With more than 30 years in the scene and still running at full speed, Bay Area Thrash Metal legends Exodus are back with their first album in 4 years. More importantly, Blood In Blood Out (Nuclear Blast) finds vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza returning to the fold after 10 years away from the band.
Exodus has had its share of turmoil and inner conflict during their tenure, but let me ask you this: What relationship doesn’t have its share of bullshit and drama over 3+ decades? For that very reason, we’ll leave all that stuff at the door and focus on what matters most – the tunes. Seriously, Gary Holt’s writing chops and guitar riffs are still peak examples of Thrash Metal’s urgency and aggression, and the band rips through their tunes like a chainsaw. With Blood In Blood Out, the band proves it’s still in excellent form musically and compositionally, so take a lesson, kiddos… Exodus kills it.
Just about on head out on tour with Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer, I spoke with vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza prior to the tour, and their appearance at Washington Street Armory in Albany, NY on 11/25, to discuss Blood In Blood Out, his return to the microphone after a decade, their recent and current tour, and a few words of wisdom for the up and comers out there.
G- Hi Zetro and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! I gotta say it’s an honor to speak with you, as Exodus has been doing this since I was in diapers. How is everything going with you right now?
Z- Cool man. Thanks for having me. It’s great. It’s exciting, it’s a bang, it’s a blast. It’s great!
G- Very good. So now, obviously right to the deal: It’s been 10 years since your last recorded work with Exodus and you still sound pissed as all hell… How does it feel to be back in the fold after a decade?
Z- Thank you. It feels great. It’s energetic, I’m excited, all of the above. I’m so excited to be back and doing this again, and very fortunate to get the opportunity again. I mean, who gets a third chance at anything? I’ve gotta thank the guys for looking my way.
G- Well, it’s still a good fit, and what I wanted to talk about is a decade is a good amount of time, man. Tell us about the recording process for the album, your experiences and such. Andy Sneap was the engineer behind it, yeah?
Z- Well, he did the drums. Actually Jack, our bass player, engineered when I was doing my vocals and the guitar parts. Andy comes in and does drums, and then he goes back to England and when we’re done, we send it to him and he bakes it and mixes it in the pot and stirs it and makes it all happen. So that was kinda the process.
I came in when it was already written. Everything was already pretty much written and recorded, so I really didn’t write that much. I wrote one song on this record, “Body Harvest,” along with Jack. Together we came up with the lyrics for that. But Gary (Holt) did everything else, other than “Honor Killings.” We wrote the lyrics and music to that, but everything else is Mr. Holt.
G- Right on. Now, what was it like for you in the studio laying down those lyrics, man? Tell us about your time on the mic in the studio, and then I want to talk about that South American tour.
Z- Cool. It was just like getting back on a bicycle. I’ve been in this band on and off for 30 years now, so I know how to do this. I know how to record, I know how Gary does his scratch vocal tracks and what he’s looking for. He’s got names for my voices that I use, you know? “The high scream Bon Scott,” you know? There are variations after years and there are names for them. So I’m really easy to work with.
I love doing it. I don’t get intimidated by it ever. I bring it. Bring it fucking awesome! That goes with being a big fan of the genre still, a big fan myself. I love this music. I’m 50 years old, and my head will fall off because I bang so much. I love it! I love to Thrash.
G- Right on. I’m 36 and will be there at 50 as well, so I’m right there with you.
Also, a big accomplishment for Exodus: This album was the highest charting release for the band yet! #38 on Billboard, and Kirk Hammett dropped the hammer for a solo on “Salt The Wound.” It’s your highest chart to date, but does Exodus even give a shit about the charts? (laughing)
Z- You know, we were like ‘Oh that’s nice. What number? Oh cool, we’re Top 40!’
Honestly, I don’t think any Metal bands really worry about that. I mean, it’s a cool mark for a minute, but that’s not what we base it off of. We write the music for ourselves and our fans. Obviously, we’re fortunate enough to still be relevant 30 years later on our 10th record, so that goes to show. If the chart numbers show people are still listening to us and totally into us, it’s exciting. So we don’t take that for granted. We love our fans, you know. We love to make them mosh up the fucking best and watching them destroy each other. It’s great!
G- Well, we love you guys, too.
And prior to Blood In Blood Out’s release, Exodus trounced through South America for a run of dates. Brazil, Chile, Argentina… We know S. America LOVES their Metal and I bet they got a taste of some of those new tracks. How were Exodus’ new tracks received down there with you back on the mic?
Z- Actually, we didn’t play them because I’d never played in South America with Exodus.
Z- Yeah. Only one show in Argentina 20 years ago with Motorhead. So I’d never really been there before.
When I quit 10 years ago, that was on the eve of a South American tour, and they never let me forget that. So, this time was just the classics all the way through because next time it’s not gonna be. It’ll have a lot of the new stuff in it. Next time, for sure.
And it was a blast. Those guys are CRAZY! They love their Metal and they love their Thrash. They get it and they totally bring it. Hats off to South America!
G- I don’t want to sound selfish or greedy, but I guess that means the first time you’re playing the tracks will be on US soil and I’ll be seeing it in a couple of weeks!
Z- Tomorrow night! Tomorrow night is the first night!
G- It’ll be up here in Albany, NY on November 25th, and we’re all salivating for it.
