Exodus gav tidigare i år ut ett nytt album och numera är sångaren Steve “Zetro” Souza tillbaka och håller i mikrofonen. Exodus är ett av de tidiga thrashbanden och gjorde sig ett namn med debuten “Bonded by blood”, som såg dagens ljus 1985. Rocksverige ringde upp sångaren i ett soligt Oakland och fick bl a bekräftat att 80-talet var många gånger bara ett enda stort party:
We were fucking 22 years old and like kids in a fucking candy store. You could fuck anything and you were invincible. Snort, drink, fuck whatever! We were the worst and everybody knew that. We were notorious for it. “Where´s the party?” and people would go; “In Exodus dressing room.”. Wherever Exodus were, that´s where the party was.
First time I heard about the title of the new album, it made me think of this movie that came out back in ´93, “Blood in, blood out” about gangs in LA.
Steve: That´s where we got the title from. We watched the movie and Gary (Holt) said, since he obviously came up with the title; “Watching the movie was like being a member of Exodus, because you gotta give your blood in and give your blood out.” Ironically there was a member change and it wasn´t planned like that.
The song “BTK”, is that about the killer named Bind Torture Kill?
Steve: That is correct. Exodus always comes up with that. There is always something sick and always something twisted about our lyrical content. I think that´s thrash metal in general, but definitely Exodus´stories. I think you need that in a band. Think of it, I was I joining the band that had lyrics like “kick in your face and rape and murder your wife” (Exodus from Bonded by blood). Come on! That has always kinda been the… there´s never been boundaries in the lyrical content or the sheer ferocity of it, for sure.
You just have to open up the paper these days and get hundreds of ideas for songs, right?
Steve: I play in another band called Hatriot and I´ve got the whole next record´s lyrics all lined out. I know what I´m gonna write about and it´s so easy. There´s so much shit going on right now, socially and politically. The way life is these days, it´s definitely a big thrash metal record, that´s for sure.
A song like “Collateral damage”, is it about war?
Steve: I think that it´s more about things that are wrong with the machine itself. There´s a part of the song that says; “Wall Street and DC, all stuck on repeat” It´s not necessarily about war, it´s more like these people that run the financial part of our world. It´s like how they ruined the economy in America a few years ago by all these scams that were going on. It´s made us paranoid and in a sense very protective and we´re all victims of it. There´s nothing you can say or do about it, it´s more like a machine getting worse and worse. There was a fall out from it.
The song “Honor killing” is also a very current subject?
Steve: Yeah and coming from a very masculine, male thrash metal band and putting it from a woman´s point of view, sets a lot of boundaries. It´s like “That´s how you treat your women. Really? In 2014?” Like you said, you pick up the paper and it´s just appalling. You read five pages and you´re ready for suicide. It´s unbelievable! I live in Oakland, California and I can pick up the paper right now and read you something! This past Saturday, two people were coming from a Mexican grocery store and they cut a person off in traffic and this person sprayed the car with bullets and killed the wife. 12.30 in the afternoon! That´s just one story. It´s the wild, wild west right now! People just do what they want. These days you can get shot for anything. If they want your car, they will pull you out and shoot you in the head. It´s all open now, like; “Fuck it! I´m gonna strap a bomb to my ass, walk in and blow these motherfuckers up!” It´s the level it´s at. There are no boundaries. Like taking a bomb to the most famous marathon in the United States and set it off at the finish line. Shit like that. It´s like, what´s gonna happen to me next?
It´s like what happened to Dimebag. As an artist, did that tragic event make you more cautious about meeting people or being on stage?
Steve: Yeah, it did! Especially for me because I had just gotten out of Exodus and who knew if someone was gonna get pissed off and shoot me or the new guy or whatever? People are like that. It was a new level of violence brought into our world that we´d never seen before. Same thing with Lennon. It´s just hard to really fathom completely from start to finish. But on stage, of the millions things to think about, I´m not thinking about that. I´m thinking that people are excited that I´m playing there. They´re having a good time and I´m gonna rock their world. I remember one time when I was on tour, this guy was threatening me and giving me horns, so I went down to kinda sing with him and this motherfucker hit me in the face and hard too, so you never know what´s gonna happen. I continued the show and then I went out looking for him after wanting to kick his ass.
As I understand it, it´s a Swede who did the artwork for the album?
Steve: Yeah, Pär Olofsson. He´s a good artist and it´s my favorite cover out of all of our covers ever! There´s the first one and then after that, they put us on the cover for the next three or four albums and “Force of habit” (1992) is a terrible cover. “Tempo of the damned” (2004) is a good cover and I think the last three covers were ok, but this one is by far the best. I love zombies and it makes for a sick shirt and everything.
Do you know how you ended up using Pär?
Steve: Gary, now being in Slayer, is in touch with a lot of people. Being the magnitude of the band, a lot of people wanna work with them. I saw it and went “I want that!”.
And Kirk Hammet plays a solo on the album.
Steve: He came in and played when we recorded the album. We set up recording gear in a house on a ranch on a goat farm. It was awesome to record there and there was nothing for miles. We went in there and did it and one afternoon he came in. He had listened to the track and they had a little barbeque. I wasn´t even in the band yet. They were drinking beer like in the old days. Cheap beer like Lucky Lager.
