Anytime ‘South Of Heaven’ comes on, I don’t care where I’m at, I’m going to go ‘Stop! South Of Heaven is on.’ I have to bang, I don’t give a shit if I’m in a K-mart. That is the ultimate song.”
W (Nando Machado): Hi, Steve, this is Nando, from Wikimetal, how are you?
Steve Souza: Hey, how are you?
W (Daniel Dystyler): Hi, Steve, this is Daniel. We’re calling from Brazil, how are you?
SS: I’m good.
W (NM): Steve, every time we interview any legend from the thrash metal era, especially from the bay area, we ask the same question: how did you guys create such a different sound back then, which was so different from anything else that was going on at the time in terms of hard rock and heavy metal? In your opinion, who were the main responsible for the creation of thrash metal in the early 80s?
SS: That’s hands down: Gary Holt, Tom Hunting, Dave Mustaine, Kerry King, any of the first bands… Honestly, I give it Gary Holt. Exodus didn’t necessarily get the success and notoriety that they deserved, but I think Metallica learned a lot of what they did from watching Exodus. You know, Kirk joined the band, so honestly, they were big influence on them, so if I had to say – not to be bias, because I was in Exodus and that’s my band, but I would have to say, yeah, Exodus, they started thrash metal. Tom Hunting was the first one with that thrash metal drum beat, so I would say all those first guys, and then we came in a little bit later, you know, Legacy, Testament, Vio-Lence, Forbidden, Death Angel… All part a part of that, all definitely a part of that influence.
W (NM): And out of curiosity, Steve, where did you get your nickname from, “Zetro”?
SS: Oh, it was just a joke that somebody played on me in high school, because I was laughing about this cartoon about this whale I saw, and it was stupid and called “Zetro”, at a party. And I was like “Zetro, the whale, Zetro, the whale” and then, I don’t know, from then on everybody was “Hey, Zetro”, and then it just stuck, so that’s kind of a dumb story that I tell about.
W (DD): That’s a great story, thanks for sharing! You were the former singer for Testament when the band was still called Legacy, and in 2001 you sang on two songs on the First Strike “Still Deadly” album. How is your relationship with Testament members nowadays?
SS: My relationship with every band is great. I have actually… I wrote songs on “The Formation of Damnation”, and I wrote four songs for their new album, “The Dark Roots of Earth”. Chuck Billy and I have a side project called “Dublin Death Patrol”, so his and my relationships are very close, so I’m very tied with those guys. Actually, Hatriot played with Testament at a show in the bay area in February 19th.
W (NM): Yeah, since you mentioned, I was going to ask you about your project with Chuck, DDP. What is the lineup of this project? Is it still going at the moment?
SS: I think that for established bands, like, you could go to… Saturday night I went and saw Forbidden, and everybody from this genre, everybody goes and supports, you know, so you know if you go to the show, you’re going to see your friends that you started this with, for the most part, in 1983/84, whenever it was, in the beginning.
W (DD): Steve, back in the day, when you were Exodus’ lead singer, how did it feel to sing those classic songs from one of the most important albums in thrash metal history, the great “Bonded by Blood”?
SS: Good question, good question… Great, amazing, in fact, if you were to ask me, out of the whole volume of Exodus, what I would love to sing live, I loved to sing Baloff’s songs live, I loved it, you know. I got to write songs after that, I just, for some reason, I loved playing “Bonded by Blood”, I would always be the one going “Hey, put a few more ‘Bonded by Blood’ songs!”. I just loved it, I was a big fan of the record, so if you’re going to give me an opportunity to sing those songs, then I’m going to take that opportunity.
W (NM): Great, that’s great to hear, because we’re huge fans of that record as well.
W (DD): We love that album.
SS: That’s the greatest record, I mean, think about it, I was a fan of that record, in Legacy, and then I had the opportunity to join that band… And just the aggression, every song is just “Oh, this song’s great!” It’s just… It’s the classic signified… If you want to sum up thrash metal, and how it started in the beginning, you can probably say ‘Kill ‘Em All’, maybe “Show No Mercy”… But I think “Bonded By Blood” has something in every song that represents what thrash metal is about, has been about, has always stayed about.
W (NM): Changing the subject, Zetro, we have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview: just imagine yourself listening to music on your ipod on shuffle mode, and then a song comes up and you immediately start head banging wherever you might be.
W (DD): You can’t stop yourself from head banging, wherever you are.
SS: OK, that’s the easiest question in the world, and you guys should have the answer to that, it’s three words “South of Heaven”. Period.
W (NM): Wow, “South of Heaven”, by Slayer on Wikimetal.
