Here we are, Round Five with the incomparable Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, lead vocalist for Bay Area Thrash Metal giants EXODUS. Any time he’s doing interviews I am always first in line, because he is quite frankly the easiest metal musician on the planet to have a conversation with. Our first talk was over an hour in 2013, and from that very first time he’s always made me feel like an old friend whenever we get on the phone. The announcement just came down about their Battle of the Bay co-headlining tour with OBITUARY, so I couldn’t wait to get him on the line to discuss not only that, but maybe suss out when we’ll get some new EXODUS material. As always, there was lots of laughter with this one, and a good time was had by all. Have a look:
Zetro: My old friend, Damian J. Cousins!
Amps: My old friend, Zetro from the mighty EXODUS!! How you doin’, brother?
Zetro: I’m good, I’m good, doin’ things!
Amps: You never STOP doin’ things!
Zetro: (Laughs) I’ll keep doin’ em till I fuckin die! I ain’t ready to check out so I gotta keep busy.
Amps: Every time I turn around now it’s like, “There’s EXODUS on another tour!”
Zetro: We’ve reached that point where, remember in the 80’s how we were rock stars and then in the 90’s we became has-beens? Now we’re considered “Legends” so we can go on and do our thing! And we’re fucking fortunate that they’re still calling, you know? We’re doing a show with IRON MAIDEN in two weeks, and we just played with BEHEMOTH. I love those guys! The whole concept and everything, Nergal is fucking awesome!
Amps: You just announced a tour with OBITUARY. This is INSANE!!
Zetro: It’s actually Part II that we’re bringing over from Europe. Over there it was us, OBITUARY, PRONG, and KING PARROT late last year. It was so much fun. I’m glad we’re bringing it to the States because I’m so sick of Europe. I’m just like, “Come on, can I go to 7-11 at 3 a.m. and get a goddamn Slurpee already??” I love to tour everywhere, but it’s great to have a tour like this at home. It’s a perfect bill. It’s gonna be fun! You got fuckin’ classic Florida Death Metal and fuckin’ classic Bay Area Thrash Metal, the way it was meant to be!
Amps: Wow, PRONG! That new album (Zero Days) is fucking great!
Zetro: Tommy (Victor) is a hell of a performer, man. He’s insane. And Art (Cruz, drums) is amazing. They’re tight as shit, and they bring it. True metalheads, metal to the metal. It was so cool to have them out. It’s so funny because all four bands, EXODUS, OBITUARY, PRONG, and KING PARROT, we got on together so well. Everybody hung with each other, and it’s really rare you get on a tour where everybody is like that. At the venue, we’re backstage throwing food at each other, laughing our asses off. And it’s fun to watch a young band like KING PARROT doing shit and thinking, “I remember when we used to pull that shit,” you know? We went backstage at one of the shows and they took all the pizzas and pinned ’em to the wall!! It’s like, “Dude, the pizza’s on the wall!” Crazy shit. And it’s like, “Who did that?” And someone goes, “Those fucking crazy Aussies in KING PARROT, who else?!?” (laughs).
Amps: I am obligated to ask by The Metal Gods up on Mt. Olympus…what’s happening with new EXODUS music?
Zetro: It’s being written. I have a couple of songs in my phone. Gary (Holt, guitar) is out with SLAYER right now, but he has a recording unit with him, so he’s laying stuff down. I just saw him because he, Tom (Hunting, drums) and I were at the Metal Hammer Awards. They gave us Most Inspirational Band. That’s what happens when you don’t win an award for 31 years and they feel sorry for ya (laughs)! They give you that lifetime achievement thing. I looked him in the eye and said, “When, Holt? WHEN??” he’s all, “November, Zetro. Hold off on lyrics for a while till I give you titles and concepts.” ‘Cause I’m like a caged animal ready to fuckin’ go right now!
Amps: But at the same time we are almost three years removed from Blood In, Blood Out and it’s STILL in my phone. It’s also one of Mini-Amps’ favorites. It never gets old, brother.
Zetro: Thank you, thank you. But it’s old for us now. It’s time to put out a new record. If it was up to me the damn thing would already be written. And I’m not bagging on anybody, I just know me, I can’t fuckin’ sit still. Jamey Jasta sent me a song for JASTA and asked me to write lyrics. I asked him when he needed it and he goes, “Oh, whenever you can, you know?” And two days later I sent it to him. He’s like, “Damn, dude that was fast!” I am in writing mode right now. Gimme songs, I need to write!