Let´s go back in time. What are your memories from recording “Pleasures of the flesh” back in 1987? It was a totally different time back then, when it comes to making music, selling records and so on.
Steve: Excited, intimidated, confused… This was my first record with the band ever. The only thing I´d done before was the Legacy demo. I´m going into the studio recording with this band that had this monumental fucking debut album come out. It set the precedent of a new sound, it really did. There I am, listening to this guy who I didn´t know and I´m glad it came out the way it did. Listen to my voice now and listen to that, but it was a great experience. I remember getting burritos and going down to play pool at the pool hall. It was great! I remember all of my sessions, but that one is special since it was my first record. It was nothing but excitement, or a little bit of scared excitement.
And then you went on tour with Anthrax and Celtic Frost?
Steve: Yeah, we toured with Celtic Frost first and then about two weeks later we joined Anthrax. We were doing 4-5000 seats every night. It was amazing! People were digging it and it was a great package too.
Was it all party back then?
Steve: Yes, it was! Fuckin´A! Come on, man! We were fucking 22 years old and like kids in a fucking candy store. You could fuck anything and you were invincible. Snort, drink, fuck whatever! We were the worst and everybody knew that. We were notorious for it. “Where´s the party?” and people would go; “In Exodus dressing room.”. Wherever Exodus were, that´s where the party was. “You want drugs, anything? They´ve got it all!” (laughs) We fully played the role of the rockstars and fully lived that way. We would come into town and it was like; “Who´s starting the first line? Who´s fucking the first chick?”. I´d fuck three chicks a day, find the one with the biggest bag of coke and stay up all night. It was a fucking badge honor! After the gig now, there´s chocolate milk and pancakes, you know what I mean? (laughs) It´s like night and day and how pathetic is that? (laughs)
In ´88 you went on a European tour with Lääz Rockit. Was that your first time in Europe?
Steve: Yes it was and it was so cool. I was so excited and it was the biggest crowd I had played in front of, at Dynamo Festival. We played in front of 25.000 people. Back then festivals didn´t really exist and there were very few of them. Now there´s five of them every other weekend. They really support them in Europe and we´re starting to get that over here now. There´s one in Sacramento. Last couple of years it´s been bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Megadeth and so on. It takes time and it´s a learning curve.
When you toured here, did you feel there was a big cultural difference between the US and Europe?
Steve: I think, in the 80´s, there wasn´t. You had MTV and all that. These days you only have satellite radio and that´s it. Back then MTV played hair metal, but they wouldn´t play thrash metal. There was this one show from midnight till three in the morning on Saturdays that played metal. Today, there´s no metal on any medium what so ever. There´s “That Metal Show” and God bless them! They don´t even play the hard rock/heavy metal performance on the fucking Grammys! When Jeff Hanneman died last year, they have an artist sing a song at the Grammys and then they show all the musicians that passed away that year and they didn´t put Hanneman´s fucking picture up there! Can you believe that? Our fans are more loyal than in any other form of music. You never hear anyone say; “Yeah, Ilistened to Exodus last summer.” You know what I mean? “Yeah, I listened to Katy Perry when I was 14!”, but nobody says that about Exodus. They´re 44 now and still listening.
Do you remember the first time you heard the term thrash metal?
Steve: Well, it was when I was in Legacy and I started Legacy in late 83, early 84. There were Exodus, Possessed, Death Angel… very few bands we referred to that. Anthrax “Fist full of metal” is not really a thrash record and they didn´t really get into thrash until “Among the living”. I think Slayer was already thrash. “Show no mercy” came out in ´83 and I think we referred to it as thrash. In Exodus we never said mosh. It was mosh and then it became thrash. We never said that, that was more what New York hardcore was about and that´s where I think thrash originated from.
Where did your nickname Zetro come from and your last name Souza?
Steve: I was taking a hit of acid when I was 14 in 1978 and I didn´t say anything for like six hours. It was really good acid, or LSD by the way. I was tripping hard and I got to this party and I was sitting on a chair in a corner and every time someone walked up to me, I blurted out this word, “Zet”. This was on a Friday night and then on Monday when I came back to school everybody reminded me how fucked up I was. They started saying; “Hey, what´s up Zet?”, so they called me that and people referred to it and a couple of years later I started working with this band and the manager called me “Zetro”. He added the “ro” on it and I don´t know if he was trying to call me Jethro or what? My last name is Souza and my grandparents were from the Azores Islands off of Portugal and then they came to America. My parents were first generation Americans. Everybody here are from something, man! If you´re not an American Indian, you´re something. We´ve only been around for 234 years, really. We´re a melting pot.
You turned 50 this year. What´s that like?
Steve: It goes fast. When you were a kid, those first 18 years took forever. I can´t believe it, but I can believe it. I´ve seen a few things. I was alive when Martin Luther King got shot and I shook Robert Kennedy´s hand the day before he got shot in LA. I´ve seen a lot of things in my life. What´s great is that I think I´m in better shape than I´ve ever been in my life.
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen