Hitten – Making Passion Last

Thursday, 21st December 2023

Together now for well over a decade, Spain’s Hitten have developed a sound that incorporates a host of classic heavy metal and melodic hard rock influences – along with power and speed elements – that should garner universal appeal. Their discography is chock full of massive hooks, fiery guitar riffs, solid vocals, which in turn allows for memorable killer songs for the current generation to appreciate. Their latest album While Passion Lasts contains ten dynamic tracks across the spectrum from anthems to ballads, intertwining aspects of North American, European, and Latin American artists from the past to the present into their style.

We reached out to vocalist Alexx Panza and guitarist Dani Meseguer to learn more about their personal musical memories from childhood, where they’ve wanted to go style-wise over this album, the production/arrangement aspects that are so important to being true to their influences, constant learning from other bands when playing out live, worries about real life versus virtual life situations when it comes to society, and hopeful future plans with the band.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me regarding some of your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier forms of music, and eventually want to pick up an instrument to perform in bands?

Alexx Panza: The first memory when I was a little kid, as many other guys out there, I started listening to my father’s records. Mainly Deep Purple and Jethro Tull are the bands that got me more into what I’m doing today. We are talking about the early 2000’s, that also started with my brother’s records. He was bringing along what was new back in the day – nu-metal. I honestly don’t listen to this nowadays, but this has some shared importance. I was eight to ten years old; the first albums of Korn and Slipknot were coming out during the late 90’s, early 2000’s. Then I started playing guitar and singing at the same time. I was getting more seriously into heavy metal, listening to Motley Crue, the Scorpions, Megadeth, a lot of thrash metal. That was when I was fourteen and fifteen years old. I had some friends in Turin, Italy that were listening to the same stuff, and they had a band. One day, the guitarist who was my old friend, they split with their singer who was female. They asked me if I wanted to sing – and at the time I was not a singer. They asked me to do it, and everything started at that moment.

Dani Meseguer: It was a friend that would lend me a record. A Spanish band, Mago de Oz, that was the first thing I listened to rock related. They are pretty big in Latin America, and for sure across Spain. That record put me into the rock style. I started to take interest in the guitar. I discovered other music through other friends. If you listen to this, you need to listen to Metallica, Iron Maiden, all of those bands playing in this style. I took up the guitar for the first time in high school when I was fourteen. My mom got me a Spanish guitar, and I started playing “Breaking the Law” with that guitar. It was amazing to have that tool, to play “Smoke on the Water” and other songs.

I bought my first electric guitar when I was fourteen. Everything changes at the same time; I still play the guitar with the same passion that I had when I first bought it.

Dead Rhetoric: While Passion Lasts is the fifth and latest studio album for Hitten. How did the songwriting and recording process go for this set of material – and where do you see the greatest differences or improvements compared to your previous album Triumph & Tragedy released in 2021?

Panza: We always work remotely because some of the band is from Spain, and I live in Italy. The pandemic affected the record, but more so it affected Triumph & Tragedy, because we were without a drummer at that time. A good friend of ours Marco Prij, the drummer from Cryptosis, the thrash metal band from the Netherlands, helped us and did a hell of a job. He had to record it in his own studio, we couldn’t bring him to a very good studio because everything was closed, everything was in lockdown. We recorded this album at the end of the pandemic where it wasn’t as much of an issue.

The process was pretty much the same. We recorded the guitars and bass and home. We do the reamping in the studio at Barcelona. I recorded the vocals in a studio here in Turin, Italy. The drums, this time were recorded in a very good studio, the same studio we used for the Twist of Fate record, the third Hitten album. Then the mixing process was also taken care of in Barcelona, and the mastering was done by Erik Martensson, the guy from Eclipse, who you probably know. We are very happy with the results.

Dead Rhetoric: How much fun is it for the band to make videos like “Mr. Know It All” and “Blood From a Stone” for this record? Are there any special stories that took place during the video shoots, and where do you see the importance of the visual medium in generating interest/promotion for the band?

