Thrash metal pioneers, Exodus, are back and better than ever before. With the release of their 10th studio album, ‘Blood In, Blood Out,’ and the return of classic line-up vocalist, Steve “Zetro” Souza, Exodus has re-established themselves as one of the most important metal bands.
This April, Exodus will hit the road with another influential thrash metal band, Testament. The tour will commence on April 1st, and run for a full month.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with vocalist, Steve “Zetro” Souza.
RMS: Hey Steve, I’m calling from Buffalo, New York, and we’re getting snowed on again. It’s depressing, and we just need some metal.
SS: Wow! I’m in fucking sunny California. It’s about 68 degrees. Not a cloud in the fucking sky. Sorry, I’m rubbing it in right now. But, I don’t see a cloud for miles. That fucking New York. We just got back from Australia, and our soundman, Jim Grimby, he was in Cleveland, and he kept showing us pictures of 10 feet of snow outside of his fucking house. So, that’s why I pay good, high, expensive prices to live in fucking California, Thomas.
RMS: Yeah, it’s fucking brutal out here. Anyways, Exodus is going out on tour with Testament; it was announced a couple of weeks ago. You must be pretty excited about that. It’s really going to be a killer show.
SS: Yeah. I’m sure there are going to be surprises left and right, too, since I do have some type of history with that band. Me and Chuck have sung together in a band before, so I’m sure there’s going to be surprises on that fucking tour.
RMS: Yeah, that’s going to be absolutely killer, Testament and Exodus!!! I want to discuss the record, ‘Blood In, Blood Out.’ The critics loved it, your fans loved it. Were you, at all, surprised at the positive reaction you got, right away, from that?
SS: I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but was overwhelmed by the reviews and continuums of how great it is. I knew we were gonna come out and it was going to be really good. I returned back to the band. I’m not naïve to that; I get it. I just thought, “Oh, it’s going to be cool, the record is going to be really good.” In my eyes, when I was recording it, I kept saying, “This is the best Exodus stuff I’ve ever heard.” When I would comment like that on social media, they would say, “Well, everybody says that when they come back to the band and do a new record. You have to say that.” So we felt that way, because we felt that. Obviously, people love ‘Fabulous Disaster;’ it’s got the classics on there. And then the return, in 2004, with ‘Tempo of the Damned,’ which was a really, really strong record. When you do those type of records, how are you going to top that? In my eyes, ‘Blood In, Blood Out’ tops every single one of them. I love every song on it. All of the songs are masterpieces. The guitar work, drums, the writing, the lyrical writing, is just really awesome. That’s what made a great record. I was really proud to be a part of it. I really didn’t think it was going to be- I figured, by now, it would have stopped, but it really hasn’t. The press and the fans have been really receptive. It’s a breath of fresh air.
RMS: Absolutely. What was the writing process like? Was any of the material written before you rejoined the band?
SS: Yes, the only thing I wrote was “Body Harvest.” That was the only lyrics I got to write on the record. It was one of those things where- it was the only song that Rob had written lyrics to, and they wanted that rewritten. They didn’t want to use it, and they just wanted to move on. So, I had that one on my plate to write, which I did very quickly along with Lee and Jack; we were in the studio. Me and Lee were just throwing lines back and forth; Jack was coming up with ideas, so that’s kind of how that one came out. Everything was there, written already, and almost done when I came in.
RMS: Wow. Was that an easy process, for you to come in, and be involved with something that you didn’t really partake in?
SS: I think so. That’s what I do. I write music for other bands. In fact, I’ve already written four songs with Chuck for the new Testament album.
RMS: Oh, really?
SS: Yeah. I wrote three on the last one, and I wrote two on ‘Formation.’ I wrote “More Than Meets the Eye.” Chuck and I did. There’s a little asterisk there, if you look at the bottom of the page, it says “Additional music written by Steve Zetro Souza.” So, I still write music for them. So, to answer your question, it was easy. I’ve been playing in a band with my son, so it wasn’t like I was sitting on my couch with a fucking beer and a bowl of chips like, “Oh, I think I can do this again.” You know what I mean? Vocally, I’m ready. Lyrically, I’m ready. I think it was great timing for all parties, because we need to resurface some success for this band, and for myself, as well.
