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INTERVIEW – EXODUS FRONT MAN, STEVE ‘ZETRO’ SOUZA TALKS TOURING, BAY AREA & METALLICA’S NEW ALBUM!

Posted on by Oran


The mighty Exodus are currently smashing their way through Europe on the back of their excellent “Blood in Blood Out” release, to sold out venues of rabid die-hard fans. Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza’s return has been welcomed with open arms and has proven that he truly is a formidable force, in his role as front man for the Bay Area thrash legends! Overdrive sat down with ‘Zetro’ to discuss his long time affiliation with Exodus and what has changed since his last stint behind the microphone! Get all the details below…..

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A husky animated voice echoes from the bowels of Dublin’s Button Factory and quite suddenly from out of nowhere, Exodus front man Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza stands before me with his arms outstretched and a wide smile! “How you doing dude, let’s do this?” Later tonight, Exodus will lay waste to the venue with scenes of chaos and good ol’ fashioned violent fun!

But for now, an upbeat and very chatty Mr. Souza relaxes in the deep leather sofa’s in the venues bar area to talk about the bands recent album, his contribution to the thrash metal explosion, Gary Holt’s double duties between Exodus and Slayer and his predictions on the new Metallica album!

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OD – First off, lets talk about “Blood In Blood Out” this was your first album back in the band, tell how it felt to be writing together again for this?

ZETRO – Actually, everything was already written apart from “Body Harvest”. Jack (Gibson) and Lee (Altus) and myself put that one together one day when we were in the studio doing vocal tracks for something else that we were already putting the finishing touches to. Gary (Holt) and Lee wrote everything with Gary in particular writing pretty much 90% of the album and Lee wrote the lyrics and music for  “Honor Killings” and the music for “Body Harvest” and then Jack, Lee and I wrote the lyrics.

It’s just great to be back with the guys, there is no distractions this time around, as we are all a little older and wiser (laughs). There was a good ten years of mud slinging there that I’m sure was great for the press but things are all good now and we are getting on better than we ever have. We have very much kissed and made up and it’s been two years since my return. I’m just loving the energy and the good times that we are all having these days.

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OD – The album has been out for nearly a year and a half now, has there been any new stuff written since you have been touring this album and is there normally a loose vibe with writing while on the road?

ZETRO – No we just keep that a separate thing. We don’t write when we are on the road as it’s just not the way we tackle that. It’s very much a separate thing for Exodus. When this tour cycle starts to end, which will be sometime next year as we are fully booked for 2016 and Gary still has a lot of stuff to do with Slayer still and as he is the main song writer in the band, nothing will really be happening until we are all available. As far as myself, I’m always thinking of ideas and have some notes here and there. I’m a lyrical guy, so just bring me the music and I’ll hook you up with some words. That’s the way I have always approached it, you know? I’m constantly thinking of ideas and just want to be ready when the guys are putting all the music together.

OD – Gary seems to be almost full time in Slayer now, can you project on the future of his involvement with Exodus, as I’m sure it’s a little frustrating for him not being able to be in two places at one time?

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ZETRO – Well, I guess you can say that it looks like he’s full time in Slayer but it’s just really because of the cross over of albums being released and of course scheduling the tours and stuff like that. We were actually on Motörboat last October with Slayer and Gary pulled double duties and played with both Exodus and Slayer for that show, which was awesome. You have to remember, Exodus is Gary’s band through and through!

Slayer also have their new album out and things are crazy busy with those guys at the moment. They haven’t put out an album in seven years; so I totally understand scheduling issues at the moment. I gotta say, I fucking love “Repentless”, it’s just such a kick-ass Slayer record.

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OD – It must be frustrating at times for Gary as you said earlier ‘it’s his band’ and to miss out on the live shows; that’s gotta be difficult.

ZETRO – Yes, I can totally image that it would be. Especially if it was me and it was my band that was out there on the road. You also have to remember, Gary has played on every single Exodus album ever! This is my third tour of duty with the guys (laughs) and I’m definitely a member but I have come and gone in the past. Gary has been there since day one. The direction of the music and the beating heart of Exodus; is very much Gary Holt.

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From the lyrical content to the subject matter of his take on tongue in cheek violence; Exodus is very much the inner workings of Gary’s mind. He will be back with us and will continue to write and put out more records with that classic Exodus sound. Gary is stays in touch with us every other day, either by phone or text or whatever. We actually all saw each other a few weeks back for a family event I had, which was cool.

