Hatriot are from the Bay Area and of course the name of their game is Thrash Metal. The band has gained a reputation through the metal community as former Exodus singer Steve Zetro Souza is fronting the band. Hatriot’s debut album ‘Heroes Of Origin’ recently saw the light of day on Massacre Records and got nothing, but tremendous great reviews. Hatriot is definitely on the rise to the bigger league as they definitely deserve it. Here is the short interview with Steve Zetro Zouza about the deal, album, and their use of social media as a tool to promote the band.
Interview by Arto Lehtinen and Marcos Cardoso
What’s up in the Hatriot camp at the moment?
We are just doing a lot of press to promote the debut record, and are actually writing a lot of new material. I was hoping to have Hatriot on the road by now, but that hasn’t happened yet, so we are not wasting any time. We already have half of the next album written. I plan on hitting the studio again at the end of the summer.
INKING A DEAL WITH MASSACRE
The debut album titled “Heroes Of Origin” came out the German label Massacre Records. I can’t help but wonder how many labels showed interest toward Hatriot and what made you after all ink a deal with Massacre Rec?
We did have a few other labels interested, but nobody was coming to the table ready to work. Massacre offered to get us in the studio immediately and get a record out into the market, which was what we were looking to do. We signed the deal in July and had the album turned into the label in September, so we were ready to work. One of our managers has other bands on Massacre, so he had a good working relationship with them, and it just made sense to go with a smaller label that has a lot of passion for metal. So far so good!
When inking the deal with Massacre, presumably you are familiar with legal issues etc. in the contract thing, did you go through carefully all the offers and deals before putting your signature on, I mean you may have got lessons with labels in the past?
Of course I did. I learned that lesson a long time ago. When Exodus signed our deal with Capitol it was almost 80 pages long, and I didn’t even read it. My lawyer said “sign here, here, and here” and that’s what we all did. I just wanted to continue to be a rock star, so I said sign me up. Needless to say that was a big lesson. This time is very different.
THE DEBUT ALBUM – Heroes Of Origin
As for the title of the album “Heroes Of Origin”, and the front cover, are they connected to each other in a way, by having a deeper meaning behind it?!
Not really. Mark DeVito did the art, and basically I told him I wanted a band picture on the front the way bands did back in the day, plus I wanted a lot of chaos and destruction going on. That was all the instruction I gave to him, and you see where he went with it. I love the album art. I think it stands out and is easily recognizable. It looks very “metal” and that’s what we were going for. I guess there could be a deeper meaning in there somewhere if you look for it. Part of the title is “heroes” and we are holding shields on the cover, so it’s almost like we are real life comic book heroes.
The album contains neck breaking skull crushing thrashing metal tracks with an intense grip. As you have a lot of experience in the studio, did you have to guide the rest of the band how to work and play in the studio environment or were the other guys of Hatriot immediately totally aware of how the working in the studio happens?
This album is ten songs of rip your face off thrash metal. To be honest, this was the first real recording experience for all of the other guys. They had done little demo things in the past, but this was their first real record. Juan Urteaga produced the record, and he is very good at making everyone feel very relaxed. It was really just like a rehearsal. We set everything up and started jamming, and Juan captured a lot of that vibe. The band was very tight and we were way ahead of schedule actually. We rehearsed the songs for a couple months prior to the sessions, playing them over and over. It paid off obviously.
Frankly, are you pleased with how the album turned out in terms of production and how the songs kick on the album ?!
I am very pleased. Again, Juan Urteaga can take a lot of the credit for that. He’s done work with a lot of big bands – Testament, Exodus, Machine Head, and more – so he knows how to get the right tones and the right performances out of the band. This is the heaviest record I have ever done, and that says a lot with my history.
You are coming from the old school background of the Bay Area thrash metal movement, whereas the rest of the members of Hatriot present the more modern approach ( I guess?) of nowadays, do you ever have a conflict and deep conversation about how riff or songs should sound like or do you have a mutual vision how Hatriot is supposed to sound?
It’s all a mutual vision. Fortunately, we have Kosta V on guitar, who is also our primary song writer. He writes and arranges all the riffs, and pretty much brings in a completed idea to the band to work up. Kosta is very well versed in metal. He knows his thrash and draws a lot of influence from the old scene. The other guys bring in some death and black metal influence here and there, because they are way young and influenced by other stuff, but they know what our core sound is and never stray from what we are trying to do.
How important are all the reviews about the album, what are the main things in reviews that you pay attention to them, do you basically just ignore them?
We do read all the reviews, but honestly it doesn’t affect what we do. I don’t let a person’s opinion affect how I write a song. I’ve done thrash metal for close to thirty years now, so I think I have it down at this point. I don’t need reassurance from the media. I appreciate their efforts of spreading the word, but if some journalist says “they should have done this” or “it would have been better done like this” I just fucking ignore it. I make albums and they don’t, and our fan base likes what we do, so there you go.
Are there songs that come up from the album and are your fave tunes to play and why?!
