Interview with vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 9, 2016
After destroying South and Central America during January and February 2016, legendary Bay Area thrashers Exodus made their way to European soil and continued to support their latest album, Blood In Blood Out. This album saw vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza return to the Exodus ranks after leaving the band unexpectedly in September 2004.
The Exodus caravan arrived in Finland for two shows on this tour and The Metal Crypt was there with the intention of interviewing Mr. Souza on the second date which took place in Helsinki, on March 19th.
The interview took place at the famous Nosturi venue in Helsinki a few hours prior to show time. Some interesting topics were covered during this conversation with Exodus front man Steve "Zetro" Souza.
THRASHING AROUND THE EUROPEAN CONTINENT
Luxi: First off I should say welcome to Finland, Mr. Souza.
Zetro: Thank you. It's great to be here again.
Luxi: This is your third time in Finland with Exodus. You first played at Provinssirock festival in 2004 and last year you did Tuska festival here in Helsinki. What kind of memories do you have from those shows?
Zetro: I remember a lot of girls at Provinssirock. It seemed like the crowd had a lot of girls which is fine, we never see that. Tuska was just about eight months ago. I loved the wall of death they did for "Strike of the Beast" at Tuska last year. We did Seinäjoki last night and now we are back to Helsinki tonight. Hopefully we will get some of that wall of death tonight. We will see how excited they are. The crowd was really good last night and we will see what happens tonight.
Luxi: How has this tour been going on for you thus far? Do you feel like you did a pretty good job destroying England, Scotland and Ireland?
Zetro: Indeed we did. We did 17 shows there and some of them were completely sold out. We were surprised and very fortunate. It was a test and our agent was like "let's go do it. If you guys bomb we know not to do it again." I would have to say it was probably 90 or 95% full houses coming see us and Lost Society, so it was great.
In the 80s we started out as rock stars, in the 90s we turned into has-beens and now we are legends. We have been down but now we are on the up again and it's great to see all the long-time fans as well as the new fans coming out as well. There are a lot of new faces in the crowd that are 22, 17, 25 years old and so on. I saw father and son, father and daughter combinations in America on tour. We went out with Testament and saw grandfather, father and son; three generations of Exodus fans. It's really kind of cool.
Luxi: Thrash Metal is kind of a uniting force for people.
Zetro: I think it has always been very straightforward music, musically and lyrically. It's always rocked extremely but not too much, just extreme enough. I think that's where Thrash and say Death Metal or even Black Metal draw the line.
Luxi: Finnish thrashers Lost Society will be your support act. What do you think of them?
Zetro: They are the future you know what I mean; you have to look to them if Metal is going to continue. I dedicate the show every night to Lemmy. We just lost Lemmy and David Bowie, Glenn Frey from the Eagles; a lot of people are dying. We are getting older. I will be 52 next Thursday. There's going to have to be a new generation come in and take over and they definitely have what it takes to do that.
FAMILY COMES FIRST - REJOINING EXODUS
Luxi: You rejoined Exodus in June 2014. Was it an easy decision?
Zetro: Yes. I didn't have the other distractions in my life that clouded me in 2004. There were a lot of things going on at that time which have worked themselves out over the last 10 years. I had little kids and they are now adults. You can't raise a family while touring. I wanted to make sure they had a dad that was around all the time. I was missing graduations, missing baseball, you know, things that I can't buy back as a father.
I saw Ozzy's movie and I felt sorry for his older kids because they even said they hated their dad; he was the worst dad ever. He was never there and when he did show up he was drunk. It was just embarrassing and I could understand that. I remember because I've always played Heavy Metal and even when I wasn't in Exodus I did Dublin Death Patrol. My son was a senior in high school and he was playing football and obviously I'm the only father in America in the stands that looks like I look.
I asked him, "Does that bother you?" He said, "It doesn't. You are my dad that's how it is, don't worry about that. You are a good person, you're good to us so I don't worry about it." I would wonder if people in the stands would shout, "Hail drugs - go get them!" You know what I mean? "Oh my god that's a drunken rock star up there. What is he doing here?"
Luxi: Family should always come first.
Zetro: Exactly, exactly.
Luxi: I understand your point when you quit Exodus for a time and rejoined 10 years later, even if there are a lot of bad feelings...
Zetro: The way I did wasn't the way to do it. I should have said, "Hey look! I'm going to do this last tour with you guys." I did it the day before a tour. I should have said, "Hey I'm going to finish this tour and then that's it for me, I can't do this anymore." I was really kind of angry at everyone in the band and was asking, "Man why did we have to call it '93 or '94?" I wasn't ready to go back in the working world and now I've established a great job and you guys call me back, sorry...
I wasted the last nine years of my life going to apprentice school and learning how to do something and now you want to go do this again? I felt very...how should I put it? You owe me if we are going to do it. That was the wrong way to look at it. We are all equal, you know?
Luxi: Exodus' latest album Blood In Blood Out, released in October 2014, peaked at #38 on the Billboard 200 list. You have never had an Exodus album on that Billboard list, have you?
