KAI HANSEN – As European Power Metal has sustained and nurtured it’s loyal fans worldwide spanning three decades, there is one key figure that can be saluted for his unparalleled contribution to this Heavy Metal sub-genre, that being Kai Hansen. As cofounder of legendary Helloween back in 1984 and founding member and leader of Gamma Ray since 1988, Kai Hansen has undeniably carved out his name in Power Metal History, if not Heavy Metal History. With his band, Gamma Ray, releasing their tenth studio album “To The Metal”, on January 29, 2010, on Earmusic, the legacy only grows stronger for this living legend of Heavy Metal.
Kai Hansen is a lead vocalist, lead guitarist, lyricist, song writer and arguably one of, if not “the” Founding Father of European Power Metal. To state that Kai Hansen is an important and historic figure to the world of Heavy Metal is justified, his music resume is undisputed. What has impressed me even more about Kai Hansen, besides his brilliant Heavy Metal career and launching European Power Metal through the stratosphere, is that he carried an interview as a true gentleman, a musician who is not looking for bragging rights or staking claim to fame. This is a musician who knows his accomplishments and has every right to be proud of them. Kai Hansen recently took time from his filled schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout, this is what he had to say:
HRH: Is Gamma Ray more tight than ever as a band, it sure sounds that way to me on “To The Metal”.
Kai: Absolutely! I think so, absolutely. With our friendship, there is no need to discuss songs anymore, we have enough chemistry, therefore, there is no need to argue. We’re good old boys, you know? We each know each other so well and know what the other is thinking.
HRH: “To The Metal” is as potent and powerful as any Gamma Ray album ever made. Truthfully, how much fun was this album to create?
Kai: I’m very happy with this new album. Everything just went smooth and it was a very relaxed process. There was never much doubt about the songs at all. Making “To The Metal” was a growing process, especially when the record company, (SPV), went bankrupt. There was a slow down for awhile, then things got resolved. Eventually it was a very good process still. The break for us did the album some good, it gave us a chance to let things settle down a bit and take time to reflect.
HRH: The song “To The Metal” is Old School genius, what’s the story behind it?
Kai: “To The Metal” was born when I was jamming around on guitar in rehearsal rooms, while I was playing riffs. Dani, (Daniel Zimmermann/drummer), heard these riffs and we both said this is a Metal hymn. Dani started jamming on it, he could feel it, then things started to roll from there. “To The Metal” is a song about Metal itself. Metal has been around for such a long time, Metal is very much like a dragon with many heads and when one gets cut off, it grows a new head!
HRH: “No Need To Cry” is an amazing example of healing personal loss through music. How proud is Gamma Ray of this exceptional song?
Kai: There are actually two songs on this album like this. “Mother Angel” and “No Need To Cry”. Music is a good outlet to get over a loss. Music is something that is very touching and helps me to get out my emotion and what I’m feeling inside. “Mother Angel” was written for my Mother who passed away a couple of years ago. “Mother Angel” is my way of talking to my Mother now.
HRH: “Rise” is a song that resonates with high emotion. Is this your favorite style of song to sing?
Kai: It depends on the song and which way the song goes. I always have a lot of emotion when I sing. This song has a “let’s go attitude” and “break free”… “rise”.
HRH: Your song “To Mother Earth” from the album “Land Of The Free II” comes to my thoughts each time I see the news footage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf Coast. What are your thoughts?
Kai: Well, it is something. It doesn’t take a very wise man to think about these things. It was bound to happen anyways, especially after the Exxon Valdez disaster happened years ago. It’s a shame. It’s too bad really.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Ralf Scheepers? (Former/original Gamma Ray vocalist & current Primal Fear vocalist).
Kai: We talk on the phone a lot and send emails back and forth all the time. We meet up at festivals and drink beers together. We are very good friends always!
HRH: What festival is your favorite to play?
Kai: Wacken. I grew up with this Wacken Festival, it’s my hometown. I’ve seen the Wacken Festival grow from a small festival with cows grazing nearby to the very large festival it is today. There would be two hundred to three hundred people at the Wacken Festival in the early days.
HRH: Do you have any personal memories of Ronnie James Dio you would like to share?
Kai: We once toured with Dio for a few shows, when I was with Helloween. I was amazed by Ronnie’s presence on stage and his voice, he was a giant! When I heard the news of his passing, I put on some Dio music and reflected on those moments I was with him on tour.
HRH: What’s it like to collaborate on a project with Tobias Sammet?
Kai: Toby? Toby is one of the greatest guys I ever worked with so far. I know him from when Gamma Ray played around his hometown, he would come to all of our shows! Here was this little boy, giving me his demo’s and asking me lot’s of questions. Toby’s demo’s reminded me of a cross between Helloween and Blind Guardian, not bad music at all. I didn’t like the name of his band Edguy back then though! I said, if your gonna make it, you have to change that F’n name! Being funny is a part of Toby and Edguy is a funny name for his band. Toby really made it and made it in a good way.
HRH Note: Kai Hansen was a guest-lead guitarist on Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia album, “The Scarecrow”, released in 2008 on Nuclear Blast Records.
HRH: Will Gamma Ray be headed to the States in 2010?
Kai: We are at the moment, looking at September. The plans are on the table but it’s too early for details right now. Our agency is on track though for this to happen. Our fans can check out our website and MySpace for updates on Gamma Ray’s tour schedule for America and abroad.
HRH: What is Kai Hansen’s most proud musical achievement?
Kai: Well, I cannot pin it down to just one song or one album. I’m happy with everything I’ve done so far. Having been a part of Helloween and witnessing this band becoming so big. Then, starting something new with Gamma Ray and twenty years later both bands are still so strong. My band Gamma Ray delivering songs to people for twenty years, that they can take and enjoy, is something very special to me.