights of our songs. I mean, nobody is forced to buy it.
We just put it out to see where it goes.
Tobbe: And the re-issues? The anniversary
editions which you are releasing in 2015 and 2016. How much work do you
personally put into these albums?
Kai: Quite a lot. It's like actually going through
all possible recordings that might be somewhere. I mean, some got lost
in the fire that we had in the studio, but still we have some friends
and we have personal archives and stuff. And it's like all formats,
like DAT, Mini-Disc and whatever. I'm going through tapes and whatever
and finding all the bits and pieces that are useful. That takes a while.
We've got somebody in the studio that's cutting
them together, but I'm mostly present there, to decide what to use and
in terms of sound what to do. It's remastering the old albums as well
and that takes some time to get down to. And then of course the liner
notes and the direction of the cover artwork, as I'm always in contact
with Hervé [Monjeaud] and, you know, we work in that way that
I give him a rough idea of what I think.
The idea was to stick to the original in some
way, but transform it into something that follows our line. Then in
the end it should be like one big picture if you put the album covers
in sequence next to each other. Maybe in the end we'll do something
like a poster? And so on and so on, so it takes time and it's work,
Let's talk a little bit about your next studio record. If I look at Empire
Of The Undead, it was occasionally going back to a very early stage of
your career, so what can we expect from a forthcoming Gamma Ray album?
Kai: You never know. [Laughs] I think that we'll
follow the line of the way we sound and the way we work right now. Maybe
we might include a bit more of our kind of 70's influences. You know,
do longer songs maybe, with improvisation parts and stuff, like Heading
For Tomorrow, which I think fits us very well and we have even started
to include that on the live set now. And it's very nice, you know, playing-wise
and the acceptance from the fans is good for stuff like that, because
it's not many people doing this anymore. So maybe it's a good thing
to do that, and it's fun.
Tobbe: So how much material do you actually
Kai: Everybody in the band has ideas. I mean,
I have my iPhone full of stuff, but at the moment there's nothing to
say about that. We don't even have a time plan. I am busy the next half
year with the production of my personal anniversary album [Triple X],
so after that, let's see.
Tobbe: You say that you don't have any plans
yet, but how much will Frank sing on the new record or will you personally
do the entire vocal part?
Kai: I don't know if it will be like 50/50 or
60/40. Whatever comes up, you know.
Tobbe: So he's definitely not just a touring
Kai: No, no, no. You know, that would be kind
of halfhearted, I think. We really believe in him and we really like
him very much and we think it's a good move to have him in the band
permanently. So that means that he must be included on the albums as
much as anybody else.
Tobbe: But deep down inside, do you think
that Frank actually would like to do all the singing parts by himself?
Kai: No, I'm sure he wouldn't, so far. No, he's
not like that. He doesn't have that kind of attitude. I think, when
it comes to live now, he's really thankful for this 2 singer situation
and he really accepts it as well, as something that makes the thing
bigger. It's not a transformation of one singer to another. It's something
you add up, you know, and that's good and that's part of it.
For all I know, people haven't criticized his performance yet, but I reckon
it still must be tough for him to be on stage with a well established
band like Gamma Ray and to live up to your reputation as a frontman?
Kai: Absolutely, absolutely, but I really respect
him for taking that challenge and he's fulfilling that chore with bravado.
You know, if he's like having any doubts and stuff, nobody ever notices
because he's doing a really good thing. He was kind of holding back
in the beginning, but I encouraged him to go more up front and take
over other parts as well, so I think we're on a really good way there
and we really work together. He's doing well and people accept him very
Tobbe: I saw your gig with him here last
year, but then Fabio [Lione, Rhapsody Of Fire] also did a couple of songs.
Kai: You know, from then to now, it's such a
big step, in terms of performance and togetherness and all that, because
then he was just a guest who helped out, and now he's a member of the
band and he's part of it and that makes it completely different.
Tobbe: Has it ever occurred to you that
you at some point maybe must stop singing, permanently?
Kai: No, I don't think so. As long as I can
squeeze something out of my throat I won't stop, because I like it too
much. What I didn't like anymore was doing these headline shows with
full duty and also being stuck to the microphone all the time and not
having the freedom to move around. I really enjoyed it in Unisonic and
I realized "Man, this is really cool! I like this.".
