» Steve "Zetro" Souza - Exodus
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Interview conducted June 18 2018
Interview published July 24 2018

"I have to be honest with you. I think it was more fun when I was younger."

Metal Covenant was given some time to talk with vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza as the Bay Area thrash veterans Exodus came to Stockholm, Sweden for a show earlier this summer.

"It's the Big 1, the other 3 and all the rest of us."

Tobbe: When strictly looking at Exodus's interests, isn't it kind of okay that Slayer will most likely end their career in a couple of years?

Steve: I don't say couple of years; it's already on. I'd say they're in the final year of it, I would think. You know, I guess personal choice by musicians that are getting older… In the '80s it was great, and maybe the '90s, and even the early 2000's, but we're almost in 2020 and some people just aren't interested in doing this anymore, so. If you're heart is not into it, definitely don't do it.

Tobbe: And surely Gary's [Holt] involvement in Slayer has of course helped Exodus to some extent.

Steve: Oh, I agree with that. A hundred percent, yes I do. We were playing a concert in Montréal; it's called Heavy Montréal. Gary was with Slayer and they were in Europe and we were home, so we flew off to go do it, from San Francisco, and he flew and met us there. And I was in my room and I get this text message "Hey motherfucker. Get down to the bar; we're drinking.". I wanted to see all the guys so I go down there, and it was Gary and Kerry King and some of the roadies and Tom [Hunting, drums] and Lee [Altus, guitar] and a couple of us.

You know, we're down there, bullshitting and I see Kerry sitting at the bar watching sports and he's eating, like, some wings and a burger; something like that, and some guy walks up to me and, I mean, I'm just talking to him, pats him and he walks to the end of the bar. It was late and I'm like "I'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm going upstairs. I'm gonna go to bed.".

So I walk to the end of the bar and that very same guy goes to me; he goes "Hey man. Who are you?" and I said "My name is Steve Souza.". He goes "You play in a band?" and I go "Yeah, I play in a band called Exodus.". He goes "Exodus… Hmm. Never heard of you before. But that's Kerry King and I know who Slayer is.". So there's a story of an example of somebody who truly knows who Slayer is, but never heard of Exodus before, so.

Tobbe: But has this inconsistency in the band because of Gary's involvement there sometimes been kind of hard to deal with?

Steve: I think a little bit as of the last few years 'cause our tour schedules ran simultaneously. So to be honest with you, since I've been back in the band, and it's been 4 years now, June 6th, he's never toured with us in Europe. It's always been Kragen [Lum, guitar]. So, that obviously is going to be coming very soon, 'cause at the end of Slayer he's got us to come back to.

Tobbe: Most bands that have members that temporary play with other bands sometimes take a break, but you have chosen to continue all the time.

Steve: We have to work. We're not rich. And this is what we do. And if you look at Anthrax: Charlie [Benante, drums] gets tendonitis all the time and either Jon Dette, and I heard Gene Hoglan was just filling in for Charlie. On the tour they did it's Slayer, Lamb Of God, Anthrax, Testament and Behemoth in the States right now and Charlie's hand was hurting, so Gene was playing and he had to do double duty. And sometimes Scott [Ian, guitar] isn't there and they get Andreas Kisser [Sepultura], so. You know, sometimes people sit out and the only one of us that has had to do that is Gary because of the Slayer commitment.

Tobbe: Blood In Blood Out will hit the 4-year mark this fall and when can the fans expect to see another record out?

Steve: Well, I heard it. I heard there's songs. I'm gonna say late 2019; probably it's going to be. To be honest with you, a realistic schedule. I mean, again, a lot of the time… For Gary to finish with Slayer… It's not like we're trying to "Okay, well, you've got a 2 month break here. Let's try to cram the record in there.". We don't wanna do that; it's not fair to the fans. You know, we're Exodus. We've been around since '85. We can play. It's not like somebody's gonna come and go "They don't have a new record out, so I'm not gonna go and see 'em.". That's not the case with us.

You know, as long as we're playing Bonded By Blood and [The] Toxic Waltz and the songs that they like they'll come and see us. We would like to have a new record out, but it's not just time feasible right now with commitments of people. I'm ready to go, man. I am ready to fucking go. I've got a ton of shit to write to. I can write this album in 3 weeks, man.

