What can I say about Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza that I haven’t already, huh? This was my third interview with him and the first since he rejoined legendary thrashers EXODUS, so we had much to talk about. He was also quick to assure me that HATRIOT isn’t going anywhere and that a third album is in the early stages. Speaking of albums, we really got into the process behind latest EXODUS opus Blood In, Blood Out available now via Nuclear last Records and also talked about what to expect from the tour with SLAYER that starts November 11 (get tickets HERE). So check it out:
Amps: 2014 has seen so many great albums come out from veteran acts like you. What is it about bands like EXODUS, OVERKILL, JUDAS PRIEST, ACCEPT that enables them to put out such great work now, in the second half of their career?
Zetro: I think all of those bands you mentioned are all still big fans of the genres that they play in and I think that’s what creates a good song. You know what you like if you’re a fan, right? It’s those emotions, man. I’m not 23 anymore, I’m 50 now and I’ll still get up there and bang my head for an hour. There’s bands who are like, “Know what? I’ll get paid a ton of money to go and do a retro record” and when it comes out you’re like, “Ohhh…wow. What did they do?” I don’t think that anybody in this band, and again just being back in for four months now, we’re all still friends, we all still LOVE heavy metal, we still love going out and watching the crowd react to our songs and who gets more heavy metal than Gary Holt? If you can get more metal than that, you have the floor, let me hear it (laughs)!! His approach, his lyrical and musical style, he’s just known for it. We’ve been doing this since were 16-18 years old and here we are 30 years later and it’s still followed.
You gotta give it up to Bobby and D.D. from OVERKILL, Glenn, Rob, and Richie Faulkner, who I think adds SO MUCH to JUDAS PRIEST!! I wanted to be that, “No! KK, KK, KK!” guy and then I saw the Epitaph tour and I was like, “WOW!! With all due respect DON’T get KK back!” Richie is awesome! And I love ACCEPT’S new album (Blind Rage) and Mark (Tornillo, vocals) does an amazing job. I just think everybody’s starting to bring it and it’s interesting that you say this because yesterday I read an interview with (ANTHRAX bassist) Frank Bello saying that the success the band’s had in the past three years has made them hungry. I’m like, “You know what? I agree with that!” I’m more excited now than in ’86 when Pleasures of the Flesh was comin’ out. I can’t wait till the lights drop and the intro music comes on and there was a period, believe me, when it was “Ahhh, here we go again” and I’ve gone full circle with it and I think that this time’s going to be the best!
Amps: Blood In, Blood Out…this is just exceptional. Two songs I want to talk about: “Body Harvest” and closer “Food for the Worms” Jeeeezus! You wrote some of the lyrics on “Harvest”…I could tell before I even saw the lyric sheet.
Zetro: (Laughs) Yeah, we know about my lyrical content with everything I do, don’t we? But you know what? I’m gonna throw this up there. The direction on that was Jack (Gibson, bass). Jack and I were in the studio and he goes, “Let’s take it from the point of view of a guy who wakes up after being put out with a roofie or something and there’s a cell phone and a note telling him his fuckin’ spleen’s been taken out or something!” And he better call for help or he’s dead. And then he decides this is a pretty good racket so he does it to someone else, and the hunted becomes the hunter. And that’s something that’s been going on overseas for years. The organ-trading is big business, like a commodity on the stock exchange, you know? Typical EXODUS, picking something socially that no one wants to discuss. “Food for Worms” is our take on what happens when you die. We’re all either Atheist, or Agnostic, or call us what you want. But we all feel that when you’re done you go into a box and you get eaten by worms. You are not special, you are NOT better than anybody.
Amps: Plus, the album closer is so important and that thing just jackhammers-
Zetro: -The shit out of you, I know! And lyrically that’s where it comes from. Musically it’s full blast all the way out with a fuckin’ downbeat that’s so heavy and so typically EXODUS to end the album with something that’s just brutal. Honestly, I’ve done that with HATRIOT, too. And I knew this would be no different. To me on this one, there are eleven killer songs and my favorite so far is all of ’em. Usually with albums I tend to skip around, and that’s not the case with this one. I just love every song.
Amps: My buddy and I were just saying how this blows Tempo of the Damned away and THAT’s an awesome record!
Zetro: I try to tell people that all the time. Because I’ve been doing press since I got back in the band and I’ve welcomed it. And I’ve been saying it’s better than Tempo. And I’m a big fan of that record; that’s what I go off of, still being a fan. And don’t forget I was out of this band for ten years so I gotta step right back in and listen to these songs. I wasn’t necessarily involved in the whole writing process other than “Body Harvest”. The songs were there and I felt that every one of ’em was goddamn, out of the park. Eleven pitches out of the park! So I was really excited to get into this and when I say I think it’s the best EXODUS album people can say “Fuck, Zetro you’re crazy!” so I retract that and I’ll just say it’s prettttty goddamn strong. Muy fuerte!