SS: I don’t give a shit, when I hear it, this blood runs through your body, like “Oh my God, here it goes!”
W (NM): Amazing!
SS: Anytime “South of Heaven” comes on, I don’t care where I’m at, I’m going to go “Stop! ‘South of Heaven’ is on.” I have to bang, I don’t give a shit it I’m in a K-mart. That is the ultimate song.
W (DD): Right on. Do you mind announcing the song?
SS: This is Zetro from Hatriot, you’re listening to Wikimetal and this is the classic Slayer’s “South of Heaven”.
W (DD): Amazing, great.
W (NM): You got our point, you understood completely what we needed.
Where do I get the inspirations for the lyrics? Being sick and twisted, I guess. I have so many things that intrigue me, that I never run out of ideas, never.”
W (DD): Steve, can you share with our listeners any memories that you may have from Paul Baloff?
SS: Oh, well… We don’t have two hours… So much. You meet certain individuals, and in heavy metal, there’s a lot of characters. I would have to say Paul Baloff was a very, very, very unique character. But I’ll remember this one time, it’s a very old story: we were at a party after an Exodus show, and I was in Legacy, I wasn’t even in Exodus yet, and their manager at the time – his name was Adam Segal – he got all drunk and Baloff went over and put make up on him, to make him look like “Boy George” and took pictures of him. And they called him “Boy Adam” after that. So that just gives you a little, a little taste of what Paul was about – I mean, that’s a small taste. Anytime I saw Baloff was an episode, in fact, the very last time I saw Paul, I was at a jamming with this band, just kind of playing, and he was living in the loft upstairs, actually, the same place where he passed away, and I walk in there and he’s got a BB gun in one hand, and a drink of vodka in the other, and he’s sitting on the top ladder, I walk in and say “What’s up Bay?” and he’s like “What’s up, Zet? Nothing.” I don’t know what he was doing, I could see he was a little drunk, but he wasn’t like he was going to shoot anybody, it seemed like he was looking if there was going to be something upstairs, you know, on patrol, I don’t know what he was doing… That was the last time I saw him.
W (NM): Talking about the period you spent with Exodus, you recorded some really great albums with your ex band. Which one was your favorite?
SS: They’re all great, I love them all… I think, by the time we played “Fabulous Disaster”, because obviously “Pleasures of the Flesh” was my first record, and I loved it, by the time I’d done “Fabulous Disaster”, I’d been in the band for a few years now, and I had learned how to grease the engine really well, so I think that record was good, and honestly, when we came back in 2004 and put out “Temple of the Damned”, I think that that record was very strong as well. I’d have to say “Fabulous” and “Temple”.
W (DD): Excellent, “Fabulous Disaster” from 88, great album. And talking about that, can you choose a special song from Exodus that represents your period in the band?
SS: Well, I guess everybody would say “Toxic Waltz”, you know. That was a definitive period, I would say, if you knew Zetro in Exodus, “Toxic Waltz”.
W (DD): Let’s hear “Toxic Waltz” right now, on Wikimetal.
W (NM): How about Tenet, is the band still playing together?
SS: You know, that was really never a band that played together, what is was, was Chad Silent, from Strapping Young Lad had these few songs that he had written lyrically and musically, and he wanted to put a band together, I think his initial idea was to make it real band, but I think everybody in the band had other projects going on, and it’s hard, really, to get everybody in the same room. So I was at… Actually, that was the first record that I never wrote one word on… I just went in there and burned the lyrics that he had written, and we never, to this day, have ever played a show, it was just a record that came out. I love the album, it’s awesome, it’s just a whole other side of thrash that I never really had a chance to do, very heavy, so a lot of fun.
W (DD): Talking about your new band Hatriot, you released a first EP in 2010, what are your plans for the future, with Hatriot?
SS: I’m going to do everything that I did with Exodus, this isn’t a side project, this isn’t, you know, something I’m just doing for now, I’m moving this along, I’m still negotiating a record contract to get this going. I’m hoping to tour the world, do Brazil, do Europe, all that kind of stuff with Hatriot, I think it’s new thrash, but old, old, very old school, if you listen to it really well, I think it’s a lot of Legacy, Testament, Exodus influences, very much. These guys in the band, you know, the bass player is my son, and the guitar player and I write everything: they’re very well-schooled on 80s thrash metal, I mean, really well, so they pull it off very, very well, all of them. I handpicked every one of them, and it was great pains to find players that could fit with me and make a new band that’s fresh, but still use the old school influences, so that makes sense.
W (DD): Yes, yes, definitely.
SS: Well, you’ve heard the demo, what do you guys think? You heard the four songs, what do you guys think? What’s your opinion?
