STEVE ZETRO SOUZA [EXODUS]: I went back into the world and became a carpenter

EXODUS has undoubtedly been one of the biggest Thrash Metal bands from the USA. With ten albums under their belt, the band is all set to return back to the studio early January 2017 to write the next record. Here, in this exclusive interview, we spoke to Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza about his struggles, life over the last 30 years and Exodus. Excerpts:

MJM. Hello Mr. Steve, how you doing? 

Steve: I am good. Very busy! Seems like we never stop being busy lately, since I am back in the band haha! But that’s going to stop here in a couple of months cause we are gonna hit the studio and start writing our new album. I guess that’s a good thing!

MJM. That’s great to know! Let’s start off by talking about your earlier life; there was ‘Legacy’ which went on to become ‘Testament’ after Chuck’s entry. Tell us about how Heavy Metal entered your life and the journey over the years.

Steve: I think Heavy Metal was in my life when I was young in the early 70’s cause now I am a bit older and my father was an old school biker so he listened to FM stations in the garage while he worked on his motorcycle. So when I was in the garage with him as a young child, I was exposed to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix anything that was Rock N Roll kinda Hard Rock at that time. So I always had it in me and as I was up through my teens, even in my early 20’s, it was always harder music and I watched Punk bands and listened to Punk bands because they were so raw and fast and people were running into each other slamming dancing I guess they used to call it at that time. I loved British Heavy Metal, the finger picking of Iron Maiden, Deff Leppard and Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy. I always listened to those bands so when I started playing in bands, I was kinda like the guys in Metallica, Exodus, who I didn’t even know at that time! I wanted something that was Metal or something that was Hard Rock or something that was faster than anything that was done before. I think in Legacy, we used to go and watch a lot of shows and we even watched Exodus and Metallica and bands like Death! I loved Heavy guitars and fast music. We liked that. That’s what really intrigued me so much to this day. I was in Legacy for a few years, which was basically my band and then I got the offer that we all try to emulate which was Exodus. In ’86 I joined them and I grew up with that. We lived in the same town. is father was everybody’s baseball coach. Mr. Billy. Then Chuck and I, with his brother started hanging out. I then left Legacy to join Exodus and told Chuck to try out. Last Saturday we all did a green screen meeting  of the original Legacy because its been 30 years since the album Legacy came out. Everyone of us got interviewed! It was kinda exciting. After all these years, you know, it’s kinda cool!

MJM. Your association with Chuck also led to Dublin Death Patrol right? 

Steve: That was in the 2000’s. We had already established ourselves as musicians you know, credible musicians in the business. I was one of the guys that put it together. There was a lot of other guys in Dublin at that time that didn’t get to play on the scale of music that Chuck and I were to play on. So we wanted to get guys, his brother played bass on two songs and we had a  bunch of musicians. Normally, the two of us didn’t get to do an album on a big scale, so we put that together and that did well! Everybody liked it, we kinda toured with it. We have been to Europe a couple of times. We thought I was really fun but unfortunately Chuck and I have real jobs, you know main bands and that just takes too much time. I have been back with Exodus in the last two and a half years. So we got busy. I haven’t stopped. You know what I mean?  We are going out with Obituary, Prong and King Parrot. We leave Wednesday and by the end of that tour, since I re-toured we would have played around 280 shows. So yeah we have been very busy.

MJM. DDP also had a lot members touring together. Was there a primary reason behind having these many people?

Steve: Yes. We already had 2 singers, 3 guitars players so that’s five people right there haha! We brought two bass players with us and one drummer. One of the bass player was my brother, he came down and played the last two songs. I was one of those times. We just did it for fun! Chuck and I, wanted to be able to show the other guys that didn’t get to play on the scale that we played and what we were doing and all that choruses and what it’s like to do an in store and what its like to have an album come up. It was just kinda like, god I know there’s been these few people on that period who said “Hang on, we are  re-do this again” and we were like “Uhhh, probably not cause I am too busy with Exodus. Chuck’s very busy with Testament. They just put out Brotherhood of the snake and then Exodus was just about to end the tour and go back into the studio to write music. I think that’s probably where our focus is, you know. We don’t have time to do DDP. Although I had like to play a concert with the band but we’ll see when time comes.”

MJM. Let’s talk about the upcoming Exodus album. ‘Blood In, Blood Out’ came around two years ago at this time of the year. What’s the next one going to be like? What’s the concept behind this?

Steve: I haven’t really known because I haven’t picked up with Gary Holt yet. He’s been on tour with Slayer for most of that time and Gary is the main song writer in Exodus. I did get some text messages in the last couple of weeks about he was in a hotel room about the size of a gymnasium, writing a new song that’s a good thing haha! That’s what I know about it. He thought Blood In, Blood out was a bit light and he wants to make it heavier so let’s see what happens.

