Steve “Zetro” Souza is a living legend. His contributions as a pioneer of thrash metal will forever keep his name in the annals of history, but his final chapter as an artist has yet to be written. Your legacy is how others (fans) remember you. Zetro’s legacy doesn’t end with Legacy/Testament, Dublin Death Patrol or even AC/DZ. It lies with Hatriot (and now Exodus!), this new thrash renaissance, and how far Zetro is willing to take it.
I reviewed Hatriot’s debut album, Heroes of Origin, last year and interviewed Zetro – he told me about the band’s touring problems, upcoming albums and his willingness to persevere. When I hung up the phone I felt Zetro’s desire to start the next chapter, his enthusiasm was rejuvenating. Now here we are roughly one year later, Hatriot’s sophomore effort Dawn of the New Centurion has been released to critical acclaim (read my review here), and the band has an upcoming stint overseas.
Zetro made some claims last year and he delivered. I dial Zetro’s number wondering what’s up next.
The phone rang once and I was sent to voicemail. I figured the legendary singer might be on the other line. I waited 15 minutes and called back and was sent to voicemail for a second time. I left Zetro a message. Rock and roll is never perfect so I decided to have a couple of beers and jammed out Exodus’ Fabulous Disaster while I waited to see what would happen. By the time I got to the track “Cajun Hell” my cell phone was ringing, it was Zetro calling me back!
Please enjoy some excerpts from my May 2nd 2014 interview.
David Halbe: Hello, this is Dave from MetalRecustants.
Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza: Hey, it’s Zetro. Sorry I couldn’t call sooner.
Dave: No worries man, is now a good time?
Zetro: Yes, right now is perfect. Yea man, I almost texted Chuck (Hatriot Management) saying ‘You might have to call this guy, I’m getting reamed out with all the other foremen on a job’, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for me to go ‘Hey, I gotta go be a rock star for about a half-hour’, sometimes there’s just no getting around that kind of shit, you know, so here we are.
Dave: No worries man, I appreciate your time, is it construction you’re talking about?
Zetro: Yea Dave, I’ve been doing union construction for about twenty-one years. When ‘grunge music’ came in and metal collapsed in the ’90s that’s what I did, back and forth. Obviously, the music business doesn’t really pay, with my last trip with Exodus, Dublin Death Patrol and now Hatriot, the extra money helps pay the bills, ya know?
Dave: I know what you mean, I work in construction myself. Has anybody ever recognized you on the job?
Zetro: (Laughs) Well, it does happen from time to time, it’s a trip too. I used to be embarrassed by it but now I take it with a grain of salt. I remember the very first time, I was in the trades, you know, working my way up. I get sent to this house and this guy kept staring at me, finally he comes up to me and says ‘Man, I listen to heavy metal and I’ve got to tell you, you look like this guy from the band called Exodus’ and I go ‘You’re shitting me right?’ and he’s like ‘No man, you look like the lead singer Zetro, have you ever heard of Exodus before?’ and I was like ‘Man, I can’t lie, I’m him’ and he says ‘What are you doing here?’ So I tell him rock and roll is a very naive business and I have more fame than I do fortune. He was blown away but that’s how it was back in the day but I’m really cool about working now, I’m very humble towards it, I’m not bitter at all, it’s what I do. Actually, what are you gonna do all day long anyway? Just sit around? You know what I mean? I’ve been pumping records out with this band as quick as I can and management knows if it’s slow or I got shows, to cut me loose, they know I’ve got some tours coming up and I’m gonna miss all of July so they don’t cut me no slack, I’m just one of the guys, I hang around and do my thing.
Dave: I hear you. Before I forget, happy belated birthday.
Zetro: Thank you brother, this year has been a trip, oh my, oh my.
Dave: Last time we talked it was right before you birthday, this time it’s just after. How does it feel knowing you accomplished everything you told me in just a year’s time?
Zetro: It’s awesome dude and we’ll do it again believe me. We have to get back on the map again, I try and stay really focused, then I’ve got these kids, they’re starting to reap it, the fans are starting to notice who they are. We’re getting ready for the run, the tours are coming now, and they see what’s ahead. So, I’m training them not to get ahead of themselves. I’ve been around the block more than a few times you know, so I’m not easily fooled.
