Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
When I heard the Hatriot release I was blown away and given the chance to interview singer Steve “Zetro” Souza I jumped at it and here it is:
MC: Steve, wow can I say about the Hatriot release. Not much stuff blows me away as far as releases go, but this one did. How long did it take from the idea for Hatriot to actually getting a line-up together?
SS: I was working on the concept of Hatriot back in early 2010, but we officially launched our website and debut EP (4 song demo) in February of 2011. I took my time with getting it all right before putting it out into the world. I’m 48 years old now and I have no time for half-assing anything. It’s either 100% or nothing with me. Some of the earlier members couldn’t handle that about me, so we made a few adjustments in the line-up over the past couple years. The current line-up is as solid as any band I have ever been in. These guys are shredders!
MC: Do you find it kinda weird having your family members in the band? Tell me how you found the other band members?
SS: People think it is weird, but honestly my sons both tried out for the band like anyone else would. They just happened to be the best at their audition. It’s not weird at all to me. I don’t have the “normal” relationship with my sons that people think of. My boys grew up in studios and on tour busses. They have both been playing their instruments since they were little kids. They are amazing musicians now and literally grew up in the business, so it’s a natural thing to have them in there with me. Honestly, it is my proudest moment in my life to share a band with them. It’s a great feeling. The other members are my guitarists – Kosta Varvatakis and Miguel Esparza. I met Kosta at a show back in 2010 that his old band was playing. He blew me away and we immediately hit it off as friends and as co-writers. That is what led to Hatriot forming. Miguel was referred to us when our last guitarist quit the band. He was a perfect fit so we let him in the fold.
MC: Obviously you have been in the studio. How easy was it for the other members being in the studio and did everything go pretty smoothly in the studio or was there bumps and bruises so to speak?
SS: It went very smoothly and a lot of that is due to the fact that we rehearse a lot. We were very prepared when we went in there. Our rehearsals are not buddies hanging out and playing some music. We are there to fucking work and we would run the album top to bottom without stopping a few times every night. By the time we got to the studio to lay the tracks the guys were at the top of their game. Also, recording with producer Juan Urteaga made things very simple as well. There’s no pressure. It’s a very relaxed environment and we all go in and jam. Juan has a way of capturing the band at its best. Aside from doing demos with their old bands, none of my guys had ever been in a studio before. You can’t tell it by listening to “Heroes Of Origin.” They sound like pros!
MC: How did you end up signing with Massacre Records and why not a US label considering you’re from the US?
SS: One of our managers also works with Laaz Rockit, and their back catalog is handled by Massacre Records, so we had a connection with the label already. To be honest, there weren’t a lot of labels beating down our door at first. Most of them thought we already had a deal because of my history with Exodus. The ones that did offer a deal didn’t seem to have the passion for the music like the team at Massacre. We did a two album deal and so far we are very happy with the label.
MC: What type of touring can we expect from the band and will there be any Exodus songs in the set?
SS: We are looking into a booking agent right now actually. Touring is a huge part of breaking a band, and we will be getting on the road soon. If we are out as an opener then I would say we will be sticking with the Hatriot material. There have been some headlining shows we have done around California where we would break out a few Exodus songs. I’m not against it. It’s a huge part of my life and if the fans want it I am happy to give it to them. The boys in Hatriot have songs from all chapters of my career ready to go if needed. It’s a lot of fun to throw an old classic in there from time to time.
MC: No for those who don't know how did the split with Exodus come about?
SS: There were technically two splits. The first time, in 1992, Gary Holt decided that business was declining to the point of putting the band on hiatus. He announced it at a Japanese press conference and that was the end of that era. The second time, in 2004, I left the band because I had to choose between being on tour for a year or raising my kids. It was a thing where I had been out of music full time for ten years when I rejoined Exodus in 2002, and at that point I had a really good job and a lot of real life responsibilities that I couldn’t just walk away from to go play rock star. It was very unfortunate and I handled it the wrong way. I didn’t give the band any notice when I bailed, and that is something that I do regret. But things have now come full circle and I have my family and my band all rolled into one with Hatriot.
MC: What do you remember about your times in Legacy?
