Interview by Alex Stojanovic
With over 30 years and 10 studio albums under their belt, Exodus are still one of the most relevant and greatest bands, not just in thrash, but metal in general, around today. You cannot have a conversation about thrash without talking about Exodus. That just wouldn't be right.
We recently had the great honour of chatting with the one and only Steve "Zetro" Souza of Exodus. We touched on things like the time frame for the next Exodus album, due for release in March 2018, the band's upcoming shows, the recording of Blood In, Blood Out and more.
Zetro: No problem brother, you got it!
Alex: You guys have been taking some time off from touring this year for the most part, but coming up, you're doing a show in Mexico with King Diamond and some shows in Europe as well. Is the plan to take most of this year off from touring to focus on the next record?
Zetro: Well the record is pretty much focused on. That's what Gary's been doing because Slayer hasn't been busy either, so in the last 5 months or, Gary's pretty much put the next record together, so it's coming together. I was under the impression that we would be in the studio October, November, December and maybe early March release is what I was told as far as projections go, of course things can change and I can't speak for everyone's schedules as far as that's concerned but I think the idea is to have the record out by early March, so we are still working, that's why we're not sitting back and just chilling. Believe me, I'm going nuts, man. Since I've been back in the band, this is the longest break we've had. I'm doing backflips I want to get going because King Diamond is like the one little show, and it's like sticking a tour's worth of gigs in a syringe and jamming it up me.
Alex: [Laughs] Awesome! I wanted to ask you something about Blood In, Blood Out. I read somewhere that you recorded the vocals for the album in two days, is that right?
Zetro: "No no no, I actually did them really fast. I had to do an audition tape actually to get back - when we were talking about me rejoining the band and they just wanted to see what I had in the fire, so what happened was I received a tape at about 10PM on a Wednesday night. First time I heard the two songs and it was 'Black 13' and 'BTK', and I had until 5:00 the next day is when I was recording them. I had never heard them before, had to learn them and perform them both for them to go 'Yeah, this is the shit!'. That kind of ties into this. I went in and did on a Thursday, I was pretty much in on the Friday, Saturday, it was solidified, Sunday the world found out, and that Monday, I believe it was June 6th or 7th, I had to start recording the record, so I actually went back re-recorded "BTK" and "Black 13", but I was actually doing 2-3 songs a day in there because they had to have the record handed over to Andy Sneap to mix it so it would make the release time and all the stuff had to line up, so I didn't have any time to take days off, I did the record continuously. I think with covers and Japan B-sides, I think there was 14 songs, and I did that in probably about 9-10 days.
Again, I never got to hear the material prior to doing the band, so you gotta remember that what I was doing - I would do 'Black 13' and 'BTK' and then the next day, I would go in at 11:00, sing 'til about 3:00, then I would leave the studio and I'd say 'Okay, tomorrow I'll come back and do 'Blood In, Blood Out' and 'Numb'', so for the rest of that night, I would go home and just study the lyrics and study those two songs over and over again for hours. I didn't even turn baseball on. I couldn't tell you what the score was because I was so engulfed in this record, and I only had a certain amount of time to do it. It's like when you go to college, you're crammed."
Alex: Right, you're under pressure.
Zetro: "Yeah and so for that 14 days, I didn't sleep that much, I definitely didn't relax. I was just basically engulfed in my performance because I'm coming back after 10 years. I wanted it to be what it was, you know, what it turned out to be, so I had to put a lot of effort in that at that time, it was just something that the job called for, you know?"
Alex: Right, right. What do you think the chances are of doing something again with Chuck Billy in Dublin Death Patrol? Do you think that's something might come up again, or is it done since both you guys are really busy with Exodus and Testament?
Zetro: "Definitely answer B. We would do maybe a concert or something, but I mean - I wrote 5 songs on the new Testament record. Chuck just didn't put my name on the album. I wrote 'The Number Game', 'Neptune's Spear' - Chuck and I actually talked about that because they didn't have my name anywhere on the album and he was like "I know, it was a mistake. They're going to do something and put your name back on the record where it belongs." It was just something that happened, you know what I mean? There's 5 of them that I wrote and "The Number Game" was like - I kind of drove 'The Number Game'. I remember he [Chuck] came to my house and I remember when we wrote it and I kept trying to tell him 'We have to be clever, Chuck. We have to write this clever.' Clever lyrics make sense in the song. How it counts the numbers down is kind of really cool.
