Welcome Back: Hirax

Coming out of California in the early 80s, Hirax were one of the first bands to emerge from the thrash scene, making their name with two storming albums, Raging Violence and Hate, Fear And Power. Splitting at the end of that decade, they made a triumphant return some 10 years later and have remained active ever since. Now they’re (finally!) set to play the UK, with a string of dates, including a UK debut at Hard Rock Hell United.

“It’s about time,” laughs vocalist and founding member Katon W. De Pena, “we should have been there in 1984! We have a big UK fanbase, and even released our first record on a British label – the first thing Earache Records ever released was a flexi disc we were on! UK fans have been writing to us since the moment this tour was announced so I can’t wait. It’ll be like a home-coming because people have been waiting for three decades now.” /o:p

Having listened to heavy metal since the late 70s and become an early participant soon after, Katon has witnessed the birth and development of the American scene first hand and seen thrash grow into a worldwide movement.

“I was lucky coming from California – there was always a bunch of us hanging out, such as the guys from the earliest lineup of Metallica. We all shopped at the same record store and so got the same influences. It was me, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, who was turning us on to all this stuff from Europe – Saxon, Budgie etc. We started recording and tape-trading and our demo made its way to the UK. That was the first scene that really embraced our music. But yeah, Metallica, Armored Saint, Hirax, Dark Angel, Agent Steel… California had a great scene and that was the very early stages of the thrash scene in America.”

With Katon being one of the few non-Caucasians in metal at the time, the success of Hirax showed that despite its violent reputation, the thrash scene could be a surprisingly welcoming place.

“We never came into any problems really… a few little things here and there because you’re always going to have people who don’t understand what they don’t know – and some people haven’t grown up around black people who listen to heavy metal music! But compared to the way it was in the early 80s the scene has changed 1000%; there are more girls and a much greater variation in age, from kids to those in their 50s and 60s. It makes me proud to know we’re a part of heavy metal history and that thrash metal is stronger than ever before.”