OD – Being back in the band after your time between 86/93 and 02/04 to now, are things much different because obviously everybody’s a little older and the business has changed dramatically since those early days?

ZETRO – We have gotten smarter over time and there is no chemical abuse happening at all. I mean, I don’t even drink anymore and apart from a little weed every now and again and the guys will have a few beers but that’s about it! These days we are fully aware of how much we make and how much we do and most importantly, we are surrounded by people that we trust. We know them inside out and the people that we choose to work with, trust them also. These people have grown with us and are from our camp, if you know what I mean. They just know what they are doing and have our best interests at heart, which makes a hell of a difference to the way things were in the past.

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I mean, what can you be taught after thirty one years in this business? You have these people that think they can manipulate you into thinking that we don’t know what we are doing and they couldn’t be further from the truth!  The business side of things is almost auto-pilot with us these days, we have this shit down and know exactly what we need and how to run our business, better than any so called ‘management team’ who think they can just blow in and start controlling our future.

OD – Your involvement within the Thrash explosion has been well documented and is a historical one at that. When you think back to your time in The Legacy and then joining Exodus for “Pleasures of the Flesh” in 87 do you miss the hype and excitement that surrounded that era when things were really blowing up not only for you but for the genre as a whole?

ZETRO – We were just kids man! I’m looking at the guys in Lost Society and just thinking to myself, “you’re just kids”! I remember when we were that age and we were running the whole fucking show and all the business side of things also! We were not just opening for bands but were selling places out that had capacities of thousands! It was just an amazing time and still amazing to be part of such a historical time in the legacy of metal.

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When the Thrash movement really began to take hold, there were bands appearing from all over the place. In L.A you had Slayer, Megadeth and Dark Angel, Anthrax and Overkill from the East Coast and just a slew of killer bands like Sacred Reich from Arizona, then of course there was the Bay Area sound with, Testament, Forbidden, Mordred, Death Angel, Possessed, Blind Illusion, Exodus (of course) and Metallica. The Bay Area was just fucking exploding with that scene and it was amazing to be part of it. The cool thing is most of those bands are still kicking ass today and are all still really big fans of the genre. If you weren’t a fan of the music, it wouldn’t come across that well and believe me; there have been many bands that have tried and failed.

ODExodus has had the opportunity to have a long career as a band regardless of the line up changes etc. The name is synonyms with the very heart of what “thrash” really is. The recent tour with King Diamond must have been an eye opener; as I’m sure there was a good representation of fans both old and young in attendance?

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ZETRO – I really like to give a shout out to the old school crews during the show’s and you know something? It’s getting less and less! (laughs) There is such a huge number of new blood at the shows and that is just so fucking cool! It’s actually kind of funny at times when I’m on stage and I’m like “OK we’re gonna go right back to 1987″ and the realisation that half the crowd were not even born yet, just cracks me up!  (laughs)

We were in Russia last year and the show capacity was something like a thousand or so. There was literally nobody that was under twenty five at that show and I mean no one! The average age was somewhere between seventeen and twenty two and they were singing every fucking word! It was fucking amazing!

OD – With such a huge discography to choose from, was there any era of the band that you decided to stay away from on this tour? Any particular reason why?

ZETRO – It’s a fucking battle! Pretty much anything off “Force of Habit” (1992) is a no-no! It’s just an album that doesn’t fit into what we are as a whole! Don’t get me wrong, there are some great songs on there. From time to time, I still get people coming up to me and saying “man, I love ‘Force of Habit’, why don’t you get some of that into the set-list” and you know when I think of that album, it’s just not what Exodus is really about in my eyes. It was something that we needed to do at the time because we had signed to big record label and they stuck their oars in and tried to influence things a little. We only play one song off “Impact is Imminent” (1990) also, as it was just a strange time for us as a band. In terms of the set-list, we generally will play something off of every other album that I have been involved with anyway.

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OD – When looking back on the rise of thrash metal and looking to the selection of albums that have come out between last year to present, there have beeb very strong albums from Slayer, Megadeth and  Anthrax. Of course we also have some new stuff coming from Testament and Death Angel.  Would you agree that the old guard of Thrash is very much delivering the goods these days and whipping the younger bands into shape?

