Maracaibo Alterno had the opportunity to have an interview with Katon W. de Pena, frontman and founding member of Hirax about their upcoming show here in Venezuela, we talk a little about the beginnings of Hirax as well their most recent album… Here's the result.
Hello Katon, how are you? I'm Ricardo Salvador from Maracaibo Alterno I'm very thankful that you've agreed for this interview. So, I shall start.
First of all, you are the founding member of Hirax, and along these 26 years of making music in Hirax many times the band have changed its line-up, tell me how it feels to share stage and also make music with all these guys who have played with you in Hirax? How's your friendship with the guys? Are you still in touch with all of them?
Over the years there have been some line-up changes, but Hirax has stayed strong and has continued to release new albums. I have had the pleasure of playing with some of the finest musicians in metal and for me, it has been an honor.
You abandoned Hirax in 1988 after the recording of Hate, Fear and Power, could you share with us what really happened? What was the main reason for you to left the band?
Basically we were very young and inexperienced... It didn't help that all of us were major drinkers / alcohol problems. We were drunk most of the time and did not realize that there was more to being in a band than just playing the music. There is also business that has to be done and concerts to be played. Now we are focused and have our shit together. We take what we do VERY SERIOUS. Now is our time and we have become a major force in the world of thrash metal music. We have no regrets!
At that time what did you felt when you heard Paul Baloff was the new lead singer of Hirax?
Yes, Paul Baloff had replaced me while I was taking a short break from the band. He never recorded any studio tracks with Hirax. I have always had respect for Mr. Baloff! He was a great singer and a great friend. I believe that he was one of the all time best thrash metal vocalist whoever lived.
Hirax remained in silence for about 8 years (please correct me if I'm wrong), what was the main motivation for you to reunite the band after so long?
It was a 13 year break... I reunited the band because of the overwhelming amount of fan mail / emails. I have realized the opportunities that I have to take my music to a whole new level, and still maintain my integrity. So in 2000 I decided to put the band back togther and continue to put out music for the legions of Hirax fans.
By the time you left Hirax, why you didn't continue with Phantasm?
Phantasm was a side project band. Hirax has always been my main focus. But there is music available from Black Devil Records re-released:
Phantasm Wreckage 1987: 12"e; Clear Vinyl -- 6 song complete recording also including a 9 song live concert from 1987. Excellent sound quality. Total 15 songs combined. Features: Katon W DePena (Hirax) - vocals. Original Metallica bassist - Ron McGovney and drummer - Gene Hoglan formerly of Dark Angel, Testament, Death and Strapping Young Lads
Hirax just released their first musical video for the song El Rostro de la Muerte could you share with us how was that experience?
El Rostro de la Muerte (The Face of Death) video :: Total running time: 7:35
El Rostro de la Muerte is the title track to the band's 2010 release.
Check out the video here!
Filmed, directed and edited by Hugo Perez of ATL Productions, the video takes place over several California locations including a cemetery in Signal Hill, Iguana's Art Tattoo Estudio in Los Angeles and a live performance from Backline Studios in Garden Grove.
The concept for the video is based on the religious icon, Santa Muerte, a deity or saint-like figure worshiped or venerated in Mexico, bridging Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs. The name literally translates to 'Saint Death'.
The video represents the newest Hirax CD - over 50 minutes of Hirax music that appears on El Rostro de la Muerte (The Face of Death) CD and we released it just in time to begin 2010. Now the word is spreading... and our fans are very excited about our upcoming world tour. We are looking forward to playing the new album live in concert for the Hirax legions of fans.
I have a curious doubt Katon, why did you choose El Rostro de la Muerte as a title for the new Hirax full lenght?
Keep in mind that we are from Los Angeles, CA. The main reason for the title is because we have such a big Spanish speaking following. We have done plenty of albums in English. Out of respect for our fans who speak Spanish we named our new album El Rostro de la Muerte (The Face of Death) to honour them.
Where does the Hirax name come from? Does it have a special meaning? What's the story behind the band's name?
I got it off a bathroom wall. I liked the way it sounded and I liked that it had 2 different meanings. It was a furry animal from Africa (a distant cousin to the elephant). The other definition is that it is a repellant for killing mosquitoes. And now, after 25 years... the name is synonymous with us, the thrash metal band, Hirax. I also changed the spelling from a 'y' (hyrax) to an 'i' (Hirax) so that it is an original name.
You always have been the soul and mastermind of Hirax, tell me will we see more of Hirax in the future? What will come after El Rostro de la Muerte? Have you consider making a live DVD of the upcoming Invasión Thrash?
I can tell you that the future for Hirax looks very bright!! El Rostro de la Muerte our newest album is a look into the future of what our band will be doing musically. Our fans can expect more studio albums and DVDs. I think that our music will only get heavier and always faster!! Those are the rules that we live by!! We will record the Invasión Thrash shows that we do in Venezuela because they will be historic events. The footage will be released for all of the world to see!! We are very excited about the festivals and have some very special plans for these concerts. To all of our fans in Venezuela... We will see you soon!!
You've worked with so many people in the music industry; have you ever consider starting a new band with one of them? Which ones will you choose?
No, not right now. Maybe a little bit later on. For now my main priority is Hirax. I want to put 100% into Hirax so that I can create the best metal music possible.
You will share stage in Invasión Thrash with the band Decadence, what do you think about them?
I know that they are nice people. They have written letters to us and we have a common respect for heavy music. Hopefully we can celebrate together in the name of metal musica!! This will be our first time ever playing together.
Getting a little bit personal with this interview, I'll start with a very common question, what are your main musical influences?
Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, etc.
What kind of music does Katon de Pena enjoys besides Thrash Metal? Got any favorite band?
Aria (Russia) - Nifelheim (Sweden) - Moonspell (Portugal) -- I have been impressed with their most recent works. For the style of music that they do - they are great bands.
For you which is the best Hirax album so far?
ALL OF THEM... for different reasons. There is really no way to say what the best Hirax album is ... they all are different. If you listen through our catalogue of music you will understand what I am talking about. It is hard for me to compare them because they are written at different times in my life. Each Hirax album has a special place in my heart... I love them all. I think that we are becoming better songwriters every album that we release.
You always wanted to be a singer or you used to play any musical instrument?
I have always wanted to be a singer since a very young age. When I was 13 I started singing in heavy bands and have been doing it ever since. Over the years... it has become more to me than just singing... it is a way for me to express myself and my thoughts.
How is the life of Katon de Pena when he's not on the stage?
Great! I have an amazing wife... She is very supportive of my music. She is an incredible musician and we have a wonderful life together. I am a very lucky man and I am blessed by the heavy metal gods.
Tell me, after being so many years in Hirax how do you feel right now about it? After all those ups and downs, is it the same feeling you had 25 years back when you released Raging Violence?
My life is better than it ever has been. The band is more popular now than it ever before. We are selling more records / mp3s now. We are playing concerts / festivals all over the world. There are a lot of great things planned for our future. Most importantly... I am doing what I love to do... play music!
Last, but not least, as we are very close to your shows here in Venezuela could you salute all your fans here in the country?
To all of the fans in Venezuela... I have been receiving and reading all your letters / emails... Thank you for the great support!!!!! We will fly from Los Angeles, CA in Junio 2010 to come play for you!!! We are excited to see everyone at the Invasión Thrash festivals!!! Viva Venezuela!! Viva Hirax!!
Thank you very much for your time Katon, I hope we can catch up in one of the shows here in Venezuela. Thrash 'Till Death Katon!
Muchissimo gracias Ricardo! I hope to talk to you soon!!