Interview with Kragen Lum, the guitar of Heathen

Back after 10 years with the new record Empire Of The Blind

Artist: Heathen

Origin: San Francisco, California, United States

Genre: Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal

Label: Nuclear Blast

Link: https://de-de.facebook.com/heathen.official
https://heathenthrash.bigcartel.com/

Band Members:

Vocals – David White
Guitar – Kragen Lum
Guitar – Lee Altus
Bass – Jason Mirza
Drums – Jim DeMaria

On September 18th Heathen will release the new album Empire Of The Blind. We had the possibility to listen to the record (review klick). The album is another brilliant output from Heathen. A lot of topics to discuss with Kragen Lum, the guitar of Heathen and for a couple of years live support for Exodus.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Hi Kragen,
thanks for your time. First of all, the most important question: How are you, your family and all others in the Heathen & Exodus Bandcamp? All fine, and all guys from Exodus are fully recovered from Covid-19?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
We’re all doing ok right now. Thankfully, none of us have been affected directly by COVID-19. We’re just following all of the protocols here, wearing masks, etc. and trying to stay healthy during these strange times.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
How often have you listened to Breaking The Silence and when was the first time?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
I first heard Breaking The Silence when it came out in 1987. I loved the album immediately when I heard it. To me, Breaking The Silence was the perfect mix between Thrash Metal and more melodic Metal that I was listening to at the time. It’s still a great album to this day!

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Your second band is Prototype, the last album Catalyst was released in 2012. Time for a new release?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
We would love to continue working on a new Prototype album when time permits. We actually have a few songs for the next album written already.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Exodus is working on a new album; Lee is involved, but what about you? How close do Heathen and Exodus work together?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Well, Exodus and Heathen have always been somewhat linked in the Bay Area scene. I suppose even more so now that Lee has been a member of Exodus for the last 15 years and I spent about 6 years playing guitar for them. I’m actually part of the Exodus management team and also manage Heathen so there are many things that tie the bands together. Haha!

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
I found out that a part of your history is now playing the bass guitar at Heathen. Please correct me if I am wrong, but the EP Lifeforce from Psychosis was the first record in your and Jason’s career, correct?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
That’s correct. I’ve known Jason since 1991. He joined Psychosis that year and played on our original Lifeforce EP back in 1992. He’s been a friend of mine for many years. He’s also known David since before that time when he lived in the Bay Area. Jason is a great bass player and an even better person, so it’s great to have him in Heathen!

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Let us move to the new record. In my review summary I said that Testament released a great record in April, and Heathen consistently follows up with the new record, which is varied and has a good sound with an incredible guitar playing. I read that Heathen started the songwriting in 2012. In a trailer you said that the title track was the first song you created but the last song you finished. Can you give us a summary what happened in these approximately 8 years with the Empire Of The Blind? Was the development of the media faster than the development of the lyrics and music?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Well, we toured for the Evolution Of Chaos for about 3 years. We signed with Nuclear Blast in 2012 and I began working on new music right away. I had about half of the new album written by 2014 in between Heathen tours. Then I got asked to fill in for Gary Holt in Exodus for the next few years. The Exodus tour schedule was very heavy and it wasn’t until last year that we really had enough time to finish writing and recording the new Heathen album. We spent all of 2019 finishing the writing process, demoing the remaining songs and recording the album. It took a long time for everything to lineup in terms of timing. Hopefully the next one will come together more quickly. 😊