Tobbe: Is there any other way for Exodus to write music than to just write an intense thrash metal record?

Steve: I don't think it's all necessarily intense thrash metal records. Songs like And Then There Were None are not thrash metal, you know. Songs like Children Of A Worthless God; that's not really thrash metal. I mean, it's a good balance. As long as you have a good grind. A lot of our songs, like Blacklist, is not thrash metal. It's not thrash metal, is it?

Tobbe: Does a band like Exodus still look at physical record sales even to this day?

Steve: Yes, we do. Of course. It's very important. When Blood In Blood Out came out it was the highest charting record Exodus ever put out and sold the most out in the first couple of weeks than we've ever done before. And honestly I feel, with Gary being in Slayer and then Slayer ending, the band's gonna be bigger the next time, you know what I mean? The band will be definitely growing.

Tobbe: Does Exodus mean more to you today than it ever did?

Steve: I have to be honest with you. I think it was more fun when I was younger. [Laughs] 'Cause of the way we used to carry ourselves. Now it's all about the live show and playing and it's great to be considered, you know, legends after so many years. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it anymore, you know what I mean? In the years that I was out I went and was a carpenter in the union for 20 years, you know. I was back to the times as I was in my late '40s and I was going to work all day and then I was going to write music in the studio with my kids, you know, at night, for Hatriot. So, it was like I started all brand new over again.

Tobbe: The way you see it personally. What's your best vocal performance ever?

Steve: I think now live, because I'm singing better than I ever have. And I'm not being a callus on their pompous asshole. I really have a grip of what I'm doing and I don't have a problem with my highs. You know, if you listen to Robert Plant now; Robert can't do what he used to sing, like in Led Zeppelin. It's honestly too bad. I wish he could retrain himself to do that. I have never lost that, so.

Tobbe: Honestly, have you ever compared yourself to the other singers of Exodus, like [Paul] Baloff and [Rob] Dukes?

Steve: I don't compare. It's all part of a historic process, you know what I mean? I think if you were to look at it, to be honest, I'm the voice of Exodus 'cause I've played on so many of the albums. Just like there was Paul Di'Anno and then there was Bruce [Dickinson] and then there was Blaze [Bayley]; I'm Bruce, you know what I mean? I think Rob's kind of Blaze and Baloff's kind of Paul Di'Anno, you know what I mean? When people think of Exodus I would have to say that that's kind of how I'm looked at, you know.

Tobbe: So in what way do you try to preserve and take care of your voice nowadays?

Steve: I try to eat right. I don't do any drugs or drink alcohol. So, I'm pretty good about that. And I go to the gym every day. I'm very conscious about how I wanna train myself. I just recently lost my parents and they didn't wanna take care of themselves, you know what I mean? You know, my mother was really sick and my father went 17 months after my mother and you always here about that: You know, one goes and the other one goes 'cause they miss the other one. I think that had a lot to do with it, but my dad, I think if he would have taken better care of himself, he'd still be here right now.

And I don't wanna end up like him and so I go, when I'm home anyway, to the gym every single day. I'm there for an hour/an hour and 45 minutes; pumping like cardios, abs, weights and I feel that that's longevity. And eating: trying to eat, you know, the best you can. And gotta sleep at night, every night. All these guys went to bed today at 5 and 6 in the morning; I was in bed by, like, 2 / 2.30, you know what I mean? So I try to live the normal schedule that I have.

Tobbe: But it's hard to, like, eat correctly, because it's so easy to get unhealthy food.

Steve: Especially on the road I really have to concentrate on it, because it's all garbage food. It's all shit food, you know. So it's like I have to pick and choose what I wanna eat, like I'm really trying to slim it down. I mean, I'm really eating nothing but salad right now on the road, you know. I'm really trying, you know. You can't always live on that, but the McDonald's stops I haven't gone into, you know. Pizza after the show, I haven't been touching, you know what I mean?

I think I did it twice so far, only because there was nothing else to eat and, you know, I'm drained, I'm hungry, gotta eat something. Your body needs food, so. When I'm at home I can go "Okay. I can eat this, but I can only eat this much of this." and I know in 2 hours I can eat another meal, but here I can't do that. There's a whole table with candy and fucking crackers and all kinds of shit in there that doesn't have my name on it. And they brought tacos and tortillas and stuff and, you know, I'm just choosing not to eat that right now. But it's very hard, because you're hungry, and everybody else is eating.

