Last week I had the great opportunity to interview Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza who sang with Exodus from 1986–1993 and again from 2002–2004. Steve, while the ultimate professional, was so down to earth and really excited to talk about what was going on with him and especially his new band. Steve has a number of musical projects going on including Dublin Death Patrol, Tenet, AC/DZ and his new band Hatriot which includes Kosta Varvatakis and Miguel Esparza on guitars, Alex Bent on drums and his son Cody on bass. Check out Zetro’s interview below:
Congratulations on your new band Hatriot! Your voice is so on and sounds just as strong even stronger today since Exodus…
SZS: It‘s more aggressive and I’m stronger vocally now more than EVER. People say Dude, do you rack your voice doing the screams? and I say “I do the screams effortlessly.” It’s the way I position my jaw and I position my neck and a big breath. If you listen to the Tenet record, I do the scream for 45 seconds on the song Crown of Thorns. Vinny asks: “Are you okay?” and I say “I could do that shit all day long….bring it…bring it.” Did you hear the new Hatriot songs?
Yes they have an Exodusy feel to them
SZS: Very Exodusy, Very Legacy, very Testament don’t you think?
I hear some little Death Metal influences as well!
SZS: Yes you do, yes you do. That’s the whole idea of me keeping it REAL. Keeping it new, with the new kids that I have to back me up, but still doing the same signature stuff that everybody expected from me. If I would have gone and done something completely off the wall everyone would have said “well maybe, yeah it’s good.” Halford, he doesn’t sound like Judas Priest when he does Halford. But you still kinda go “Ahhh its Rob and its heavy. It’s not like Priest, but it‘s the same thing.” I wanted people to say, “No this is fucking like Zetro, it’s like Legacy, it’s like Exodus.”
The Fear Within gives you the feeling of torture almost as if you were crying/scared?
SZS: Really. Good. Honestly that’s a total…the way to explain it is just mental torture, I guess. I don’t sing happy songs, that’s not my thing. I’m not a happy song singer. I think I sang a song about love one time it was called No Love. I don’t write songs in that vein. My songs are very horror, violent, socio, social things that come into my head. Globacidal is about suicide bombers. Weapons of Class Destruction are the kids that go to our classrooms with guns and shoot the schools up. I wrote the lyrics very Exodusy, very tongue in cheek like that. Kind of bouncing off of it. Gary Holt and I used to write lyrics like that.
What can fans expect next from Hatriot?
SZS: Now that you’ve been exposed to the four songs, we actually have an album’s worth of songs that you haven‘t heard and I’m going to give world one more. On May 12th we have a video shoot with the guys and the director who shot Unto the Locust and a lot of the Machine Head videos. I’m paying for it myself. I just want the fans to be able to see us. You can go on Facebook and hear the songs and that’s great but I want them to see us in video form. So I’m having the video done on May 12th and then probably by May 19th or the following week, the director will have it all done and I’ll put it up on the website for everybody to see. The song is called Bloodstained Wings. If you were to ask everybody in Hatriot what their favorite Hatriot song is, everyone would say Bloodstained Wings. So I’m giving you the one that all of us think are the best and that is the last one I do before a full record comes out. We are in conversation right now with a couple of record labels. I can’t say who because they’ll get pissed if they don‘t work it out. To give you a realistic timeline, recording a record this summer. By late fall, but no later than early 2013, the album will hit the stores and full tour and we are going to be in a cycle from then on out. This is not a project, this is a real band. Dublin Death Patrol that was a project, Tenet that was a project. I will not be returning to Exodus any time soon. They have a great singer, they have a guy that’s there now and they’re happy and their doing good. So for all the fans that keep saying: “Dude we want you back in Exodus”, that’s not going to happen. I think it’s great to have two bands you get to love. You get to love Exodus and you get to love Hatriot. And it’s not like I strayed away from the formula too much. When I recorded the first two songs I wrote with Kosta…The Fear Within and The Mechanics of Annihilation people asked , “Oh my god, did you rejoin Exodus?” I said “No, it’s a new band.” People said “What, that’s not Gary?” No that‘s Kosta! He’s very talented. That’s another thing I could have played with any little shit heavy metal guitar player, there are a million of them out there who want to start a band with me, but you have to be able to write that song like Eric Peterson wrote, like Gary Holt wrote. I wasn’t going to sell myself short.
