To most metalheads, Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza needs no introduction. For those of us who grew up on thrash metal in the 80’s, the name Exodus was synonymous with buzz saw riffs, and Zetro’s signature vocal style, that has been oft-imitated, but never duplicated. Since the glory days of yore the man has never stopped, not for a second. He has released two albums with Dublin Death Patrol, featuring Chuck Billy from Testament, and one with Tenet, comprised mostly of Strapping Young Lad lads. His newest project is Hatriot, a band that hearkens back to the old days of kickass thrash metal, and features his two sons, Cody and Nick on bass and drums, respectively. Getting a copy of their full-length debut, Heroes of Origin last week was my Christmas in June, and hasn’t left my player since, but more on that later. In a recent phone interview I was able to ask Steve about the band, playing and recording with family, and some other stuff, too. He is maybe the coolest cat I’ve ever talked to, and I really came away from this one feeling like I had a conversation with an old friend. Check it out…
Amps: So, first thing is I have to apologize for being asleep at the wheel and knowing nothing about this project. How is it being received?
Steve: It’s ok, man. No worries. Have you gotten a chance to listen to it? (I tell him it’s been on repeat since Friday) Awesome! Everybody who has heard it loved it. People are comin’ up to me and saying “You’re bringin’ me back twenty-five years, man. I love it!”, and that’s what we wanna do. Good old, no-bullshit, Bay Area Thrash Metal. Massacre Records is doing what they can, since they put it out, but we as metal bands and fans, we have no outlet, so we kind of have to backdoor our way into any press. Again, a label can only do so much. So we find metal blogs like yours and radio shows all year long. I don’t care if it’s from a fan’s basement in Indonesia, anything to spread the word (laughing)!
Amps: How is it, playing in a band with your sons?
Steve: I have come full circle, man. I got to play with all my heroes. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, you name it, I’ve been on a festival bill with them somewhere. I’ve lived the dream, but this? Playing with my two boys is better than all of that other stuff. And they had to come in and audition, like anybody else. We had a bass player, and he couldn’t make practices and stuff, so Cody kept saying, “Dad, I can do this. I can do this.” So I gave him a shot, and if you listen to the record, they both kill it. Nick had to audition, too. Our old drummer was into a lot of other projects and couldn’t commit time wise, so I did the same thing with Nick. I mean, Andy Galeon (former Death Angel) was gonna come in and help us out, but Nick got the gig. They had to work their asses off to earn their spots in this band, and they sure did. It’s crazy; I get to play with two guys I literally created!
Amps: Did that make recording easier, or harder? I mean, because of the familiarity.
Steve: They knew, as musicians, that they had to be ready. That’s the one aspect where me being their dad wasn’t an issue. I’ve instilled in them the proper work ethic, and they also had to hear me say, “Hey! Know your fuckin’ parts! Black Sabbath did an entire album in a day, so don’t fuck around here!” over and over (laughs).They know that the studio is expensive, and that we’re on a budget, so they came in and did their jobs like pros. It got to the point where I would start in, and they’d both go, “We know! Black Sabbath recorded in a day! We get it!” hahahaaa!
Amps: The sound is very old-school thrash. Was it a conscious decision to stick to the basics?
Steve: It’s just what Kosta (Varvatakis, guitar), our guitar player wrote. Every riff, every change, every note was all him. And my son says to me, “You know Dad, that sounds really like old-school thrash.” And you wouldn’t believe the music on this record is written by a 23-year old kid! He’s just an amazing talent, it blows my mind! And Miguel (Esparza) plays like a monster, too. I am really lucky that these guys are in my band. Plus, we’re all fans of that music, and you can hear the influences on the record. There’s some Metallica-type stuff here, a little Overkill there, it’s what we love, and it’s what we know.
Amps: I played your record for my buddy, and he was like, “Love the Overkill influence on there, especially the vocals!”, and I was saying “I know!!” They’re one of our favorites.
Steve: Hahahaha, well you and your buddy, good ears, man!