I think with the last couple of records, I wrote 'More Than Meets The Eye' on The Formation Of Damnation and I wrote 'Dangers Of The Faithless' on that album. On the last record [Dark Roots Of Earth], I wrote 'True American Hate', I wrote 'A Day In The Death' and I wrote 'Throne Of Thorns'. Those were mine and on this one [Brotherhood Of The Snake], there's like 5 of them I know, because he'll call it 'this' and then he renamed it 'this' but doesn't change the lyrics. Chuck and I do everything legally, his lawyers sent over the split, the royalty breakdown, it's 5 songs on the record. Sometimes people ask 'Which ones?', and I'm like 'Oh hang on, let me go to my email, I got the publishing agreement right here, it's this one, this one and this one.' There's always a Billy/Souza collaboration, I guess, but I mean I really, you know - now that my kids are grown and out, I'm not married to their mother, I'm like a free spirit again. I can go out and just play rock 'n roll any time I want. Since I've been back in Exodus, other than in the last 5 months, we've played 288 shows in two and a half years."
Alex: Wow, that is nuts!
Zetro: That is NUTS, it's amazing though, you know what I mean. 31 years later and we can still draw people all over the world.
Alex: Yeah, I saw you guys when you came up here to Toronto with Testament a couple of years ago and that was an awesome show.
Zetro: "Yeah, Exodus, Testament and Shattered Sun, great show, and that was the only Canadian date. I remember I went to the Hockey Hall Of Fame that day, I walked there from the venue."
Zetro: "I dig it, I'm a Calgary Flames fan actually. They got worked in 4 games, you guys [Toronto] got worked too."
Alex: Yeah we did. Speaking of Exodus and Testament, one other thing I wanted you is what do you think the chances are of maybe a Bay Area take-over tour, like Exodus, Testament and maybe even Death Angel? Could something like that happen?
Zetro: "I don't know. You know, just to be honest, everybody has their own idea of what they want to do as far as a show is concerned, and unfortunately, egos can get in that way to be honest with you. And we kind of learned some stuff on the Testament tour when we were out with them and Shattered Sun, there were some things that we thought - and I won't get deep into it, I'll just say that there were some things that went on between, not just the two bands, just politcally, when you're on a tour together. I would say us and Death Angel, definitely. In fact, Death Angel just signed on to our management, so I'm sure that would work. Testament, that one would have to be tweaked out a little bit because there were some people that, like I said, there's a lot of things that go on, you're together 24/7 and egos and attitudes and 'I'm not going to do this ' and 'You're not going to put mine there' and 'We're not taking that, no way. How do you mean you get that and I get this?'. I think some of that stuff was going on, but I'll be honest, I don't get involved in it, it's not something that concerns me. I'm all about the music and let's just try to do it. If there's some other type of business ends, that's what we hire people for to handle. I know that the fans, and me as a fan, would love that tour. I'm not quite sure that that would happen to be honest. I think the best thing to do is maybe a festival and we're both on it and that works out killer."
Alex: Right, right. Just a couple more questions. Your sons Cody and Nick are still doing Hatriot, which you were a part of for a couple of records. Are you still involved with Hatriot in some way, whether it would be songwriting or something else?
Zetro: "I was for a minute on their newer stuff, but I kind of gave Cody a lesson on how to do it. They had a lyric video that came out called "Frankentein Must Be Destroyed". That was the last thing that I helped with vocally. I came up with the title and the idea of the song itself. I think that Cody, he came over one day and I kind of showed him how to do it and he caught on. That was maybe one of the first of three or four that were being written and he caught on and they kind of wrote the record. The rest of their shit is done. He's about ready to graduate from apprentice school, and at that point, the idea is to go sign another record deal, put a record out and not be able to tour on it because he has one more year of school left, which I think is a great idea. Nick, Kosta and Justin are ready to go. They play really good shows. I know the world is kind of waiting, but I think me as a father, knowing out of '93 when metal came crashing down and I had to go back into the work world without any real skill or any real direction what to do, I'm kind of in the favour of 'Get your shit together first, and once you have that going for you, they can never strip you of that, then you'll be able to flourish, play music and if music doesn't work for you, you have this, you just step right back in'. That way, you never will lose.
