Interview with Steve "Zetro" Souza
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 2, 2012
This guy shouldn't need any introduction. Everyone knows who Steve "Zetro" Souza is, right? He was the vocalist for Legacy (now Testament), the voice of the classic Exodus albums Pleasures of the Flesh, Fabulous Disaster and Tempo of the Damned, and we can't forget his involvement with less-than-serious acts like Dublin Death Patrol and AC/DZ.
"Zetro" left Exodus in 2004 to support his family and since then he has been pretty quiet. Then, in 2010, people started hearing about this young act called Hatriot. The band is fronted by Steve and he is joined by two of his sons, Nicolas (on drums) and Cody (on bass). Guitarist Kosta Varvatakis and Miquel Esparza round out the line-up and the name of the game is, not so surprisingly, Thrash Metal with a modern twist to it.
Heroes of Origin, Hatriot's debut studio album, is something the whole world is waiting for anxiously. It's scheduled to come out on Germany's Massacre Records on January 25th 2013. In the meantime let's let Mr. Souza himself to tell us what to expect from the record, plus how it all got started for him in Hatriot...
Luxi: How are you doing Steve? And excuse me because I was not able to do this interview with you over the phone...
Zetro: I'm doing great. Hey no worries my friend. I do a lot of these by email, especially in the hard to reach countries. You are not exactly hard to reach, but I don't mind typing it all out. Whatever we have to do to spread the word on Hatriot is cool with me!
Luxi: Hatriot was not formed to re-invent the wheel but to make that old wheel roll in a smoother and more ear-catching way with a twist of something modern to it. Would you say that is accurate or is there a different story about the formation of Hatriot?
Zetro: Well I had no intention of ever doing another full time band again. It's just such a pain in the ass, you know? Basically what happened was fate. I ran into this kid named Kosta who was a guitar player, and by chance I was at his band's show one night watching them play. The kid was just killing it man, not just his chops, but the entire structure of the material was dead on what we used to do back in the day. The dynamics, the breakdowns, the solos – it was all there and was all perfect. So I went up to him after the show and asked him if he knew who I was, and he about shit himself. He knew everything about me and about Thrash in general. I mean everything. He was like one of those nerds that know way too much about science, only his topic was Thrash. So we hit it off and eventually started writing and making demos. I let some of my buddies in Testament and Machine Head hear the demos and they all thought I had rejoined Exodus when they heard it. They were blown away when I told them it was just songs I wrote with this kid I met, and they all said "you have to form a band with him." So I did. That was the encouragement I needed to dust off the old war machine and get back into battle.
Luxi: A few years ago you made a fabulous comeback album with Exodus, which was basically praised everywhere, and people seemed to enjoy your new start. How easy was it for you to start from scratch after parting ways with Exodus in 2005 under disputed terms?
Zetro: The split with Exodus was very unfortunate and was all my fault. It really killed my motivation with music and I didn't want to do a full time band again. I was against it actually. The world is just so full of little bands and it's really difficult to get a foothold in the market. The advantage I obviously have is my name and the connection to Exodus. So that makes it a lot easier to get people to at least give it a chance. It is a good marketing angle and it opens a lot of doors. Without that I would not have even tried it. The odds are just not in a band's favor these days.
Luxi: Let's get back to Hatriot, which is what this interview, first and foremost, is all about. Recently the band signed to German Massacre Records and the debut album, Heroes of Origin, is set to be released in January 2013. Obviously, you couldn't be any happier about the band's current situation; having a record out within 4 or 5 months and being on the roster of one of the most respected Metal labels on earth. How did you end up signing a deal with Massacre?
Zetro: We had a strategy to get things moving and it was a plan that we executed carefully. Basically we did the four-song demo and we sent it out everywhere, and it was well received. I hired an old friend of mine, Chuck Bonnett, to help me arrange interviews and get the press rolling in. He did an amazing job of that and all during the summer of 2012 I was doing interview after interview, and the labels started taking notice. A lot of the labels assumed we were already signed just by the amount of press that was supporting Hatriot. We then did a video for "Blood Stained Wings" and the label offers started coming in. One of my managers, a guy by the name of Ace Cook, also manages Laaz Rockit. Massacre handles a lot of their back catalog and Ace had a good relationship with them. They are a small label but very passionate about Metal and very excited about Hatriot. Since we already have our promo team in place we didn't have to sell our souls to some label to make it happen. Massacre is just adding ammo to the weapons we already have.
Luxi: What about the album itself? What kind of process was it for you to get it done? Did you get exactly the kind of album recorded that you were hoping for, or did some compromises occur along the way?