Are there any guest stars for the video?
SZS: I’m not sure yet, but probably not. I want everyone to see us as a full band. You can listen to the songs on Facebook or go to YouTube and you can see some choppy videos but I wanted everyone to get a good feel of what they’ll see when they see us live and what we look like. Bloodstained Wings is very much straight up the ultimate thrash song, very Reign in Blood feel. In the next couple of weeks, it will be everywhere so the world can see. Like I said I’m paying for it myself, I want the fans to be able to see us in a cool light done correctly.
You really took your time in picking the musicians for your band?
SZS: Oh yeah! I was almost fussy about what I wanted in my band. People were like you’re taking too long to get this together and I said I want the right players. I made Cody try out. I said “You have to try out son. I got two other guys who want to play bass and if these guys think you’re good enough. I know you are son, but I can’t make this a nepotist thing. You want to play in this band, play with them first and if they’re cool with your playing and they think you’re down then I think we can work this out.” He had 3 rehearsals and he was nervous before the first one. He called me an hour before and I told him you’ll be fine son, you need to relax and play them like you know them. He asked “do you think I have a chance?” and I said “You got just as much of a chance as the other two guys trying out.” (Laughs) I wasn’t giving it up. Fuck that! I never did anything like this before. I wasn’t just going to give him the gig because he is my son. He does kick ass and he is good and I knew he would get the gig because he was always diligent in studying and good in school and he has a very, very good job. He’ll watch Kosta and pick up a song after one or two times. He has been around this his whole life and I don’t sell my kids short.
Was there anything you gave him and the band advice about regarding the music business?
SZS: Every rehearsal is also a class lesson because we talk about things we need to do. We talk about what’s possible, what can happen. These kids are very young and very talented and they don’t look at themselves being on the cover of Guitar Player or Modern Drummer magazine and I tell them you are the next generation. Musicians have to influx constantly as they are dying and growing up there are new ones that need to come in. They need to sell magazines they need people to endorse their products as well as legends and that are how legends are created, so every practice is a legend. Cody is the most well versed out of all of them because he’s taken his dad to the airport on Christmas day. The other guys haven’t quite experienced that. There were times when I had commitments and I had to go because there are people that rely on me; the crew and the bands. It’s just part of the business. You gotta go, you go!
Was there any hesitation on from him or you about getting into music business?
SZS: Cody told me he always wanted to play. He had an old Destroyer bass that was just junk when he was 9 or 10 years old that he would just grab and pull on the strings. Jack Gibson, after an Exodus rehearsal sold me a bass he didn’t play anymore. I came home and it was in a case and I said “Here’s your bass son, learn how to play it.” So he learned how to play it. When I was piecing Hatriot together, I considered him, but I knew he was doing this refrigeration thing and I said you want to do this you have to step in. When he approached me about doing it I said “If your serious learn the songs and I’ll tell the guys and you can try out” and he said “Try out?” I said “Yeah! Try out! They’ve got to be able to work with you. They’re already in the band with me. You have to be able to work. Do I think you can do it, yes I do! I think you’re that talented and good enough that you can do it, but I can’t just go up to them, it’s not fair to them and that totally insults their integrity and say okay here’s my son, he’s the bass player, deal with it. That’s fucked up!”
So you leveled the playing field?
SZS: Exactly you can do it, it’s your gig if you want it. If you want it, go get it
And the rest of the band they are old school metal fans as well?
SZS: They are old school and new school thrash fans. Before you even entered the band it’s like a 3 hour conversation of what your metal knowledge was. I know who I am and I know that it’s very enticing just to get a gig with someone of my stature to tell me anything I want to hear. I want to make sure it’s real.
Where did the name Hatriot come from?
SZS: I steal that from Scar Spangled Banner…I’m no patriot, just a hatriot. My definition of Hatriot is: do you know who Jesse the Body Ventura is. (Yes I said). He is a perfect Hatriot! He is a guy who loves his country and would do anything for his country, but is not quite sure the government is driving the Cadillac correctly. And that’s what a Hatriot is. Do you think the President’s kids will go to war? Any of the senators kids will go to war? No but your kids, my kids go to war! And they clean up their messes. How come gas is $4.50 a gallon? I didn’t vote for that! Did you vote for that? The hypocrisy of what democracy was in the beginning is pretty much what a hatriot is. You and I who are metal fans we are definite hatriots. Metal fans are hatriots. We are straight up hatriots. We’re for what it should be and what really things are spelled out to be. Back when our country started there was a couple thousand people, so voting made a great sense. Now there are 4 billion. Does a vote mean shit anymore? Not really. Democracy has gotten far away from what democracy is all about. When people say you’re burning the flag, I say “I’m not burning the flag. That’s the Hatriot flag!” If you look in the field of blue there are pentagrams not stars in the field of blue. That is a Hatriot flag, not the American flag. I would never burn the American flag, I love the United States. Do I love our government? Do I like what our government does? Do I like the hypocrisy of how the system is run? How the 99 percent of us sit out especially in Oakland? People are fucking tired of $4.50 a gallon, people are tired of getting degrees and having no jobs and people are tired of outsourcing to other countries.
Hatriot has a few shows coming up this month. Tell us a little bit about the shows and what fans can expect?
SZS: We are playing with DRI at their 30th Anniversary and we’re doing our first headlining show with another band called Angerhead and Potential Threat who are local Bay Area bands that play in the scene, not necessarily signed but they’re good local bands. Kind of our venture out and I’ve just spent a ton of money on a back drop, scrims and kick drums that say Hatriot. I’m fully wrapped in this. Full! It’s not going anywhere, even if Exodus called me and said Zetro, we need you to rejoin the band tomorrow, I would have to say I couldn’t do it because I have too much of a commitment with Hatriot. I’m fully wrapped in this. There’s two great bands to love. That’s the way I look at it
Any long range tour plans?
SZS: The label that signs us has to. That’s part of it. I am not going to put a record out so you can soak the name of Zetro which you could sell 15,000 – 20,000 units sold out of curiosity which would be no problem, especially with the Exodus fans alone. So with that being said, you wouldn’t have tour me necessarily. Part of the deal is if you sign this band, you have to be ready to put us on the road, because we have to be on the road to sell this record. I plan on a full world tour. While we’re on the road, we’ll be writing the next record, coming home, recording it and then doing it all over again. I plan on Hatriot being big news and I plan on catching a tour.
Being an old school metal fan it almost feels like the metal scene has been pushed underground and a lot of metal we grew up with is now heard on classic rock stations.
SZS: If anything they still play Hendrix and not to take away from Jimi Hendrix but how many times can I hear “Let me stand next to your fire” The song is almost 50 fucking years ago.
Personally if I hear Rock N Roll All Night one more time myself I’m going to scream!
SZS: Play another song from KISS. Play God of Thunder, play something off of Killers play Great Expectations, but play something different. I can listen to I Was Made for Loving You over and over and I don’t give a shit what anyone says KISS rocked it! Kiss rocked it at that time. They did about as good a job of rocking it as you could for what was happening at that time. They’re not even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Metallica is in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, Cheap Trick isn’t in there, come on now. I don’t even know if Heart made it in there.
Eddie Trunk has stated his dissatisfaction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and who hasn’t made it into the hall yet including UFO, Judas Priest and KISS to name a few.
SZS: I play metal because bands like UFO and Thin Lizzy and Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick. I’m 48 years old, those were the bands that happening in the 70’s when I was coming up. I remember when AC/DC was the heaviest band on earth, nobody was heavier than them. When If You Want Blood came out in like 77 or 78 and Angus was on the cover of that album, Bon’s leaning into him with that fucking guitar coming through him, they were Satan, there wasn’t band heavier in the world. They were Satan! You aren’t going to listen to that Satan music, are you? They’re Grandma music now. Don’t get me wrong AC/DC is my favorite band in the world but with the way the times have changed it’s now completely socially acceptable. There is a Judas Priest and a Motley Crue car commercial now.