Actually, the idea didn't really occur to me
to work with this double singer solution, because before it was always
like "Should I stop and we will have another singer?", but
there was no one. And then suddenly, from the point when we did the
last tour, the idea has been there, to include him, because we all think
he fits very much. Of course, there's always some uncertainty and I
always take time for these decisions.
Finally, when I realized, coming back from South
America and Japan, that I'm fucked up again, I said "Okay. This
is a sign. We have to do it now.", even if it bares a risk of people
not accepting it, but "Let's take the risk." and we won.
You've been the undisputed frontman of the band for 2 decades now, after
Ralf [Scheepers] left his vocal duties and isn't it just great being the
frontman all the time and do you actually feel comfortable taking one
Kai: I really feel very comfortable, taking
a step back, because I can concentrate on myself and on the guitar.
I just concentrate on the enjoyment of playing more, because when you
sing, when you're stuck to the microphone, when you're the frontman,
especially with a guitar, you have so much to do, you know. Contacting
everybody, and playing, and singing, and running around, and stuff like
that, and watching the other members as well. So it's really so relaxing
to just like step back. I play my guitar and shut up. It's very, very
nice. I enjoy that a lot.
Tobbe: So how much do you smoke at this
Kai: Still the same. I come to a pack a day.
Tobbe: Would you be a better singer if you
Kai: I'm pretty sure that my voice or, you know,
the whole bronchus system would be better. I have chronic bronchitis
anyhow. Half from smoking and the other half is allergies. In the summer
I do have this and I feel it more or less, so there is something already
that doesn't make it easier. But I tried to quit smoking, but still
Tobbe: About the Helloween thing. I always
got to ask about this. I was talking to Andi Deris in April and he said
he would love to have you and Michael Kiske on a Helloween tour with 3
hour shows, so what are the latest news? The news of today?
Kai: There's talk about it. Let's put it that
way. It's still open. Everybody wants to do it and I think it's gonna
be a big thing if we do it. But still there's some things to be settled
and blah, blah, blah. You don't do it just like that, you know. But
I'm pretty positive that it might happen.
Tobbe: But still, if you come in and play
the guitar and you have Sascha [Gerstner] and Weiki [Michael Weikath]
too, someone's got to take a step back, and it won't be Weiki. It will
be Sascha that has to take a step down if you come in.
Kai: Probably yes. But, you know, it works with
[Iron] Maiden with 3 guitar players. I think we can figure it out and
then everybody has to cut down his ego a bit or whatever. We shouldn't
have any problem at all. And singing-wise it's gonna be cool. 3 singers.
I mean, I'm gonna do my share with the old stuff, you know. So I think
it could be very nice.
Tobbe: Michael Kiske was very positive too,
when I talked to him before, so hopefully it will happen and I think it's
a dream come true for many old Helloween fans of course.
Kai: Yeah. I mean, if we have a chance to do
it, we should do it before we start looking ridiculous on stage.
What's the status of Unisonic nowadays?
Kai: It's kind of frozen in a little bit, because,
you know, I'm not there and everybody else is busy. We'll see. You know,
it's very hard to keep everything going at the same time.
Tobbe: Do you think that Gamma Ray has passed
its glory days or do you think that you can become bigger than you are
now, at this late stage in your career?
Kai: It's really hard to really determine that.
I don't know. I think we have a good level. It could be bigger, you
know, for sure. And it was bigger for a while, and then it went down,
and then it got bigger again, so we kind of seem to turn in circles.
I mean, you never know. If I look back on times
when Motörhead were just like ridiculously small for what they
are and then suddenly they got back, I'm pretty hopeful, or I see the
possibility, because we did a very good album, the recent one, and the
tour was going good. It's very much about the album and of course also
a promotion thing and stuff like that.
And of course, these days it's very hard, because
there's a million bands around and sometimes suddenly bands pop up,
that I've never heard of, and they play like venues that are 4 times
bigger than we do. Sometimes I really don't understand why that it,
if I listen to the music, but hey, fuck it. It's just happening, yeah.
Tobbe: Do you think that you have anything
left to achieve really?
Kai: Oh, I don't work in these terms, you know.
I'm not like a guy who sets big aim goals and says "That's where
I'm gonna go!". It's always the next step for me. So if it's the
next step to be good on tour, I'll work for that. If it's about an album
and songwriting, I try the best I can for that time. But I don't look
at it like in 5 years I wanna have world domination and stuff like that.