Zetro: Yes, it hit #38 and like you said Exodus has never done that before, I think.
GARY IS EXODUS
Luxi: Do you believe Blood In Blood Out did so well because you rejoined? Popular vocalists have had a lot of to do with the success of many bands...
Zetro: To say that would be kind of arrogant. It may have something to do with it. The record was well written, well recorded and every song was great. You can't say I was the reason but I'm sure it had a bit to do with it. A lot of the purest fans were very happy to see me returning to the band. I hear it every night, "Thank you for coming back - it's good to have you back", and it's good to be back.
I'm not going anywhere else and that won't happen again. I'm here for the duration and we are going to start writing another Exodus album. I think when we go home Gary is going to be working with Slayer. We have Kragen Lum with us right now who does an amazing job. We are going to start putting music together because we know 2017 will be three years between albums. That's about the time you should have a new album out.
Even though our main songwriter is with Slayer, he is the only one that's been here from the beginning and on every record. He is Exodus so we would never do one without him but, of course, we are going to keep going.
Luxi: While we are talking about Blood In Blood Out, it is a really strong record from Exodus all in all. If there's one word to describe the songs that word would be angry. Where actually did all this anger come from?
Zetro: Performance, I guess. I'm very aware of what Heavy Metal is and Heavy Metal is aggression, anger and angst - all of those things. I think that a band's live show and records should show that if they don't, you're just going through the motions. I didn't write much on the record. I only wrote "Body Harvest" along with Lee and Jack. Gary's a very angry individual and I think that's what creates good songs.
Luxi: So basically this anger mostly comes from Gary's background?
Zetro: I think it comes from all of us, you know? Nobody is rich by any means. We work like everyone else does and there are a lot of things in the world that bother us and feed our fire of anger, so to speak. Read the paper every day you get a whole album's worth of material. That's what's always been great about Thrash, it has always reflected that. "Hey, we don't like religion like this; we don't like government like this." We are listening to Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction" right now. It's the same thing and it rocks. It is not overly fast to the point where you can't understand what he is saying. That's why I think Thrash is the ultimate sound of Rock 'n Roll.
Luxi: You can also say things very straight in Thrash Metal, just like in Punk music.
Zetro: Very much so. Yes, there's no holding back. The metaphors are very well produced. You can understand the metaphors very well.
Luxi: What about touring? Do you still enjoy it as much as when you recorded Pleasures of the Flesh and Fabulous Disaster more than 25 years ago?
Zetro: I think we were more party-worthy 24 years ago. We were little kids. When you are 25-years-old you can have any girl in the crowd. There is always some guy that wants to party with the band and has a bag of something. We had beer and all the booze that we wanted because it was on our rider. You do the math. It's like if you were a 10-year-old kid and someone opened up a candy store and said have at it. You'd eat until you were sick and we did. I think now we are more concerned about performance. We are more concerned about how we feel. We are older guys; we hurt and our bones ache. We can get sick very easily.
Luxi: As they say, aging surely doesn't come alone, so...
Zetro: No, no for sure.
Luxi: How often do you get to play at some of the same venues where you played 25 years ago?
Zetro: We haven't played the same venues. We have been doing the London Underworld and I think we've been doing that since 2002. That's quite some time.
Luxi: Over 25 years many venues have naturally closed their doors. Do you miss some of these venues?
Zetro: Yes I do. I remember we were in London and there was a place where we could play called The Astoria. I said, "Where's The Astoria?" I was told it was demolished. It isn't even there anymore, and I'm like, "Really? Wow... Okay." There are just certain places that are just aren't there. All the clubs in San Francisco we played are gone, every single one of them.
THE BAY AREA THRASH FAMILY
Luxi: How has the Bay Area Thrash Metal scene changed over the years in the sense of sharing the same spirit and ideas and being part of the Bay Area "family" so to speak? Are bands still as united as they used to be during the eighties?
Zetro: The older guys that have been together and the band I put together, Hatriot, are pretty much Bay Area Thrash Metal. I think the initial run of that type of band was when we were doing it in the 80s. It was a faction of this new sound and everybody wanted to jump on it. I think now, 30 plus years later, there are so many other factions of Metal to do.
Luxi: As you know, back in the day there were many Bay Area Thrash Metal bands out there that all shared this common spirit and were mentally connected to each other, one way or the other. All of you belonged to the Bay Area Thrash Metal family.
Zetro: We still are. We played with Metallica last year at Rockavaria & Rock im Revier. We all hung out and it was great. We've done Kirk's Fear FestEvil and he actually played on Blood In Blood Out. We keep in touch with the guys from Metallica. Obviously I've written songs on the last couple of Testament records. Chuck and I keep Dublin Death Patrol together. The Death Angel boys I play in an AC/DC tribute (that's called AC/DZ) with Will (Carroll). We are all very much connected.
Luxi: How do you feel about all the free downloading that's going on for years? Do you think people who think everything should be available for free are eating your bread and butter? It's really tough for bands these days to make a living just by record sales, isn't it?