W (NM): I really like it, it reminds me, as you said of those early thrash metal albums, which I think is great.
W (DD): And, at the same time, it has a new element as well.
SS: Exactly, you nailed it, and that exactly how we’re conveying our message. Honestly, the interviews that I do, that is the feedback I get, that’s why I always ask “What is your opinion?”, and everybody always says “It’s old school influences with new, it’s really fresh”, and that’s where we’re going with it. I just wrote the new song, and it sounds a lot like “Seasons of the Abyss”, it has a really slow grind to it, but then it gets really heavy… So it’s old school/new school, which I think is really working for us right now.
W (NM): Since you mentioned writing lyrics, how do you write your lyrics? Where do you get your inspirations from?
SS: Being sick and twisted, I guess. I have so many things that intrigue me, that I never run out of ideas, never. I’m always thinking about anything that’s not real, from a vampire ripping your head off, to something that is kind of real, like, you know, kids shooting up a school… Anything that’s raw, kind of dark, anything that intrigues me – murder, serial killers, the bad side of government and hypocrisy, that kind of stuff. There is tons of stuff to write about that I can say.
Brazil is the land of the Cavaleras, Sepultura, of course. You guys have got thrash metal, damn right, you do.”
W (DD): We know that you were a fan of AC/DC’s Bon Scott. Whatever Bon Scott represents for traditional heavy metal, do you it’s fair to say that you represent for thrash metal?
SS: I would hope so, I sure would, I really would, because I think that my vocal style has been unique enough… Whether you like or not, it’s very unique, and I come raw from the same way, my vocal tone is very much, a lot of… I actually have, in the bay area, where I live, I have my own AC/DC tribute, that I play at clubs, it’s great.
W (NM): So, is it fair to say that you are the Bon Scott of thrash metal?
SS: Yes, you can quote me on that.
W (NM): About Hatriot, Zetro, how does it feel to play with younger musicians and especially to play with your own son, Cody? Do you feel that you have to be the role model for these younger guys?
SS: Of course, and I don’t lie to them, I tell them how the business is, I sugar cook nothing. I tell them what they’ll achieve with hard work and diligence, and that you just don’t get it handed to you, so this is how it has to be. Definitely, because I didn’t have that, we were just guys that kind of bounced around and hoped that we ended up right. I’ve been lucky enough to last in the business almost 30 years now, and to say that for heavy metal, let alone thrash heavy metal, I should get a button for something, all of us should, that have been doing this as long. So of course, when we’re in rehearsals, when we’re writing, when we’re doing anything… We’re about to shoot a video that we’re just going to pay for it ourselves, to put on the website, go to our website, just hear a song, go see us play it, even though it’s not going to be on any record anywhere, because I haven’t signed a deal yet, but I still think that that is kind of good for our fans, so… The director for “Machine Heads” video, he’s going to shoot a video for a song called “Blood-Stained Wings”, in about two weeks, and if you go to the website, you’ll be able to see it, you know, so I just think things like that, they’re always… You need to learn, and if I would have known that, in the beginning, it would have made it easier for us, so definitely, to answer your question, yes, I definitely have to, and I’m very vocal about teaching them as well.
W (NM): Do they teach you? Do you get any lessons from them?
SS: Of course, I have to let them go when they’re putting songs together, so, you know, they’re good enough for that, but I think I’m very headstrong about what I want, what I need, you know what I mean? And I think that they fall a suit with that very well, so I do learn a little bit of stuff, some influences maybe, newer stuff that I’m not necessarily aware of, but I am very metal, I listen to everything, so you know, Faceless, Job for a Cowboy, I listen to everything, so I’m aware. But they do, yeah, there’s definitely a learning period for me, sure.
W (NM): Before we finish, Zetro, I would really like to thank you so much for your time, and thank you for showing us your new band, we’re here to support anything you do, especially with such a great level of quality, we’re here to support Hatriot, and we hope that Hatriot comes to Brazil. So, just for us to finish, can you leave a last message to all of our listeners? We hope to see you in Brazil very soon.
SS: Well, thank you, and thank all the Brazilian thrash fans, you guys have always supported me forever, I know, I read everything on the internet, letters, things, I’ve always supported them. Brazil is the land of the Cavaleras, Sepultura, of course, you guys have got thrash metal, damn right, you do. Thank you guys, thank you very much.
W (DD): Thanks so much, Steve, it was an honor and a pleasure speaking to you.
SS: It was a pleasure to speak to you guys, we’ll talk again soon, when we have a new Hatriot record, how about that?
W (NM): Sure.
W (DD): Sounds great, thanks so much.
W (NM): Count on us!
SS: OK. Great.
W (DD): Bye bye.
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