Steve Souza (Exodus)
by Interviews

Exodus is an explosive band. One of the very creators of thrash metal, the band has had more than 28 people tear through their ranks. No doubt, the vicious, berserk music itself played a part in blasting people into, and out of, the band. Plus, the members’ huge personalities certainly exacerbated the band’s volatility.

To that point, vocalist Steve Souza is back in the band after ten years in exile. (He also had a previous decade-long split from the band starting in 1993!) Fittingly, the band’s brand new record is called Blood In, Blood Out, where the band jostles back together and tries not to blast apart all while cutting out fierce thrash metal.

To see how the bonding is going, features editor John Gentile spoke to Souza about making amends, the new LP and that time he smoked weed and saw AC/DC and Van Halen… at the same show!

How did the reconciliation with Exodus come about?
Basically, I got a call from their management. They had new material and needed someone to work on it… They didn’t say why and I didn’t really know why. Maybe they just wanted someone to demo it, maybe they just wanted me to do a few tracks on the new album. I wasn’t really quite sure. I learned a couple of the songs and twelve hours alter I went in and recorded them.

I didn’t hear anything for three days. I heard from their management again and they said that they were considering having me in the band again. I said, “Well, we have to sit down and talk.” There was bad blood in the past. Over the past ten years there has been some mud slinging, especially between Gary Holt and myself. But now, we’re older guys, we’re more mature.

A lot of things went on between 2002 and 2004, and I wasn’t really ready to go back then. I had small children at the time. Now, the time was just right. We’re all getting along really well and here we are!

I’m amazed by how solid the new album is.
Thanks! I think every song is really solid. I think the musicianship after ten records and thirty years is why it’s that good. I fond myself when I do my records, I say “Oh, number three is cool, but number four is better.” I’m not doing that with this record. I don’t fast forward with this record. It’s got a good blend of what Exodus has done over the past thirty years, and especially what they’ve done with Rob over the past ten years with [former vocalist] Rob Dukes. The music is very aggressive, very heavy.

I don’t think that it’s strayed away from Exodus too much. If you hear it, it might sound retro because it has my voice on it. That’s true. I think it’s gonna totally kick your ass.

Before the album was recorded, there were rumors that it was going to have a punk rock feel to it. Do you feel that came out in the end result?
You know I heard Rob say that. Some of the rhythms are a little punkish, but I think that it is classic thrash metal. The riffs are great and we’ve got awesome solid drums. The leads are insane. The songs are more brutal than anything we’ve ever done. For lack of a better term, it’s very thrashy. It’s a good blend of the chug-chug-chug songs and the thrash songs.

I always like how Exodus approaches lyrics. Political issues are often presented via extended metaphors.
I think everything when we write, the lyrics are very metaphorical. Blood In, Blood Out is how this band operates, with all the member changes, myself included. They actually had that title before I even re-joined the band. It’s full of anger, it’s full of angst! I do like to touch on political things. Exodus does that, or is in that vein, like songs like “Salt on the Wound.” It’s kind of one of those “I’m fed up with everyone’s bullshit!” kind of albums.

Along those lines, do you think the reason that Exodus has had so many lineup changes is that everyone has such a big personality? Your personalities are too big to fit in one room?
Ha! I don’t know about that. I think it’s because of personalities now that you are able to get everyone in the same room! Maybe you have to have a window open… We’re learning that and we’re getting along with each other better. I think that we’re all such big fans of this kind of music, and we’re pioneers of thrash, so we never lose sight of that. Sometimes I’ll go through some songs, and say, “Why did I do that?” but sometimes I’ll hear stuff like on Tempo of the Damned and it just kicked my ass! I think this album really holds true to that. It’s great to see all the fans in their battle jackets with their Exodus patches. It’s always positive, really.

Original Exodus member and current Metallica member Kirk Hammett is on the album playing a solo. What did that mean to you?
Well, I mean Metallica is an icon. We’re excited, fortunate, and lucky that he pays attention to his old band. Lately, him and Gary have been hanging out a lot lately. When we played together on stage a little while ago, it was such a good time. Kirk plays in front of 100,000 people every night, so he doesn’t have to do this. He does it because he loves it. That’s what’s great about it. We all do it because we love it.

A lot of newer thrash bands are extremely influenced by Exodus, especially your work in the band. Do you like any of the newest thrash bands?
Sure! I even steal from myself in my other band Hatriot. Look at my son, he loves all the new stuff, like Black Dahlia Murder. I love that stuff, but I’m more into the more traditional thrash. But the bands like Municipal Waste, Bonded By Blood are all great bands.

What’s interesting, is if you look at the older bands, like Overkill, Exodus, Kreator, everyone’s doing really well right now. Old bands, new bands, it all works together. I saw this little kid in front of the stage at a festival banging his head to Bonded By Blood. It was amazing.

I believe when you were younger you went to a show featuring Van Halen, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult and Ted Nugent that was a formative moment for you. Can you tell us just a little bit about that show?
I wasn’t old enough to drive. I was 14. It was at the Oakland Coliseum. My friends and I stayed at my grandfathers. We got up at 5 a.m. and went down there and smoked weed all morning. We went in at 10 a.m. to catch the very first bands. I saved up all my money for concert t-shirts. I would probably buy six or seven of them. I probably bought two from Van Halen. I remember how crazy the day was. I remember Angus and Bon Scott going into the crowd and Angus on Bon Scott’s shoulders. They were so close I almost could have touched them. It was an incredible, incredible day that really left a mark on me.