I had a chance to sit down with the legendary Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza from Hatriot and of Exodus fame. We talk about his history with Exodus, Dublin Death Patrol and playing with his sons in Hatriot. As you would expect, Zetro is as humble as ever and always makes for a great interview.
WC: First off, I have to say that I am a huge fan since Legacy. I do not say that lightly either. There are very few people that I would call a legend of metal and you are indeed one of them.
ZETRO: I certainly appreciate that. When I started out 28 years ago I had no idea that it would turn out to be a huge thing, and that I would be considered a legend in the scene. I have been told that you are a rock star, then you are a has-been, and then you finally become a legend. I definitely have been through all of that, but honestly I am just glad to still be here releasing music and I am thankful to still be relevant in today’s music scene. It is definitely a challenge, and I don’t take any of my success for granted at all. I am very fortunate.
WC: Classic Bay Area thrash metal had its own distinct sound. Who were the main guys responsible for the creation of thrash metal in the 80s?
ZETRO: I think the Bay Area developed its signature sound because all of the bands shared a lot of the same resources. We all used the same studios and the same rehearsal rooms. We all played shows together, and when we were not playing a show we were out supporting another band’s show. It was a tight knit community, and I think that’s where the distinctive sound comes from. A lot of players helped create thrash metal, but to be honest with you I credit Kirk Hammett and Gary Holt for being the inventors of the thrash riff. I mean Metallica was the first to take it to a national scale, but Kirk and Gary had Exodus going even before that.
WC: When you were Exodus’ lead singer, how did it feel to sing the classic songs from “Bonded by Blood,” which is one of the most important albums in thrash history?
ZETRO: It was a lot of pressure, because those early Exodus fans were fucking brutal. They didn’t want anyone but Paul. It took over a year for me to be accepted by the original fans, and it wasn’t until “Fabulous Disaster” that I really felt like I was one hundred percent the vocalist of Exodus. But I was friends with Paul, and I had his blessing to front the band. I always took a lot of pride in doing those songs justice. In my eyes Exodus was a huge established band, even though they only had one record out at the time. To me they had ‘made it’ and were big in the metal underground. I took my job very seriously when I sang those songs.
WC: I am not even sure if I could answer this question, but I have to throw it at you. Which Exodus album of yours is your favorite?
ZETRO: I love all of them for different reasons, but I would pick “Fabulous Disaster” just because that’s when everything just fucking exploded. We were rock stars in every sense of the word during that album cycle. The press followed us around, we were all over MTV, and the fans were fucking insane during that time. That was the peak of our popularity and it was an amazing time. Heavy metal was huge and we were right in the middle of the thrash hysteria. The songs on that record are really solid, and it was a definite step up on the production side of things as well.
WC: To make it even harder, what are some of your favorite Exodus songs?
ZETRO: I love a lot of Exodus songs, but everything off “Bonded By Blood” would be my favorite.
WC: How is your current situation with Exodus?
ZETRO: We are on good terms. All the shit from the past has been sorted out and we are friends again. I have owned up to my mistakes and have apologized for the way I left them hanging back in 2004. Life has moved on and they have a solid line-up and are doing a lot of good shows. I have Hatriot moving at full speed as well, so now the fans have two killer bands to follow. Plus now Gary is in Slayer, so how can he be pissed off? He is in fucking Slayer! I’m very proud of my time with Exodus and will always be a fan of the band. In my eyes we are all cool and everything is good. If any of them think differently then that’s their deal and not mine. I want nothing but the best for all of them.
WC: What is the status of Dublin Death Patrol?
ZETRO: I’d have to say Dublin Death Patrol is pretty much dead in the water at this point in time. It was a fun project, but we all are so busy now with other things, especially Chuck and myself. Chuck has his plate full with Testament, and I want to put my full energy into building Hatriot as big as it can be, so there’s not really time to devote to anything else. Honestly, with a band like DDP it is a struggle just to organize a band practice, much less a tour or something major. It was our fun project that we did to escape the pressures of our ‘real’ bands, but now it’s just too much trouble to mess with.
WC: How awesome is it to play with your sons in Hatriot?
