Hatriot is Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza’s future

For many years following his departure from Exodus, Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza has been dabbling in music, taking part in a few projects here and there with no ambition at a career. As the man tells us in this interview, he knows the current music business and cannot hope to make a living out of a thrash metal project. However, without chucking everything for it, he seems ready to use all his free time to work on the long-term development of Hatriot, an old-school thrash band, where he plays with his two sons, Nicholas and Cody.

The man seems particularly proud of the music he writes, as well as of the involvement of his sons, with whom he’s been very uncompromising regarding instrument practice (bass and drums respectively) in order to avoid accusations of favouritism.

Hatriot is now Steve’s future.

At the end of the interview, the singer also gets things straight regarding his relationship with his former Exodus mates.

« I want to have a full time project, I want to be involved in metal like I was in the 80’s. […] I’m going to approach Hatriot like I was in back in the days of The Legacy (note: Testament’s first album) or Exodus. »

Radio Metal: You declared in an interview that, before creating Hatriot, you had no intention to be again in a full-time band. But eventually, Hatriot is a full-time band. What made you change your mind?

Steve « Zetro » Souza (singer): Heavy metal just runs in my blood: I just have to do it. A lot of the reasons why I left Exodus in 2004 was because I was married at the time and had children. My children have grown up since and actually, two of them are in Hatriot. I’m not married to their mother anymore and I’m more free-spirited now: I’m ready to do this full time. I want to have a full time project, I want to be involved in metal like I was in the 80’s. I’m very excited about doing albums and going on tour. Actually, we already have written three songs for the next Hatriot record! It’s not a project like Dublin Death Patrol, Tenet, or something like that that I’ve done in the past. I’m going to approach Hatriot like I was in back in the days of The Legacy (note: Testament’s first album) or Exodus.

What can you tell us about these three new songs?

They’re very heavy and more technical. The band is showing that they’ve been together for a little while now and that by being in the same band after a couple of years, everybody is starting to jowl together. So I believe that the music is going to get better and better. Kosta (note: Kosta Varvatakis, Hatriot’s guitarist) writes in fact all of the music and I write all of the lyrics. Most bands just come out today with their debut album that people think it’s really great, but the second album isn’t so good. I don’t think that this will be the same with Hatriot. It’s just my prediction of what I’ve seen, of what I and Kosta are writing musically and lyrically.

You said that bands can’t make a living anymore because of record sales. Will you try to make a living of Hatriot and how?

I don’t make a living of it now and I have a full understanding that music business, and especially in heavy metal, is very difficult. Of course, I’m going to try. I have a really good job: I’m a foreman for a union construction company and I make some good money in California. I understand what I’d like to make for a living, because it’s what I did when I was in Exodus. But then came 1993 and our last record, Force Of Habit, grunge music came in and a lot of us lost their record deals, because nobody wanted to sign us. So I went out to get a job and worked: I’ve been working for 20 years. When I do those side projects, like Dublin Death Patrol or Tenet, and go on tour, after I come back to my job. Both of my sons work and everybody in the band works too. If you go into heavy metal, you probably won’t make a living out of it: it’s possible to do it, but you can’t be like “Oh, we’re going to be big rock stars and get rich. We don’t have to worry because our next record comes out next week!”. I know it, because I’ve been in the business for 30 years. I won’t end the band because we won’t be successful financially to survive off just the band: we know that. That doesn’t mean that we’ll do one record and after we’ll say: “Oh, it’s too hard, I want to do something else”. I know exactly what to expect and told everybody in the band : my sons know that, because they’ve lived it. Every rehearsal is a lesson in the business. To answer your question, I’d love to make a living for myself but heavy metal is not necessarily set up that way.

« I won’t end Hatriot because we won’t be successful financially to survive off just the band: we know that. That doesn’t mean that we’ll do one record and after we’ll say: ‘Oh, it’s too hard, I want to do something else’. »

Hatriot was formed two years ago, but your first album is released only now: could you tell us why?

I think it took a little while to do it. I didn’t want to rush into getting members and writing songs: I wanted to make sure that the members were right and correct, you know. We had another drummer and guitar player on the demo, but in the end, these guys just didn’t work out. My son Nicholas is our drummer now, and we have an awesome guitar player, Miguel Esparza, whose lead playing is just amazing. It took a little time because I had to find a record label, like everybody else. I didn’t want to rush anything and put the record out quickly. We had done the record by September, but I knew we couldn’t put it out before Christmas, so we’ve waited after the first of January.

You said in an interview that the guys you play with in Hatriot are very young so they add a very actual death metal flavour to your music, but still understand what you did musically in the 80’s. What would be the difference, according to you, between thrash metal in the Eighties and actual thrash metal?

I think it’s pretty much the same, but some of the initial thrash metal bands like Exodus, Slayer, Testament, Kreator, Destruction, Anthrax for example have really created this special sound which I think we’ve captured. No band since has really been able to do it until Hatriot, I think. Our record is a very good rocking album from the start to finish: every song kicks you in the face.

Your new drummer is your son Nicholas. He auditioned for the band after the departure of Alex Bent (Hatriot’s first drummer). Isn’t it strange to audition your own son?

Well, Cody, my other son, is in the band too, and he too has auditioned, so it wasn’t a problem for me. I didn’t want people to think that “Oh, Steve Souza’s getting his sons in the band because it’s his kids and he’s giving them the job because of that”. I wanted to make sure that the players in Hatriot were definitely solid players and could play the music, you know. I thought that it would be an extra cool thing if my sons could do it. If you hear the drumming on the record, I think that Nicholas nailed it. I’m very proud of his drumming on the album.

You know, however, that you won’t stop people thinking that you’ve chosen them because they’re your sons…

I knew that everybody would say that. I knew it. It’s the reason why I kept telling them: “Look, the press, the fans and the whole world are going to say that the only reason that you’re in this band is because you’re my sons. So, you have to be very good !”. I hammered Nicholas about his kick speed for about a year and a half, so that he could practice it and get it faster and faster. Alex’s speed is amazing, he’s an amazing drummer, but he wanted to play with a bunch of other bands: I wanted to have my people here so I could write songs and move on. By the time Alex had done this, Hatriot was stopped and that’s another reason why it took two years: every time he went on tour with these bands, the rehearsing, the writing would just stop. Now, every time we’ll need Nicholas to play, he’ll be here. You know, I was worried that the producer (note: Juan Ortega), who worked with Machine Head and Testament, would come up to me and say after three days in the studio: “Steve, I have to talk to you about Nicholas. He’s not cutting it, and we need to hire another drummer”. I didn’t want to hear that, so three rehearsals before we started recording the album, I hammered Nicholas. I said: “Boy, you have to make sure you’re on top of it. I’m not going to sit and listen to this guy telling me that you’re not the guy”. He went into the studio for four days and knocked his drums out, so the drums you hear on the album is my son: it’s not fixed or edited. If you see my son live, he’s like Dave Lombardo from Slayer!

« There’s no side project when you’re in Hatriot. »

Nowadays, it’s very rare to hear live drums and drums that are fixed after the recording!

Yes. I didn’t want that. Nicholas had a small place in the studio and there was a couple of slips and mistakes, but he did not fix those drums: they’re solid and I made sure of that. The drummer who comes in the studio has to play live. Of course, you can fix everything in the studio, but if you go on tour after, and your drummer plays like shit, I can’t stand that! You need to be just as good live as in the studio. The drums aren’t fixed: that’s him.

Does the fact that you write and play music with your family give you a better chemistry?

My sons know what to expect from me and who I am, because I created them. We get along well: I’ve never had a problem with my children but I don’t take any shit. They know what to get, so they don’t pull out any crap. My sons are very smart: Cody (Cody Souza, Hatriot’s bassist) actually works for a company and makes very good money and Nicholas has two jobs and does really well. Both live in an apartment together in northern California, so they actually go to the rehearsal studio all the time without the guitar players and just play bass and drums. They’re very tight together. Writing and playing music with my kids is the ultimate. I see them all the time now: everyday I have to talk to them, because they have to do interviews for magazines. People want to know how it is playing heavy metal with their dad, because there are not too many “father and sons” heavy metal acts out there! It’s very rare and I don’t think there’s any, by the way. I’ve heard that Max Cavalera’s son is going to play in Soulfly, but other than that, I don’t think anybody has really started a band or done a debut record with their own children.

