It’s crazy for me to think that Exodus has been a powerful force to be reckoned with for 35 years now. 35 fucking years! In the beginning, Exodus was fronted by the now legendary Paul Baloff (R.I.P) and together with his mates helped to lay the foundation for a band that would go on to inspired and influence a countless number of bands. While Baloff and Co. laid the foundation, it would be in 1987 where Exodus would truly make a monumental noise boasting a new singer, Steve “Zetro” Souza and a new album that would be a game changer in metal forever: Pleasures of the Flesh.
With Zetro at the helm, Exodus would go on to release such monumental thrash metal classics such as “Chemkill”, “The Last Act of Defiance” and the song that would go on to be an epic mosh pit anthem: “Toxic Waltz.” I had the pleasure of talking to Zetro from his home and he was super excited to talk about all things metal. We talked about all things Exodus, his love for the late, great Bon Scott and his favorite, not even “C” rate horror movies. This was a really fun interview to do and it was a real honor to talk to the legendary Steve “Zetro” Souza. Enjoy y’all!
Zetro, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk today! I wish I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self that I would be talking to you today!
[laughs] Right on, man. That’s cool. I really appreciate that. It’s cool to still be doing it at this age and I have to say thanks to you for still staying a fan. It’s people like you that keep Exodus and thrash in general thriving.
I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times already but this is my first time getting to say this: Welcome home, Zetro. We fucking missed you dude!
Man, I really appreciate that, Don. Even in the tenure period that I wasn’t there, I’m not blind. I see what the fans want and what they say. That’s not to say that Rob (Dukes; former Exodus vocalist) did a bad job at all. I couldn’t be there in those times so I think it’s great that Rob came in and helped the band continue. I think it just all comes full circle and I’m such a better time. Mentally and physically I’m 100% together. As far as vocally, I’m really on my game. I’m trying to stay healthy.
Before we get started, I have to ask. What question do you get asked so much that if you get asked it again you’ll eat glass?
Um, “How was it coming back into Exodus after being out for almost 10 years?” [Screams] I think I’ve got that question, no like, maybe 1,000 times to date and I’ve only been back in the band for about a year. Man, how do you think it is? Man, its murder. I hate it. I want to kill myself. I told them to put cyanide pill on the rider in every city [laughs]. The that Gary says he will just hang up the phone if he gets asked is, “So is it true that Kirk Hammett used to be in Exodus?” The next thing they’ll hear is a dial tone [laughs].
Holy shit man. If you have to really ask that question you really have no business interviewing Exodus.
[laughs] I fucking agree with you 100%!
In my opinion, Anthrax made one of the best albums of their career when Joey Belladonna came back into the band and now that you’ve rejoined Exodus, you guys have put out my favorite album to date. What is it about getting that old blood back in a band that seems to get things pumping again?
Thanks, Don. Yeah, I think that initially the band was sold to the fans on that line up with that singer. I think that in my situation, my sound is very much a staple with Exodus. They had a singer before me and a singer after me but if you were to identify the Exodus sound you would probably have to say “Zetro.” On top of that, it was such strong written material to come back into. Also, I was ready myself.
Blood In, Blood Out is such a stellar album and what I loved so much about it is that it channeled that old, classic spirit of Exodus without sounding like a dated “throwback” album.
You’re so right. There’s a very fine line there and I think that it’s a great artist trait when you can find that fine line and be able to ride it. On this album, there are a couple of parts on this new album that are very modern. As an artist you have to learn and grow as well.
Seeing bands like Exodus and Testament who are pretty much like my generation’s classic rock of sorts still putting out great material is really something cool.
I agree. Everybody is putting out great stuff. Last year we put out a strong record. Overkill put out a strong record. In 2013 Death Angel put out a strong record. Kreator still does. The last two Testament records kicked ass. Anthrax’s Worship Music kicked fucking ass. I think thrash in general is really fortunately to have guys who are still fans of the music and I think that’s why it still delivers.
