Rock Overdose and Zisis Petkanas had the honour to talk to Kai Hansen, the legendary guitarist of Helloween and Gamma Ray. Their discussion was about the reunion of Helloween, the new album and of course their future plans, but also the plans of Gamma Ray.
Rock Overdose: Kai, welcome to Rock Overdose, it’s a great honor to have you with us in Greece!
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Thank you very much, my pleasure. I’d love to come back soon!
Rock Overdose: Yeah, I suppose you’ll have to come back, because you had to cancel your live show twice, I don’t know if you’re planning to make it again.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Well, let’s see. I wanna come anyways, in whatever way, definitely. I need some bifteki and Greek salad, and some ouzo.
Rock Overdose: So let’s hope you visit Greece, because we’re very disappointed about the covid situation and you had to cancel twice, so let’s see.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): I hope it will finally happen.
Rock Overdose: So, first of all, congratulations for the new album. Would you like to tell us a few words about the writing process and its musical direction?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Actually, the writing process was just done by individual songwriters who were sitting at home and squeezing their brains out, just writing songs! There was no game plan, no direction given, everybody was allowed to do whatever comes to mind and when that phase was over, we had a bunch of cool demos and we sat together and discussed about the songs, the individuals and worked out what we were going to take home and what to the rehearsal room. Then, we locked ourselves in the studio for two weeks and did band work, together with the producers and worked on the songs and finalized the arrangements and then the drum recording started.
Rock Overdose: That’s great. You have written one song for this album. Are there any other parts in other songs that you wrote?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Yes, there are bits and pieces here and there that are contributing to the solo parts, melody, riffs… but basically we put it to the individual songwriter, so if Markus came up with an idea, it was his song, if I did a part in that, it’s fine, you know, it doesn’t have to be mentioned. I actually had written more than one song, of course, but somehow it didn’t fit so well to this album, or it was too “Gamma Ray” maybe. These things are still on hold, but I’m happy with “Skyfall”, I think it’s a good track and I’m good with that.
Rock Overdose: And also Michael Kiske didn’t write any song.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): No, this time he said “I don’t even want to write any song, because we already have so many songwriters”. He’s not so much a metal songwriter, so he stepped back and said “well, you guys do the right thing, I just sing”.
Rock Overdose: And he’s one of my favorite singers of all time.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Oh yeah, he’s great, he’s just amazing!
Rock Overdose: So, what about the reactions about the new album, from the Press or people who have listened to this great album?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): It’s overwhelming! So far, of course, the fans can only listen to “Skyfall”, “Indestructible” and “Fear of the Fallen” and the reactions are great, people love it, it’s amazing. The journalists that I talk to that have heard the whole album say this is a very special, very very great album. So, I’m very happy with the reactions.
Rock Overdose: Do you regret leaving Helloween after the Keeper’s success? Do you think they would have a different music direction if you stayed there?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): I don’t regret it, because I think at that point, it was exactly the right decision and it would have been catastrophic, I saw what happened afterwards, they went through so much trouble internally and with the record company and management, so I was glad that I was out and I think I did everything right in that direction. The circle is closing now and it took me many years to make it good.
Rock Overdose: How did you feel when Andi Deris was announced as their new singer? Did you think he was appropriate for the style of the band?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): At first I had my doubts, I was like “how will that sound, he’s a completely different style, compared with Kiske”, but then “Master of the Rings” was a really good album, I really loved it, so ok, the songs were a bit different, there’s a different singer, but I can live with that. Actually, when I saw them live, I wasn’t a fan of him singing the songs that Michael originally sang, because I think they didn’t really fit to him. I’m super happy with what he did for this album, he did a good job, he sounds awesome, it’s so good together with Michael in contrast, it’s a perfect combination.
Rock Overdose: How did it come to have both singers in the band?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Andi was in the lineup in that way and it would be completely weird to just go back and fire Andi. He has been doing so much for this band, he writes great songs and he has a lot of fans, people love him, so why not put all the powers together with Michael, I think it’s very good.
Rock Overdose: Personally, I liked that you kept both singers.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Me too, absolutely and people are happy with that, there’s nobody saying “oh no, I wanna hear one singer” or so. Everybody has favorites, but now we have everything, we have the best.
Rock Overdose: What are your future plans? Do you intend to be a permanent member of Helloween or is it just this one album?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Helloween will go on like this, we will stay together and I’m a permanent member, absolutely.