Meseguer: Recording a video… memories are always there. We listened to that song almost two hundred times that day, we had to do all these different takes. In the end, you almost end up hating the song.

Panza: And I don’t know why we do this all the time; we end up recording the videos during the summer. It feels like two thousand degrees everywhere, and it can make for a very long day. Aside from that, we always have fun.

Meseguer: You have all this heat coming at you, then you have the cameras and lights, it’s like wow – I’m dying. We spent a good day doing this, the time you are doing this it’s a lot of work.

Panza: The video for “Mr. Know It All”, we came up with this character impersonating the CEO of a major label. It’s coming from a personal experience, a big guy trying to trick you with a shitty contract (laughs). He just wants to eat your soul. We decided to put it in the video. The lyrics in the song talk about the guy that we all know, a guy that has something to say, he’s always right. We transported the character with the behavior into this character. It came out very good, we are very happy with the result. About the “Blood From a Stone” video, we had a different location and idea for the video. Nothing was working right that day, and our power generator got messed up at some point. It was already too late, it was dark, and we came up with the idea to have the cars behind us to give us the light, it was a cool effect. It came to us at the last second, but it turned out pretty good.

Dead Rhetoric: It seems like Hitten embraces a style that has elements of power, speed, and traditional metal – but also an affinity for melodic hard rock from the US scene as well. What in your eyes makes for the best Hitten material in terms of songwriting – do you find that how a track may start in the formative stages goes through many revisions and tweaks to get to the final outcome?

Panza: Especially nowadays, I wasn’t there in the beginning. I know what Dani will say, because I didn’t say when you are younger you just put out a riff, it’s so good, we got it! Next song… and then you learn how much arrangements are what makes the song real. Hitten, especially nowadays, it’s all about the arrangements. On the last album, we ended up with 184 tracks, that’s a huge number of arrangements. The band started more as a heavy, classic, Iron Maiden-ish speed metal band. And then started putting more hard rock and melodic elements into the music, which ended up with what we are doing today. We want to recreate that 80’s into the 90’s hard and heavy sound. We try to research for that kind of production. A lot of effort went to try to reproduce that specific moment in time.

Dead Rhetoric: How does the band balance out the workload of the music side of things along with handling the business aspects? Do you believe it’s important to have a strong support system with booking agents, promoters, venues, management, and record label to achieve all that Hitten wishes to achieve for a career?

Meseguer: For sure. You need a label for distribution. You can do the booking and management on your own. A booking agency has more contacts, but it doesn’t mean they can do their job better than you. You are the one who knows the band, how to sell the band properly. We would love to work with a professional booking agency, which would be fantastic. We do a pretty good job ourselves. In the end, a label is a must. You need a record to be able to put out in all the places, even digitally with Spotify. You can find the record in Europe, America, everywhere.

Dead Rhetoric: I’m sure that as you’ve played with other bands locally and internationally you’ve been able to share stories, tips, and advice that you can apply to Hitten. What have been some of the biggest or best lessons that you’ve learned that have made things stronger or better for the band?

Meseguer: Every time we hit the road, we learn something. I remember the first time touring Europe in 2014 we toured with Distillator, who are now Cryptosis. Alexx mentioned Marco recorded the drums for us on the Triumph & Tragedy album. We first toured with them, and we were just a bunch of kids touring. They were super professional at that time. In the way they organized the merchandise, the way they did things it was very different. It pushed me more to learn how to do things properly and more in a professional way.

Every time we share and tour with other bands, we learn. And I think other bands also learn things from us. We now have years of experience.

