I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with some major rock stars. From Mike Portnoy to Mark Tremonti to Billy Howerdel to Mark Evans, I have always left an interview feeling excited and reinvigorated.
Well, I just had the chance to talk with the legendary Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, and I have never felt this pumped up before. Zetro has a level of energy that is unmatched. Every word that comes out of his mouth is fueled with a passion for one thing and one thing only: Heavy Metal.
I’m proud to wave the Metal Flag today and have this interview with Zetro documented…Even if you don’t think you know who Zetro is, trust me, you know who Zetro is. He lead the way for Legacy, the band that would later become Testament. He sang for the one and only Exodus. He formed Dublin Death Patrol with Testament lead singer Chuck Billy. He sings with the metal band TENET. He has an AC/DC cover band known simply as AC/DZ. And now, he is paving the way for the resurgence of classic thrash metal with his brand new band Hatriot.
Listen to Hatriot’s “Weapons of Class Destruction”
Where are you calling from, Zetro?
I am in the Bay Area. Calling from Oakland, California.
Alright, well, since you’re in Oakland…I’ve got to get something out of the way. I understand you’re a big Raiders fan.
I’ve got it tattooed on me, my friend!
Well, I’m a KC Chiefs fan. Do you think we can continue with the interview?
Laughing. Hey man, I get it. It’s going to be interesting this year during the season. But you know what, we hate the Niners because they live in the Bay Area. Only when the Chiefs come to town do I boo you guys. Boooo! But I’m sure you do the same!
You’re no stranger to the metal scene. Exodus, Legacy, Dublin Death Patrol, TENET…And now, your newest band, Hatriot, has caught the attention of everyone in the thrash world. How did Hatriot come to be?
We came to be about a couple of years ago. I do thrash metal, you know, it’s what I’ve done for 30 years. If Rob Halford were to do a band, what would you want him to do? Wouldn’t you like him to do something like Judas Priest? To me, people know what I do and what I like to do. This is what I am. The guys around me are well versed in that. I have listened to a lot of guitar players and a lot of bands over the years, and they just didn’t have what I have…they didn’t have what I needed to write around. Our guitar player, Kosta Varvatakis, writes all the music other than the lyrics. I met him at a show one night when I saw his band. Afterward I spoke to him for like four hours, just picking his brain about metal. He knew everything about me and the 80s metal scene and thrash and that’s what he wrote. I heard a couple of songs that he had written and I wrote lyrics to them. I actually recorded them in Chuck Bill’s (Testament) studio. And I let people that I trust listen to it. People who would honestly tell me, “Nah, dude, that’s been done before. You’ll be the laughing stock of the industry.” But that wasn’t the case. From Paul Bostaph to the guys in Exodus to Machine Head, everyone who heard it was like, “Oh my God, dude, you’ve got to do this. This is killer!” So I slowly pieced the band together, also making my son try out! He’s on bass, he’s a very good bass player, but there’s no nepotism here my friend. He had to try out. So I slowly pieced it together and over the last year or so we’ve written an album’s worth of material. We’re ready now. There’s a four-song demo, and I have two other songs recorded. We probably have five or six more songs that are ready for a record. We’re speaking to a couple of labels right now and we plan on recording this summer. Hopefully by late Fall or early 2013, you’ll see the new release. And then we’re ready for total world domination!
You guys are going back to your roots in metal. Do you think there is a resurgence of classic thrash?
I think everybody is trying to do it, but nobody has done it right yet. There are a bunch of great new young bands that I love, though. Shadows Fall is one of my favorite bands right now. They don’t do exactly what the 80s did, though, you know? They pull a lot of things from that era. A lot of people have told me that nobody has been able to pull this off like we have. It’s old-school but really fresh. Nothing sounds the same. This is what we’re shooting for. Everything sounds different, but still in the vein of classic, Bay area thrash metal.
Why did you decide to go back to that older sound? Why did you return to your roots?
It’s what I do. It’s what I am. I did some work with Glenn Letsch from Gamma. He played with Ronnie Montrose and plays with Robin Trower now. He told me, “You know Zetro, I’ve been reading up on you. They say you’re a legendary singer for thrash metal.” I told him to go back ten years ago when nobody cared! He said, “It’s interesting you say that. I was speaking with Robin Trower. He said in the 70s he was a rock star. In the 80s he was a has been, and now he’s considered a legend!” That’s exactly how I felt. To go back to my roots would be just automatic. It was instinct. I love the beat, I love the guitars, I just love the attack. I love the vocal delivery. I think until I’m 85, I’ll be trying to spit out thrash metal. I don’t know how that’s gonna work, but we’re gonna try!
You’re going back to the 80s for that old-school sound, but you’ve got a young band behind you.
It’s a bunch of young guys. But this creates that element when we write the songs. These guys are like, “Let’s put a blast beat in there. Let’s put in a triplet. Let’s speed it up a little bit there.” They’re fresh. They’re young. They’re wild on stage. They are everything that youth brings to metal. This is the complete package. This is going to work really well. The band is really solid. I’m not being arrogant, we are just really solid. It’s been from hard work and practice. I talk to these guys at every practice. You have to work hard. You have to put the time in. You’ve got to bake the bread every week, and then when you serve it, people will eat it all over the world.