Zetro: No, there are no compromises with me. I'm 48 years old and I don't have time to fuck around with anything. It's all or nothing with me. I'm the guy steering the boat with Hatriot and we really had the material rehearsed. I'm militant when it comes to that. Band practice is work. We come there to get a job done, not to have fun and shoot the shit. So the guys had their parts down and we very prepared when we got to the studio. We knocked the whole record out during the month of August and were actually ahead of schedule when we finished. I got the record I wanted and I think the public will agree when they hear it. If you liked the Tempo of the Damned Exodus record then you will love this too.
Luxi: Are there any particular songs on this record that make you really happy when you think about how they turned out?
Zetro: I love them all, but my favorites are probably "Murder American Style," "And Your Children to Be Damned," and "Shadows of the Buried." Again I love them all and I think you guys will too.
Luxi: Were there some songs that you had to reject during the songwriting process because they sounded a bit too modern when you wanted them to have more of that old-school Bay Area vibe? Did you have any serious arguments with the younger troops?
Zetro: Nope. If we start a song and it doesn't feel right then it gets scrapped right there. We don't ever try to re-work it or anything. We will know right out of the gate if the song is up to par or if it doesn't cut it, so there are no rejections really. We don't finish anything that isn't killer. Honestly, I don't have to go through that process much because Kosta writes all of the music and arranges everything. He comes in with completed ideas a lot of times and if I like it I will write words to it. Then he will show it to the rest of the band and they put their own stamp on it. There are not any arguments, either. All of the guys know what direction we are going in, so they don't bring in anything that doesn't fit the mold of Hatriot. We have a good system for writing that works well for us.
Luxi: Did Cody use Jack Gibson's (current Exodus bassist) old bass, the one you bought for him as his first bass, on the recordings of Heroes of Origin?
Zetro: That is funny. You've been doing your research! (yep indeed, I did quite a bit of that. Luxi) I did buy Cody his first bass years ago from Jack. Cody was a kid and he wanted a bass so I said "here you go – now figure out how to play it." He figured it out, obviously, because he's a killer bassist now. And that old bass of Jack's is long gone. I have no idea where it is but there have been several others since that one. Actually the boys just got hooked up with Jackson, so Cody has two brand new Jackson basses for the tour. He used a Music Man bass on the record.
Luxi: How does it feel to be a real daddy in this band? I mean, your own kids, Nicolas Souza on drums, who is just 18-years old, and Cody Souza on bass (23), are in the same band with you. Is it easy to work with your kids in Hatriot, or do they not always remember who the father is?
Zetro: It is really cool. I think it is every father's dream to share a similar interest with his kids and for me to have both of my boys in my band is a great feeling. It really makes my life feel like it has come full circle because I left Exodus in 2004 to be able to support my family. Now I'm back in a band with my family, so it is amazing. It sounds strange to a lot of people, but really I have no problems with Nick and Cody. They grew up around this freak show that is the music business, so they get it. It is a part of their DNA. I'm not the traditional father, you know. These kids grew up on tour busses and in studios. I am dad when they need me to be dad, but I'm their friend and band mate as well. They have a lot of respect for me because they have seen how hard it is to make something of a music career. The shit ain't easy. They've seen the good and the bad, and trust me there has been a lot of bad. So, we get along great and have no issues really. Both of the boys had to try out for the band. I didn't just give it to them because their name happens to be Souza. They both tried out and they both earned it. Just wait until you hear the album. It will speak for itself and will shut the naysayers up for good. I assure you of that.
Luxi: Also, the other two members, Kosta Varvatakis and Miquel Esparza on guitars, are much younger than you. Still, it seems that all of the younger blokes in Hatriot pretty much understand how Hatriot should sound, plus, I would think they bring something fresh and new into this band.
Zetro: Everyone hears me talking about Kosta and all, but I want to shine the light on Miguel a little bit too. This guy is no slouch let me tell you. He fucking rips with the best of them! They have the Holt/Hunolt guitar duo thing down to a science. It's fucking great man. Yes, they are all a lot younger but that's what breathes a new energy into this. They know the Hatriot sound and know all of the essential old school elements, but then they creep in some newer school stuff like blast beats and Death Metal elements. It's the heaviest and best thing I've been a part of, and I know that sounds far-fetched with my history and all, but its how I feel.
Luxi: Why did your previous drummer, Alex Bent, leave Hatriot? Due to school and other commitments?
Zetro: No, actually Alex had several other offers from touring bands and he was quick to jump on something else because he wanted to be on the road. I'd say he was a little on the impatient side. It takes a while to build a band and to get the gears turning, you know. He wanted to bail on Hatriot so he could go play fifth on the bill on a Death Metal tour, basically starve to death, and play in front of 20 people on a Tuesday night somewhere in the Midwest. But hey he is green as to how the business works and he needs to get his feet wet, so more power to him. I was pissed at first since I had been talking this guy up in the press and all, but I'm over it now. Things have a way of working themselves out. Hatriot is firing on all cylinders now so I'm good with it. Alex is a great drummer and I wish him all the best.