Amps: Will Gary be playing these shows with you?
Zetro: Gary will be there. Gary Holt will be with EXODUS on the run with OBITUARY. Gary IS EXODUS, and I have no problem saying that. He’s been on every single record, he writes the majority of the music, comes up with ideas, lyrical content, the violence intensified.
Best guitar player in thrash and one of the best guitar players…PERIOD. Everybody will tell you that, James Hetfield will tell you that. Gary can play leads, rhythms, write lyrics, he can do it all. And he plays in TWO bands.
Amps: How is everything with your sons Nick and Cody in HATRIOT?
Zetro: Everybody’s doing great. They have a couple of songs on YouTube. Check ’em out if you haven’t. I wrote part of “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” then I grabbed them and I said, “Hey, this is YOUR song, you come here and fuckin’ write this!” (laughs). It’s a great song and they did a great job.
Amps: On the subject of younger Thrash Metal bands, have you heard the new WARBRINGER record? That’s one of my top albums of the year.
Zetro: I have heard it, and I’m so glad they came back. It reminds me of us when we didn’t do shit from 1993 till Tempo of the Damned in 2005 and we came out all guns blazing. That’s how you gotta do it, with songs, songs that melt faces. You have to bring the songs. There have been a lot of bands from their time that have just fallen off, so it’s good to see a band like WARBRINGER bring it and bring it hard. That’s the thing with this business, it’s all ups and downs. When you get up there’s only one place to go, and that’s down. And you gotta understand that things are gonna change, members will leave, and sometimes people will die that you love. But you gotta keep focus, and keep your eye on the prize, and know that people love what you’ve done.
Amps: Speaking of which, what did you think of METALLICA’S Hardwired…To Self-Destruct?
Zetro: I liked it very much. I thought that they recaptured the mentality of it all. I’ve gotten to play a couple of shows with them and of course Kirk (Hammett, guitar) played on “Salt the Wound” and I was talking to James. They know what they are, they know what metal is. They know what thrash is all about. And I think when you go through the history of it all, you evolve. And maybe you do some stuff that isn’t in the vein of what you did in the past, but you have to stay relevant. Some people might say, “I don’t like this or that direction, or Load or ReLoad.” But if you look at that time, there were no metal bands getting gigs. None of us could book a game of jacks at that time, let alone a gig.
If you look at the evolution of it all, they’re in a position where they can say, “Ahhh, fuck this. We’ll just be metal” you know? Killer, just the way it should be. There’s a lot of songs I like on that record, but there were also a lot I liked on Death Magnetic. That’s when they were like, “Oh, by the way we ARE a thrash band, guys. Here’s a reminder.”
But we did the same thing. Force of Habit is not like any other EXODUS record. Some people loved it, but it’s not an all-out thrash album. You always do that, you always fuck one album up. EVERY band will do that. Out of all the EXODUS records that is the only one that I actually hate some songs. It was time, pressure, and all the bad shit that happens when you go to a major record label. During that cycle I felt like I didn’t have my own band anymore. People were telling us what to do. But then, know what? No record for nine years and we come out swingin’ with Tempo of the Damned! Our mentality on that one was, “OK, we’ve been through the business, we’re broke, we don’t have a label, let’s write the record that reflects it.”
Amps: STILL one of my favorite EXODUS records. How is Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza feeling these days?
Zetro: I’m in the gym seven days a week, eating right, no booze, no drugs, nothing. I wanna do this 25 more years. Bring it, I’ll do this standing on my fuckin’ head!
Amps: What would you like to say to all the EXODUS fans out there?
Zetro: See you motherfuckers in the pit. We ain’t goin’ nowhere. We’re comin’ hard like we always have. And remember…STAY FUCKING METAL!!
Wow, two legendary bands: EXODUS and OBITUARY on the same tour. And as an added bonus, POWER TRIP and German thrashers DUST BOLT will be on the majority of these dates. Zetro and Co. always bring the goddamn thunder and having just seen OBITUARY in April I can definitively say that they do as well. You can find everything you need HERE. I’ll be at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on 9/17 and I can’t fucking wait!!