July 20, 2024

TheMetalDen.com: Over 100 Million Organic Impressions On Facebook In 2023!

ROCKET Interviews HIRAX Vocalist Katon W. De Pena


American thrash metal band HIRAX was founded by vocalist Katon W. De Pena in 1984, gaining a legion of fans while playing in Los Angeles and San Francisco with other pioneering thrash acts of the area: METALLICA, EXODUS, and SLAYER. After initially releasing some demos, HIRAX signed with Metal Blade Records and debuted with their first full-length recording, aptly named Raging Violence in 1985. Since 1986, the act has undergone many lineup changes, including the departure of De Pena himself for a long period between 1988-2000. The act is better than ever today, having released the album entitled ‘El Rostro de la Muerte’, the legendary group’s fourth full length, having been released during the spring of 2009.

The Metal Den’s Randy “Rocket” Cody has conducted an EXCLUSIVE interview with HIRAX vocalist Katon W. De Pena for TMD’s loyal following of DEN HEADZ all across the globe!


Rocket: Where were you born and raised?

Katon: Born on the east coast… Rhode Island. My father was in the Navy so we traveled a lot. My family finally settled on the west coast in sunny Southern California which is now where I still reside with my lovely heavy metal wife of 12 years.

Rocket: Do you come from a big family?

Katon: 6 children. I was the last one born. Maybe that’s why I’m so rebellious.

Rocket: Are you a religious person?

Katon: More spiritual than religious. To answer you question more directly. I do believe in heaven and hell.

Rocket: What bands first drew you to heavy metal music?

Katon: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, as well as the all time greatest guitar player of ALL TIME- Jimi Hendrix!!

Rocket: Who are a few of your biggest vocal influences?

Katon: Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Rob Halford, Phil Lynott, Bon Scott, and the greatest singer in the world Lucian Pavarotti. There are too many to list and there is not enough time or space to write them all down.

Rocket: Can you recall the first Rock concert you ever attended?


Katon: Black Sabbath 1979 “Never Say Die” tour Anaheim Stadium – southern California. The opening bands were Sammy Hagar as the Red Rocker, a new band by the name of Van Halen, and co headlining was Boston.

Rocket: How did HIRAX band initially form?

Katon: We were just 4 young kids wanting to play fast, heavy metal music!! We were also inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Venom and Saxon… made us want to push the limits of metal music and take it further! We were very inspired and we wanted to have FUN! So I started the band, named it HIRAX and we have never looked back!

Rocket: As I understand it, you hung around METALLICA quite a bit back in the day. Can you
share a specific memory you have from being around those guys when Cliff Burton was
still in the lineup?

Katon: To be honest with you. I did know Cliff Burton, but I knew Metallica before that even. When they had the original line of Ron McGovney, Dave Mustaine, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. Mainly I was closest to Ron and James because they lived together. We used to go to the same record stores and shops for heavy metal 12″ LPs. The main thing that you need to know about us back in those days is that we used to listen to heavy metal music together, get drunk together and throw up together… and trust me, we had a lot of fun doing it. As to Cliff Burton… he was one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. He is what I’d call … a musician’s musician.

Rocket: What is your opinion of METALLICA’s last two albums?

Katon: I can’t comment on that because I don’t listen to any of the new Metallica music. That’s not a put down, I’m just being honest.

Rocket: In 1989, you actually quit HIRAX, and were replaced by Paul Baloff (EXODUS). You returned
in 1998. Why did you decide to leave and then what made you want to get back into the game?

Katon: The best thing to say is … sometimes the “grass looks greener on the other side.” I left HIRAX, tried some other things… then I realized how much I liked fronting my own band. For me, I started HIRAX and I want to see this band through. I feel VERY proud of what we have been able to do over the years. We are still releasing solid albums and our fan base continues to grow more and more every year. I think the reason that I left in the first place was because the music business is very tough to be involved in. if you are not strong… and full of that “never say die” attitude… you won’t last very long. It’s been over 25 years now and I guess you could say… that I am a survivor!

Rocket: HIRAX has just released a new album entitled El Rostro De La Muerte. What does the
title mean in english?