Panza: If I have to give any tips to new bands, it’s simply trying to play with people who share your same ideals, want to have fun, people with which you’ll want to stay together. Because you will end up spending a lot of time together. It’s very important to get along. Don’t really write down in black and white your goals. Because that’s an impossible thing to do. I see a lot of bands want to reach there – you just have to put all your effort into one thing. If you want to go straightforward, you can’t know where you will end up. Do your best, have fun, enjoy the process, and you may get there. Aim for anything and nothing at the same time.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the career highlights for Hitten? Either specific songs, albums, shows, tours, or festivals where you knew you were making a move forward in your career and more of an impact through your music?

Meseguer: I think with every record (it) brought something positive to the band. In 2016 we released State of Shock, and the Japanese public really loved the record. We went to play in Tokyo, and that was an awesome experience and a step forward for the band. Twist of Fate brought Alexx on vocals, which was amazing. We toured also all of Europe, presenting that album, and played some major festivals here in Spain with bands like The Scorpions. Every record brought something positive to the band.

Dead Rhetoric: How important do you believe band chemistry is to the development of Hitten? Do you share any outside hobbies/interests away from the music to use as a form of tension relief and a collective recharge mentally/physically?

Panza: Band chemistry is very important. There are a lot of bands out there that are professionals, made by musicians, they just play together, and they have to get along, but they don’t hang out together. It depends on the journey you want to make. Especially for a band that writes original music, it’s very important to stay well together and enjoy the process. Sometimes I talk about tennis with Johnny the other guitarist, or sometimes I talk about video games with Horacio. Music is the main thing – it’s always something. We may look at guitars, pick-ups, different models. We are little nerds for music.

Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? Where do you think people need to put more effort/concentration on to make our lives that much better for the future?

Meseuger: Wow.

Panza: I think that people have somehow lost the idea that they feel we are living in a society made by people, made by real things. We are caring too much about virtual avatars, it’s like social media is everything. Sometimes it’s not even a second life, it feels like the first life. It’s your real character, but it’s just you on social media. We have lost the connection with this world and the society that we are living in. That’s probably what worries me the most. Every year, it’s worse. The pandemic made it even worse. People, what they should do is go to the bar, have a beer and enjoy chatting with each other, a real conversation. Not an instant messaging one.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of the heavy metal/ hard rock scene not only within your home country of Spain, but the global interest in these styles? Do you believe things are improving for the status of younger bands trying to make an impact today, although it may never reach the commercial acceptance and success of the 80’s and 90’s?

Meseuger: For sure, it’s impossible to go back to the 80’s. That was a different time with shows, radio airplay, videos, sales. They were really pushing bands. There are a lot of cool acts across the world playing these styles. Europe as well as the United States. It’s not like in the 80’s, but we are happy with what we are doing.

Panza: Especially ten years ago, the resurgence of heavy metal… there’s been a great resurgence for classic heavy metal. Pretty much around the time when Hitten started playing, or slightly before. There was also a resurgence for thrash metal. Ten years ago, there were more people in Europe following this. I see every day younger kids, they are not getting into it. About the future, I’m curious to see what happens. The big golden bands – Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Scorpions, they won’t be here for much longer. What will happen then? I don’t see other younger bands like us taking their throne. Maybe the people who loved those old bands will finally shift into younger bands that still play this great form of music. The number of great records is impossible to count.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s the game plan for Hitten over the next year to support this album? Are there plans down the line to possibly hit North America for either a festival outing or maybe an opening slot tour?

Panza: It’s cool that a lot of people are asking us that, so I guess there is interest. The numbers in America for us are increasing every day. Even in the Spotify stats – the country that listens to our music the most is in the US actually. We’ve never been there, and we want to do it in one way or another. I can’t say it will happen in 2024. If everybody reads this, promoters in America can get in touch with us, we can talk about it and see if we can make it work. Our next plan – we have a festival in Belgium with Angel Witch, Exhorder, and a bunch of other bands. The first months of 2024, we will tour Spain. Around May we will tour Europe. We have some very good news about heavy metal festivals we will play in the summer.

Hitten on Facebook

[fbcomments width="580"]