Bay Area thrashers Exodus have been bonded by blood since bursting out onto the scene in the early eighties. Releasing a number of genre-defining album, the band centred around returning vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Tom Hunting have survived line-up changes, and the death of original singer Paul Baloff. Still dancing to the tempo of the damned, we caught up with Zetro at Download Festival for a chat about his return to the band, and plans for a new album. Verbal razors; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Zetro, how are you today?
I’m great. I get to do this life. Anybody you’re interviewing, usually is doing this life, right? Well, they won the game, because if you were twelve years old, and you were to come up to any one of those people and said; “When you’re this age, you’re going to be doing this”, they’d go; “where do I sign on the dotted line!”. If you get to play rock and roll, you’re winning the game, big time.
The last time we chatted was in Dublin, when you had relatively recently re-joined Exodus.
It would have been two years, because we saw you in February of 2016, and I got back in June of 2014. So really, it was the first European club tour that I did with Exodus. We did seventeen club shows in the UK.
How does it feel to be back at this stage, re-established as the band’s lead singer?
We’ve did almost three hundred shows in this run. It’s great that the fans, and the industry, especially in our genre of music, is very forgiving. When I came back, everybody was so excited, and there’s not a night that goes by now where I don’t have at least one person come up to me and say; “I’m glad to have you back, man, it’s good to have you back”. This is our fifth tour of Europe since ‘Blood In, Blood Out’, and you’d think that maybe it would kind of go out a little bit, but no, I still hear that almost every night, so it’s great. I’m glad the reception has been so positive.
Would you say that that’s down to Exodus’ status as respected thrash metal pioneers?
I guess, because I’m a big fan, and just because I’m in the position doesn’t mean that I’m not naïve to it. I wasn’t in Exodus during their first record, and I got to look at the band objectively, so when I got the option to play in this band, it was like; “Fuck yeah!”
Was your re-joining just a case of the timing was right, or would you have liked to have been back say ten years earlier?
Probably. There’s a lot of reasons that led to that, and in my thing, I couldn’t do it at that time, but within five years’ time of that, I could have probably. By 2009, I was kind of ready to do this again, but it was long standing with us and them; it was a kind of a mudsling that went back and forth. We were not the best of friends when I was not at the helm, and that was a bit of working shit out. But I think that honestly, this run, out of all of them, is the best run. Even the initial run in ’86 to ’93; this is better than all of them.
Is that simply due to everybody being older and wiser now?
Obviously, that just comes. If you’re still alive, and you’re still at this level and you’re okay and can do it, then you’re all right; you’ve got enough wisdom. You could never have made it this far, and you wouldn’t do thirty-two years if you didn’t look at everything objectively. Back in the eighties it was; let’s fuckin’ do all the coke you could put on a mirror and fuck everything that moves. Now it’s like; nobody could be bothered with that shit, either one. Everybody’s married, we’re all in our fifties now, and it’s not like that now. You’re older, you’re wiser, you know how the business works, and you know how the cycle works in every aspect of the game.
So things are a little more professional these days?
Everything that you feel isn’t, you sure it up because you’ve cleaned it up over the years, and that goes with starting with yourself. I think that that goes hand in hand. You have to have that balance. I mean, think about it, this band’s already had a death in it, we’ve had drug problems, our manager’s taken all out money; we’ve hit every criteria we’re supposed to hit from the rock and roll stardom. I explain it like this, and I steal it from Robin Trower; he goes; “I was once a rock star, I became a has-been, now I’m a legend”, and I truly believe that. We were rock stars In the 80s and early 90s, and then we turned into total has-beens; we couldn’t get a game of jacks anywhere!
You’re talking about the period from about 1992?
Sure, from ’92 and on and on until ’99 or 2000; if you told somebody I was in it [Exodus], it would be; “ugh”. Nobody could give two shits less. If you weren’t Pantera, a death metal band from Florida, or Metallica, nobody gave a fuckin’ shit.
Back to today, and what stage are you at with the follow-up to ‘Blood In, Blood Out’?
We’re in the studio in November. There’s stuff written; I have some songs in my phone right now, good stuff. Gary’s full on. This is Gary’s band. It just seems that the Slayer thing is mixed with us and so, it’s just part of how that business works.
Is there a lot more responsibility with you and Tom now, because you have to represent Exodus without Gary?
I don’t know if it’s a lot more responsibility, but I think it takes a lot of pressure off Gary, for sure. But I welcome it wholeheartedly. When I came back in the band, this wasn’t like, well, there were stipulations; my whole stipulation was; “I’m open, I’m here”. I love the fact that it’s thirty-two years and I still get to be a rock star. If I got to play professional football in the 80s, I wouldn’t be doing that anymore because I couldn’t do it. I still go out every night, I still bang my head, I still have fans rage for me like the raged thirty years ago, so nothing has changed for me.
Back then Exodus never got to play here at Donington..
They only allowed what, eight bands a day back then? I mean, it wasn’t like it is now; there’s over thirty bands today. This isn’t Download for me, this is ‘Donington’. We’re on the grounds of Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock. Think about it; who played? Blackmore, Priest, Scorpions, Riot, Saxon, Maiden, come on! And tonight Exodus, and we end it, we’re on stage at 10.15.
So you’ll be happy to join that illustrious list.
Yes I am. I’m very happy to say we have finally played the last of the major festivals in Europe. We’ve done ‘em all.
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