ZETRO: It is the greatest feeling in the world. My life has truly come full circle now. The reason I left Exodus in 2004 is because I had to work and provide for my kids. Now my kids are in my band, so I get to do music once again and have my family as well, so it’s fucking amazing! Cody and Nick have both been playing for over ten years each now, and are really masters of their craft. I bought their first instruments for them and watched them learn and get into music, and now for their dreams to come to fruition and to see them be in a professional music situation is the best feeling in the world. It is definitely the greatest highlight of my musical career. Most dads never have a bond with their kids like I have with mine.
WC: What were your thoughts about what you wanted “Dawn of the New Centurion” to sound like?
ZETRO: It turned out exactly how I envisioned it to be. I wanted to take the thrash metal foundation that we put into place with “Heroes Of Origin,” and build on that. We added more dynamics and more complicated arrangements, all while retaining the Hatriot sound. We expanded on the sound of the debut record, put it that way. I tell people that “Heroes” was our “Kill Em All,” and “Dawn” is our “Ride The Lightning,” meaning that there has been considerable growth to the band, the songwriting, and the production from one album to the next.
WC: What are your favorite tracks from “Dawn of the New Centurion?”
ZETRO: Again, I love them all. The record is so new and fresh to me, so I am happy with all the tracks. If I had to pick, I’d say “Super Kill” and “Silence In The House Of The Lord” are my two favorites at the moment. Both of those songs have great dynamics and a great groove to them. But the whole record is killer from start to finish, so it’s really hard to pick.
WC: What are your upcoming tour plans?
ZETRO: We are working on a few things right now. There’s talk of a South American run, and a summer trek through Europe. We have a few regional shows here in the states that we are working on. A lot of the bigger tour offers depend on how many records we sell, and how much of a demand we can create with the promoters, so please go get the record! We are ready to kick in some skulls on the road!
WC: Do you have any recent bands that you are a fan of?
ZETRO: I follow the scene pretty closely, and I really like a lot of the newer thrash bands coming out – bands like Gama Bomb, Municipal Waste, Warbringer, Havok, and Bonded By Blood. There are a lot of new thrash bands with an old school sound, and while they are not necessarily creating anything new or groundbreaking, they are carrying the torch for riff-based metal. They have my support!
WC: What are your thoughts on the metal scene in the U.S.?
ZETRO: The metal scene in the U.S. is very underground. There’s no media support for it really. We have one TV show – VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show” – and I love what they do. They are fucking flying the flag for metal and I love them for it, but there’s a real shortage of media in the states that get behind heavy metal. The plus side of that is the fans of heavy metal are fans for life. This music is what they love, and it’s not some fad. You never hear somebody say “Oh I was into Slayer for a summer… now I’m into Maroon 5.” You don’t hear shit like that. Once a metal fan, always a metal fan, especially with thrash. We have a lot of die hard thrash fans in the states, but the country is just so big, and that makes it hard to tour. There’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of rural areas, so bands tend to avoid touring here. It’s just too expensive. So I love the fans here, but it’s really hard to make a name because of the lack of industry and media support.
WC: What are your thoughts on the metal scene outside of the U.S.?
ZETRO: I love the European market. Those summer festivals are so fucking cool! That culture isn’t trend based. They love their metal bands and it’s really the best place to try and break a band into the scene. South America is another great one. Those fans are the most insane people on the planet. Heavy metal is their escape from reality, and when a show comes to their area the whole fucking country shows up. My priority with Hatriot is to break into both of these world markets. I think we have a shot at serious success.
WC: What music/people/events influence and inspire your music?
ZETRO: Our music is influenced by this fucked up world! Just look around at all the chaos. There’s plenty to write about, that’s for sure. Thrash metal is a great way to vent frustrations, and just getting by in this world is incredibly frustrating, so there will be plenty more Hatriot music!
WC: Any last thoughts that you would like to leave your fans with?
ZETRO: Thanks for all your endless support throughout all the chapters of my career! I do this for the fans that love the music. It’s not about money. Trust me, there’s not a lot of money being made in thrash metal! I do it for the fans. Please go out and get our new record, “Dawn Of The New Centurion,” and help spread the word. Hopefully we will see you all on tour soon! Keep thrashin’ – Zetro