You know who Steve 'Zetro' Souza is. He's the highly combustible, wildly entertaining and never stationary lead singer of Exodus. Wait, what? He's back in Exodus again? Sure is. They've got a new record out now and he wants you to know all about it and how we came to be here. But don't worry, he's not abandoning Hatriot, either. Read on as we discuss these topics, horror and the ineptitude of the Oakland Raiders.
D.M: Holy shit, let’s start at the top. You told me not all that long ago that the Exodus chapter of your life was over, and yet here we are. What the hell happened?
STEVE ‘ZETRO’ SOUZA: Honestly, I think everbody got older and more mature. Where that came from was [an attitude of[ ‘oh no, I’m not sitting in the backseat with my brother. You find another chair for me to sit in, fuck you, I’m not sitting there.’ You know, why don’t you just sit with your brother and work it out, know what I mean? We’ve got great management. Being managed by Chuck Billy and Johnny Z[azula] and Maria Ferrero is really strong. The label was really behind the move, Nuclear Blast has a lot of leverage right now, they love Exodus. The second part was being able to avert where the problem was before. Being able to talk to everybody and work it out. It’s like fighting with your father at Thanksgiving, you stand on one end of the hall and I’ll stand on the other. We’re not going to be that way. Do you want to do this, and can we do this was the way. That wasn’t the turn of events that led to me being back in the band, I think it’s just the aura of everything that’s going on. Very positive, we had an awesome time recording the record. It’s been so much fun playing live again with everyone. I guess I would have to stand corrected. I was wrong.
D.M: Were you surprised to find yourself back in Exodus?
SZS: I think after a week, there was a time I was brushing my teeth and looked in the mirror and said ‘how the hell did this happen?’ I really feel positive and I think it’s the logistics of the players and where they are musically and mentally. I got to hear the record and I was like ‘wow.’ It’s very good. I just felt that with all those things in, it was possible to do it again. I hear that question a lot asked of me, and I’ve had to eat a ton of that. But in a good way. I don’t mind. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m wrong if I’m wrong. I came back in and auditioned for them and they wanted to work with me again and it was great. So far, everything has been just like it should have been from day one. I think it’s great, now. I’m looking forward to everything I’ve got going on. Way better than it was, 2002 to 2004, the dark years, I like to refer to them as. “Tempo of the Damned,’ everybody loved that record, I was the only one who didn’t have a good time on it. I think that that’s changed, there’s been five shows now since I’ve been back, a couple in Europe, Canada. Every one of them has just been a slam dunk. Really fun, the crowds really, really respect it. They’re glad I’m back and that’s great, it’s cool to hear from everybody. It’s fresh and exciting. And for Hatriot, this worked out well, the attention that they get because I’m back in Exodus. I am not quitting that band. I’m doing that as well. I’m gonna be like Gary [Holt] and do double duty. We’re gonna keep that going.
DM: I was going to ask, does this change the release schedule for Hatiot’s third record?
SZS: I’m really planning on 2015. We played Thursday and Friday in Sacramento. It’s like, I’ll do the photo session with Exodus on Wednesday, play with Hatriot Thursday and Friday, then back with Exodus on Saturday. We sat down and talked – there’s forty two Exodus shows for the rest of this year. Probably not going to have much time to do Hatriot. But as long as they keep writing and I’ll take the music on tour. With the Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer tour, I think we have a thirty or thirty-five minute set, so there’s a lot of hours in the day. I can pen the lyrics on that tour. After the first of the year, we’ll see what Exodus’ schedule is like, but even then, if the boys want to come in and lay the tracks, I’ll come in and do the vocals after. I’m completely planning on doing that. I’m still planning on three records in three years.
D.M: How did the conversation with your two sons go when you told them you were rejoining Exodus? How did they take it?
SZS: At first they were like, fucking shocked. Then I explained to them how well it’s going to work for everyone. To use our band as an example, it’s like the attention Exodus got for touring with Slayer. People who were just Slayer fans and never even heard of Exodus were maybe paying attention now. I just think it’s a good thing. So, me playing in Exodus is a great thing for Hatriot all around. Rolling Stone won’t talk to Hatriot, but they know Exodus. So now when I do an interview for Exodus, those people are aware of what Hatriot is doing. Me being in Exodus has helped that. Before with just Hatriot, I was knocking on the door, but nobody was answering the motherfucker [laughs].
D.M: This is a strange question, but I have to ask it because I’m a longtime fan of Anthrax. When Joey Belladonna rejoined Anthrax, they completely cut out all of their John Bush material. Will Exodus be playing any of the Rob Dukes material now that you’ve rejoined?