Dave: I believe you. Congratulations on landing your first big tour! Tell me about the Thrash Invasion Tour you’ll be embarking on in July?
Zetro: Well, we’ll be going out with Artillery and Onslaught all through Europe, I think its 18 or 19 shows, 26 dates all through the UK, Germany, Holland, I think there’s a date in France, plus a couple of festival appearances. We’re gonna go out with Raven and Empire’s Blood through South America in September, then we’re talking about hitting the US with Gamma Bomb in October, then it’s back to Europe with Municipal Waste, then a headliner in December and a couple more festivals right before Christmas. We’ve got a lot going on in the second half of 2014 and as of this interview date (May 2nd 2014) we’re in the process of writing the third Hatriot record and it should be out January or February 2015, just in time for spring. So you had a new record in 2013, 2014 and you’ll have a record in 2015. How do I know this? Because I’ve already got two songs done Dave!
Dave: (I clap as loud as possible) Fucking kickass, is there a title for it yet?
Zetro: Yes there is but I can’t tell you – but I will say we’re working on the song titles, artwork and everything, it falls right in line with everything we’ve previously done, it’s like Chapter 3, it’s good and I’m really proud of it.
Dave: Holy shit Zetro, you’re not wasting any time this year.
Zetro: I don’t bullshit Dave, come on, if I tell you something’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen man.
Dave: I believe you, I know it, you delivered. Three Hatriot records, what an accomplishment!
Zetro: You know me, I’m all metal all the time man. I’ve even got the band learning some extra songs right now, so we can play them at any point.
Dave: What songs?
Zetro: Well one is “Faster Than You Ever Lived To Be” (Pleasures of the Flesh), another is “Only Death Decides” (Impact is Imminent), the songs they (Exodus) won’t play anymore.
Dave: Are you gonna put those songs into your setlist? You said last year you wouldn’t do that.
Zetro: We’re already doing it now. We’ve done it on some limited dates. We’ll play different covers depending on the crowd. If the crowd is decent we’ll give you “Toxic Waltz”, if the crowd is good we’ll do “Last Act of Defiance” but if the crowd is fucking killer we’ll play “Reign of Terror” by Legacy/Testament, you know what I mean?
Dave: (Laughs) I do.
Zetro: We spend a lot of time in the studio and we don’t just go in there and play. I have an agenda at practice. It might be writing a new song, learning another song, maybe working on a solo. Lately we’ve been playing around with an instrumental medley but the point is we don’t want to let the fans forget the past. Exodus is part of my history and I’m very proud of it. I equated it to you going to see Ozzy and Ozzy not playing any Black Sabbath songs, or you see Rob Halford and he doesn’t play any Judas Priest, or Udo not playing any songs by Accept.
Dave: I get it, celebrate the past.
Zetro: It’s just the way it is, you know with all the bands I’ve done records with but this is my band now, this is my focus but I decided to do some of the root stuff that people know me for, even songs like “War is my Shepherd”, we’re learning one from every record.
Dave: Speaking of Tempo of the Damned, there’s a song called “Scar Spangled Banner” with a line that says “I’m no patriot, just a hate-riot” – spelled ‘h-a-t-e’. Is this the origin of the Hatriot band name?
Dave: Am I the first person to get it?
Zetro: No, no, no way (laughs). It isn’t rampant but people do get it. I’m glad they figured it out because I use other band names and song titles in my songs purposely. For example, “The Mechanics of Annihilation” I got from Annihilation Principle, that’s a Lääz Rockit album title. I like to throw stuff in there and use it subtlety. “Blood Stained Wings” is from a Mercyful Fate song (“Satan’s Fall”). (Zetro does a quick King Diamond imitation) “Your blood stained wings!” I just like to subtly pop stuff in lyrically.
Dave: I noticed you’re holding the American flag upside down on the cover of Heroes of Origin, what’s the significance?