SS: I remember heavy metal being fresh and new, and there was a real excitement in the Bay Area. There were shows almost every night of the week, and all the bands were very tight with each other. Metallica had been paving the way for thrash metal, and they were our hometown boys, so we were all very inspired and felt like we could do it to. I was the unofficial leader of Legacy. I paid for the demo recordings, picked the guys up for band practice, set up the gigs, and handled all the business. It was a lot of hard work but I learned a lot of stuff that I would later use on a bigger scale with Exodus.
MC: After your split with Exodus, did any "established" bands approach you about singing for their band?
SS: No, there was nothing like that. I basically did my own thing and would do a guest appearance here and there. I put together an AC/DC tribute band called AC/DZ, sang on some local band stuff, did the Tenet project, and did Dublin Death Patrol. No big bands ever really inquired about me fronting for them.
MC: Do you feel when you were on Combat Records that the band was treated fairly?
SS: Yeah, we had a good run with Combat. They were an indie label so the resources were limited, but they were smart and knew how to market metal bands. We were one of the bigger bands on the roster, so we got a lot of attention put on us, and we were a priority for them. In time we sort of outgrew Combat, and we moved on to a major label. That proved to be a kiss of death for the band.
MC: After Combat you ended up on Capital Records, which at the time I thought was crazy. Did they ever put pressure on you to write slower tunes and not let you be the all-out thrash metal band you were?
SS: The majors were all trying to find the next Metallica, and we were ready to roll the dice and try to get to the next level. We should have stayed at Combat, but hindsight is always 20/20. A lot of it could be ego. All the bands back then thought they were the next big thing. Capitol didn’t really push us into a slower direction. They would suggest things here and there, but ultimately I think we retained our sound on ‘Impact Is Imminent.’ ‘Force Of Habit’ took a bit of a turn, but there were some really good songs on there. I don’t fault Capitol for the lack of success during those years. I think it was just the shift in musical trends that was on the horizon.
MC: Did those Capital releases sell a good amount of copies?
SS: The old trick in the music business is to cook the books and never really let the artist know where they stand. We never really got an official breakdown of what was sold, but were told it was somewhere near 300,000 copies. That is probably about right.
MC: Now you’re a year older than me. How has your voice held up over the years and do you do anything special to keep it that way?
SS: I just scream at everybody! Seriously, I use my voice all the time. I’m always singing in the car, in the shower, at band practice. I just use my voice all the time. A lot of singers warm up and cool down but I just go for it. Even in the studio I just let it rip. I don’t do a warm up track like most singers do. Turn the mic on and let me go for it. My voice is actually stronger now than it has ever been.
MC: During your time in music, did you ever think about picking up an instrument?
SS: I actually do mess around on several instruments. I’m not fluent at it, but I can do enough to get my point across if I’m showing something to the band. I got a guitar when I was a kid and messed with it some. I can tap out a drum beat. Again, it’s nothing that I’m proficient at, but I can mess around with it. Over time I just gravitated toward being a vocalist. I saw Bon Scott live back in the day and knew I didn’t need a guitar to be cool and to be in a band.
MC: Tell me about the band Tenet and how did you end up going that band and are they still around? What are your thoughts on the debut release that came out in 2009?
SS: Tenet was the brain child of Jed Simon from Strapping Young Lad. He had all those songs written and demos made. He shopped the music around and Century Media agreed to release it if he could get a known singer to be a part of the project. He called me and I was available so I signed up to do it. I really like the record a lot. It was very brutal and heavy. It stretched the boundaries of what I was comfortable doing with Exodus, and it was a challenge that I enjoyed. So it never really was a band, more of a project is what I would say. I don’t think there will be another record, at least with me singing, just because we are all so busy with our other bands. If I had the time I would do another record though. That album is actually the only record of my career that I didn’t write anything for. Not one word. I sang what was given to me.
MC: Same thing about the Dublin Death Patrol.
SS: Dublin Death Patrol was done just for fun. Basically we wanted a band of friends to jam with for fun, and as an escape from the pressures of being in a ‘real’ band. We got all our buddies from high school that played back then to come jam out. On the first record we re-worked a lot of our old songs from high school times, before we were ever in big bands. It was a lot of fun. The second record was a little more current material, but we added some covers and had fun with it. Obviously with me and Chuck Billy in the band there was some marketing potential, but Chuck is so busy with Testament that we really only did the occasional show. Now that I have Hatriot going I think DDP is pretty much over. We had fun with it, but it is time to put it to rest and get back to business with my other stuff.