RMS: When you left the band back in 2004, it was under a little bit of animosity. Were you guys finally able to bury the hatchet this time around?
SS: Yeah, well, that had to happen. But, believe me, the hatchet swung a few times before it got buried. That was another thing; my whole process was, I auditioned the songs, and then after the auditions of the new songs, they liked what they heard. The next part was to talk to him and see if he’s still the same person that we had problems with in the past, or if there were reasons leading up to those. So, yeah, it was hard, as a process. I assured them that I had grown and that I’m a different person. I started with myself, and I’m not going to carry myself in that manner anymore. There’s no substance to hinder that manner anymore. There was; there was with all of us, and that was a problem. It’s not like that anymore. We were one of the dirtiest bands in the world. We were; that’s just how it was. You came backstage and it was just “Party, party, party. Period.” And now it’s cleaned up, and I think the performances go in hand with that, because nobody’s jacked up going up there. So, yeah, we had it out. There was tons of mud slinging. Gary would fucking destroy me in the press, and I would go back and do shit like, I would say something, and he would call me and I would say, “No, I didn’t say that.” We fucking went back and forth and fucked with each other, and the world knew it. If me and him can do it, Axl and Slash can back together, you know what I mean? It was that bad.
RMS: I remember reading all of that, and I was kind of surprised that you re-joined the band after all of that.
SS: Oh yeah. And, we’re not trying to play that down. We knew it. We talked about that; that was a major thing. Tom told me, himself, he goes, “Honestly, it was made up in my mind that I never wanted to play with you in a band again.” It was like that. We had it out, and I assured them that the monster that was me is no longer, you know what I mean? I’ve changed my lifestyle. I’m not with my boys’ mother anymore; I’m with a woman who loves me and supports this. My children are now grown. They’re men, and they play in another band with me, and they have their own lives. That was another thing. There were a lot of things that hindered what I had done in the past, and now there are none of those obstacles in my way, at all. It’s just straight up Exodus and that’s what I’m doing, and there’s nothing in the way. So, I think, when they saw that, because we’ve done tours now, and they’ve been with me; I’ve been with them for a couple of runoffs, and all of October was in South America. We did five weeks with Slayer and Suicidal, and now we just did Australia and everything’s great. Everybody’s in a good mood, and we’re just having a good time, and the shows are fucking awesome. I’m singing the best I ever have. The boys are all playing really well. I’m telling you, this is the best time to go see Exodus.
RMS: Absolutely. I’ve been checking out some of the YouTube videos of your live performances, and I have to agree with you. I think the band is just on fire. Vocally, you’re just totally zoned in and sounding great, so I think Exodus is better than ever before. Do you agree with that?
SS: I think so, yeah. I do. I think that, because of the players in the band, and that’s not to downplay anyone who has been in this band in the past, because there’s so many, but I’d have to say the lineup we have now is stellar. Lee and Gary are fucking witches when it comes to that guitar; they’re both masters at it. Jack; since when have you ever heard bass on an Exodus album? Jack is just forefront, and Tom’s on fire. Tom’s playing better than he’s ever played those fucking drums. That thrash metal sound; that’s his signature. So, yeah, I would say it’s a force now. It’s a straight up fucking force.
RMS: Do you guys have any plans, after the Testament tour, to do any festivals, or anything in the U.S., in the summertime?