Zetro: It’s not the American flag, it’s the Hatriot flag, take a closer look and you’ll notice those are pentagrams on the field of blue.
(I quickly pull out my physical copy of the CD to check for myself, Zetro is 100% correct.)
Dave: Holy shit, I never noticed that before. Why is it upside down?
Zetro: The upside down flag goes with the whole Hatriot ideology, someone who loves their country but doesn’t necessarily agree with their government or its policies, like my favorite example: Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura. But you could be French, German, or even a Dutch Hatriot, all those people in Ukraine right now, I bet they would understand what a Hatriot is.
I have gotten some shit for the flag down south though. (Zetro in an exaggerated southern drawl) Older folks see the album cover and go ‘Now, Zetro that’s damn disrespectful what you’ve done’ and I’m like ‘Sir, that would be disrespectful but it’s not the American flag, it’s the Hatriot flag’. Let’s be real ladies and gentleman, this is just entertainment, no need to get all up in arms over it.
Dave: What prompted the Krokus cover of “Midnite Maniac” on Dawn of the New Centurion?
Zetro: As I was telling you earlier, Kosta is a riff machine. Name any ’80s metal song, any genera and he’ll play the riff to it. For years, he’s tortured me with the opening riff to “Midnite Maniac”, he tortured me – and don’t get me wrong, I love Krokus, love those guys, love that band, so many great songs. Marc Storace is an exemplary vocalist. It’s not something you’d expect from us and I told Kosta, I’ll make you a deal: we’ll do “Midnite Maniac” as a b-side as long as you promise never to play it at practice again.
Dave: (Laughs) Do you plan on playing it live?
Zetro: I’m more inclined to play more Hatriot songs, we’ve got two albums worth of material and of course the Exodus stuff, I think the fans might be more inclined to hear that. I don’t know if we’ll ever play b-sides live but we’ve got two planned for the next album, “Princess of the Dawn” by Accept and “Princess of the Night” by Saxon, the two princesses. We’ll also have some live stuff coming out on DVD from our Oakland show with D.R.I. There was a totally old school crowd there. We hope to have that one out by Christmas.
Dave: I noticed the plug for Hatriot tattoos in the liner notes on Heroes, what are those Hatriot tattoos and who in the band has them?
Zetro: They’re not Hatriot tattoos, it’s just a guy who does our ink (Corndog), although Nicholas got the Hatriot shield tattooed on his arm, I have yet to do that one. I have a Testament/Legacy skull, I have Exodus obviously, I will probably get something to do with Hatriot, I’ve still got some real-estate left on my arms so that’s probably what I’ll do there. Everybody’s talking about how they want ink. Cody’s talking about how he wants ink on his arms. Everybody’s slowly getting into it.
Dave: It’s something you could all do together, right?
Dave: In retrospect, how significant is the loss of Jeff Hanneman and do you have a Hanneman tale you’d like to share?
Zetro: (Silence) His loss is very significant in my eyes. He was a great guitarist and lyricist. It was four guys and they did something very special together. I do have a lot of great Hanneman tales but the one that sticks out in my mind right now was back when M.O.D. was opening for Exodus in LA at Perkins Place. Metallica was mixing …And Justice For All up the street so James was there. It was James, Mike Muir from Suicidal (Suicidal Tendencies), Hanneman and Jimmy (Jim Martin) from Faith No More. They came to the show, they were all back stage and this guy we brought with was filming it all with a camera. It was an early camcorder back when you could put a VHS tape right into the camera. I used to record everything we did on tour back in the day, this was like ’87-’88 and somehow they got ahold of the camera and they were all acting, I swear to god I have this on tape, like professional wrestlers! (Zetro busts out an announcer voice) ‘Tonight, I’ll meet you there! I’ll get you in a body hold!’ They’re all fighting each other and it’s like 10 minutes of utter chaos with these guys, who we (metalheads) all know very well.
Everybody I’ve shown this to is like, ‘My god you’ve got to put this out!’ I say, you know what, I don’t have permission and I don’t wanna release it like a bootleg. Right now, it’s just part of my archives, if I ever decide to do a documentary of my own history I’ll probably include it. It’s priceless not to mention hilarious stuff. I’m glad I was there and got to be a part of that scene, I’ve got a million stories.