Your work with Hatriot had you working with some truly young blood. Did your work with them kind of help mold you and keep you on your toes so that you were in top form when returning to Exodus?
Oh definitely. If I’m not doing Exodus, I’m doing Hatriot so my voice is always staying strong from constantly doing something. I also did Dublin Death Patrol a couple of years ago with Chuck (Billy; Testament lead vocalist), I did Tenet project with Jed Simon so I’m constantly singing and doing something. I run a very strict regiment with Hatriot. The practices and writing are constant. I take that band very seriously so when I returned to Exodus my vocals were all in tune. I joined Exodus when I was 21 and I’ll be 51 soon so I just know how to do it. I know what Gary Holt wants and I know what the band wants. I know how to be Exodus so when people ask me if it was hard to transition back into the band, I just say, “No it wasn’t.” I just went in there, I felt it, and I knew how to do it.
Some fans might question the sincerity of having you back in the band similar to how when Belladonna rejoined Anthrax. How has it been on a personal level being back with Exodus?
There was about 10 years of mudslinging back and forth but Gary and I have a really great relationship now. We can tell each other anything whether it’s something I don’t care for or he doesn’t. Being back in Exodus there’s a lot more respect between everyone. We’re all pretty much into our 50’s now. Lee and Jack are coming up the rear around 47 or4 48, Tom turns 50 this year, and Gary and I will both be 51. I think with age we’ve come to respect who we are as musicians and being in the business.
Well you guys also learned that the legacy and the songs of Exodus are way more important than any ego issues you may have.
Absolutely. I’ve been in the band a year now and the band sees that I have changed. I do some Rob Dukes era songs when we play live. Anytime I’m asked to learn one I always do. No problem. I think they’re great songs and I have fun playing them. I’m not being the guy that I used to be necessarily. I think that approach has really helped the situation as well.
This album was pretty much written before you rejoined the band but you co-wrote my favorite track, “Body Harvest.” Will you have more of a contributing role in the writing process for the next one?
I’m sure I will. I always did in the past. Gary and I split it down the middle. I write lyrics. That’s what I do. I write all the lyrics for Hatriot, I’ve written lyrics for Testament so I keep myself busy. I’m a lyricist. That’s what I do.
While your best years are still ahead of you, do you hear any younger bands that you feel would do a good job carrying the torch for you?
You know, I think Municipal Waste has a great idea about what to do. I think Havok is a great band. That band from Northern California called Hatriot. They’re a great band too as long as they can keep their singer full of glucose I think they’ll be alright [laughs]. I think Holy Grail is really good. There’s a band in Australia that we saw called King Parrot who are a really great band too.
Where there any bands from the old scene that you feel should’ve been huge that never quite made it?
Man, I could say that about a ton of bands. There were so many bands in the Bay Area that should’ve taken it to the next level. Vio-lence, Forbidden. Those bands should’ve really taken it to the next level but I feel that most of the bands who got their due deserved it. It seems like it was all just very short lived. With the whole Seattle thing, in ’93 if you didn’t have a coffee cup in one hand and a heroin rig in the other hand you weren’t even cool enough for school.
I forget sometimes that era of metal really had a small window to work with. I mean, you’re really only talking like 9 or 10 years there.
Oh yeah. The whole Seattle thing kicked metal out so quickly. There were very, very few bands that stayed relevant at that time. I mean, Bruce left Iron Maiden. Dave (Mustaine) went and sold all of his gear. All this shit happened and people were like, “Fuck this. I’m going to go buy a coffee house.” Hell, I had to go out and do union construction for Christ sake. There was just no room for us but as the 00’s came around, bands like us, Testament, and Death Angel started coming back and everyone just loved it and caught on.
Exodus is about to hit the road with Testament soon. What song would you love to see make the setlist that you’ve yet to sing live since being back in the band?
“Deliver Us to Evil.” I’ve raised my hand for that song but right now I’m just the last kid in the room again. They’re not picking me [laughs]. We always joke about my flying status with Exodus. Those guys are all like Silver and Gold status. I’m cardboard [laughs]. I’ve yet to make it to plastic status.