Rock Overdose: How do you feel about being back in Helloween after all these years?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): In some ways, it was like coming home, it was a new adventure, of course, a drastic change towards before, only doing Gamma Ray, now coming back to Helloween and in this big lineup. It’s an adventure, definitely a challenge, but also like coming home at the same time.
Rock Overdose: Kai, you are generally loud musicians, but low key personalities. We don’t know much about your personal lives, is Helloween a happy act or does it really reflect your characters?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): I think we are authentic, we don’t play a role in our official lives and then be completely different in our private lives. What you see on stage is what you will get on a private site. We’re not acting anything, we are we and we enjoy life, have a lot of fun, as much as we can, sure we have our doubts, critics and worries, but basically we’re just normal guys.
Rock Overdose: So, the main fact is you have gathered all together and you don’t have any problems with each other.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): No, luckily not. We’re all mature enough and able to work as a team, to balance out any difficulties or minor things that can sometimes happen on a tour or studio production, where you can get into an argument or have different opinions, but we’re able to sort them out.
Rock Overdose: I suppose it’s because you became older and wiser.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Absolutely, yeah, we’re not so hot headed anymore or hot blooded in terms of arguments. It’s not about not having arguments or fights, it’s about the way you do it, to come out of it with a good feeling and not something that is growing adversaries.
Rock Overdose: So, what about Gamma Ray?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Now that I’m busy with Helloween, Gamma Ray is on ice, I can’t do both at the same time, so Gamma Ray had to step back. I never liked this part of joining Helloween, that I had to put Gamma Ray in the corner a bit, especially to the other Gamma Ray guys, but it’s not dead, it’s alive. This pandemic situation gives us the opportunity to write songs and to produce an album this year.
Rock Overdose: And I suppose you have a lot of ideas.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Yes, there’s quite a few, absolutely.
Rock Overdose: And as you said earlier, you had a lot of ideas for Helloween that sounded more like Gamma Ray.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): In some ways, yes, it was my way of producing singing. It’s gonna be good stuff, I’m pretty sure, the other guys of the band have been writing, too, they already sent me 2-3 tracks, they’re really great and we put it all together, of course it’s not easy to rehearse all together at the moment, so we basically have to have a lot of contact online, but that’s all doable and we’ll be fine.
Rock Overdose: And I suppose you intend to release the new Gamma Ray album in 2022?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): That’s the plan, yeah.
Rock Overdose: We’re looking forward to this. What are your memories from Greece, except for bifteki and ouzo?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): I always remember Greece to be a visit worthy country for me, as a musician the fans were so wild, I always met great people in Greece, hanging out with people has always been a lot of fun, drinking and being together, going for dinners, going to clubs, whenever there was time between the shows.
Rock Overdose: What is your greatest memory from Greece?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): There was some point when I was performing and they had this kind of little roof on the sides of the hall inside and one time I climbed up from the stage up there and was playing there or singing and people were down there, gathering. It was pretty high, so it was daring to jump, but they were encouraging me “jump, jump, jump” and I did it and the people really caught me from that high thing it was amazing, they carried me back to the stage, it was lovely, I enjoyed it very much.
Rock Overdose: That’s the main point, that they caught you!
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): Yeah, otherwise that would have been a problem! Then, sometimes I went to Mykonos for holidays and I loved the atmosphere with the nice white painted houses and the beaches. Yeah, good life!
Rock Overdose: What other news do you have?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): In general, I’m doing promotion for Helloween now, I’m writing songs for Gamma Ray and then at one point, if all goes well and we get together with Helloween, we will start rehearsing for the tour, which is supposed to start in April 2022. So before that, there’s gonna be a lot of rehearsing, organizing, making a setlist and stuff.
Rock Overdose: So I suppose you’re happy with Helloween right now, which was your favorite song of the band? With you and without you on the band?
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): That’s a tough question. Without me, one would be “Where the Rain Grows”. With me… that’s so hard, I’ll pick “Halloween”, because it was the first long song that I wrote, this first kind of epic, long theme that I actually accomplished, so it has a special meaning for me.
Rock Overdose: Thank you very much for this interview, I insist that you should visit Greece, because we’re all fired up about the Helloween reunion and twice we had the opportunity to see you and it was cancelled.
Kai Hansen (HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY): I’m looking forward to coming back and playing, it’s gonna be really really good. I’m sure, it’s gonna be fucking wild!
For Rock Overdose,
Thanx to Ilias Perogamvros for the questions!