I know it is the cliché answer, but I love all the songs on the album. There’s not a weak song on there. We play the entire record live when we do shows, so my favorite might change a little bit from time to time. Three of the songs were on our demo EP from a year ago, so they are not as fresh to me as some of the others, so I’d say “Murder American Style” and “Shadows Of The Buried” are my two favorites to play live right now. They are just so fucking heavy and the audience really responds to them.
What do you feel when you see your kids playing with you?
It is the greatest feeling in the world. I am so proud of them. It’s every father’s dream to share a common thing with his sons, and for that to be music makes everything in the past worth it. I left Exodus in 2004 because I needed to be there for my family. Now my boys are grown up and in my band, so it has all come full circle, and it’s honestly the greatest accomplishment of my career. That’s the truth.
PROMOTING THE BAND IN DIFFERENT WAYS
As far as I know, you have mostly been gigging in California after having got a deal with Massacre Rec. Therefore, can Hatriot be expected to be seen more on European soil ?! And what about a South American tour?
It is our goal to play in all parts of the world. Right now we are trying to secure a good booking agent, and a lot of that is based on how well the album sells, and what kind of demand we can create with the promoters. We’ve had a few offers come in but they were not really what we were looking for. I don’t want this band taking every show thrown our way. We want to be selective. It’s more about quality than quantity.
What kind of places and which band have you shared the stage with? And what kind of reception have you got from the audience? Classic songs of Exodus and Testament are in the set list?
So far we have only played in California, mainly shows with local bands and a few shows were with friends of ours from bigger national bands. We’ve opened for Testament, Death Angel, and Forbidden on bigger stages, which was very cool of them to let us get in front of their fanbases. We always get good audience reception. This isn’t a lot different from what I was doing in the later days of Exodus. The fans know what to expect from me, so they leave the show knowing that I still have it. We kick ass. Hatriot does have some of the classic Exodus and Legacy songs worked up and ready to go if we need them for an encore or something. That’s always fun, but the purpose of the shows is to play the Hatriot material. If time permits we may go down memory lane and do an Exodus cover or something.
Hatriot shot the video “And Your Children To Be Damned”, could you tell a bit more about the process of making the video and how you picked that particular song for the video?
We used director Mike Sloat for that video. He did our video for “Blood Stained Wings” as well. Mike has worked with a lot of big acts, ranging from Testament to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and he is a very talented guy with video production. The song is about Elizabeth Bathory and we basically wanted to show her story in visual form, so we did our best to recreate that setting. One of my managers rented an old restaurant after hours and we staged the shoot there. We brought in an old bath tub and filled it with fake blood, and basically made a sick fucking heavy metal video. There was no real reason for choosing the song other than it is very heavy and we like the story.
Do you view promoting the band with the video thru social media networks is without any doubts nothing but essential for Hatriot to gain the attention and recognition?
Social media is the new way of the world in many respects, but nothing beats a live show when it comes to promoting the band. I don’t do a lot of the social media stuff myself, but the kids in the band do, and our management team spends a lot of time networking with it. I think it is an amazing tool for reaching people in faraway places, but I think the newer generation of kids with bands think that all you have to do is add ‘friends’ all day and become famous. Nothing beats getting on tour and proving yourself in a live situation. Call me old school or whatever, but that’s just the truth. Social media is very helpful though and definitely did a lot for Hatriot when we wanted to get the word out in the beginning.
I found Hatriot via social media networks and seen pics of the band as well, presumably these new tools and methods are extremely important and vital for young and new bands to get their name spread?
That is cool that you found us that way. Again, it is a very good tool for bands to use, but it is not the be all end all. Bands like to get a cool picture and logo up on their page and they think that is it. Well, no it isn’t. First your music has to be good, and then you have to be killer live. Without that you are just another page in the internet.
Are you kind of surprised to have the enormous attention toward Hatriot, did you somehow expect to have it because of the background of Zetro?
I’m not really surprised by it, but I am very thankful that the fans have embraced the band like they have. Obviously my days in Exodus have helped create an interest in what I’m doing now, but I feel the music of Hatriot stands on its own as well. This is the heaviest record I have ever done in my career, and I think the fans are happy to see that I did a true to form thrash metal record and didn’t stray from what I am known for. But I owe it all to the fans. They have the choice to like something or not, and to get behind a band and support it or not. Fortunately, in my case they have chosen to support Hatriot, and that is fucking killer.
Before concluding the interview what’s up with Dublin Death Patrol and AC/DZ ?
DDP is pretty much over with at this point. Chuck is just too busy with Testament, and I am going full speed ahead with Hatriot. It’s just too hard to coordinate that many schedules and make it work with DDP. We can’t tour with that project so there’s not really a point in putting much effort into promoting and writing for it. It was fun while it lasted, and I encourage fans to seek out the records because they are pretty good, but the band is pretty much done. As for AC/DZ, that is something I do for fun when time permits. If I want to be Bon Scott for an hour and a half I book a gig with them. That’s pretty much it. Hatriot takes up all my time!