MC: With Hatriot you have that classic old school thrash sound. Is this the sound you were looking for from the get go?
SS: That is exactly what I was going for. I wanted to make a heavier version of ‘Tempo Of The Damned,’ but with a few modern extreme metal influences, like blast beats and death metal picking, just to give it a fresh sound. I have to say this is the heaviest record I have ever done, and that’s saying a lot considering my history. I wasn’t looking to do anything odd or strange, like some of these bands that go off and do an industrial record or some shit. When Rob Halford put out that Two record that was all industrial, we all fucking hated it! I don’t know anybody that liked it. He’s the metal god so sing some fucking metal! That was my approach. If you liked what I did on the Exodus records you will love this.
MC: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you would be doing now?
SS: Well, outside of music I am a foreman at a construction company, so that’s probably what I would be doing. I do it now along with music. People think that just because you are famous or in a band that money is easy to come by, and that’s just a fucking myth. I make 90 grand a year at my job and that’s why I can afford to live in a nice house and play the music that I like. You would be surprised how many of the big guys have jobs on the side. So that’s the answer – I’d be at work!
MC: What do you notice is some of the biggest things have changed in the underground from back in the Legacy days?
SS: It is night and day. Obviously the technology to record and the ways of promoting music now are so much different. The old ways almost seem prehistoric now. A lot of the spirit in music and the vibe is different now too. Back then we were all striving to be the next Metallica, and since they were from our town it seemed attainable. We were young and full of dreams. Now reality has set in and most of the music business has collapsed. We are just looking to survive now. We are just looking to get our records out and to do some touring, not to be a rock star or famous. The mindset has changed a lot.
MC: Do you think if bands of yesterday had the technology of today that some of them could have gotten bigger?
SS: I don’t know. Back then the scene wasn’t oversaturated like it is today. Somehow a lot of thrash bands became known names just from word of mouth and through the underground scene because it was new and fresh. Now everything has been done to death. If we had all the social media and instant access to music back then these bands may have never been big at all. There are so many fucking bands now. It’s not special to be in a band anymore. Back then it was a big deal. Now there’s a band in every garage in America. So to answer your question, I think the bands that broke through back in the day did so because of a strong work ethic and good songs. A lot of that is lost in today’s scene.
MC: Did you do any tape trading or read many fanzines way back in the 80's?
SS: Hell yes I did! We were all very involved with that. That was the only way to get the word out on your band. I remember writing hand written letters and stuffing cassette tapes into envelopes many nights with Legacy. That’s how we created a buzz on the band. It seems so prehistoric now, but I think that is what gave the bands of that era an edge. There were no record companies supporting it early on. We believed in what we were doing and we jumped in and did all the work. I still love the old school fanzines. I do interviews all the time, and every now and again I get to do one with an old school style zine. It’s still cool to me and it brings back a lot of memories for sure.
MC: What some of the best shows you have played and do you remember the biggest crowd you played in front of?
SS: To me every show is one of the best, and I mean that because I am lucky to still be able to do this after all these years. I have fond memories of all the early gigs, mainly the Legacy stuff, because back then I knew there was something special with those guys. Here we are, years later, and they have become Testament – a household name in metal. I have like bootlegs of the early shows where Alex is not even old enough to fucking drive but he’s killing it on guitar. That shit is priceless to me now. With Exodus it was an amazing ride too. The best shows were on the ‘Fabulous Disaster’ tour because it was a new thing playing a lot of these countries, and we were pretty huge at the time. We were treated like rock stars during that era. Playing the Dynamo Festival on that tour was probably the biggest. There’s nothing like looking out at 30,000 people and 8 separate mosh pits going on.
MC: What singers did you admire when you were growing up and do you feel you have a certain singing style?
SS: I loved all the old school hard rock. My dad was a biker and that shit was blasting every day around the house. Robert Plant was my favorite for a long time, as was Ted Nugent. I saw AC/DC in 1979 at the Day On The Green festival and from that day forward I wanted to be Bon Scott. He’s still my favorite to this very day. I went on to like heavier stuff, obviously, and Udo from Accept, Ronnie Dio, and some of the European singers from Saxon, Maiden, and Priest became my favorites. I love all that stuff to this day as well.
MC: Were the Bay Area crowds back in the oldie days as wild as I heard they were?