SZS: Already have. Up in Montreal I did “Children of a Worthless God” and “Iconoclasm.” Why would you turn away from that era, those albums are great. I’ve already learned “Deathamphetamine,” and honestly, I guess it’s like an old girlfriend. You stop dating her and then if you start dating her again, you pay attention. I didn’t listen to the last three Exodus records when I wasn’t in the band, but since I’ve been back I had to learn the songs. I listen to the records and I think they did a great job, they’re not bad at all. I think it’s really good, so I’m honored to play those songs and I think they’re really heavy and really good. It’s cool.
D.M: Have you talked to Rob?
SZS: I haven’t ever talked to Rob, I’ve never really met him and that’s something that I don’t think is necessary. There’s nothing I have to say. Honestly, I don’t know what happened between them. I read like everybody else did; he said he was fired in a twenty second phone call. I don’t know that. I’ve never sat down with the guys and said ‘so what happened?’ I felt that would be very classless. To this day, I don’t really know what went on. I don’t know what came between the band, management and himself to end that all. When I was being asked to audition, I knew he was getting married and I thought ‘maybe he doesn’t want to do it anymore. Maybe if he’s married, he doesn’t want to be on the road.’ So I was never privy to that information, and since then I’ve never asked any of them why. That would be a classless move because I respect Rob and I respect Exodus. The whole mentality now is to love and respect each other, so I would find it unprofessional for me to do that.
D.M: The first time you rejoined Exodus, there was a renewal of energy, even if everyone didn’t have a great time. Now that you’re doing it again, does it feel new or comfortable or both?
SZS: I think it’s new and comfortable and better energy and better freshness than “Tempo” in my eyes. I love every song. There is not one Exodus record that I can listen to every song all the way through. It’s always ‘oh, I like that song, but I like the song that’s after this better.’ I do not do that with “Blood In, Blood Out.” From beginning to end, I listen to it all the way through. Every single song. I fully love every fucking song on the record and honestly, “Salt the Wound” is really the only true chugger on the record. I love it, but it doesn’t exemplify what the record’s about, that’s for goddamn sure. This record is heavy as hell and this record is fast. Musically brutal and lyrically brutal, so I feel that “Salt the Wound” is a really good Exodus groove, has a nice chug to it, but there’s not too many of those on this album. It’s straight up very heavy, very fast. A lot of the songs are big like we did in the old school, but also very much what they did in the last ten years. The sections in a lot of the breaks are just so heavy like they did in “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit B.”
D.M: As you go to hit the road with Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer, there was a day when that tour could have happened the first time and there would have been a lot of crazy stories. Now, a number of you are married and have kids, you’ve got thirty year careers behind you…how has the conversation between you all changed?
SZS: I think that the maturity of everyone, and everyone respecting each other. There was a time when the bus was loaded with booze and young girls and we would just party and do whatever. Now, it’s really not allowed anymore, almost. Everybody’s settled in with their significant other. I think that everybody’s very comfortable with their significant other. I think we had a reputation as straight up fucking abusers. There’s still a bottle of vodka in there, there’s still beer in there and people taking shots and stuff, but it’s nowhere near the mentality it was. Now it’s more like, after the gig, hey, can we find a Denny’s where I can get a hot chocolate and some pancakes? Before, it was ‘where can I big bag of coke and a big bottle of jack? And if there a whore out there I can hang out with all night? Because at the end of the night I want a happy ending.’ That’s completely changed. So people now would be like ‘you’re a shitty rockstar.’ No. You can do that in your twenties and sort of in your thirties. When you get into your forties you realize that this isn’t what it was, and by your fifties, dude, it’s over. You look like a fucking sick old man out there. The older you get, the girls stay younger and they don’t give a shit. They get in there and you go ‘wait a minute, young lady, I have a son that’s your age.’ It’s fucking twisted, okay. My son is twenty-five, they’re twenty-three, she’s a baby in my eyes. I did it in the eighties, it was debauchery city, it was decadent. How much can you consume? Now we’re all very concerned about how we’re going to play. I’ve got to be good tonight, how good can I be? I’m in the gym seven days a week now. Five o’clock this morning I was on a fucking treadmill. If you’re gonna so see Exodus, now’s the time to go, everybody’s on top of their game, I think.
D.M: We’ve spoken briefly about this before, but now that you’re on the road with Slayer and seeing them up close and personal, do they look like their missing something?
SZS: I look at certain bands a certain way. This is the analogy I use, and I think it’s a good one. The guy singing for Journey now, Amel Pineda, he does a great job. He sings all the songs, he sounds just like Steve Perry, he’s great. But how awesome would it be if Steve Perry rejoined the band? I feel the same way you do, but here’s the other thing. This is also a fucking business. Goddammit, it’s a business, and you have to be able to play both sides of the fence. If you handle business incorrectly, then that may happen to you, too. I don’t know what happened there, none of us are privy to what went on. I read what Dave [Lombardo] says, the same as everybody else. Those two sides each have their story. I think the smart to do, and I really love Dave, is stay out of the press. When I left Exodus, did you see me in the press crying about it? You didn’t, because I didn’t. I picked up my ball and I went home. That’s how you should handle this. The media is not like it was in the eighties. It’s a whole different fucking thing now. There’s a camera everywhere now. Every time you say or do something, it just gets exploded. I really try to stay off things where I talk bad about anybody, I just don’t feel there’s a place for it. It’s nobody’s business what went on.
