Thrash Metal Assassins

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Logging in well over 20 years, and innumerable miles, in Thrash Metal, California’s Hirax is no stranger to fans of the underground. Led by its tenacious and ferocious lead singer Katon W. DePena, Hirax continues to release great music and trek across the planet delivering its own intense, aggressive brand of cult Thrash Metal. I managed to corner guitarists Glenn Rogers and Lance Harrison for a little Q & A session.

I think Hirax is a band that doesn’t get enough attention these days. In relation to the Thrash scene, you guys seem to be a little “under the radar” in terms of exposure. Why aren’t you guys mentioned in the same breath as Testament or Overkill?
Lance: That’s the funny thing about Hirax. We are mentioned right along with bands like that! Have you seen the “Get Thrashed” DVD documentary? Katon is all over that thing with some great company! He’s been a part of the scene for years and is considered one of the originators since the very beginning of Thrash! We do a lot for an underground band doing it all on our own. We are not ever going to change the music we make in order to get noticed. We’ve done a lot of great shows with bands like Exodus, Destruction, Raven and Sepultura. We have something very special and the fans know it and love it as much as we do!
Glenn: We don’t have the support of a big label behind us, either. Everything we do is DIY.
How did you come to be in the band?
Lance: Well Hirax started back in 1984. I remember first hearing “Bombs of Death” and all I could say was “Holy shit these guys kick ass!”
Glenn: I was playing in the band Deliverance around that time. We both had the same producer, Bill Metoyer. He produced the first two Hirax records and the first Deliverance record. I knew about Hirax from my friends at Metal Blade Records. Then, back in 2003 I saw an ad in The Music Connection for a band looking for a guitar player. I called the ad and it was Hirax. Katon remembered me from when we met in 2000 at my neighbor’s apartment…my neighbors were friends of his. I joined up and recorded The New Age Of Terror which came out in 2004.
Lance: In 2004 Katon and I were just neighbors and started hanging out. I actually worked with the band before as their stage manager for some of the local shows so I knew exactly what they were doing and loved the Old School Metal they were about. I became part of the line-up in early 2006. Katon and I started working on the demo material for the Assassins of War EP. We got a group of 6-7 songs together and called my brother Steve to come down from San Diego and do the bass tracks. It all just came together so we started looking for a drummer and found Fabricio on Myspace. From there we just started working on the set and, before we knew it, Katon had booked the first show in New York. We headlined that show and played with Deceased and Toxic Holocaust! Since that is been a total blur!
You guys seem to play a lot. How many shows do you think you do a year? What kind of touring cycle do you keep?
Lance: 2006 & 2007 were very busy for us. We all work day jobs so the tours are kind of short for now. We do most of the shows on weekends where we fly out on a Friday and return on Sunday.
Glenn: Yeah we don’t have tour support. So we do a lot of weekend shows.
Lance: We break some necks (ours included) then its right back to work on Monday. For what we have done so far I am very proud of it. It’s always great times to bang heads with the old fans and infect new ones!
What kind of cross-section do you see in a typical Hirax audience? Is it a lot of older guys or is it a good blend of new and established fans?
Lance: Definitely a lot of great old school fans, and many new young faces.
Glenn: I see a lot of younger fans coming to the shows. We try to stick to all-ages shows. I’d say we have a good mix of young and old.
Lance: Thrash seems to have gone full-circle. There is a whole new generation of young fans and bands coming up! We seem to have a broad appeal…not just Thrash fans…old, young, Death and Black Metal fans, Punk Rock fans, women…no one is safe and all are considered our Brothers and Sisters!
Glenn: Also there are a lot more girls are in the pit…ha!
Is it hard to balance “regular life” with the rigors of being in a touring band?
Glenn: Yes, for me it is. Trying to find a day job that will let you go on the road is no easy task. That’s why bands go through so many lineup changes.
Lance: Luckily my job is really cool about letting me go out to do this stuff. So to answer your question, sometimes its tough, like on those Monday’s going back into work as a regular Joe Schmo after being a rock star playing in a another country over the weekend! But I love what we are doing so no, it’s really great!
Tell me about this new live album “Thrash And Destroy“. The CD/DVD package came out in July, but there’s a vinyl version available now, correct?
Lance: Yes, it’s a double vinyl release here in the states!
Glenn: The reason why the vinyl came so late is because the pressing plant backordered us. They had bigger artists to do first. Coldplay and Brian Wilson have more money to spend, I suppose.