For these young guys who understand what thrash metal is but didn’t necessarily live it, it’s got to be such an incredible experience to be taking their lead from you.
Every practice is a lesson. It’s a lesson. There’s the music, but then there’s the lesson to be learned. It could be anything. From your own bio for your endorsements to what kind of strings you need on the road. Everything I can teach them with my knowledge and experiences. I tell them they’re not as major as they think. You know, I’m 30 years in this business and I’m considered a legendary lead singer for thrash…and I’m also a foreman for a construction company. “Hey, wait a minute, I’m a rock star!” Nope. Nobody is above anything. It takes people like you who write articles and it takes record people and it takes everybody to make this whole thing work. Everybody’s job is very important. If you approach every aspect like that, success will be staring you in the face. Anything you want to know, I’ll tell you to the best of my ability! Music practices is three times a week. It’s a job, don’t be late, you know?! If I stay with the formula, I’m not gonna have a problem.
Where does the name Hatriot come from, because I’ve got to be honest with you…that’s a killer thrash name. Is it political? I’ve seen a picture of an upside-down American flag on fire -
Whoa, wait a second! It’s not the American flag. It’s the Hatriot flag. Look at it, in the blue, those aren’t stars. Those are pentagrams. It’s the Hatriot flag. We’ve gotten into a bit of trouble in the south with people saying, “Hey now, boy, come down here and we’re gonna beat your ass.” The way I explain Hatriot is this: A Hatriot is somebody who loves their country but doesn’t necessarily agree with the hypocrisy that goes on with it. Perfect example is Jesse “The Body” Ventura. He’s a Hatriot. He loves his country, he’s fought for his country. But does he agree with what the government does? Nope. You and I, my friend, we’re Hatriots. We love our country, we love being Americans, but we don’t necessarily agree with the crap they pull. That’s what a Hatriot is. I’m no patriot, just a Hatriot.
You mentioned Shadows Fall earlier. Is there any other new metal out there that you’re a fan of?
I listen to anything that comes up. My daughter has been laying on me lately Asking Alexandria. I love Slipknot, I do love Machine Head. I love anything that’s coming up and is heavy. I’ll listen to anything that is good and heavy, man. High On Fire is a great band from the Bay Area. Anybody that’s doing it, I love. I love it.
So what’s on the horizon for Hatriot?
We’ve got a couple of record labels that are interested. I actually got an offer from a metal label in Germany. They’ve got some good acts and I’m very interested. I want to get a record out. I’m not gonna sit here and play games with labels. I’m getting older, I’m 48 years old, I want to put out music so people can hear it. The music does the talking. If the music is good and the music kicks ass, we’ll be OK. And I think my music kicks ass, so I think we’ll be alright.
It definitely kicks ass. What I’ve heard from Hatriot definitely kicks ass. Can we expect to see you guys take over the country with a tour?
That’s the whole thing. I’m not going to sign with a label that will not take us out on tour. My whole thing is that I’m gonna do a record and at whatever cost we’re gonna hit the road, even if that means I have to put us in a van. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna build this band so that in two or three years Hatriot is one of the biggest bands or well known bands in metal. That’s what I’m shooting for, my friend.
What’s on the horizon for Zetro, then? You’re not a man who sits still for very long.
I don’t sit still! I actually wrote four new songs for the new Testament album The Dark Roots of Earth. They’re talking about doing another thing. I always keep the AC/DZ thing going so I can be Bon Scott for an hour and 20 minutes. Basically, I want Hatriot to be the next thing so I’ve got all my eggs in this basket right now. I’m turning down vocal projects, I’m turning down other things, because I want Hatriot to cruise right into a record and a tour. And while we’re on the that tour, we’ll have another record written so there’s no delay. Bang, bang, bang. In the next five years, you’ve probably got three to four Hatriot records to listen to and you’ve seen us four or five times already. That’s what I plan to do and that’s what I did with Exodus. Record, tour, record, tour, tour, tour, tour! You kick their ass so they want to come back and see you! Everytime we go on stage I say, “It’s the Super Bowl, boys! We gonna win tonight? We gonna win tonight! We are going to win tonight!” That’s my attitude.
Brother, you have me pumped up!
You’ve got a lot of experience under your belt. Have you ever considered writing it all down?
Everyone tells me that. I think I need to get some more experiences and then I’m gonna do that for sure. I’m so preoccupied with making the metal, though, you know what I mean?
I can just tell when you talk, you’ve got the passion behind you, man. It’d be a killer read!
One of these days! I just get on a roll, and I roll! Metal is what I am. I get so passionate about it. It bleeds from me, man. My blood is heavy metal, it’s Silver and Black Heavy Metal that drips there, my brother!
When you come through New York City with Hatriot, I’ll buy you a beer, man.
Hell yes, man! I appreciate your time to do this, I really do! I can’t wait to do the record!!
Listen to Hatriot’s “Weapons of Class Destruction”
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