And Rob Halford did a commercial for Virgin mobile phone. Even though it was a cool commercial?
SZS: Agreed and it’s good to see all of that stuff. Metal is really true and people like myself and Rob Halford who is what 40 years into it and I’m almost 30 years into it and I still come out spewing heavy.
Metal Festivals are huge in other countries with many bands playing and the festivals go on for a few days …
SZS: Those shows are huge and they are nothing in the US in comparison. I played Graspop last year with Dublin Death Patrol and that was 60,000 people and in 3 days it’s everybody from Foreigner, Journey, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Slipknot, Rob Zombie and those were the headliners and not even the smaller bands. There are 90 bands in 3 days from Kreator to Calavera Conspiracy to Moonspell to Avenged Sevenfold who play some of these festivals as well and they are huge over there. I wish it was like that here.
Here we had the Big 4 shows. What are your thoughts on those shows?
SZS: They should have done a tour with Metallica as well as the other bands and called it 80’s Thrash Fest with a side stage with bands like Death Angel, Forbidden, Vio-lence, all those type of bands and then the Big 4 go up on the main stage and you’d have 15,000 – 20,000 sold out every day. You can change it around get Sodom, Kreator and Sepultura in there too.
It seems like there is a huge amount of respect with all the bands?
SZS: Chuck (Billy) and I are very close. That’s how he got the Legacy job. It’s all very incestual (laughs) we’re all very close and they’re all on speed dial. There is no my manager has to talk to your manager. I sang on the last Forbidden record just from a telephone call. Didn’t hear the song prior. Went in that day and sung it like professionals. That’s just the way it is here that’s how we roll.
You also are involved in a few other music projects including Dublin Death Patrol and Tenet. Any news to share on these projects?
SZS: Dublin Death Patrol has a new album. It’s done! It’s coming out July 13th called Death Sentence. It’s signed, sealed and delivered. I’m not sure if there will be a tour. Testament has a new album coming out called The Dark Roots of Earth in a few weeks and tour commitments and I am working so hard to get Hatriot on the map at this point also.
What are some of your musical influences and bands that inspire you and your songs?
SZS: That’s obvious Bon Scott. Lemmy, Wendy O, Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten. I love The Plasmatics. I think all the time I should call up the guys in The Plasmatics and tell them I could go out on tour singing Zetro singing The Plasmatics. I love them. I just bought a live DVD of them. I just dig it. Those are the influences. The late 70’s, Robert Plant, I bought my first Zeppelin record when I was 8. Ted Nugent, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath. Anything that was the hardest of rock, the heaviest of rock that could be, I listened to it.
Tell us a little bit about AC/DZ?
SZS: That’s a tribute band! I play with Will Carroll from Death Angel, who is our drummer. We have another show on July 14th a Saturday with an Iron Maiden tribute called Invader. It’s fun. I get to be Bon Scott for an hour and twenty minutes. We only do Bon Scott era AC/DC and my guitarist Dave Chapman dresses up like Angus. He does Angus almost better than Angus and he does all the leads and all the licks and he gets on the ground and spins around and the whole deal. When you come see AC/DZ and the Z is for Zetro, you are experiencing AC/DC 1978 is what you’re experiencing.
If there’s anything you want to be remembered for most of all, what would it be?
SZS: Innovating thrash metal, being the pioneers. That’s what I hear all the time and that’s the best compliment you can give a musician. For somebody to remember you for your contribution to the sound you helped create. I think that’s the best compliment you can get from anybody.
Anything you’d like to say to your fans on hearevil.com ?
SZS: I love you guys! You’ve supported me for going on almost 30 years now so for all my fans back East and all over I’m coming with Hatriot with some younger kids and I’m coming to kick you guys in the ass and we’ll thrash metal on till the day I die.
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