Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza – Exodus Have Become ‘Refined, Cantankerous Old Men’
As is always the case, the new record by the Bay Area masters is particularly violent, in both its instrumental intensity and lyrical approach. Souza credits the overall strength of the successor to 2014's Blood In, Blood Out to the fact that the band was dealing with less distractions and had secluded themselves in the wooded area of Lake Almanor in California with nothing to focus on but writing and recording music.
For Zetro, this is his seventh album fronting Exodus amid three stints with the group, having remained in the ranks since 2014. Now, he's better equipped to deal with his responsibilities in the band now that his children have grown up and he's sober.
The singer also touched on drummer Tom Hunting's health, noting that his cancer is in remission.
Musically and lyrically, you've emphasized that the new album is brutal and vicious. That extreme level intensity is a direct reaction to what?
I just think to the approach. I mean, when I heard the record and the lyrics, and then when it was started, because
Gary Holt writes so much of the lyrics — probably a good 90 percent. Lyrically I wrote two songs out of the 12 and his whole approach is straight up violence, but it's always been that way from the beginning. The first record was a kick in your face, so nothing has changed. The mentality is still the same, I just think we've become more refined, cantankerous old men. This album really is straight up and in your face.
In what ways was Gary Holt's enthusiasm the fuel that motivated the entire band?
I'm excited to be back to the fold full time without having any other distractions behind him. Since I've been back, there's always been the "other" band that he plays with [Slayer].
On this one, that was never an issue. There was nowhere where he had to go up and leave and go on tour with them. He stayed home with Exodus and it was just all about Exodus. The performances for everybody... Tom hunting is a man on fire. Jack Gibson's bass is the best ever, these leads are the best thing they've ever done. Everybody really brought their A-game to this album and we're really excited.
Because we went up to Lake Almanor where Tom Hunting lives and we rented another house and stayed up there as a band with no other distractions — just the five of us up there. When one guy was recording, other people were working on their parts and if they were done for the day, somebody else would come in.
We had Steve Lagudi, who does live work with Machine Head — he's done a ton of stuff — he came in and engineered it. Andy Sneap mixed it and mastered it with Gary and everybody going back and forth and, because of the pandemic, we had time to actually listen to it and make it what it is.
Exodus, "The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)"
The last few years have been your third chapter with Exodus. What makes this band so hard to get out of your system?
I don't know if it's out of your system. Sometimes life takes over for a minute and you have to go do that. This time, the focus is a lot better because there's no other distractions. Before, it might have been family issues or whatever that couldn't get you there. Now it's all about me and my children are grown — they play in their own thrash band Hatriot, so it's full circle.
I don't have anybody to worry about anyone but myself anymore. It's all about Exodus now and everybody's completely clean. Back in the day, it was sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Now it's all about the performance and how we keep ourselves together.
There's a comic book series and action figure being released in conjunction with this new record. What makes those types of products a good fit for Exodus?
For a band that's been around as long as us, we're all from that comic book and horror era. When you look at our album covers or listen to our songs and our lyrical content, it really conveys that sort of thing, so why not do something?
I was so excited because I'm so big into that pop culture type stuff. As soon as they told me that they were going to do that and then I saw the figurine for the pianist, I was like, "Oh my God, I gotta have one of those. I want one of those." I'm like a little kid when it comes to stuff like that. I'm like, "Wait a minute! No way — they're doing a comic book and we're going to have an action figure? Wow! Is it me?"
Exodus, "The Years of Death and Dying"
Tom Hunting has been battling cancer. How did finishing this record allow the rest of you to cope with the feelings of helplessness that come when someone close to you is sick?
I've known people who have gotten sick before and passed away from that, but I've never had somebody this close go through it. Through the record he felt it, but never really said anything about the symptoms that he was feeling. Then he found out in January and we were pretty much done by then. It was very shocking for all of us and we were all very scared for him and for his family. It wasn't about Exodus at that point — it was about Tom and his health and getting through this and we'll get to Exodus [later].
He had a great team of doctors that came in. He went to UCSF in San Francisco, which is a major cancer hub. They really have a great team of doctors there and I actually got a really positive text message from him yesterday that he is now [in remission]. So now he's on the road to recovery and getting himself healthy so he can come back and ride the throne for Exodus once again.
To all of the people who reached out and donated and just sent their love to him, he wants to say thank you. He's overwhelmed by it — leave it to the metal community! He'll be back.
Thanks to Steve 'Zetro' Souza for the interview. Exodus' new album 'Persona Non Grata' is out now and can be purchased here. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.