Many musicians complain that they can’t see a lot their families because of touring: apparently, you’ve solved the problem ! (laughs)

I’m not married to their mother anymore, I’m with a girl whom I love but basically I have my boys on the road with me, so I don’t want to come back and just keep going. I won’t be homesick because my family will be with me.

The album is called Heroes Of Origin. Who are they?

We are them. We are the ones who have come through all the wars and lasted more than anyone else: we the heroes of origin.

Violence is the main theme of the album. Do you think that heroes rise only in violent situations?

I think so. Look at heroes: they have to come up from violent situations and that’s the reason why the album is written that way.

About his relationship with Gary Holt (Exodus): « My statement was twisted by the media and Gary took it wrong. I was just answering a question. What was I supposed to say ? ‘No ?’ It was put on Blabbermouth and you could read the headlines: ‘Steven Souza wants to go back in Exodus’ ! »

Two years ago, you declared that you would like to go back in Exodus. But Gary Holt (Exodus guitarist) answered in the media that you had your chance and that it would never happen again. His statement was pretty aggressive. Are you still in touch with the band?

(Laughs) Gary’s still a little angry at me. Actually, when he’s in front of me, he always says: “Hello ! What’s up ?” and is very happy, but sometimes he says something bad. One day, a fan contacted me on Facebook or texted me and said: “Hey ! What’s your problem with Gary?”. I replied: “Nothing, I saw him two weeks ago: he was playing with Slayer, I was there with my children and he saw my daughter”. The fan said: “Well, he said something a bit harsh on you”. But that’s okay, you know: he’s still a bit angry. This is what happened, actually: I was asked a question “If you have the opportunity, would you join Exodus ?”, and I said “Sure ! It was my band, I made some mistakes and want to fix that. It would be great to sing those songs again, but I don’t think it’ll happen, but it might”. All this was put on Blabbermouth.net saying “Steven Souza would join Exodus”. So Gary called me that morning and was really angry. He said to me: “Steven, you will never join this band ever again. I’m tired of you using the press to get back in Exodus”. I said: “Gary, I wasn’t using the press to get back in the band, I was just answering a question”. But he didn’t believe it. That wasn’t my intention at all. I think Rob Dukes is doing a great job. It was my fault: I quit, so they had to find somebody. All this happened two years ago, but now, if you asked me the same question, I wouldn’t leave Hatriot: I love this band, everything’s going well, my record is coming out, I’ve got my own record label, so if you asked me to join Exodus again, I’d say “No way !”. I wouldn’t disappoint my sons and the other two guitar players who worked so hard. I can’t do that.

So, your statement was eventually twisted by the medias ?

Unfortunately, yes. My statement was twisted by the media and Gary took it wrong. I was just answering a question. What was I supposed to say? “No?” It was put on Blabbermouth and you could read the headlines “Steven Souza wants to go back in Exodus” ! So now, I answer “No, I don’t want to go back in Exodus: Hatriot is what I want to do !” (laughs). I don’t want bad relationships with anybody: I didn’t start any fight and I don’t intend to carry myself this way. I don’t operate like that. I’m cool with everybody : I do interviews, tell you what you want to know and there’s nothing you can’t ask me. I’m very approachable and I know that my job is very important for you to do your job. Everybody should be respected and be treated with respect.

Can we expect a new album from Tenet and Dublin Death Patrol?

No. A big “No” ! (laughs) You can expect new albums from Hatriot. Just after the record’s out, we’ll be on tour and once our debut album gets a bit old, we’ll be back into the studio to record another one. And we’ll keep doing that until the day I die. Chuck’s (note: Chuck Billy, Testament’s singer) really busy with Testament and Phil’s (note: Phil Demmel, Machine Head’s guitarist) really busy with Machine Head. To me, I can’t do Hatriot any justice if I do that: there’s no side project when you’re in Hatriot.

Interview conducted by phone on January 18th 2013
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Hatriot’s official website: hatriotmetal.com

Album Heroes Of Origin out since January 25th 2013 via Massacre Records

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