Zetro: It truly is tough to make your living from the music you do because of the downloading thing, but what you are going to do about it? If anything it's a double-edged sword. It gets the music out there but you are not really getting paid. It's been that way since the CD and the computer has been part of it. One guy buys the new Slayer then 10 people go to his house and copy it and it's the same quality so there's nothing you can do about it. It is a part of the business. That's why you pay $35 and $40 to get into a major concert these days. The $15 band T-shirts are now 25 or 30 bucks.
Bands had to learn a new way to make money and that was what we did.
Luxi: It's sad that these people think all music should be free without thinking about the musicians that make their living by making music for them. They think, "Oh we don't care. Why should we buy it? We can get it for free from the Internet." That's a stupid way to think.
Zetro: True, all true. To me, the record is just a catalyst to tour. Think about it; Iron Maiden puts out a record and 100,000 people buy it. Then they play in front of 50 million all over the world, you know what I mean? They go out and at every show, Ba da bing ba da boom!
Luxi: Obviously after you have finished touring for Blood In Blood Out you guys will get together again to jam some new stuff for Exodus' next album, right?
Zetro: Gary will be working with Slayer when we get home then we're probably going to get together on a couple of weekends and start slamming some stuff out. When we tour, we don't write any stuff. We've been on tour since Blood In Blood Out was released, almost two years now, and we're booked the rest of the year.
Luxi: With Gary Holt a part of Slayer nowadays, how much does this restrict your comings and goings with Exodus? I believe Slayer comes first for Gary these days as far as playing in bands is concerned, correct?
Zetro: I don't necessarily think so. We've done really well touring on our own. You'll see tonight, you'll close your eyes and think it is Gary. Kragen plays leads note for note. You won't be able to tell. He's great. He does back-ups. If there was one guy we needed, that was the guy we got. Awesome!
Luxi: Is there any life left in Dublin Death Patrol?
Zetro: Unfortunately, there's no life in Dublin Death Patrol any more. Chuck and I just don't have the time. That was supposed to be just a one-record project and then everybody came over here, went on tour and got all rock star excited. Other than the three of us that have done this for a living, everyone said, "Let's do another record, let's do another record." I reluctantly wrote that album, which actually sounds really good, but I was like, "All right, enough."
THE FAMILY THING - HATRIOT
Luxi: How are things going with Hatriot since you joined Exodus?
Zetro: Cody will sing. Cody will do the vocals from now on. I'm writing the lyrics and am coaching Cody ON what to do. They play shows all the time now without me and that was the whole idea. They wouldn't be able to play if I was still in the band.
Luxi: When it's time for them to record their third album, they may ask for your vocal help again. I guess you won't say no right off the bat, depending on Exodus' schedule of course...
Zetro: No, I had no problem with it. I was behind it a 100%. They're great musicians. It's not all about me or it would have been called Zetro, not Hatriot. I didn't call it Souza and there were three Souzas in the band. I'm looking on that poster and it says Dirkschneider, which tells me Udo and his son that plays drums must have a band together, huh? Wow, what an original idea! You think he was the first one to think of that? Wow, good job, Udo [*sarcastically*].
Luxi: [*laughs*] There you go. What about tonight's set? Are you going to perform all the songs you sang back in the day plus the mandatory Baloff-era stuff?
Zetro: No. I actually sing one Rob song tonight but we do four off Blood In Blood Out and then we do a ton off Bonded by Blood. We do a lot off Tempo of the Damned, Fabulous Disaster and Pleasures of Flesh. There's a good blend of some of our classic songs in our set, yes. We love it. We think the set works really well.
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT COMING UP
Luxi: What do you expect for the rest of the year? Obviously you have some busy times ahead, gigging wise at least...
Zetro: Well, we were already in South America then we were home for fifteen days and came here. This is six weeks. Then we're going home for three and a half months which is great because I need to recharge the battery in a big way. We're going to come back here for July-August festivals and then we come back October-November on something that I can't talk about but they're going to announce it real soon and it's going to be cool.
Luxi: Okay, I'm looking forward to that big announcement then.
Zetro: When you see it, you're going to say, "I talked to Zetro, he was right." It's going to be really cool.
Luxi: How much have you guys been talking about what you are going to do next year?
Zetro: Well, next year we want to write a new record, but we'll do tours as well. Like I said, we went from rock stars to husbands to legends, we can always play.
Luxi: That's very cool. I think that was all I had in mind. Thanks for your time Zetro and all the best to you with Exodus.
Zetro: Great! Thank you!
|Other information about Exodus on this site|
|Review: Bonded by Blood|
|Review: The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A|
|Review: Tempo of the Damned|
|Review: Shovel Headed Kill Machine|
|Review: Pleasures Of the Flesh|
|Review: Exhibit B: The Human Condition|
|Review: Exhibit B: The Human Condition|
|Review: Blood In, Blood Out|
|Interview with drummer Tom Hunting on July 13, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: The Toxic Waltz|
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