Amps: You were on the Ernie Ball stage for Warped tour last week. How’d that go?
Steve: It was a good time. We were on early in the day, as people were walking in. But a lot of them stopped to check us out, so that was really cool.
Amps: What are the touring plans?
Steve: Right now, we’re doing a couple of one-off dates here and there, and then Europe in November. But honestly, no one’s asked us out yet. They will, though. We’re gonna come down to Texas and rip shit up, don’t you worry. I know Texas from my old days with Exodus and DDP. They love their fuckin’ heavy metal there! Plus, by the time we get on a full-scale U.S. tour, we’ll have our second record out. It’s called Dawn of a New Centurion, so we’ll be promoting not one, but TWO releases!
Amps: What are you listening to these days?
Steve: The new Black Sabbath. Constantly. Since it came out. If Ozzy doesn’t get Vocalist of the Year, and that isn’t Record of the Year EVERYWHERE from the Grammys to I don’t know where, then just blow that shit up. Have you heard it? What do you think of it? (I tell him I love it, especially the bonus tracks) I know! “Methademic” is one of the heaviest things I’ve ever heard. Just a great, fucking killer record, man. Love “God Is Dead?”, “Zeitgeist”, all of ‘em. I’m really into Havok’s new one, too. Those guys fuckin’ play some serious thrash. Warbringer, too. Another great band. I love that these kids really get it, and play this older style.
Amps: Obviously you’ve been very successful, what with Exodus, Dublin Death Patrol, and Tenet. What has been the key to your success?
Steve: I take nothing for granted, I have always stayed hungry, and I surround myself with talented, positive musicians. I am also constantly writing lyrics, for myself, and others. I wrote lyrics for the boys in Testament on Dark Roots of Earth and The Formation of Damnation. I never stop. And I love the fans. If you come out to see us play, I’m gonna shake your hand, give you a hug, and talk to you. I vibe off that. I sign every single thing for every single person who spends their hard earned money on a CD, a t-shirt, or a ticket. We played a show not too long ago and I stood outside and greeted every single person that came in. I learned from Ronnie James Dio on tour in ’92 for Dehumanizer. Never EVER let a fan have a bad experience, because they are why you are where you are. Man, if I was a pompous ass before that tour, I sure wasn’t after. I’m still a fan, too. When we played festivals with DDP, I would go catch Maiden, or whoever else was playing, and I’m right there in the crowd. THAT’S the best place to see the show.
Amps: What are some of your favorite places to play, venues and/or countries?
Steve: Oh man, South America. Especially Argentina. Those guys are fuckin’ madmen! If you’ve seen Maiden’s latest concert DVD, you know what I’m talkin about. They love their heavy metal and they all go nuts! Japan is like that, too. Holland crowds are a little more subdued, for obvious reasons (laughs), but I’ve never had a bad place, really. If I get to be up on that stage, I don’t care where it is, I’m living a dream.
Amps: Lastly, any advice for aspiring young metal musicians?
Steve: I’m doing that right now, with having my boys in the band. I tell them, and the other guys too, because they’re all fairly young, “Enjoy every minute of this, you’re gonna meet a ton of people you don’t know, but who know everything about you already, and you have a chance to make someone’s day just by signing an autograph.”
Also, I say you have to get into this only if you truly love the music. Because it is hard work. No one is born a rock star. You have to work your ass off and you have to take it, no one is gonna give it to you. But you gotta love it. If you don’t, this isn’t for you.
Amps: Steve, thanks so much for taking time to speak with me today. This album kills. Can’t wait for the tour!
Steve: Hey man, my pleasure. Let’s sit down in person when we come through Dallas. You can ask my two boys what it’s like being trapped on the road with their old man (laughs)!
Amps: I’ll bring the barbecue!
There you have it. Here’s a guy who’s played to millions of people, and he’s willing to just sit and have a conversation with a fan. He really is a great person, as well as a kickass singer in one of the best new bands out there, Hatriot. Check out Heroes of Origin, you’ll be glad you did.