Katon: “The Face of Death” The title is based off of a character/spiritual figure named Santa Muerte. She is banned by the Catholic church and not acknowledged by many other religions. This belief is very, very popular throughout Mexico. Through our travels of this great country we were exposed to this spiritual icon and became very intrigued by it. So I couldn’t help but write a song about this subject. I find it very interesting. Once you read the lyrics you will understand what I am talking about.

Rocket: Where was it recorded and who produced it?

Katon: Recorded & Engineered at Trench Studios, Corona, CA by John Haddad. Mixed & Produced by Andy Haller (Ozzy Osbourne, System of a Down, etc.). Mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Yngwie Malmsteen, Dave Ellison from Megadeth) I would say that this is our best sounding full length album to date!! The production is TOP NOTCH! We have purposely not over produced the record or watered it down… this is a TRUE THRASH METAL CD!!

Rocket: Where is the best place for fans to buy a copy?

Katon: http://www.hirax.org is the official website for HIRAX and has everything HIRAX. For those that would like to purchase mp3s go to iTunes.com all of our official releases are AVAILABLE NOW!

Rocket: What is your opinion of how ‘free downloading’ has drastically affected record sales in the
21st century?

Katon: I think that all musicians should learn to deal with it, because there is nothing that we can do about it. We can either choose to be mad about it or be happy that some people, who can’t afford to buy the album are still able to hear it and play the music. A lot of the total die hard fans will still go buy CDs and vinyl for the lyrics, cover artwork, photos, etc. plus the sound quality is excellent and it supports the band! I think the main thing that is sad about free downloads is that usually the sound quality is not that good. So the fans are better of going to sites like iTunes, Klicktrack, emusic, etc. for GREAT sound quality. It really does make a difference.

Rocket: Of all the metal albums released so far in 2009, which ones are your personal favorites?

Katon: That is a hard question. I listen to a lot of old bands… none of them really put out a new album in 2009. The best thing that I got recently … which was released in 2009… was a reissued concert of an old school, heavy metal band from France, Trust. A DVD of a vintage live footage of them in concert. It is totally amazing… one of the best things I’ve seen released in years. To be honest with you… I am one of those guys who is an old school heavy metal fan so I am still trying to get caught up on old heavy metal records. That is the kind of stuff that peeks my interest. I have heard some track off of bands like Slayer, Metallica, Testament & Exodus their newer albums… but I couldn’t tell you what the complete albums sound like. I think that when you are in a band like HIRAX you are so busy with your own band’s music that you don’t really have time to listen to the other bands in your genre. I’m just speaking for myself. I just really enjoy the history of heavy metal and that is where my main focus is.

Rocket: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a kid starting out in his or her first band and looking
to embark on the rock n roll dream?

Katon: Get a real job. Get as far away from heavy metal music as you can. Just kidding. If you REALLY want to do this kind of music, you have to be dedicated!! You can’t be sensitive or you will get eaten up like a piece of meat. Stay true to yourself and never give in to the trends that come and go. Be a leader, not a follower. One other piece of great advice is to play music from the heart. Don’t do it for the money… most bands don’t get rich overnight. It takes YEARS of hard work to make it! If you’ve got the guts and the balls… you will succeed. One other thing… I’m all for a good party and celebrating… but don’t spend too much time doing drugs or drinking alcohol. They will only slow you down… or even worse… kill you! Stay focused on the music.

Rocket: What are some of the upcoming shows for HIRAX that we need to watch out for?

Katon: We will be touring all through 2010 thrashing the world with our heavy metal music!! Now that our new CD, “El Rostro de la Muerte” (“The Face of Death”) is released worldwide our campaign for world domination begins. We will be traveling all over the Earth including Texas and many, many other cities and countries to come! Keep an eye on our website http://www.hirax.org.

Rocket: Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

Katon: Hopefully still doing music! and still traveling the world with my wife and my band HIRAX!

Rocket: Thanks very much for rocking this out with me. Best of luck with your music. Go ahead and give special thanks to any of your friends, family and supporters.

Katon: Thank you, Rocket! THANK YOU TO ALL OF THE FANS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!! We look forward to seeing everyone on tour in 2010.