Lance: The artwork is so killer and vinyl is Old School and mostly for the collectors. I miss the warmth and pops and crackles of vinyl. As a Metal kid growing up I loved to look at the covers, the inserts, etc. CD’s and iPod’s are the present and future, but they lack that same warm rich tone! The DVD/CD is a great package! The show was so intense…we had a sold out crowd! The footage is as close as it gets to being at a Hirax show with all the chanting, fist-banging, stage diving maniacs! It definitely captures what it’s all about for us. It was released in Europe also with a different cover art equally as bad ass! You can find both versions on our website.
Glenn: I wish I could tell you more about it, but I did not get to play on it. My wife and I had a child around that time, so I took a year off to be a dad. I can tell you this though, it kicks ass!
What do you recall from these shows? What were some of the stand-out moments…good or bad?
Lance: Nothing but great moments. I can’t really think of any one thing off hand. It’s all been a blur and so much fun! The only thing I would change is to have had Glenn there with us for Keep It True IX! He was there with us in spirit for sure!
Glenn: Bang Your Head 2003 was my biggest moment so far. We played with some of my favorite bands like Twisted Sister, Dio, UDO, and Thin Lizzy. They were all on the same stage as us. It was a PARTY for three days!
How did knowing the tape was rolling affect your performance? Were you self-conscious about it at all?
Lance: No not at all. It was so crazy and went by so fast. I was dodging bodies all night, flying on stage and off, kicking my pedals all over. Seems like my side of the stage was easier to climb up onto! If you watch the footage, I get nailed a few times and the monitor would get lodged on top of my wah pedal. That happened a few times but, hey, what can you do? I loved it!
Glenn: We are recorded all the time, just checkout YouTube. I don’t think about it at all anymore. We just go out there and do our best. I’m like Viv Savage from Spinal Tap, “Have a good time all the time.” That’s what it’s about for me.
The Assassins Of War EP was released a couple years ago. Is there any new music in the works? What plans, if any, are there for the next album?
Lance: Yes, we are working on the new full length album El Rostro De La Muerte. We have released the first singles from it on a couple of comps. It’s almost done.
Glenn: We’ve already recorded about a half album’s worth of songs. We will get back to the studio in December or January.
Lance: Yeah, we’re working with John Haddad again too and it’s been a lot of fun! But trying to balance doing shows and writing the album has been a challenge. There’s never enough time to do it all at once. Be looking for it to come out soon along with some extras that we want to include. It will stand up with all we are about! Neck-breaking, fast, loud, real Old School Metal. We are not going to puss out anytime soon I can promise you that!
Glenn: This is going to be our best yet.
To what do you attribute the band’s longevity to? How have you guys managed to stay around for so long?
Glenn: Katon keeps it going no matter what. As long as we love to do it, and the fans and friends show up to the gigs, we will be there.
Lance: All thanks to Katon for his unrelenting dedication to all the fans and to what we do. He works his ass off everyday to get us where we are right now. We go out and play every show as if it is our last, never hold back at all. If you pay to come see Hirax, you are going to get one hell of a show! No matter what, we believe and have faith in everything we do! We are here to kick ass!!
Is there ever any temptation to maybe incorporate some of the more modern, commercial influences into Hirax to try and reach a wider audience?
Glenn: We’re like the AC/DC of Thrash Metal. We just do what we like to do and that’s the way it is.
Lance: Yeah, we do what we love and will not compromise what we have become known for even if it means we stay underground. The fans will agree! There is no other way. Why try and reinvent the wheel? You could say we have our very own special thing…no one else is like us for sure! We don’t follow trends, we believe in what we do and that’s all that matters.
How is it different being in a band in 2008 to what it was like in the 1980’s in terms of lifestyle and your perspective on music?
Lance: Well I was a head-banging kid back then, and I’m still a head-banger! I’ve been through a lot and grown up a lot too. Metal music is in my soul and a very big part of who I am. I will never change!
Glenn: I just don’t drink as much…ha!
Thanks guys…I appreciate your time. Anything you want to say to the fans?
Lance: I just want to thank all of the Hirax fans for sticking with us. If you love real Old School Metal performed with intensity on stage from the first song till the last, Hirax is your band! Were not going away anytime soon so you better get used to us!


  1. Commented by: SlimSlam

    Well done, now come back to the east coast and break our necks!!! Thrash til death…

  2. Commented by: Staylow

    I put off reading this for too long – it’s a good read. I’m not the biggest Hirax fan, but The New Age of Terror is pretty bad ass, and I admire their work ethic. I need to see them live sometime.

  3. Commented by: Facial La Fleur

    Living in California there has been countless times I could have seen these guys live but just never get around to it. It will happen sooner or later I’m sure.

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