It’s not often you get to interview someone twice in one year. Then again, not too many artists/bands release two bone-crushing albums in a year’s time either. But in the case of HATRIOT, first they gave us one hell of a debut in Heroes of Origin which we loved here at A&GS, and THEN they blew it outta the goddamn water with Dawn of the New Centurion which just came out on April 1 here in the U.S. via Massacre Records. Mein Gott, this is insanity!! Anyway, Steve ‘Zetro’ Sousa, vocalist and founder of the group was one of my earliest interviews back in July ’13, so it was my pleasure, nay…my honor, to sit and talk with him again. Join us:
Amps: So album number two. Was there any change in the writing and recording process this time around?
Zetro: I don’t think there was any change. If anything everybody got more comfortable with each other. Kosta (Varvatakis, guitar) and I have been writing together for a couple of years, my son Nick (Souza, drums) was also a big part of the writing this time which he wasn’t necessarily the last time because we had everything pretty much written before he joined the band. This time, he and Kosta have this great bond. We have rehearsal practices and writing practices, and those two are very much a part of it. We have a new guitarist named Justin Cole who comes in and plays like a monster, so it works out really well. And we used producer Juan Urteaga again in studio, so he knew everybody and everybody was comfortable with him. Recording this second record was an advantage for the kids because I think they felt more comfortable this time around.
Amps: The first thing that jumped out at me was the 1-2-3-punch of “Honor In the Rise and Fall”, “Superkillafragsadisticactsaresoatrocious”, and “Silence in the House of the Lord”. Those three songs, man, just BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! One after the other! Great stuff!!
Zetro: Thanks! Kosta is a really good student and a player when it comes to anything. We did a B-side of “Midnight Maniac” from KROKUS and it came out killer! The kid can play anything, so he goes from extreme thrash to that song and back again.
Amps: How are your kids doing being in this crazy band that is HATRIOT? Both Nick and Cody (bass) have been in for some time now.
Zetro: Yeah, Cody’s been in since 2011 and Nick’s been in since July of 2012 so they’re both comfortable. We did our first European thing not too long ago and the fans took it really, really well. It’s so funny to see the faces of these kids at our shows! They all want pictures with my boys, they hold out albums for them to sign, it’s great.
Amps: Are you seeing any change in crowds now that Heroes has been out for so long? As far as size or intensity goes.
Zetro: They know the songs and they know when to scream. The crowds are getting bigger and more people are aware of who we are. It’s definitely growing and we’re growing right along with it.
Zetro: No, no, I think it’s just the United States, it’s just so hard for us to do anything here! Metal-wise you have to really package it together correctly and there’s just no money in it at all. It cripples a lot of bands. HATCHET went on tour and they paid a bunch of money to get on this tour, then their van broke down and they ended up in New York having to hock gear to get home. And you hear nightmare stories like that and it makes me wonder what the hell’s going on here in the U.S. I wanna get on tour here and we didn’t light the road up like I thought we were gonna light the road up, so we got back on the bicycle and wrote some more songs for Dawn of the New Centurion. That way when we go to places that haven’t seen us we’ll have two records to play from. Hopefully things will go our way.
And I’m not gonna cripple this band. I can’t take us on the road for six weeks getting paid $200 a night when it costs $700 and then at the end be like, “OK nobody has any money to pay rent, car payments, etc.” you know? I’m just not gonna damage the band.
Amps: On Centurion you’ve got three songs that clock in at over seven minutes. Was this conscious or a happy accident?
Zetro: I think conscious. We went for more dynamic, more changes, and more lead sections. You’ll notice there’s some death vocals in there and that’s all me, I didn’t bring anyone else in to do it. We’re changing it up. Every record has to establish the fans but at the same time you wanna try to evolve. And I definitely believe that Centurion is an evolution from Heroes and you can hear that.
Amps: I really hear it in Kosta. The leads get in your face on this record.
Zetro: He destroys, I mean DESTROYS on this record! He really sets himself apart from the new breed of guitar player. And they’re all very good, there’s a lot of great guys out there. But by far Kosta has just got it, man. I’ve had the good fortune to play with some of the best ever between Skolnick, Peterson, and Holt, and Kosta fits right up there, man. Phil Demmel from MACHINE HEAD was listening and he goes, “Yeah, he’s just so damn good! This kid just blows me away!” His licks are tasty, and not overblown with speed. And I think that’s what made me form a band with this kid, he just knows tasty. And I know tasty when I hear it. He’s written really, really good songs that are tasty all the way round. And he doesn’t look at himself the way I look at him, you know?
Amps: You know I told my buddy that I grew up with back in NY about the first record and he ordered it from that record store I told you about, and he came back to me raving about it!! And I could tell people till I’m blue in the face, but at the end of the day, the music as to back it up. And you do, not once, but TWICE now!
Zetro: And I really appreciate that, man. That’s why I like talking to you and I’ll do it anytime. It’s funny too, because Amazon sold out of the record three times and they couldn’t figure out why (laughs)! And if this had turned out to be anything “lesser than” some of the bands I’d done before like EXODUS or DDP it would have been picked apart, but we never had to worry about that because HATRIOT has its own sound and stands on its own feet. Both albums kick ass, and we’ve got Charlton Heston on the new one, man! And I don’t even own a gun, but I’m all about our freedoms. They were installed 200 years ago, don’t try and change ‘em up now!
Amps: What’s next for HATRIOT in 2014 and beyond?
Zetro: We have South America booked for May, and we have some dates in the U.S. We keep it kind of simple, one or two shows a month unless a tour comes our way. But again, it’s so hard to tour here in this country. We’re better off going overseas where we pack the house night after night. When we played Eindhoven Metal Meeting with ACCEPT, SABATON, and DEATH ANGEL it was great, that was sold out. And then the next three nights we headlined in Belgium and the shows were all packed. People were there to see HATRIOT and it was great. We played some EXODUS and some LEGACY and that went over really, really well. I tell people, “If you like the record the live show’s just as intense. We bust your face off there’s no stopping. After one stops the next one starts, we totally kill it. It’s metal, it’s in your face and that’s how we like it.
Amps: What do you want to say to the HATRIOT fans now that the army has grown even bigger?
Zetro: So far they’ve been so great to us and so helpful and the boys are so excited. And that’s what makes me excited and keeps me driven to keep putting out these heavy-ass thrash metal records that I will continue to put out. We already have a song written for the next record. We are gonna keep working and keep writing and hopefully one day get to see all you guys!
Talking to Zetro is always fun because the sheer passion he has for metal and his band is just infectious. In a year’s time not only has he sung on two kickass thrash records, but he got to do so with his sons by his side. And that’s what HATRIOT is, a family and a brotherhood. Heroes of Origin and Dawn of the New Centurion are available everywhere right now, so get yours ASAP!!