SS: Well, every story has a way of growing over time. Once it becomes legend it becomes immortalized in the thoughts of the people, but I can say that the bay was fucking awesome back then. There were shows every night, the bands all hung out and were good friends, and all the rowdy shit you heard about did really happen in some shape or form. Of course back then we had no idea it was going to be legendary. It was just the way it was. We thought every town had a scene like ours. It was a magical time.
MC: Is the Stone still around and how about The Record Vault?
SS: Nope. They are both long gone. The Stone is a gentlemen’s club now. The Record Vault was fucking awesome back in the day. They only sold heavy metal. That’s it. That was the only place to get imported metal and we wore that fucking place out, let me tell you. It’s awesome that you know of the Record Vault. In its day that was the place to go. Kids today are missing out. It’s actually a mom and pop grocery store now.
MC: Which are the most rabid fans, US ones or overseas ones?
SS: They are both rabid in my opinion. The fans that love thrash metal love it for life. You never hear somebody saying they liked Slayer for one summer. Fuck that. You love them for your whole life. That makes no difference where in the world you are at. Metal fans are the most passionate fans. Granted, the crowds overseas are stronger, just because in America everything is radio driven and trend oriented. Other parts of the world are not like that. You still see people walking around with the denim jackets covered in patches when you are overseas. In America you would get laughed at. So the fans are the same, it’s just different cultures in different parts of the world.
MC: Do you think that eventually CDs will go by the way if cassettes and that all music will be on mp3's?
SS: Nope. I really don’t see that happening. I think that the decline of physical media has already hit its peak. Fans that want physical product may never be able to buy it in a store again at some point, but I think it will always exist, even if only for a novelty factor. We actually printed vinyl and CDs of the Hatriot record. I’m proud to keep that tradition alive. I like the physical product so you can read the liner notes and see the pictures.
MC: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise people?
SS: I am completely fucking disciplined. I get up very early every morning, even on the weekends, and I start getting shit done. It doesn’t sound like the rock n roll life but that’s how I am!
MC: Does the band have any goals at all?
The goal is to get into a rotation of putting a record out, then touring, then come home and record another one, and repeat the process. That worked well in building Exodus and that’s the goal for Hatriot as well. I plan on making Hatriot a huge force in heavy metal. In the next five years I want a few different albums out and a few tours under our belt.
MC: How did you come up with the name any were any other names considered?
SS: No, I think we were pretty much set on Hatriot from the get go. It was a strong sounding name and it comes from the Exodus song ‘Scar Spangled Banner,’ where I say “I’m no patriot, just a hatriot.” That sort of ties my time in Exodus to this new band. We never considered anything else.
MC: Is there sports that you like and what do you like to do when you’re not doing music related stuff?
SS: Oh I love sports. I follow every Oakland game that I can. I even have a Raiders tattoo on my arm. I’m devoted to sports. When I’m not doing music I like to spend time with my family, watch horror movies, or watch something sports related.
MC: Is there any place you would like to play but haven't yet?
SS: There are a lot of places I have never been. I want to play everywhere with Hatriot, but unfortunately a lot of that has to do with promoters taking a chance on us. I hope the fans will go out and pick the record up so we can attract a good booking agent and get this thing out on the road. If it makes sense financially and we can pull it off then I want to come play. It’s that simple.
MC: Plug any merchandise you have. Any websites you have?
SS: Check out www.hatriotmetal.com for links to everything that we have. There will be a web store up soon with all the swag. Right now I want everyone to go out and buy our album “Heroes Of Origin” on Massacre Records. It is the best record I have ever done.
MC: Have you re-connected with people that you have talked to you in years on Facebook?
SS: I personally don’t do a lot of the social media stuff. My band mates and managers handle a lot of that for me. I’m just so busy with other things that I can’t take a lot of time out, but I do pay attention to what is said on there. If I don’t read it myself then the team will relay messages to me. We do a lot of networking with the fans through social media and it’s probably the best way to get a message to me. Facebook has changed the world!
MC: Any last words Steve. Thanks for the great music over the years and I look forward to hearing more.
SS: I just want to thank you, Chris, for the interview, and for your dedication to heavy metal. It’s the zines and online publications that keep metal alive, and we certainly could not do it without guys like you. Thanks to all the fans for sticking with me through the years. Pick up “Heroes Of Origin” and I hope to meet you all on tour. Cheers! ZETRO