Interview: Exodus

In my eyes, it's our best record. It shows our musicianship, the compositions on this album are just over the top, you know, it's heavy, it's brutal, the lyrical content is very updated.

When it comes to thrash metal, Exodus are at the top of the tree and and one of the best metal bands ever. The band’s stunning new album Persona Non Grata cements this legendary status and sees a reenergised Exodus firing on all cylinders from beginning to end. Gavin Brown caught with the band’s vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza to hear all about Persona Non Grata and how happy he is with the record and where Exodus are as a band as well as social media, the return of live shows, being on tour as the pandemic hit and the most insane live shows the band have ever played.

E&D: Your new album Persona Non Grata is out now. How did the creation and recording process of the album go?                       

Zetro: Well, time was on our side because we didn’t have a time restriction because of the pandemic. Nobody was on the road and everybody was home. Andy Sneap was our producer on the record. He plays guitar in Judas Priest now too. He didn’t have to miss time with that, and we didn’t have to worry about doing touring ourselves because there was nothing on the table. So, writing and recording the songs, we had our luxury of our own time. We built a studio up in Tom’s house, our drummer, he lives in the mountains. He has a huge, three car cave and we built a studio in there. We worked when we needed to work, we worked every day, but we didn’t have the pressures of having anybody else coming in while we were there or anything like that. We were able to do it in our own time, so it worked out really well for us. The whole band went up there, now a lot of times now you can record on your own. I recorded Blood In, Blood Out with nobody there, but we all went up to there and we rented a house. Through the recording process, all five of us were there. It was a full band effort.

E&D: Did that create a more ‘live’ sounding record at?

Zetro: I dunno if I think it was more live sounding. I think it was just more of the camaraderie of everybody being there and being into the project. In my eyes, it’s our best record. It shows our musicianship, the compositions on this album are just over the top, you know, it’s heavy, it’s brutal, the lyrical content is very updated. You wouldn’t think that there’s almost 60 year old mens writing records, it’s brutal. Gary and I are 57, I’ll be 58 in a few months. It’s like, we’re moving up there, bro but I mean, this record does not reflect that. I think a lot of that had to do with it and that’s why it’s so good. It’s a great record. I’m very proud of it.

E&D: Do you feel we sort of reenergized with this record?

Zetro: I believe so. I feel that the just dessert that Exodus never has received over the years is gonna finally come to fruition. This is an amazing record. Every member of the band is now a machine and when we go out live, we crush and the record reflects that. I think it’s definitely going to be a new era for us. Gary’s back full time. He doesn’t have to do double duty with the other band and it works out very well, you know, I’m back in the band now seven years, so I’ve solidified that, it’s not like I’m going anywhere else, so the lineup has been solid. I think that the rep solidified the last time when we were out with Testament and Death Angel in Europe, we were the best live we’ve ever been. We played recently at Aftershock Festival. It was Tom’s first show back with us actually and we played great. I think everybody’s adrenaline was up and we are very excited to be here to do this again, like it was in the beginning.

E&D: How is Tom’s health at the moment? Hopefully he is all good. Obviously he’s back playing.

Zetro: We had to tell him to slow down, he’s like a beast. He came out and I see Gary turn around to him and go slow down, haha! he was moving it. Tom is back, he’s got a hundred percent bill of health.

E&D: As you mentioned, it’s been seven years since your last album, so you must be excited about getting the album out there. How does it feel to be back doing what you love after all that time?

Zetro: I just don’t take it for granted. There  might have been a time when I did or owed to me or whatever. There’s a lot of things that go on when you don’t have it, and then you come back and you do have it. I have a different mentality towards a lot of things. Now, coming back in again, everybody always says third times the charm and this, obviously, to be honest with you this is the best time. I had fun back in the eighties. Those were great times, but this is the best time.

E&D: You’ve got Rick Hunolt featuring on the album again. How was it playing with him again?

Zetro: We played Psycho Las Vegas in August and we did Full Terror Assault in September and Rick came out with us and played about five songs on stage with us. It’s great to have Rick come out as a guest. He’s always a good player. He has another life, you know what I mean? This isn’t what he does anymore, so he can still do it a little bit and he comes out and does it and has fun with it, but it’s not something that Rick has dedicated himself to. He does have a completely other life but it’s fun to have him back.


E&D: How has the new material been received so far?

