Metal 'til you DIE!

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Katon W. DePena is an intense individual. As the driving force behind one of Thrash Metal’s most tenacious and long-standing bands Hirax, he lives and breathes Heavy Metal music and culture. Aggressively DIY, he has taken Hirax to places other bands can only dream of going. Their latest album El Rostro De La Muerte is yet another scorcher in the Hirax catalog and the band plays to it’s loyal fans every single chance it gets. I had the privilege of a few minutes of his time recently and here is what he had to say.

Congrats on El Rostro De La Muerte…how has it been received by the fans?

THANK YOU. Our newest release, El Rostro De La Muerte (“The Face of Death”) is still being released and manufactured in different territories worldwide. It is being written about and talked about by the worldwide music press. All hardcore Hirax fans have been very supportive.

What were your thoughts and intentions when heading in to write/record the album?

We knew that this record had to be heavier than the last. We focus on our roots of thrash metal – speed, the technical aspects of the guitar playing, the thunderous bass and pounding drums along with my screaming vocals. It is the longest record we have recorded to date 50 minutes and 52 seconds of crushing metal. We wanted to give our fans more music for their money because they deserve it.

We enlisted Ed Repka to create the album cover artwork (he has also worked with Venom, Vio-lence, Megadeath, Municipal Waste, Death, Toxic Holocaust, etc.) We are very pleased with the artwork. The riffs were composed by Glenn Rogers and Lance Harrison lead guitarists and I wrote all of the lyrics as usual. The topics/concepts for the lyrics are from personal experiences and my overall weird slant and take on the world. With our albums the lyrics are always included for people to read and learn what we are trying to convey. Steve Harrison on bass and Jorge Iacobellis on drums are involved in the creative process and we all agree on the final results. We made the album that we wanted to make and we are very proud.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn Rogers & Lance Harrison in 2008…both of whom are great guys, not to mention that as a guitar team they are lethal. How does playing live with them, as well as drummer Jorge Iacobellis and bassist Steve Harrison, compare to earlier versions of the band?

This line up has been together longer than any other line up in Hirax history. I have worked with Glenn for many years now and, without being born from the same mother, we are like brothers. In fact, all of the guys in the band have become much closer because we have toured a lot together. This line up is more cohesive and we play very well together. We have the same passion for music. Much like a soccer team we understand that we must work together to accomplish the same goal. Before we take the stage every night that we play concerts, we come together in the backstage area and tell each other that “it is time to kill the audience with Hirax metal!” Unlike the line ups from the past, we have had time to grow together and become the best Hirax line up yet. If we continue to communicate and be honest with each other I can see this band doing much greater things in the very near future. This is just the beginning.

Thrash Metal has been on a bit of a resurgence in the last few years with some new bands popping up playing (or attempting to play) more in the traditional sense than a modern sense…why do you think that is?

I guess you could say that there is a big resurgence, but Hirax is not concerned with that at all. Our main goal is to play our music for our fans. We would be playing thrash metal whether there was a resurgence or not. You have to remember, I started Hirax back up in 2000 and have been going strong ever since, never looking back or worrying about what the music industry thought. The only thing that I care about is the people who love thrash metal and those who support it. As to the younger bands, we will have to wait and see if they are still around 10 – 20 years from now.

Where do you see Hirax in the history of Heavy Metal?

We began back in the early 1980s with bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Megadeth, etc. so we can be considered pioneers / originators of thrash metal music. But as to where we will be in the history of heavy metal is still being written. We are still releasing new albums and touring so our future looks very bright!

Hirax enjoys a lot of loyalty and passion from fans in other countries, especially South America. What do you think inspires this kind of ferocious following?

We feel the same way about them. When we are in Central and South America we make the time to meet the fans, try their culture, food, beer, learn about the people, etc. We love them and they love us. We treat them the way that we want to be treated and yes, we have built up a huge following throughout those territories. The other thing that I have to say is that there is no place wilder to play than South America!! Before we even go on stage we can hear the fans chanting and screaming our name. There is no where like it.

How much do the fans mean to a band like Hirax?

EVERYTHING!! The fans are the ones who have put us where we are at! We owe our existence to them. They have spread the word of our music and our live shows. Our popularity continues to grow. LONG LIVE THE HIRAX ARMY!