SS: Yeah. We’re doing “Welcome to Rockville,” we’re doing “Carolina Rebellion,” we’re on a Maryland metal thing… there’s some death metal things that we’re doing. And then we’re going with Testament to Europe for five weeks during all of the festivals. So, that’s going on right now, and we’re booked solid until July, and then they’re working on going back to territories that we’ve previously gone to that want us back there. We came back yesterday, from Australia, and did Soundwave Festival. That was great. The people want us to come back and do headlining shows here because it was so successful. We’re going to Japan in two weeks with Sodom and Overkill. So, yeah, we’ve got shit going on. Definitely. There’s a new bit of plasma shot into the Exo camp, which is great. We’re very excited about it.
RMS: How does the fact that Gary is now involved with Slayer effect the plans of the band?
SS: You know, it actually works out, because he didn’t go to Australia with us. His dad got sick, so it was kind of like a tester. So, we had Kragen Lum from Heathen came out and played Gary’s part. Unfortunately, we already had to test the waters. He said he was going to put out a record within the next couple of months. So, when it comes out, they’re going to be busy. Gary has to go with them, and we’re going to have to continue. So, we understand that, and we worked it through. He’s coming to Japan with us, I believe he said, during the Testament tour, but he may not be doing the Testament tour with us in Europe, because of Slayer priorities. So, it should be fine. We’ve already talked about this; we know what we are going to do. Kragen’s learning more and more in songs. Kragen’s a great guitar player; he plays already with Heathen. It’s a good match; he does thrash metal and he’s a great player. We just went over to Australia with him and just crushed. You know, we miss Gary. Gary is Gary. The songs didn’t come over any different. You close your eyes, they sound the same. We all have side projects: I have Hatriot, he has Heathen, Jack and Tom have Coffin Hunter, a country band, and Gary’s got Slayer.
RMS: I’ve heard the Hatriot stuff before, and that’s some pretty intense music. Do you have plans on doing anything with that?
SS: Yeah, we’re trying to write a new record with them right now. But, they have just come to me- my son’s actually here with me right now- my son Cody is going to play bass and sing, because he sounds like me, while I’m not playing, because they’re going to continue while I’m touring with Exodus. But, if I’m here and I’m available, I’m going to be with that band, for sure. I spent three years building that band. So, the kids are ready to put it down. So, we were just talking to somebody about working on some management and getting this going. So, we’re gonna get going with it, and it’s going to be great. I’m not stopping.
RMS: It doesn’t sound like you are. Like I said before, it sounds like you seem pretty focused on your career and taking it forward. Are there any other upcoming metal bands that you have been listening to? Do you listen to metal in your off time?
SS: Sure. That’s all I listen to. I don’t listen to anything else but metal. I’m not one of those guys that plays metal and listens to country. I don’t play that game at all. Yeah, we love all of the newer bands. Havok kicks ass. Municipal Waste. I love Cattle Decapitation; heavy as shit, you know? I play in a band with those guys. My son loves Black Dahlia Murder, The Faceless; that type of shit. So, we listen to all that kind of stuff, for sure.
RMS: I’ve been watching some of the footage of some of the major festivals over in Europe, and it is so incredible how massive those festivals are. What is it like, playing in front of that many people? What kind of rush is that for you?
SS: It’s the best thing in the world. It’s the top of the world. The lights go down, and that intro music goes on, and 80,000 people are going “AHH!” And you come out, and it gets wild. You look out there… the biggest thing I ever did with Exodus was, just last August, we flew to Colombia, Bogotá, to play a gig called “Rock Al Parque,” which is a big festival in the park. It’s a festival that the government puts on for the people, and if you live in Colombia, you can just go to the festival. They have major acts. There was 110,000 people when I stepped on stage. 110,000 fucking people. I’m looking out, I couldn’t even see all the way back. It was a fucking soccer stadium filled, filled to the rim, all the way on the floor, all the way back, all the way up the sides in the seats. You fucking got a rush. You’re talking about, “Holy shit.” This is what you thought about as a little kid, playing air guitar in your room just fucking breaking the law, this is what you fucking wanted. And, this is what you got. I’m definitely living my dream; I swear to God, I am.