ZETRO – Yea, totally man! As I said earlier, we are all hard-core fans of the music and since it’s been running through our blood for the last thirty odd years, we are finally all in a place where we are confident and comfortable with who we are working with and how we are choosing to live our lives. The proof is in the music!

I’m just thinking about Testament‘s new album that you mentioned, you know I actually wrote four songs on that record and some tracks on the last one also! I wrote “More Than Meets the Eye” and that fucker Chuck (Billy, Testament) made the writing credit so small, and stuck it all the way at the bottom, with this fucking origami Chinese writing (laughs)! I love that guy to bits man! We grew up together in Dublin, California which is really weird for me to say because I’m sitting in Dublin, Ireland now. (laughs) That’s where the whole Dublin Death Patrol came from. I called Dublin, CA today and was like “hey I’m in Dublin”, so fucking weird man!

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OD – In light of all the bands we have been discussing and the high quality of thrash albums recently released, do you think Metallica are feeling the pressure?

ZETRO – I would have to say honestly, we played two shows with Metallica last year in Germany at the Rock AM Ring and Rockavaria and I had two really great conversations, one with Kirk (Hammet) and the other with James. Kirk is such a solid guy and we get along great. I mean, he has played on the last Exodus album and we played at his Fearfest event.

If you really want to look at Metallica’s progression as a band, look back to the stuff they released in the 90′s with “Load” (1996) and “St. Anger” (2003) and then they brought out “Death Magnetic” (2008), so I would say that they are getting more back into form of that classic Metallica thrash sound. Also, they are big fans of their own genre and I have a feeling that they are going to release an album that is more in the vein of that classic thrash sound that we have all be doing lately.

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Just listen to the new Megadeth album “Dystopia” and tell me that the opening track “The Threat is Real” doesn’t take the fucking skin right off your face? What a way to open the record dude! It’s just straight in there and I think we did that with “Black 13″ (opening track on “Blood in Blood Out”), it just kicks you in the face! I really believe that Metallica are aware of what’s going on in their backyard, you know? I think there was a time when people were like ‘eww Metallica, they have lost it” and I know people that think like that and have lost respect for them along the way. But they have gone through an evolution as a band. If they were to write “Ride the Lightning” thirteen times, we would all get bored.

It was a great transition from “Master of Puppets” into “..And Justice for All” into the “Black Album” and I think that’s where bands would like to say they lost interest, but how can that be true, because they are the biggest fucking band in the world right now? That’s the argument right there and you know, I wish them all the best. As I mentioned we played a couple of shows with them in Germany and I remember walking down the hallway and James (Hetfield) is walking towards me and we hadn’t seen each other in fucking years. We just had a really good conversation and a few laughs about the old days.

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I used to frequently go to their house in San Pablo, or as we refereed to it the “Metallihouse” back in 83′ /84′, for parties and hangouts and actually Tom (Hunting, Exodus drummer) and our old guitar player Rick (Hunolt) used to house-sit for the guys when they would be touring! So, we were just shootin’ the shit about the old days and he just looks at me and said, “let’s go out and watch Kreator“!

It was great to have a catch up with those guys and I really think they are going to surprise a lot of people with the new album. They know where they come from, they know where it’s at. You can’t deny their success, it’s unparalleled! If you were to ask them if they thought it was unparalleled, I’m sure one of them will tell you “are you kidding me? I never thought any of this would happen in a million fucking years!”

OD – What’s happening for the band after you complete this round of dates and are there any major millstones on the horizon that you can talk about?

ZETRO – We get to go back home after this run of dates in April and then we make it back over here to do the festivals in July. We are gonna just stay at home and chill out between April and July, as we have been working so fucking hard dude! It’s been non-stop and truly amazing! We just live to get out on the road and can’t fucking wait to come back for more in the Summer!

Exodus are currently on tour with Lost Society across Europe. Check out the dates below for a show near you! Check out our review of the Dublin, Button Factory show on March 1st here.

To purchase your copy of “Blood In Blood Out” just head over to Nuclear Blast and select from the many different pressings and formats available! Do it!!!!

EXODUS EURO DATES 2016

wInterview012 Words – Oran O’Beirne

Photography – (Interview pics – Down the Barrel Photography) General  – Stock

© OVERDRIVE 2016