Luxi: As your son Nicolas is only 18-years old, does it cause any problems when playing around, knowing that in the States many places have a 21-year age limit? Does this cause you any headaches when booking some gigs for Hatriot?
Zetro: No I don't really run into any problems with that, especially since I'm his dad. I just get him in the door at sound check and he can duck out of sight until the show. Nick doesn't party or drink so he's pretty low key anyway. Hell if I have to, I will roll him into the club in a road case so nobody sees him. I don't think it's going to be an issue. The funny thing is back in the day when we were all getting started with Legacy nobody but me was legally able to be in the clubs. We pulled it off back then. Alex wasn't even old enough to fucking drive!
Luxi: What about playing gigs around the legendary Bay Area with Hatriot; does it bring you back to the past when you were fronting both Legacy and Exodus? Do you get déjà vu when you enter the stage with this new band?
Zetro: Actually I don't have as much déjà vu as one would think. I'm always singing on other people's records and making guest appearances at shows, plus I have my own AC/DC tribute band called AC/DZ, so I'm in all the clubs a lot anyway. Heavy Metal has always been made for the underground and I am very accustomed to being in the trenches, so it's not a big deal really. There is a lot of history in these clubs though, but you already know that.
Luxi: As for cover songs, do you also play some Souza-era Exodus songs live with Hatriot, like "Parasite" or "Chemi-kill" or even "Like Father, Like Son (sorry about some sarcasm here)"?
Zetro: I know you are being funny and all but we have actually talked about doing "Like Father, Like Son" in the set. That would be great. Yes, there will be a few Exodus songs and maybe a Legacy song thrown in every night. We have a lot of that material worked out so we can change it up every night on tour. It really depends on how long of a set we get. I don't want to let too much information leak, but get ready because there will be some classic songs thrown in and it will be fucking great I promise.
Luxi: What are your thoughts about the current Thrash revival? Many new bands have been born, and many, once defunct, Thrash bands have made comebacks. Nowadays, it feels like Thrash Metal never even ceased to exist in the first place. Thrash Metal is really flourishing again, which is great, of course!
Zetro: Well it never stopped existing. The media just stopped talking about it when it wasn't in fashion. Trust me; Thrash has never ceased to exist. It just went back to its underground origins. I have to say I love the current Thrash revival. I am flattered to see a genre that I helped invent 30 years ago still thriving, and in many cases bigger than ever. It's fucking amazing. There are two things going on. First off there is a new wave of bands that grew up on Thrash, so obviously the influence is shining through in their own sound. Secondly, you have the older bands from back in the day that got put out of business when grunge hit. Now the record industry has collapsed and there's nobody holding them back. It's an indie world and they can get back in the game. They can self-release their own stuff without some stupid fuck in a suit and tie telling them to sound like Pearl Jam. It's a great time for Heavy Metal. I embrace the fall of the major labels. The gatekeepers are gone and all I can say is good riddance! Get the fuck out of here so we can get back to what we do, and that is infesting the earth with Heavy Metal!
Luxi: You have played some gigs in your home country, but when will the rest of the world get a chance to see Hatriot conquering stages around the world? Do you have any further touring plans yet?
Zetro: The record drops on January 25th, 2013. From there we hope to get on a tour as a support act, preferably with a band like Testament or Machine Head. I know a lot of people and a lot of bands, so it is a strong possibility. A lot of it depends on how much demand we can create with promoters. I can assure you that my team will be promoting the shit out of this album, so I would say we will be on the road at some point soon. That is the goal.
Luxi: I think that is all for now. I want to sincerely thank you, Steve, for taking some time answering my questions and, in the very same breath, wish you and the rest of the boys in Hatriot all the best with your future endeavors. May the road be safe and successful for all of you. Any closing comments, perhaps?
Zetro: I thank you very much for the interview and for the chance to promote Hatriot here on your site. It is the webzines and blogs that keep this band moving and I don't take any of you for granted at all. I truly thank you for your efforts. And to all the fans out there, thank you for not giving up on me. Zetro is back in a big way. Check out Heroes of Origin on January 25th, and let's get this thing on the road. I hope to meet you all on tour. Cheers! ZETRO
|Other information about Hatriot on this site|
|Review: Heroes of Origin|
|Review: Dawn of the New Centurion|
|Interview with vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza on March 22, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: Blood Stained Wings|
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