Maybe you’ll make it to Aluminum Status.
[laughs] I’m working on it. Hopefully by next year I’ll reach Aluminum status . They’re all up there in first class waving back at me going, “Hello back there, Zetro!” [laughs]
Let’s get in the time machine and go back in time Zetro. What was the defining moment where you knew you wanted to do music?
I’ve been listening to hard rock since I was 8 years old. I bought my first hard rock album, Led Zeppelin IV back in 1972. In 1978 I saw AC/DC at Oakland Stadium and when I saw Bon Scott put Angus Young on his shoulders I just knew that I wanted to be him. That guy right there.
If you could front any band of any era for just one night who would it be and why?
AC/DC. Are you kidding me? I’d love to have Angus on my shoulders.
I always thought you had this Bon Scott influence to your voice.
My voice is very much modeled after Bon Scott. Matter of fact, I have my own AC/DC tribute band that we play clubs. Will Carroll from Death Angel is my drummer. I got a guy named Dave Chapman who lives in Sacramento who does the most awesome Angus ever. He knows all his moves, wears the uniforms, and looks awesome. We’re called AC/DZ, Z for Zetro.
So being that you’re such a huge AC/DC fan, I have to ask: Brian Johnson vs. Bon Scott?
Bon Scott. There’s no comparison. That’s not to say that Brian’s not any good. I respect Brian. Hell, he took over and if you think about it he’s been in the band 3x longer than Bon. Bon, the way that he sang. The way he wrote that tongue in cheek stuff. Like “Big Balls.” What’s that about? It’s about dance? It’s about his balls? [laughs] The metaphors in that song were just clever as hell and it’s hard to write clever.
Do you remember the first time you ever sang on stage and if so, what was it?
I do remember it and it was terrible [laughs]. It was in like 1982 or ’83. Phil Demmel from Machine Head was in it and he was just as terrible [laughs]. We were called Metal Warrior and I think he still has it on Betamax. I do remember that night.
If you could go back in time and tell a young Zetro one thing about the future what would it be?
That in 35 years, they would consider you a legendary vocalist in a genre that you helped create. I would not have ever believed that ever.
In your opinion, what is one metal album that nobody should go without owning?
Probably the first Black Sabbath album. If you want to go to the bible you have to have that one. You don’t even really know metal if you haven’t heard that record. It’s the beginning of it all. The doom chords, the doom vocals. It’s everything.
If Hollywood was to make a movie about the live of Steve “Zetro” Souza, who would play you?
I’d have to say Zac Effron [laughs].
You’re a big horror fan. What is your all-time favorite “serious” movie and your all-time favorite “cheesy” movie?
There’s a million cheesy ones. I find new ones all the time because I go to the stores and buy from the bargain bins where you get 25 killer slasher flicks for $5.99 on 3 discs. My favorite horror movie forever is The Exorcist. That movie is the scariest horror movie. The premise, the dialog, the way it was filmed, everything about that movie. As for funny movie, can you call Creepshow funny/cheesy? That movie was funny and creepy both at the same time.
Absolutely. That’s my all-time favorite one. That one segment where the dude buries Ted Danson under the water…
And he comes back? That is so sick [laughs]. That’s when makeup and monsters weren’t what they are now. I just saw one called Head of the Family. How about Evil Bong?
No fucking way. There’s a movie called Evil Bong?
[laughs] They have four movies. Evil Bong IV is Evil Bong vs. Evil Crack Pipe. I swear to God. It’s pretty fucking funny and you’ve got to check it out. It’s not even a B-movie. It’s like total C or D level.
Finish this sentence: if I wasn’t a musician I would be _________________.
I would be a manager of musicians and make all the money [laughs].
Finally, what’s in store for you for the rest of 2015?
We are heading over to Europe for five weeks after the US tour. We’re on like 20 festivals this year. We’ve got a lot going on.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this today and I’m so looking forward to seeing you here in Atlanta.
Right on, Brother. Thank you so much and you have a good day my friend. Take care, Don.