Dave: Awesome story! I actually saw you guys on that tour, was that before or after the guitarist from M.O.D. (Tim McMurtrie ) broke his leg? I’ll never forget it, it was the first time I saw somebody on stage in a cast.
Zetro: After, it was after, he broke it before that show, it was one of the last dates on the tour.
Dave: Just remembering you fronting Exodus, man you were the greatest. But I think the Hatriot name is getting out there, you know I was in FYE (For Your Entertainment) shopping and this dude was looking for Hatriot CDs, he called you Hat-riot and I corrected him and gave him Heroes of Origin, they didn’t carry Dawn of the New Centurion, the store manager said it was a special order.
Zetro: I tell everybody to go to Amazon man; you’ll have it in a couple days. I’m in the Bay Area, there are no more record stores here, I tell people to go online. If you don’t sell a certain amount of units, you can’t get into some stores, that’s how it works. Hopefully once word gets out both albums will be available in the same places. It took Heroes a while to get into stores but now we’re starting to hear that.
Dave: I think it might be happening a little slower than expected. People are still connecting your name to the Hatriot band but it is growing.
Zetro: Yea I know, Don Jamieson from That Metal Show just gave me a plug recently on his pick of the week.
Dave: Really, what episode was it?
Zetro: The one with Satriani (Joe Satriani).
Dave: No shit, which album did he plug, Dawn or Heroes?
Zetro: It was the new one, Dawn of the New Centurion. That’s why I’m hitting these guys hard Dave. It’s Friday and we’ve got practice tonight. I want the fans to be happy and enjoy a good show with me, if I go over killer they’ll want me back.
Dave: I know what you mean. I recently saw Grim Reaper play at Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse, a festival held yearly at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago. It was the first time Reaper played the States since ’87.
Zetro: Yea man, I saw that on Blabbermouth, how was it?
Dave: It was fantastic. Steve Grimmet and Nick Bowcott reunited and played the classics, there was an unbelievable cover of Dio’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”
Zetro: Yea bro, Steve Grimmet can still sing.
Dave: Yea, he’s still got it. Well hey Zetro, thanks a lot for all your time today.
Zetro: No problem Dave, I hope we catch you on tour.
Dave: Hell yea thanks again!
It takes time to transcript an interview but that’s not why I didn’t publish this sooner. The truth is I had a feeling, a hunch, something was going to happen.
I recently watched a documentary film about thrash metal called Get Thrashed. In the film there are more than a few scenes with Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, Tom Hunting and Gary Holt together. In my mind those artists are Exodus, and although Zetro is referred to as an ex-Exodus member in the video, you got the impression these guys are more than just fellow bandmates or musicians, they’re friends. Call me kooky but I just couldn’t shake the image of those dudes hanging out from my mind, together they are a formidable thrash juggernaut.
Thrash was born in the Bay Area but could it also be the birthplace of its renaissance?
The metal gods work in mysterious ways my friends…
June 8th 2014 – I awake to a barrage of texts, people telling me Rob Dukes has parted ways with Exodus and there was speculation Zetro might be back in the fold, no fucking way! I jumped online and read all I could about the breaking story. Roger, a janitor at MetalRecusants, called me up and convinced me the only way to confirm this for sure was to try and contact Zetro himself.
I sent a text message, congratulating Zetro and asked for a couple of minutes of his time. I sent it with the opening riff of Pleasures of the Flesh wailing on my stereo and my fingers tightly crossed. A few minutes later my cellphone rang, I turned off the stereo in a hurry.
Here it is my fellow headbangers, the confirmation we’ve been waiting for, right from the legendary vocalist’s mouth. Please enjoy some excerpts from my June 8th 2014 follow-up interview with Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza:
Dave: Hey Zetro, What’s up? It’s Dave with MetalRecusants.
Zetro: What’s up Dave?
Dave: Holy shit Zetro, congratulations man! Do you have some time for me?