Zetro: Yeah, it’s great. Everybody loves it. I’ve heard people telling me it’s their album of the year. I hope they’re right. I think it is. I love it. I’m a heavy metal fan. I’m not being a Homer like, yo dude, it’s my record. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread! It’s like, I just love it, I think every song kills on this record, it destroys and it’s got a great balance on it, the compositions are awesome. The changes are got the vocal hooks. Good, good hooks. A lot of things going on.

E&D: Have you got a favourite song in the album yet?

Zetro: The whole album! I do love ‘Lunatic-Liar-Lord’ though.

E&D: You have got the song ‘Clickbait’ as well on the album, which is a tirade against social media. Do you think that that it is a helpful tool for bands or can it be harmful?

Zetro: I don’t know. I think it’s a double edged sword, I guess you could look at it that way. I’ve seen stuff on myself saying something, but I didn’t say it like that, or how it came out. You didn’t get the first part of it, and if you don’t get the first part, the second part sounds like that. I’ve seen that on myself before, so I get it. It just seems a lot of these song topics are really resonating with what’s going on right now. They’re relevant to what’s going on today.

E&D: Are you looking forward to hitting the road again? When the bear is strikes back to goes back, is that gonna be next year now?

Zetro: Yeah. They pushed it back. We wish we could have been out right now, but there’s still a lot of issues with the vaccine and his whole thing. Everybody felt it was better to let it go another six months. We’re going out in April regardless. We’ll be in Europe in July and August next year. I know for facts, so it’s gonna be moving on it’s time to get busy.

E&D: You’ll be making it over to the UK too?

Zetro: Yeah. We’re gonna be there in July. I know we’re on Bloodstock next year. We’re gonna be there in July and August, so it’s seven weeks. There isn’t a festival to play every day so during the week we play fillers in between. A few years ago, 2016, maybe, we played 17 shows in the UK, who does that?! Even English bands were going, we don’t even do 17 shows in the UK like you guys do! We were everywhere, but that’s cool. The UK’s always been great to us.

E&D: You were actually on a UK/European tour when the pandemic hit, how strange was that experience?

Zetro: It was very strange. I’d never seen anything like that before. I was like, what do you mean where we can’t play Italy? They’re shutting the borders down because everybody’s getting sick. What is it? The black plague, what the hell’s going on? You know what I mean? Then we went to Spain and we just started hearing about it, and then, not even a week later, the whole world is shutting down. At first, we were told we’re stuck in Europe. Trump says nobody can fly from Europe, then it changed and we just flew home, but it was a wild time brother. Obviously, I never thought I would see that in my day. I really didn’t.

E&D: How did the shows go before that though? Obviously playing with Testament and Death Angel is a dream bill.

Zetro: Everybody was killing it. What a great package. Think about it, It’s the meat and the potatoes of the Bay Area thrash metal scene all in one night. You could get any of those bands and see them headline themselves, but they gave it to you all in one night and that’s something to see.

E&D: You mentioned the shows earlier at Psycho Las Vegas and Aftershock Festival. How did those shows go for you and did you play much new material?

Zetro: No, we have not played anything new. When we play the Fox, we are doing one show of The Bay Strikes Back, It’s obviously in Oakland. We will do new songs there. That’ll be November 27th [last year 2021].

E&D: the most insane pit you’ve ever seen at an Exodus gig.

Zetro: That’s hard to say bro.

E&D: I imagine there has been quite a few!

Zetro: Haha! Every show has one! Okay, the year I came back, 2014, we played in Bogata and they have a concert there called Rock al Parque and we headlined in front of 100,000 people. I counted 11 pits from where I was standing, that was what I could count from what I saw. I mean, I’ve seen so many violent pits. We’re Exodus, it’s always been violent, but that one got me because there as far as I could see and I could count, I counted 11 pits. That’s a trip seeing 11 of them. It’s like, that’s 11 different metal communities together. You know what I mean? Everyone going crazy!

E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your career with Exodus so far?

Zetro: Hall of Heavy Metal history in 2018 Any time some type of hall of fame wants to recognise you is amazing. My first record deal, when I saw myself on a trading card. There was been a lot of things that when I first saw myself, on a MTV video, there has been a lot of things. I did a sitcom with the band in 92 with Toby McGuire who became Spiderman. I’ve got to do a lot of cool things. I don’t know if there’s one thing. I’m very fortunate to be where I’m at in life. There’s a lot of people that don’t and will never experience what these eyes have experienced, so I don’t take that for granted.

E&D: And there’s still a lot more to come! 

Zetro: I believe people say all the time, write a book and I’m like, but I’m still writing it and don’t wanna write two! I’ll just write big one!

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