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MJM. A lot of bands have over the years have experimented with their music, by incorporating a lot of new ideas into their song writing like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer they all have experimented with some of their albums. Exodus did that too with Force of Habit, Exhibit A and B; of course the latter had Rob Dukes on vocals but do you think that experimenting gives musicians a wider vision to try something newer or is basically done to simply put out something for fans to enjoy for the love of it?

Steve: We write for our fans! I don’t think we are gonna do this time and this is Exodus. Ten people will love it and a hundred people will hate it. We don’t care about that! I think when we did Force Of Habit, we were signed to a major label, so we had a lot of pressure to try and produce that one song that they can market. So we cover a lot of press but we don’t even play that shit anymore. We don’t play even one song from that record. We were all you know, proud of that time, necessarily where we just trying to survive in a scene where metal would just on itself! Nirvana came in, Grunge music came in, Sound Garden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam it’s the same demographical; Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal was just pushed to the rear side; I think that was a futile effort by trying to hold on to the rope I guess. I don’t think that was the right thing to me, I think what came from my heart was when in 2004, when you got Tempo of the Damned; this record was written when we were broke. Nobody has got any money. All this shit we have done over the years and we were back to square one and we just wanted to write a record that was Exodus! I think honestly even Exhibit A and B; were heavier in their own way. I am not singing on them, they were still so very brutally heavy in their own right. I wished that I got to sing on those records actually. I at least sing some of those songs on live now! We play a good handful of those songs when Rob was in the band. I really love those songs. I think Exodus got heavier during those records. Blood in, Blood out was a lot old school. People heard my voice and said “Now, that’s old school”. It had a lot to do with it. I don’t think that was right to say, “okay, we’re gonna write this in the vein of bringing it back to the day,” I truly love every song on the last record. I can’t say that about every single Exodus record that I have ever done. I love all the songs; I am not in love with all the songs. I can listen to the record from top to bottom and not fast forward and say, “Oh, I liked this one”, “I loved that one”. Everything in the record is not necessary that we play live. I loved them! Great tracks, good messages and metaphors. I was very fortunate to come back and sing on that album. Now, I got to talk to Gary as he’s been busy playing with Slayer for a couple of years but old age has rubbed off on him a little bit haha! Let’s see what happens. We come home from Europe on the 27th of November, I believe and we are gonna take all of that holidays off and then we are gonna start working in January. So next year, around this time, you’re gonna have a new Exodus album. I can’t say for sure but you never know what does gonna happen. That would be the timeline for the band.

MJM. The Blood In, Blood Out also had Kirk Hammet back on board, tell us about having him back on board after all these years.

Steve: I think it was great for Kirk actually because again there was so many of us that turned back. There were Legacy/ Testament albums that I have gone back and sang on. I sang in First Strike, people would have never heard me sing with Legacy. If you didn’t get the data, then you probably never heard it before. I think that was the kind of element that was brought forth with Kirk playing on the Exodus album. I actually wasn’t even around at that point of time. Gary told me that it was a dinner that him and Kirk had I guess it would have been Christmas time in 2013 or so. Gary asked Kirk “Hey man, would you like to play on the new Exodus album?” Kirk was like “Wow! You finally asked me to play on the album. I would love to.” Again, I wasn’t in the band at that point of time but I heard the story that they put out. Fans knew Kirk was in Exodus. They would have loved the collaboration. It holds a lot of water in it. It still showed that the band was behind each other and I went on a point saying that the experiences, when we played with Metallica a few times last year in some festivals, I had a really good time with those guys. We were really close and had good conversations.

MJM. Speaking about Exodus your departure and arrival happened quite a few times. What is it that motivates you to do this?

Steve:  I left one time actually. The first time in 1993, Gary Holt called it quits in Japan. He was dissolving the band in Japan in ’93. I keep getting that thing but that wasn’t me. This is my third stint in the band. I really only quit in 2004 and at that point the music in this field wasn’t a necessary pain of living anymore. So it 1983, I went back into the world and became a carpenter and I started working as a carpenter in California. I worked my way up to farming and I was making really good money! I had young children and so I was torn at that point and I was going out with Exodus and I couldn’t support my family like I was able to cause now I lead a very completely different lifestyle and I have got three children and a wife. I got some fancy things, so I couldn’t go out on touring. So for that two years, I neglected my children growing up, birthday parties and graduations as a young kid and I am never gonna be able to buy back again. I came back home after tour and it wasn’t making nearly the same money as when I was a carpenter at home and then the children’s mother is my ex wife now; it wasn’t the greatest provider or helper in the respect. When I would go on tour, I always had one eye back open at home. So I left in 2004. So a lot of those reasons or why I had to hang it up and wasn’t happy with that. We go our whole life trying to do this thing and become this entity, we can go to school for 9 years to become a fucking doctor. There is no guarantee in music, none. Here I have already done things in music that I could call my own stuff, especially for my own self. Here I had to give it up I wasn’t happy about that. Many times in those ten year period between 2004 and 2014 that I kicked myself in the ass, damn I gave up everything I had to go to work, to support the children in the family; I guess it was the right thing because the kids are great and all adults now. I was playing with another band before I rejoined Exodus. They are called Hatriot. They’re continuing. My son is playing in that band; he is the singer/ bass player. So a lot of good things that happened in that time. I was able to regroup with Dublin Death Patrol. I wrote music for Testament. I kept myself busy but then I couldn’t wait to get back and sing after I heard what they had written for Blood in and Blood out. I was like, “Yeah, I am in this”.

