Exodus has cemented their heavy foundations into the fabric of metal, record by record, show by show and pit by pit with non-stop, persistent battering ram force, noise and speed. They hail from from San Francisco; the early hotbed homeland of thrash. The Bay Area scene spawned names such as Metallica, Testament, Death Angel, Vio-Lence and Forbidden, among others.
Early last month Exodus embarked on a West Coast string of dates with Killswitch Engage and Unearth, which included a homecoming show, an L.A. date and a show in Nevada.
Vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza says there’s still a healthy rivalry between L.A. and San Francisco. “L.A. and San Francisco are definitely the best crowds. I have to give it to the home crowd; they know that Metallica and Exodus came from there. They know that’s the thrash capital of the world. When we were out with Slayer and Suicidal, the L.A. crowds were chanting for them, we called them the Satanic Hispanics.”
Zetro says every once in a while even an Exodus show can get too rowdy. “From time to time, if things get out of hand, there’s etiquette out there,” he says. “I want to see violence and hear them as loud as possible but with that said, take care of each other. If they go down, pick’em up, help each other out, it’s not personal. If I see someone acting up, I’ll definitely call them out and say ‘hey dude, what’s the problem? This is good friendly violent fun, get it right.’ If not we’ll take you out of here, that’s not what it’s about. It’s called controlled violence.”
It doesn’t matter who they tour with, it’s all about brotherhood and music and it’s all heavy. Zetro says it’s possible that the upcoming October/November, European Battle of the Bays Tour could come to the States. Fans will have to wait and see.
Zetro recently returned to the fold after vocalist Rob Dukes left, bringing back the first Zetro-led record and shows since Tempo of the Damned.
On the technique behind his high screeching rasp Zetro says, “It’s the way I put my tongue behind my teeth, cock my jaw and turn my neck. It’s kinda like second nature where I can make it sound really high. I know actually what to do in preparation, before and after so I don’t blow my voice out.”
On Overkill’s Bobby Blitz’s similar style, “Don’t know because we have a lot of similar stuff, actually we did Thrash Domination in Tokyo last year with Overkill and Sodom and thought he was really good,” he says. “I’m sure everyone does their own thing with ways to manipulate the sounds they make, ours are very distinctive but it’s all mechanics.”
His return to Exodus came with a phone call. “It was time, you do something your whole life and you’re a piece of something, even when you’re not there, you’re still a piece of that,” he says. “A great thing about music and other forms of entertainment is there’s no age limit. As long as you can do it, the way it should be done. If you’re an athlete time’s against you, eventually. That’s the way it is. For musicians it’s different. I got in the game in ’86 and here we are in 2016 and I’m still in the game and I’m very fortune to have the opportunity to do this at the level I do it.” They appreciate their loyal fan base. “It’s definitely a business but it’s also a way of life. We live it that way.” As long as it’s still fun and people come, they’ll continue. Seeing their heroes out there, still doing it gives bands from their era a great career outlook with years to go.”
“If there’s no one there to see it or you can’t do it anymore, put it aside.” The landscape has changed as several legends have passed recently including Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey while other big names have called it quits. If you can keep the door open longer, do it.
Zetro never really knew former vocalist Rob Dukes. “I never really did. I met him twice. I never really knew him or had contact and I don’t have. It wasn’t my decision at all; it was between him and the band.”
He has several favorite tunes from his first run, “Off of Fabulous or Pleasures, there’s so many good songs. I love Parasite, Chemi-Kill, Like Father Like Son and Cajun Hell.”
Exodus still hasn’t recorded a ballad though some might say A Good Day to Die would be the closest thing. “It’s still heavy and bluesy but there’s no classical guitar picking on that song by any means,” he says. “It kind of hits you right in the face. My vocal isn’t the normal, high, erratic screaming. If there was a closest thing, it would probably be that song but I don’t think Exodus would write a ballad. I heard the music then wrote the lyrics. The mood of that song was very much what I was writing about.” Zetro was 26 when a good friend left a long suicide note before he did it. “It hit close to home, when I heard the music I thought it was a good topic. I remember seeing that movie, Flatliners when Sutherland says it’s a good day to die.”
Zetro has a love/hate relationship with Force of Habit. “I love Thorn in my Side, Me Myself and I, One Foot in the Grave and Fuel for the Fire. It was a time on a major label when we took a turn [and] it was Exodus lite.” There are songs he genuinely hates too, but with his return on Tempo of the Damned, “We knocked that fucker out of the park.”
Zetro has many memories of the MTV’s Headbangers Ball Tour, “Too many to count. When your kids, in your twenties and teens, it was a new thing, music wasn’t just on the radio, you could see bands. We were on the biggest media [platform] even when they were playing John Cougar Mellencamp videos.” It helped break open the door to bigger markets and venues.
Zetro misses the late night mystique of staying up and watching it and the pre-YouTube days when you didn’t know everything about a band.
He appreciates his history and position in the genre and scene.“I look at my career and feel very fortunate that I’ve lived to do the things I’ve been able to do.”
Concerning the Blood In Blood Out video, the mosher’s were given white shirts giving the video a Fight Club vibe. “For us the blood would be more graphic that way.”
Speaking of blood in blood out, Zetro stepped away from side project Hatriot with his son Cody, stepping in. The first song with him on vocals is Carnival of Execution on YouTube. He’s a proud papa watching them move forward.
His other projects Tenet and Dublin Death Patrol with Chuck Billy are still there, but with Exodus activities in his camp and Testament’s new Brotherhood of the Snake record, unfortunately the time isn’t.
He put over Gary Holt’s war/work horse mentality playing double duty in Slayer. “He’s the real deal when it comes to thrash players. We’re not like other communities in music, we’re metal, and we stand together. We all stay unified and keep going.”
He was introduced to rock radio from his father, listening to FM stations with everything from The Jackson Five to Zeppelin flooding his ears. In his teens he moved on to Alice Cooper, UFO, Judas Priest, and Maiden. “The intricacies of rock music are where thrash came from, black metal and every other metal there is.” He remembers seeing AC/DC, Foreigner and Cheap Trick on the same stage for five dollars and Van Halen and Aerosmith on the same show.
For anyone that doesn’t know, the nickname “Zetro” came from a drug experience in his early teens, that stuck.
Having played and socialized with many of his idols, he doesn’t get star struck, though meeting Angus Young would be a great honor. “A lot of my heroes know who I am, so that’s pretty cool. I’m very fortunate I get to play all over the world with my heroes. The person I’d like to meet more than anyone is Mel Brooks.”
When he’s on the road he loves his horror movies, especially the classics. “When I go to Europe, I bring Dark Shadows with me. I thought the old school stuff, Dracula, Frankenstein, any of that early black and white stuff was very creepy. The Omen was scary because of the premise and the suspense and The Conjuring was very scary. I’m a monster guy; I need a bang, or someone pursuing someone.
To the Screamer fans Zetro says, “Stay heavy guys, keep screaming, we love ya, we’ll see ya soon.”