By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
Known for his work in Exodus, Legacy, Testament, Dublin Death Patrol and Tenet, veteran vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza steps back into the thrash metal realm, this time with his own new band Hatriot. The five-piece outfit released its first self-titled demo a little over a year ago, a demo that showcases the quintessential Zetro singing style that has garnered him countless number of fans in the past two decades or so. Besides the vocals, Hatriot exudes energy through their music, due to the efforts of Zetro’s young brigade led by guitarists Kosta V and Miguel Esparza, along with Alex Bent on drums and Cody Souza on bass. Since the release of the demo, the band has been performing gigs sporadically and gradually climbing up the ladder. A week ago, I had the pleasure of talking to Zetro, to discuss the band’s past gigs, future plans, how he feels as a singer and performer at this age, and a few other things. Read the conversation, and check out Hatriot using the links below it.
It’s good to talk to you again, man. What are you up to these days?
Well, Hatriot is what I’m up to these days. I’m up to no good (laughs). I’m up to playing my usual, typical thrash metal. That’s what I’m doing right now, and besides that, as you might know, I’m also doing an AC/DC cover band called AC/DZ and playing in the clubs for that band, while doing Hatriot full time.
Yes, of course. I was just checking out the Hatriot facebook page before calling you up for this interview, and the first thing I saw was the flyer for the D.R.I. 30th anniversary show at the Avalon in Santa Clara. How does it feel to be part of that? That’s coming up at the end of May, I believe.
Yeah, May 31st actually. We’ve been fortunate enough with the few shows that we’ve been playing. We played with Forbidden, we played with Testament, and now we’re going to be playing with D.R.I. So we’ve been getting some good shows, and it feels great.
Back in the old days, what was your experience like with D.R.I.? I’m sure you must have shared the stage with them sometime in the past, right?
Oh, sure. We all grew up in the Bay Area. The Bay Area is like one big family. Everybody knows each other, and everybody is aware of each other’s bands, their successes and what they bring to the table. So we’re very excited at this opportunity. I was at the club that we’re going to be playing for that show, as I went to see Forbidden who were playing that night. Myself and the D.R.I. bass player Harald O attended that show, and we were talking about this upcoming D.R.I. show. He was saying that it’s going to be great for him to play with me again, and it’s exactly the same thing with me. So, everybody is excited for everybody else.
That’s great to hear. As you mentioned, you opened for Testament and Forbidden earler this year. What were those shows like?
Knowing all the bands for as long as I have, and the history I have being in the bands that I’ve played with, it’s great that when I get on stage, people see that word Hatriot now that I have this new band out, and it’s just great to be a part of it again, and to be back in thrash metal, where people are like, ‘Hey, we love your new band! Keep thrashing Zetro! So that’s what I needed to do, and that’s what I’m doing.
So far, you’ve played a few shows here and there, mainly in the Bay Area. What’s the response been like, from those who saw your band for the first time?
The response has been nothing but positive. The band is been very, very active live. I mean, my boys bang their heads. They get crazy, and rock hard, so everybody who has come and seen us thought that we’re really good and kickass. And we do. The band is very good to watch live. I know you’ve just heard the songs on the facebook page, but if you like the songs, wait till you see them live!
Yeah, I’m absolutely sure the songs will sound even better live. So, other than the D.R.I. show coming up, what other gigs do you have planned for the near future?
On May 19th, we’re actually playing a headlining show with a band called Angerhead and another band called Potential Threat, and that’s in San Francisco at a club called Rockit Room, so we have that going on, and we’re supposed to be playing a contest-type thing for the Mayhem Festival at the end of June. So that’s what I have on my list at the moment.
The last time we talked, you had just released your demo. Since then, have you had a chance to work on any new material?
Oh yeah, we consider the songs on the demo as old now. We have probably five or six new ones that we wrote since then, so we have enough for a full-length record. That’s what we’re talking to record labels right now, and hopefully we’ll be able to sign a record deal soon, record the album this summer, and by late fall or early 2013 we’ll release the album.
That’s awesome, man. So have you found a label already or are you still looking for one?
We’re talking to a few right now that are very, very interested in us. I can’t say who because I don’t want to jinx it, and I don’t want to make something bad happen by saying it. But pretty soon we should be able to make that announcement.
Looking forward to that. So, would you say you have enough material for a full live set?
Yeah, we do. We’re headlining that gig I mentioned, so yes we do have enough material. I have enough Hatriot songs, plus I do play older stuff too. I was in Legacy and Exodus. So I can do any of the songs on the Legacy demo, or any of the songs that I played in Exodus. And I’ve played some Exodus songs with Hatriot already, so yeah I have enough to do a headlining set for sure.
Yeah, I was just about to ask you about the older songs. Usually, do you throw in a couple of covers in your shows?
Yes, absolutely. Recently we played “War Is My Shepherd”, “Last Act Of Defiance”, and we plan on possibly playing something off of the Legacy demo next show. So we’ll break it up and change things every show.
You’ve been doing gigs occasionally, once in two months or something like that. Do you plan to make Hatriot a more active live band and play gigs on a more regular basis in the future?
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough venues to play in the Bay Area like there used to be. So it has to be right for us to do a show. I just can’t play at everybody’s little phony old pizza parlor. I don’t want to do that, so I have to be careful with it. The shows that I’ve accepted are the shows that are going to benefit Hatriot the best in the long run. So I’m a bit picky and choosy with that, but that will all change as soon as we sign a record deal, and after that it will be all about touring. That’s what I plan, doing a record and going out to play it live.
Now that you’re fronting a full-on thrash metal band again after a while, how are you feeling in terms of your own vocals? Do you feel the same vibe that you felt a few years back?
Stronger than ever. Actually, I’m hungrier than ever, and that’s why I think the songs are very good and our live show is really loud and fast. We’re all rocking pretty hard and I’m still very hungry.
Just out of curiosity, I always wondered whether it’s harder for you to sing for a studio recording or on stage?
Well, I’d rather sing live than in the studio. There is no crowd in the studio, and I’ve never wanted the studio. I’m like, “Oh God, I’ve got to go record!” But once it’s done, I’m happy with it and I want to go out and play live. I feel that my strongest point is my live show and the way I carry myself on stage.
Yeah, I guess recording is more like work, but playing live is something you enjoy.
Sure, sure. Playing live is the meat. Recording is the veggies, you know (laughs). You have to have the balance, but playing live is the meat. That’s how I’d put it.
Because your band mates are so much younger than you, does that bring out the best in you, specially on stage?
Yes, definitely. I’m quite aware of that when we’re writing and playing, and I’ve got to keep a diet, make myself look like they look, because they so much younger, and that’s very important to me.