» Kai Hansen - Gamma Ray
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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].

Everything 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, yeah.

Tobbe: 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 have?

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 member?

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.

Tobbe: 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 much.

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.

Tobbe: 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 step back?

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 point?

Kai: Still the same. I come to a pack a day. Not more.

Tobbe: Would you be a better singer if you quit smoking?

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 I couldn't.

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.

Tobbe: 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.

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