I mean, this is the heaviest thing going to close out 2014. Exodus, Suicidal Tendencies, and Slayer?! Fuck! And the 3 of you have played shows together for years, so I’m sure it’s pretty awesome to be on the road together once again. What do you expect from the shows? Expecting any crazy stories from your VIP experience meet-ups? Who’ll be doing the meet and greets?
Z- Exodus, Suicidal, and Slayer?! It’s gonna go down EVERY night. Mayhem Incorporated. If something isn’t going down, we’re not doing our job. I’ve been doing interviews saying ‘Are you guys gonna be in the pit? You better hit the gym for a couple of weeks because it’s gonna be an all-nighter.’ We’re gonna kick your ass for 35 minutes, Suicidal is gonna kick your ass for another 50 minutes, and then Slayer comes and finishes you off with another hour and a half? Fuhgeddaboutit, man. Fuhgeddaboutit.
Any one of these bands can kick your ass.
G- Call in to work the next days, folks?
Who’s going to be doing the Meet and Greets? Full band?
Z- Full band, man.
G- That’s awesome!
Z- That’s the way it’s gotta be. They’re coming to meet the band. What can we do… Pick and choose the members?
G- Alright that’s solid.
So, we know and you’ve said it already that you’re a lifer in this scene and have been doing it for a long, long time, so I wanted to know if you’re following and Metal bands right now, or do you have any you’d like to shout out?
Z- Actually, I love the Havok guys. Cattle Decapitation. We just did a show with those guys in Mexico City. I love Municipal Waste. I LOVE the newer bands. That’s what keeps it going and fresh. They’ve taken what we’ve done years ago and are keeping it true. So yeah I’m definitely listening to new bands. You have to. They’re holding down the fire, bringing on the rain, and keeping the moshing happening. It’s good, violent fun!
G- (laughing) Nice!
So this tour is starting tomorrow (11/11), and you’ve got a solid run of dates, but the new year is coming around, so does Exodus have any tentative or confirmed plans for the new year?
Z- January is kinda slow for everybody. That’s what they were telling me, but whatever. But in February, we’re going to Australia to do Soundwave Festival.
G- That’s a good one.
Z- I think it’s for 2 weeks because it’s 4 shows. It’s kind of a tour festival that goes all around Australia. Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest, all of these killer bands every day. That’s what’s great about a festival… You get to watch all of your favorite bands all day long.
G- Yes Soundwave is a good one. It’s an 18 hour flight, so I probably won’t be able to hit that one, but we’re all looking for Round 2 after this upcoming show.
Z- Take the little blue pill!
G- I’ll click my heels 3 times and say ‘There’s no band like Exodus. There’s no band like Exodus’ and maybe I’ll teleport there. (laughing)
Z- That’s great! I love that!
G- So tell me, off of this new record or even in general, since you’re at the helm driving the car, do you have a favorite song to perform with Exodus or a favorite track of the new record?
Z- Off the new record, my favorites are “Collateral Damage” and “Numb.” I love those songs, man. I love them all, but those are the ones that I bang profusely hard at home and in my car when I listen to them. They are heavy. The whole record is heavy, but those are my two favorites right there.
My favorite song to play ever? “Deliver Us To Evil.”
G- That’s a good one.
Z- Any of the stuff I didn’t sing on is the fun stuff, you know? Those are the fun songs to sing.
G- Right on.
So 2 last questions, and these are a bit more introspective and thoughtful, more for the people out there playing Metal and listening to Exodus and taking inspiration from all the things you guys have done all these years.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing to consider as a member of a band, especially a band with your tenure?
Z- You can’t lose focus. You can’t lose focus at all. If you lose focus, it’ll all fall apart. There’re too many pieces to it. You’ve got 5 guys in the band, 5 different personalities and families, karmas, you’ve gotta keep that in tact.
And the most important thing is have fun doing it. If you’re not having fun, and you’re going out to be a rock star and it doesn’t happen, you’re gonna hate the business. Don’t do that. Go out and play music for fun. 10 people come and watch you, it’s a blast. 10 people come watch you and buy a shirt, it’s a plus. Everything in music is a plus when you play for fun.
I have another band with my sons, and some nights 40-50 people come. We’re bulding the band right now. I’ve done 75 people and I’ve done 75,000. It’s the same effort and energy. As long as we’re doing it and it’s getting out there, it’s all good to go. All good to go.
G- That was really good, because my last question was gonna be, and if you want to add to it please do, but you’re tried and true and your history speaks for itself. So what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands and kids out here who want to make it in music, and especially on the road because the road is a tough place, who want to be a professional musician like yourself? Any additions to that last statement?
Z- Be meticulous about everything, and you have to be disciplined on everything. Going to practice, writing, putting the packages together, doing interviews, everything.
If you want to reach that level, it’s like a football team: All those little things can ruin the Superbowl for you. You have to do all the little things for the long term. And again, the most important thing, is be heavy. Stay heavy. Everything will fall into place.
G- That’s perfect!
Folks, Blood In Blood Out is out right now on Nuclear Blast Records. Tour with Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer hits Albany, NY on November 25th and it’s going tear the place apart! I just want to say again Zetro, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
Z- Thank you.
G- A pleasure! Play hard as we know you will, stay safe on the road, and 2 weeks, man… It’s going down!
Z- I’ll see you in 2 weeks to kick your NY asses, man.
G- I can’t wait!