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Gamma Ray's Kai Hansen chooses Animals As Leaders as his prog heroes

A press shot of animals as leaders

“Rush and Genesis have always been favourites of mine – you couldn’t get away from albums like Foxtrot or Selling England By The Pound in the 70s. I really loved Dream Theater’s first album [When Dream And Day Unite] as well, because I thought the singer [Charlie Dominici] sounded like Geddy Lee, but it was my 17-year-old son Tim who introduced me to the modern progressive bands. He also plays a guitar solo on Follow The Sun on my new album.

Tim played me Animals As Leaders and I was like, ‘What the hell?’ They’re probably the next level of guitar playing. I’ve not seen them in concert yet but it’s something I’m planning to do because I want to see those guys play their songs live. What they do, along with bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Gojira and The Contortionist, is so different from the classic blues and rock’n’roll-influenced type of metal that I play. There’s always been progression within metal, but there are now guitarists doing very intricate solos, things that years ago people maybe would have said were impossible to play.

I thought that after [Yngwie] Malmsteen and the like, everything had been done, but it seems like technical skills are getting higher. Maybe this is because the bands that today’s young guitarists are learning from are on another level compared to our teachers, like Jimi Hendrix and the like. You’ve only got 12 tones on a guitar so what more can you do? All the classical chord progressions have been done, so it’s about putting them together in a different way rhythmically.

It’s great that you can just go online and find a million people playing like hell and breaking things down so you can see exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. When I’m sitting at home, you’ll often find me trying to recreate cool riffs or licks that I’ve heard. I’m always wondering how these things go. I got into some of Andy James’ stuff [Andy James Guitar Academy/ex-Sacred Mother Tongue] and I looked into how the guy was playing some of this shit, but I wouldn’t dare put on shoes that don’t fit me.”

Kai Hansen’s solo album XXX – Three Decades In Metal is out now through earMUSIC. See

How Animals As Leaders are challenging the foundations of prog

Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.