I think a lot of us, what happened was as we were 20, 21, we just worked little remedial jobs just to pay studio rent and to rent a room off of somebody back in the day. I rented a room off a guy who had this band, lived there with his girlfriend. I rented a room for like $200 a month, I think it was back in the day. I just made sure that I could pay my studio rent and that was during the Legacy days when we were putting Legacy together, I wasn't even in Exodus. All of a sudden, by the time I'm 22, here I am on tour, touring the world and by the time I'm 30, MTV and every record label had it with heavy metal and they started signing bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and every other grunge band and if you were a metal band, you were dirty laundry, so a lot of us had to go into the work world, and I didn't know what to do, I didn't have any skills. It was kind of a scary point when you're like 'I used to be this huge entity that people looked up to, now I can't get a game of checkers to save my life', so I think you should always be prepared for that."
Exodus broke up in the middle of '93. I remember Capitol Records dropped us in December '92. We went out to do another tour with Motorhead of Argentina in March of '93, then we did Japan in May '93, and that was the last Exodus show, until I rejoined back again in 2002. The only bands that made any headway were Pantera and all the death metal bands from Florida. They were the only bands that had any kind of draw whatsover, metal was just dead. Not to slag on anybody, but look at the Metallica records that came out during that period. There was nothing crunchy or heavy about the records whatsover, not the vein it used to be. Everybody scrambled to do what they did. I got the carpenter's union for 20 years. It was funny because the week before I joined the band again in 2014, I received my 20-year pin, because I've been in the union for 20 years, I'm fully vested in the carpenter's union. In 10 short years when I'm 63, I can legally retire and get a pension. Ain't that a bitch? [laughs]"
Alex: [Laughs] Yeah. Going back to Hatriot real quick. Of the two records that you did with the band: Heroes Of Origin and Dawn Of The New Centurion, which one of the two would be your favourite?
Zetro: "I think Heroes is more raw, but Dawn shows a songwriter's growth, definitely. If you listen to the two back-to-back, you can hear the musical progression, you can hear the musicianship, you can hear the song structures I think a little bit more. I think Heroes is like coming out on a fast-ass motorcycle, screaming, and Dawn Of The New Centurion, the machine is definitely powerful and it moves at a very fast pace. It's more streamlined, it's more stellar, more stealth kind of. If you listen to the song "Silence In The House Of The Lord" or even the song "Dawn Of The New Centurion", there's so much going on, they're kind of slow and moody, but the lyrics are really metaphorical on how life is. Even though there was stuff like "[The Violent Times Of My] Dark Passenger" and the one about countess bathory, the one when we did the blood video ["And Your Children To Be Damned"]. I love that. It was great stuff at that time. I wrote every word on both of those records. A lot of the lyrics have a lot of meaning to things to me like "Weapons Of Class Destruction", "Globicidal", there's a lot of things there that I look back, and I've actually heard the [new] stuff. The direction that it goes in is definitely another growth for them. It's very thrashy, chunky and heavy. There's a little bit of Black Dahlia [Murder] in there I think, a little death metal, a bit of Slayer in there. It will probably be another year before the record comes out. But yeah, I think Heroes is more like Exodus, Legacy, Kill 'Em All, Killing Is My Business, Show No Mercy, kind of in that vein."
Alex: Awesome! Well Zetro, thank you so much for your time. I wish you all the best with the upcoming shows, and I know we can't wait to hear some new Exodus tunes soon, and I definitely hope to see you guys up here in Toronto soon!
Zetro: Yeah hopefully! You're gonna hear us soon, but hopefully you'll see us soon.
Alex: Definitely! Take care Zetro!
Zetro: I will! Have a great day!