Katon De Pena is the only original member of the historical Thrash Metal band Hirax, from California; they have give a real important contribute to the history of this type of music, and their last work, Immortal Legacy, was published in 2014. ROCK & METAL IN MY BLOOD have interviewed him before his co-headliner concert with Toxik, another Thrash legend, at the Cycle Club of Calenzano, Firenze, and this is what he have say to them.

R&MIMB: Hello Katon! First of all, thank you from Rock & Metal in My Blood and from all our fans for your availability!
Katon De Pena: Yeah! Thanks to you, it's a pleasure for me!

R&MIMB: Let's start talking about your latest album, Immortal Legacy, you've waited quite a long time (the last album was in 2009)! What can fans expect from this new work?
Katon De Pena: Well, It' s a very strong record in the aspect and in the sound, really powerfull, It's a nice balance between strong riffs by Lance Harrison, our guitar player, and pure Heavy and Thrash Metal sound. We've had three producers in this album, among wich Jeff Waters from Annihilator, and comparing it with previous records of Hirax, in this new album there is a bigger research of sound and a very big attention to dynamic of tracks.

R&MIMB: Who contributed mostly to the songwriting of the album?
Katon De Pena: Major me and Lance, Lance is our riff monster, and he comes to my house in Los Angeles to work on guitar and music in general for write the tracks of the album, he is my songwriting partner. But, if the bases of music are from me and Lance, the general songwriting of the album is a group work, we are a music team and we create together all the arrangements and the final sound of tracks.

R&MIMB: Your main themes have always been critical toward issues like war, death and mythology. Do we find all of these in the new cd, or different topics as well?
Katon De Pena: Yes, less or more we can find these themes in this new work, but also , year by year, we have increase our topics with things like history of Ancient Rome, that for me is an awesome page of history, and also other elements from different cultures.

R&MIMB: The Speed Metal component for you has always been very important, but in this last work it has been left slightly to one side, to give greater prominence to Thrash (at least, this is my opinion). Do you agree with this statement?
Katon De Pena: I think you are correct! And I'm happy that you have pay so much attention to the album! Well, Thrash Metal obviously is in our blood, is a very important part of our life, and it will be so forever; what have you say is correct because there is a progression in our sound, there is in every time the desire to create some better, album after album, especially not to remain in the same canons all over the time, and, for example, in this album we have given more prominence to the Thrash part.

R&MIMB: I'd like to ask you about the second track of the album, "Hellion Rising". What inspired you to write such catastrophic lyrics?
Katon De Pena: It' s a combination of different feelings, because I love the human being, but I think that the world is becoming a very sad place, for a lot of reasons and facts, and I love you said that is a catastrophic song, because it's true.

R&MIMB: Now let's take a step back, to the beginning of your career with Hirax. Has much of initial spirit remained over the years or have there been changes with the passing of time in the attitude of the band?
Katon De Pena: The original spirit is the same, my spirit in particular is survive for all of these years, and I have forwarded this to other members of the band; this is very important, because with no spirit, a band crash, and I try to keep alive every time the feelings and ideas of the beginning year by year.

R&MIMB: You've had two distinct periods in your career, the first, from 1984 to the end of 80's, where you released two albums, and the second, from 2000 to now, where you start with a new lineup. What is the difference, as regards the music and lyrics, between the two periods?
Katon De Pena: In the first period we were younger and very crazy, now we're changed so much, we are more serious, and this you can hear also in the sound of our tracks; in the first period there was so much violence, and in part even today there (laughing. Ndr), but now we try every time to research sound, lyrics and balance of the music. So, in conclusion, the spirit of the two periods is the same, but we have grown, and we feel much responsibility to fans and to the music world in general.

R&MIMB: When did you "fall in love" with this kind of music, and start believing in your dream?
Katon De Pena: At the age of 13 I became very crazy for this type of music, I was a really young kid, and at 15 I bought my first microphone, with my mother , and start playing in bands and do cover of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, the classics. So, those two years was my initial birth in Heavy Metal, and I've never forget this music, I love Metal for life.

R&MIMB: California has always been a real hotbed of talent as far as the Thrash and Heavy Metal scene go. How much of what happened in the 80's Is happening again today?
Katon De Pena: Nowadays we can see a lot of new fans and musicians that start to do or listen this two genres of music, and obviously they start with the new bans; but, often, they come back to the history of the genres and find old school bands, they listen them, they buy Cds and go to concerts; but, among this, the difference between today and the 80's is that in the 80's this type of music was a new brand, the scene was new and especially the sound was new. For me this is a new beginning, especially for Thrash Metal, we have new fans and bans, we have a new atmosphere and underground scene, is a great period!

R&MIMB: In Italy we have a very long tradition of famous Thrash bands, like Bulldozer, Schizo and Extrema. Do you know these bands?
Katon De Pena: Yes, I know these bands! I love Bulldozer, they are one of my favourite groups!

R&MIMB: Is there a specific moment in the career of Hirax you remember in a special way?
Katon De Pena: It's not simple to say one episode in particular, I can tell you ten, but I try to pick one! One of the earlier concert of our career, in 1985, was one of my favourite concerts, because on the same stage there were Hirax, Testament , Megadeth and Exodus, and I love it because there were so many great groups on the same stage at the same time, is one of the most important moment in the Hirax career!

R&MIMB: What can you tell us about the relationship with your fans?
Katon De Pena: We are very lucky! We love our fans, they are a very special group, and it's not so simple, to find people who are so being emotionally attached to our music and career, that's great! And I would like to say thank you to all of you for your constant support to our projects!

R&MIMB: After the first breakup of the band, I know you worked in a record store. Considering how the music industry has changed nowadays, with music downloads from the internet, do you think it's still important to buy cds today?
Katon De Pena: I believe that buy cds (and vinyls) is the real support you can give to a band, it's very very important! Is also important go to concerts, but if you are a real fan of a band, you want to buy their cds (as regards vinyls is different, because, for example, I buy vinyls because I think is the best form to listen music, but this not mean that buy cds is wrong, they are only two different type of record), so, in conclusion, if you want that a band keep alive , buy whatever you want!

R&MIMB: If you think of your "metal youth", that is in the years when you listened to metal for the first time, what were your heroes in those years?
Katon De Pena: Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, AC/DC, earlier Iron Maiden, especially the first two albums, they are great for me, I'm a Di'anno fan, well, Bruce is cool, but Di'anno for me is the best!

R&MIMB: You have shared the stage with many famous bands. Is there a concert in particular that you remember or an anecdote you'd like to share with us?
Katon De Pena: You are killing me, that's a good question! (laughing. Ndr),well, one of my favourite concerts was when we were on the same stage, in 2003, with Ronnie James Dio, Twisted Sister and other legends of this music, was a powerful moment, rich of feels and relevance.

R&MIMB: How is the tour going so far? What are the next dates?
Katon De Pena: We have a crazy audience, and this is wonderful, we have in every date so much people that come to hear us, and we have always a very wild and strong atmosphere, stage divings, crazy people, crazy fans, this is insane but I love it! The next three dates in Italy are this one in Florence, the second in Rome, and the last one in Brescia.

R&MIMB: Would you like to send a greeting and say something to the readers of Rock & Metal in My Blood?
Katon De Pena: Hi guys! This is Katon from Hirax, thanks for your support, stay Metal and listen Thrash Forever!

(Lorenzo Mortai)