Zetro: Yea man. No problem. Are you recording this?
Zetro: Ok, if I can’t tell you I just won’t answer, here’s my public statement: ‘I spent a great part of my life with Exodus, that blood flows through me, not being in Exodus the past ten years can’t erase that chemistry’. I’m excited and that’s what I have to say.
Dave: What’s the future of Hatriot?
Zetro: Double duty brother, double duty, double duty.
Dave: (Claps) Kick ass! I thought you said no side projects (laughs).
Zetro: (Laughs) He’s in Slayer (Gary Holt) what am I gonna do when he’s off? They told me not to quit and I was like, I’m not. I’m not gonna shelve everything we (Hatriot) have worked for. I’m not, I’m like Corey Taylor now (Slipknot/Stone Sour), you know we’re writing the new Hatriot album right now and it will be out next year guaranteed.
Dave: I’m very glad to hear it, Hatriot is a good band.
Zetro: We’ve worked way too hard, a lot went into my decision, they (Exodus) have got great management now with Chuck Billy (Testament), they really got it together, a lot of it was enticing to me and it makes great sense to Hatriot, those guys are nearly as excited as me, they know we might have to sit for a minute but we’re still working on songs and stuff, we’ve got practice today at 4pm. Life goes on definitely.
Dave: How about the possibility of a Hatriot, Exodus, Slayer mega tour?
Zetro: I don’t know about something like that, we need to take this in baby steps, I’m not gonna force anybody to piggyback. I believe the management understands how I feel about that band (Slayer), my band (Hatriot) and being in Exodus. They’ve seen I’ve kept to the program with Gary being in Slayer, you can work double duties, so we’ll see what happens. But you know me Dave, I can do it.
Dave: Speaking of double duties, you’ve got that as soon as next month right?
Zetro: Yes my first show with Exodus will be at Bang Your Head Festival in Germany.
Dave: And you’ll be with Hatriot on tour with Onslaught and Artillery right?
Zetro: Yep, I’m just gonna do one show, fly back and do the other, that’s how I’m gonna do it.
Dave: That’s awesome. How about those US dates with Generation Kill – are those still happening?
Zetro: I heard they (Generation Kill) got off those dates, so no. But that’s what I was told so I’m not quite sure.
Dave: How about those Gamma Bomb dates in October, still on?
Zetro: Well, I heard that tour’s not gonna happen so I’m going to do South America with Exodus for 10 dates and then it’s gonna be Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer in November and December back in the States.
Dave: All right, it sounds like most of the Hatriot dates are still gonna happen.
Zetro: Yea, we set it up to work, a little bit of collateral damage is part of the business but the boys (Hatriot) know this is a great thing. Let’s face it, a lot of people that knew me from Exodus didn’t even know I did Hatriot, this will bridge that gap.
Dave: I agree 100%.
Zetro: Hey, I want you to know I’m only answering certain people right now, you can hear my phone going off like a pinball machine right now, people who’ve helped with Hatriot, I’ll get to the others when things calm down a bit, you know?
Dave: I do and I appreciate it Zetro, thanks.
Zetro: Thank you Dave, I will see you soon. We’re still on and I’ve got two bands now.
Dave: Hell yea, thanks again man. I really appreciate your time this morning.
Zetro: No problem, talk to you soon brother, peace.
I can’t thank Zetro enough for his time on a Sunday morning! Thanks again Zet!! Secondly, ever since it was announced that Gary Holt had joined Slayer, my friends and I have speculated on the fate of Exodus, this talk heated up even more when the new Slayer track “Implode” was released. To be honest we were all worried the band would be reduced to a touring moniker, a sideshow forever opening for Slayer. The thought made us cringe. Exodus is an historic group, a band with a pedigree as reputable as any of the “Big Four” members. It simply deserves a better conclusion.
Now, with Zetro back in the fold and Chuck Billy’s presence on the management end, I am confident that Exodus will carry on. Only the metal gods know if these pioneering artists have a final trick up their sleeves. But if we’ve come this far already the conclusion should be something worth hearing. \m/