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MJM. You have a long association with Nuclear Blast Records. Tell us about how an important a role they have played in pushing the band all these years. 

Steve: I would say that they have all the hands in that. When we recorded ‘Tempo of the damned’ we had no record deal. We were just a bunch of guys who were there who would put a lot of money together. We had the guy at the studio, so we could just go in there and record the album and so we sold it. At that point, in 2002, Nuclear Blast wasn’t all that big in the world. Although there were a couple of big bands, I think Dimmu Borgir was there and a couple of other signings. All the people, Mark was leading us, Jaap and Andy and everyone else that were there just believed in us and so they had lots to do with it and make us who we are. I look at them now and they are the biggest Heavy Metal record label in the world by far. I say they know what to do with their bands and they know their bands and it’s not all about money and the bottom line to them. We were just touring Europe by then Jaap was there with us and he was like our artist guide to all the bands and he was like Markus who was the owner said to tell the Exodus boys that he misses them and he can’t wait to hear the new stuff. This guy has got way bigger bands on his label now and he still takes you know that one of his favorite bands among many. The label is called ‘Nuclear Blast’ because of the song and then there none and then the eyes blinded by Nuclear Blast. He told me that at breakfast a long time ago! So, he started it out as a fanzine and then he started a label and then he dreamed to have all his favorite bands and get closer to them and he told me that now. He now has all of his favorite bands on his label so it’s great. He never thought that it would be all this way. That’s why we are very pleased with Nuclear Blast and didn’t think of going anywhere else.

MJM. How did you balance Exodus with your other projects?

Steve: Actually, I killed everything off! I was in Hatriot but then in Hatriot, my son was just the bass player; now he’s the bass player and singer. I only do the AC/DC tribute when I am home. I do that in bars just for fun. I put my entire thing into Exodus now. I don’t want any other distractions, there’s no room or it. I want the band to carry on and be as good as it can be and have as many fans around the world to enjoy the band. There’s only one way to do that and that is to put everything you have.

MJM. Who would you cite as your closest friend in the music industry?

Steve: My closest friend? Well, it’s gotta be Chuck. He and I have collaborated so much together, we grew up in Dublin together; we followed each other’s career since Legacy. I became a singer and he took over my band, so I got to say Chuck Billy!

MJM. Exodus, has played in various countries over the last many years. Any plans of hitting India any time soon?

Steve: We talk a lot about coming to India all the time. We just toured with Kryptos in Germany. Damn, they are a very great band. Those guys kick ass. They have a very special sound which is kinda like an edgy Deff Leppard meets Maiden kinda deal. I really dig them, they supported us on a few shows in Germany this past summer and they were on a festival line up. I would love to come to India, we are talking about that and I know so. That would be so great. I love concerts. I love watching Iron Maiden live from India or something. The fans are fucking crazy man! They love their metal. It’s so bad that it’s just so hard to get to India. Goddamn, India is like all away from everybody else. We have to get a special trip to get to fucking India or something. I am sure that the logistics of it is just so expensive so go there. I am sure a band a size of Metallica would be much easier but us being in a band you got like 1000 or 1500 something like that. It’s tougher to get us, tougher to find a promoter. We are working on it. We were in Japan in last week. And a lot of questions were, are you coming to South Korea? Yes, we are. We are talking about it. We wanna come and hit all those places. Singapore? We would love that. Malaysia, would be great to all those metal fans. We would really love it! We are starving for it. One chance to get to see us live!

MJM. Well then, thank you so much for speaking with us. We really hope to see you here soon. Take care.

Steve: Oh yeah, probably next year. We are gonna be cooking it up! It’s gonna be a heavy pie! Thank you my friend. Have a great day!

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Connect with the band-

Facebook | Website

Interviewed by-

Harsha Vardhan (Metaljesus Magazine– Chief Editor)

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