Like the other night, everybody went into McDonald's. The bus is a double-decker and I was up in the back and I came down and [Slurring] "Hey man! Want a burger?" and I'm like [Sad voice] "No.". That's another thing with me: Every night there's a jar of candy and candy is my worst of anything. Cake, sweets, cookies, any of that type of stuff I love, so. And when I'm on tour they just give it to you in droves, you know. So I have to tell myself that I'm not going to eat this type of stuff, you know.

Tobbe: Well, you gotta start somewhere.

Steve: There's no start; it's continuous. It's just I haven't been too successful at it. [Laughs]

Tobbe: What's the status of Dublin Death Patrol right now?

Steve: There's really no status. It was only really supposed to be a one record thing, Chuck [Billy, Testament] and I, and then all the other guys in the band that had never done this on this level before were like "We gotta do another record. That was so cool.". It's kind of like that drug, you know what I mean? You need that adulation rush. But it was funny, as right when we started writing Death Sentence [2012], Chuck had to write Dark Roots Of Earth, so he wasn't even in on the writing of that, and when we recorded it I wrote mostly all the lyrics.

I had to tell him "Hey. Okay, with this song we're doing this and you're gonna do this part and I'm…", you know; towards the first record [DDP For Life, 2007] that was a better collaboration of Chuck and myself on the vocals. Pigs In The Hollow, stuff like that, so. Every time we talk about doing it again, it's like "Hey Zet, what are you doing?" and "Oh fuck. Exodus is gonna do this…" and "Okay. Testament's gotta do this.", so we're always like this [Spreads his arms].

Tobbe: But maybe some day.

Steve: Yes, yes. Don't ever say no to something. I never do that. Who's not to say I'm gonna sing on, you know, future Hatriot records, you know what I mean? I don't know. Which they start recording in August. And my son is the singer now, so.

Tobbe: It runs in the family.

Steve: Full circle, bro.

Tobbe: And then your grandson is coming there too, I guess.

Steve: I don't have those yet, but they're old enough. My children are old enough. I have a 28 year old son, 25 year old son and a 20 year old daughter, so anybody could, at any time, I guess. My brother's already a grandfather and I'm thinking "Man, I feel like kind of young.", but when I look back, my dad was already a grandfather when he was 52, and I'm 54, so. My sons don't want it right now. That's good; fine with me. I had my first son when I was 26, so I was young having children. I think, honestly, it's better when you're older for... Well, it's give and take.

We were broke, me and his mom; we were stupid. You know, I was trying to play in Exodus from the beginning. I made her pregnant in '89 and we decided to get married in '90 and that was at the height of everything, you know. And so here I am having children and… You know, if you wanna do this lifestyle, it's really not easy. Like right now, I've been gone for 6 weeks. On this tour I've been gone for 6 weeks. I miss my pugs, but I don't miss my children, so. At that age you will always miss your children. It's just the way it is.

Tobbe: As we mentioned, Slayer is putting an end to their career. Do you see an end to Exodus's career too?

Steve: No. If these guys all don't wanna do it, I've got them all replaced. Think about it. I got two kids that play drums and bass. [Snaps his fingers] Pick them up like that, so. I plan on doing this 'til I'm 70 years old, at least. Lemmy was 70. Look at the Scorpions, so. And people still go see them.

Tobbe: Among the fans, there's always talk about extending The Big 4 to, like, The Big 5 and Exodus is one of the names…

Steve: I don't agree with The Big 4; I never have. How can you say that, when one could put 10 times more than the other 3 put together? So The Big 4 is really… I mean, I think Exodus innovated thrash metal regardless if they got credit for it. I saw it. I was there. I was in another band when it happened. I was in Legacy when it happened. So I saw it.

So regardless of who got the fucking crowns on their heads, you know what I mean?; they were the first one. I'll show you something that will solidify that. This is 1984. I found this a couple of days ago. Look at that flyer! Who's on that bill? Who's under Exodus? How much did it cost to get in? $5. That's 1984.

So you gonna try to tell me who The Big Four is, you know what I mean? I lived it. I fucking lived it, so. That's why I don't even acknowledge when people bring that up. This is what I say: It's the Big 1, the other 3 and all the rest of us.

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