D.M: I want to get you on one current event – not that long ago, and I have as much respect for Gene Simmons as the next man, but he gave what sounded like a very defeated, old man sound bite, where he said that ‘rock was dead.’ What was your reaction to that?
SZS: I don’t want to sound negative, but I think I agree with him a little bit! Not ‘dead’…I don’t know what the word would be. I’m fifty-one. I grew up in the seventies, when rock and roll was rock and roll. It wasn’t categorized like hard rock and heavy metal and soft rock, there was rock and roll. I liked Rod Stewart as well as I liked Styx songs. I liked Black Sabbath songs and Heat and Thin Lizzy and Fleetwood Mac. Where are bands like that, now? Where is rock and roll? If you fucking say Maroon 5, I’m going to grab a knife and cut my fucking head off. Where’s the rock and roll, tell me. What did we do? We created a form of music…If you go buy a DVD today, can you drop it on your computer without a pirating program? No, but you can grab a CD and make ten copies and go give it to your friends. We, as the industry, shot ourselves in the fucking foot. That’s why now if you pay fifty bucks to see an artist, you think you got off cheap that night. Record sales? I used to sell three hundred thousand copies of a record. If you sell sixty thousand now, boy did you kick ass. So, I have to agree with Gene a little bit. And I didn’t want to! But he’s right. Every time “Moves Like Jagger” comes on, what the fuck is that? If I’m driving with my lady (because there’s only metal in my car,) and it comes on, I’ll say ‘will you just drive into that telephone pole over there and fucking kill me?’ This is not rock and roll. Where are the bands that are going to be remembered like the old ones? As much as I want to be a proponent of that and not agree with it, because my band’s still putting out CD’s and his band is still putting out CD’s and people are coming to see him in droves. I guess from how I just explained it, as much as I hate it, in a certain capacity I do agree.
D.M: Couple closing thoughts – Halloween is not that far away, what’s on your movie playlist as we get closer?
SZS: I’m going to see “Annabelle.” That’s the one I want to see. Just creepy, just fucking creepy. I loved the “Conjuring.” I have to go back through all the classics again. Did you notice the other night Chiller ran “Omen” and “Omen II.” I was trying to watch the game, and every commercial was back and forth. For 1976, the things they did in that movie, like when David Warner gets his head cut off with the fucking glass. I’ll probably go through all that stuff. Although, I’m going to be in South America the next three and a half weeks. What I’m doing is taking my little DVD player that I carry to all the far countries that don’t get English television and I watch horror in the hotels all the time. I got this set that has twenty of the greatest zombie movies on it that I’ve never watched. So, it’s probably got some Italian total cheeseball horror, but I have to watch it. I watched every episode of “The Strain.” I have been into that, and I loved that. I am looking forward to that hour every Sunday night because it’s done really well. Del Toro wrote the book and is producing this and they’re doing a great job, I’m digging it. It’s fucking creepy. Also! American Horror Story, that looks fucking creepy. The freaks? What are they gonna do this time? Definitely keeping my eye on all that stuff, but I’m gonna be so fucking busy on the road. I told my lady, DVR everything. But on Halloween, I’m going to see King Diamond. What a way to spend Halloween! Fucking King Diamond.
D.M: We’re both fans – did you see the Raiders snatch defeat from the jaws of victory the other week?
SZS: [whistles] Boy. Every week, they tear my asshole out. Last week, I got my daughter four backstage passes to Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, this is the second year, she went to that and had the greatest time. But no, I had to go watch Houston dismantle us. I have a friend who works for the Raiders and he’s a big Exodus fan, so he gets me on the field and stuff like that. So I’m on the field with my son going ‘it’s the second quarter, I’m on the field, living the dream of all these people in the stands, and I want to leave. I hate this.’ Two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, I’m like ‘fuck this shit, I can take no more,’ so we got out of there. The rest of the Exodus guys are all Niner fans. We don’t go there anymore, because in the eighties it turned into really heated battles, and it was four against one. Anybody who’s ever been replaced, it’s always a Niner fan. Tom said to me ‘Zetro, we had a hard time thinking about getting you back in the band again because you fucking love the Raiders.’ I think Derek Carr is the real deal, though. We don’t have a coach, we don’t have a team, but for the first time since Gannon, we’ve got a quarterback. Let’s just get on the road, so I don’t have to pay attention to them. I go on the road, I can read the daily paper in a place where it doesn’t matter.