RMS: That must be the coolest feeling in the world, playing for that many people like that.
SS: It’s unbelievable. Like I said, we just did that Soundwave festival not too long ago in Australia. That was 40, 60, 70, and then 50, and that was all different cities- Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne. That was a big festival with Slipknot, Slash, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, All Time Low, Of Mice and Men, Exodus, Judas Priest, Godsmack, Killer Be Killed, Nonpoint; a fucking ton of bands. Just a shitload of fucking bands on that, so it’s just a great thing. But, it’s also great for the fans, because you get to go and see 10 of your favorite bands in one fucking day. It’s awesome. The festivals work out. The states are trying to get that. We’re doing two this year that are going to be big ones. One’s in Jacksonville called “Welcome to Rockville,” and the one in Carolina is called “Carolina Rebellion.” That’s got A-list acts, and should have 40-50,000 people. So, they’re getting it. We did Heavy Montreal last year in Canada, and that was the closest thing to a European festival I’d ever seen, as far as the way the crowd acted, the way they had it set up, the way the campers were all out. So, they’re getting it. When I was a kid, I grew up in the Bay area, there was a promoter that died about 20 years ago- Bill Graham- he used to have these things, they were called “Day on the Green.” It was where the Raiders and the A’s play in the Oakland Coliseum. He would put random concerts out- not people that were on tour- random concerts. I would go, and I remember- I’ll give you a lineup- 1978: Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Van Halen, and Journey in concert. It was unbelievable.
RMS: That was AC/DC when Bon Scott was in it, in 1978.
SS: Right, AC/DC with Bon Scott. Then, the next year was like- I went to three of them- The Rockets, J. Geils, Nazareth, UFO, Thin Lizzy, and Journey. The next one I went to was Mahogany Rush, AC/DC, Ted Nugent, and Aerosmith. All in one show, 1978-79 in the stadium. Unbelievable. It was just one off gig. So, they started to do that in places now, and they’re starting to get it, which is great. So, you know, it’s coming around, and I think that it’s going to be the future. It’s great to play those, but greater yet, we did side-gig shows with Fear Factory while we were in the fucking studio. I like ‘em both.
RMS: Very cool. I just want to end the interview with talking about AC/DC: you’re a huge fan; you have a side project, AC/DZ. How did you get into AC/DC? What do you think makes them so special?
SS: I got into AC/DC in the 70s. I just loved his voice. That’s why my voice is very much modeled after Bon Scott. I heard it all weekend, and the last 10 days in Australia, that I’m the Bon Scott of thrash metal. I’ve heard that before, for years, but that’s my thing. He was my hero; the way he carried himself on stage, and the energy they brought is how I try to do it myself. I bring is constantly. You saw it yourself, and that’s my staple. Look at Angus and Bon- such the front two. I try to bring that. They meant so much to me, and I model myself after him, and I became this thing. That’s the best thing in the world. I got to be one of my idols, and I’m living that right now.
RMS: Yeah, just don’t die like your idol.
SS: Exactly. I’m not going to. I keep myself fit. I go to the gym every fucking day now. I never drink alcohol. Well, I live in California, so I do smoke a shit ton of weed, but weed’s never killed anybody. But, other than that, I’m going to go out and kick your ass every fucking night. The guys in Exodus will tell you, “He needs to smoke more weed, he’s so hyper.” I sleep like, five hours a night. I’m constantly like- da, da, da, da da… I’m running around. They’re like, “Where do you get the energy from?” I’ve got a lot of time to be resting when I’m dead later in life. So, I’m not worried about it.
RMS: Very cool. Well, I appreciate you calling me, Steve. It was a great interview. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Niagara Falls on April 16th.
SS: We’ll be there. We’ll kick your fucking ass, bro.
RMS: Take it easy, man.
SS: Okay, brother. See you soon. Thanks.
Special thanks to Natalie Camillo for setting this interview up. A BIG Thank you to Dana Kaiser for typing this interview.