Talking to Glenn Rogers, he describes you, basically, as THE driving force behind HIRAX. You appear to have an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm for Metal…where does that come from? I mean, the band, the label, I heard you were a concert promoter at one point…do you sleep?

I really appreciate Glenn’s words. It’s good to know that my band members appreciate my hard work. My wife is greatly involved also and helps me organize all of the Hirax daily operations, booking, touring, promotion, website updates, merchandise, recording, etc. I am lucky to have a woman who supports what I do 100%! No, I hardly ever sleep but it is totally worth it. Hirax gets to travel the world seeing unbelievable things and playing our music for the best audiences that any band could ever play for!! When most of my friends and contemporaries are out partying, I am at home working on new Hirax projects all of the time! I would much rather work tirelessly on HIRAX because I am living a dream come true by playing music and traveling all over the world.

Why does Hirax go the indie/licensing route as opposed to going for a more established label?

We like being in control. When we want to do something, anything, we can do it. We don’t have to ask our record company for permission. We are the record company. This allows us to license our music out to other territories that a lot of record companies never hit. Our music has been released in Malaysia, Japan, U.S.A., South America, Central America, Europe, and worldwide through iTunes and many others. Also the Internet is a great tool for being independent. Keep in mind that there a lot of bands on major labels with more money that have not toured to the countries that we have. That is because we are independent and we have no one holding us back. We have major distribution through companies such as Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Earache Records, Seasons of Mist and anybody who carries heavy metal music which is great!! Everything balances out for us and we are content running our music business the way that we do. We are in charge of our own fate and we work hard to make everything happen professionally because our fans deserve it.

Are you a big collector of Metal? It’s obvious you are a fan of Metal and even if you had not started Hirax you’d still be who you are…how much of your non-Hirax life does Heavy Metal permeate?

Hirax is all of my life really. It is involved in practically everything that I do. Because of the Internet and cell phones, I can really never get away from it. 7 days a week it’s Hirax 24 hours a day! Collector wise, I would be a lot worse, but my wife has made me calm down on bringing too much stuff home, because I already have so much music. Trust me, I’m a music freak! I have to admit, I do like iPods because they hold a lot of albums. The other problem that I have is that when we are on tour we are constantly given music by other bands. My biggest problem would be that when we travel, we always get to go to the BEST record stores in every country! There is SO MUCH GREAT METAL!! I have to restrain myself from buying too much! I am a collector, but not as extreme as some of my friends.

A lot of people both in the music industry and in the media in general are speaking all kinds of doom and gloom about “the end of the CD”. Do you see CDs ever being totally eradicated, in the Metal scene in particular, in favor of a purely digital format?

No way! We still have people coming to our concerts asking for cassette tapes. People have certain formats that they become fond of and they want them forever. Yes, there will be a lot of music that people just listen to as mp3s, but CDs will still be around for a long time to come. You have to remember that the music industry tried to say that vinyl was dead and they were totally wrong! Now at our concerts we are selling more than ever before!! 12” records, 10” records and 7” records. If we have it, people buy it.

So 2008 saw your double-live DVD Thrash Til Death, then 2009 saw El Rostro De La Muerte, what does 2010 hold for the HIRAX camp?

We have already started preproduction on a new official music video for the song “Eradicate Mankind” off of our newest release, El Rostro de la Muerte. I’m sure that there will be more Hirax music. The guys and I are already talking about the next album. Creatively we are at a very good place right now. We have a lot of ideas and it is just a matter of finding the time to go into the rehearsal studio and bash out some new riffs. Right now we are very inspired because of the great support that our fans are showing us! It motivates us to want to make better and better music. We are still hungry and never satisfied! So expect more in the very near future from Hirax.

You have the floor…anything you’d like to say to the readers of Teeth Of The Divine?

We would like to thank everybody for coming to our concerts and buying our records! We can feel your support and it is greatly appreciated! Expect more concert dates to be added to the upcoming tour dates. Keep an eye out for new Hirax music and merchandise. See you on tour!! PREPARE TO BANG YOUR HEADS! METAL TIL YOU DIE! Thank you for your support. For more information, tour dates, photos, merchandise, etc. please visit: www.hirax.org

Comments

  1. Commented by: BreedingtheSpawn

    Kickass interview much respect for Hirax.


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