Amps: So most of the music was done when you came in?
Zetro: It was written and I believe Rob (Dukes) had performed on some of it already. I went in and just did it how I heard it. Gary gave me a scratch vocal and I rocked it how I knew. Come on man, this is my sixth album with EXODUS so I know what to do. I just went in and did what I do. Gary was in Europe with SLAYER so I’d send him a track or two tracks a day and he’d say, “That song sounds great!” or “Just fix this one line here”. It was never more than a line or two or word or two. I just felt really comfortable and fuckin’ rocked it, man.
Amps: What was the overall vibe in the studio, and did it feel good laying down these tracks? Because it sure sounds like it!!
Zetro: Yeah, I had fun. And when you have fun doing something it’s the best you’re ever gonna do ever. If you have a great time doing it and you know what the fuck you’re good at it comes out good. Jack engineered the album so he did all the tracks, Andy Sneap did his thing from home at his studio in England, and I LOVED working with Jack it was so much fun! It was really easy and we knew what we were looking for. I had a great time, I was looking forward to it every day, and when the finished product was done I was like, “Man, this music is awesome! The music, writing, and performances are stellar!” Everything about this record cuts you like a razor all the way through, and I just loved it. Before I even sang a word in the studio I called Gary on tour in Europe and said, “You wrote one fuckin’ hell of an album, man.”
Amps: SLAYER/EXODUS/SUICIDAL TENDENCIES all on one bill. This is a thrasher’s wet dream. What can we expect form your set in terms of length and old vs. new material?
Zetro: For this tour we have 35 minutes so it’ll probably be three new, four old. And in that vein we do wanna play songs off the new record. But I’m sure we’re gonna get a full headlining tour at some point, so we’ll play more from it. And YES, we will play songs from the last three albums. I’ve already sung some of those songs, and it is a very important era for EXODUS, so I definitely wanna sing some of those. I know some other singers will get back into bands and refuse to do the other singers’ materials but that’s not gonna be the case here. I’ve already done it in Colombia and at Heavy Montreal. Great songs on those records!
Amps: It’s great that you have that attitude because not a lot of people do. I’m glad you brought it up though. I actually wasn’t even going to ask because I don’t believe in that kind of shit-stir journalism, you know?
Zetro: The last couple of days that question has been stock! People are doing everything they can to lead into it (laughing)! You know, “Dave won’t sing Sammy, and Bruce won’t sing Blaze…” I get it, I do. But these songs are a part of EXODUS’ history. I wasn’t on Bonded by Blood but I sing those songs with the same fuckin’ attitude. And I know that’s not you to ask that; I just added it because I want everyone who reads Amps and Green Screens to know that I’m all about that and ready to rock all the songs.
Amps: If you could be in any Black Metal band, which one would it be?
Zetro: Black Metal? CELTIC FROST, no question.
Amps: You’ve got the album coming out, and the tour. But I know you, you don’t sit still. What other irons do you have in the fire right now?
Zetro: Well you know the HATRIOT boys are writing the third record right now. They don’t know any better. They’re like, “Hey, we heard people write in cycles.” And I’m like, “What?!? No, who told you that? You don’t write in cycles, you keep writing songs!” I said, “Have I ever steered you guys wrong?” And they’re all, “No.” “So just keep writing songs.” EXODUS is heading to South America for three and a half weeks, then we’re doing the SLAYER tour from November 11 through December 13 and then I’m sure we’ll be out all of next year, especially since it’s the 30th anniversary of Bonded by Blood being out. Between Blood In, Blood Out and Bonded by Blood there will be a lot of blood flying (laughing)!! We plan on hitting every market big or small. Our agency knows that this is a really, really good record for us. The material’s there and obviously my return helps a little bit, I’m sure. Not to be a pompous asshole about that, but I’m not blind. I get it. Everyone has been very welcoming, and it’s very exciting for me and the rest of the guys. We know that and we’re not taking it for granted. Everyone’s ready to go!
Amps: The floor is now yours. What do you want to say to all the fans out there?
Man oh man, I can’t wait to FINALLY see EXODUS and the Mighty Zetro live in ten days. I had a ball with this interview. Then again, it’s ALWAYS fun talking to him. The guy is first and foremost a metal fan and his passion for what he does, both in this band and HATRIOT is palpable. If for some stupid reason you don’t already have Blood In, Blood Out go and get it RIGHT NOW!!!