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
The name of the second track is The Blight, and in 2020 this topic received a very special meaning. Is the song impacted by the pandemic and the current situation around the world?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Strangely, The Blight has nothing to do with the pandemic. It was written about a year before COVID-19. There are certainly similarities with what’s happening now, but the song is more about the destruction of society and culture through human corruption and desire. As a culture, we spend a lot of time these days on social media, sharing and spreading information and misinformation like a virtual virus. And as we spend so much time on superficial things on social media, we become more hollow culturally. We’re dead inside, needing to fill our lifes up with everything from emotionally charged political and social content to cat memes. It’s like a drug. Unfortunately, we are never really satisfied and must go back for more.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Another song with special lyrics for me is The Gods Divide. Is this song influenced by the current political situation in the USA?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Yes. This song uses a lot of war/military concepts to describe the “divide and conquer” strategy that our political parties are using here in the USA. The politicians say and do things to divide us so that they can win an election. They use the public simply to gain power instead of doing their job, which is ultimately to unify people and make our lives better.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Shrine Of Apathy is a ballad on a thrash metal album. Can you give us a brief summary about the idea of this track?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Heathen
has always been a band that has done whatever sounds good to us and comes naturally. We don’t follow whatever “rules” there are in Thrash Metal these days. Thrash Metal was always about breaking the rules. Many of our contemporaries at the time wrote ballads, and there were some great ones from these bands. With Shrine Of Apathy we wanted to write a classic ballad in the sense that it made you feel something. The song is a tribute to the friends and family members that we have lost in recent years. David’s vocal performance is incredible and we’re all very happy with the way that it came out.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
My favorite is A Fine Red Mist, an instrumental, but for my taste an unbelievable track. Please let us know how Heathen have created this song.

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Thanks! I have always wanted to do a classic instrumental where a musical element (guitar in this case) takes the place of the vocals. It still had to feel like a “song” in that way. At the same time, I wanted to include a “shred” solo section. My dream was to have a “Bay Area Shred-Off” with some of my favorite players from the scene. I called Gary Holt, Rick Hunolt, and Doug Piercy to see if they would be interested in playing on the song. They all agreed so I designed a guitar solo trade-off section for the original Exodus / Heathen Team and the original Heathen team of Lee and Doug. It really came out great and is a highlight of the album for me, especially to have many of my Bay Area heroes play together in one song.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Let us jump into the future with a quick view. The album will be released on September 18th. A couple of bands are doing streaming shows, which plans do have Heathen for the release?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Well, could have either held onto the album until we could tour and make our fans wait longer, or we could release it when people need entertainment the most. We chose to release it so that fans could enjoy it. It is certainly uncharted waters so to speak, releasing an album during the pandemic with no ability to tour. I’m not sure that we will do any streaming shows or not. To me, this is like watching a band rehearse. Live shows are all about the interaction between the band and the audience. You can’t get that from a streaming concert. That said, we’ll do everything we can to keep the album alive and in fans’ minds during this time. We hope to release more video content in some form or another.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
I saw in a news, that Heathen is on the billing for a couple of festivals, for example the Rock Hard Festival end of May 2021 and the Keep It True in April 2021 in Germany. Does that mean that you have plans for a European tour in the early summer 2021, for sure, if the pandemic situation is clarified?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Unfortunately, everything is still up in the air at the moment in terms of touring next year. Some bands are booking tours for the first half of the year and others are waiting until the second half of the year. Once it becomes ok for bands from outside of Europe to travel freely and tour as usual, there will be a massive number of bands on the road. Every band on the planet will want to tour next year so it will be difficult. Logistically, there won’t be enough tour buses and crew to support all of the tours, and fans may have to choose between 2 or 3 shows that they want to go to on any given night. We will certainly do as much touring as we can next year once the pandemic situation is clarified. We were very disappointed that we had to cancel our tour plans this year and are all very anxious to get back to Europe and tour in support of Empire Of The Blind.

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Exodus are working on a new release in 2021, is a tour together with them an option?

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
That is certainly a possibility and would be great!

Time For Metal / Jürgen:
Kragen, thanks for your time, stay healthy and safe, hope to see you next year somewhere in Germany.

Heathen / Kragen Lum:
Thanks to you for the interview as well! For those reading, please check out the new Heathen singles for The Blight and Empire Of The Blind and look for the new album to be released on September 18th! We look forward to touring just as soon as live shows are possible. Until then, please follow the band on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at the links below! Cheers!

Facebook: https://de-de.facebook.com/heathen.official
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathenthrash/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/heathenmetalofficial

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