STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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Steve “Zetro” Souza remembers that the first time he and Exodus toured with King Diamond, back in 1986, he had just joined the band and was a bit awestruck to meet the King, who Souza had loved in the group Mercyful Fate.
“I was, like, 22 years old and the hugest fan of his,” Souza says by phone from Exodus’ tour bus as it drives through New York state. “We had to play a show in Long Beach with him and we were backstage and he was putting his makeup on, and he’d say, ‘So you’re the new singer in Exodus.’
“And I just froze. here’s a guy I idolized and he knows I had just joined the band. How cool was that? Ever since then we’ve been good friends. So the first day of this tour, he gave me a big hug, and when I told him Exodus was so happy to be here, he told me ‘I didn’t consider any other band.’”
The current pairing coincides with Souza’s third tenure with Exodus. He rejoined in 2014 after the acrimonious departure of Rob Dukes, who had replaced Souza in 2005, and was on board for the San Francisco-based quintet’s latest album, “Blood In, Blood Out.” Being part of Exodus, Souza says, is like riding the proverbial bike, and but there are discernible differences in his current tenure.
“I met these guys when I was 17, before I was a singer and was just a fan,” explains Souza, who was also in the group from 1986-93. “I’m 51 now. It’s not something I have to remember how to do. It’s in me,” Souza explains. “I think I approach the material a little more professionally than I ever have. I really do my homework, especially on the Rob era songs. I really work on my craft now.
“And the substance element is not existent anymore. That was a huge thing before. But a little pot, a little booze is as far as it gets now. I think our mentality is everybody respects each other’s space. We’re all older men. This is our job and our business, although we are like a fraternity, a brotherhood — blood in, blood out, y’know?”
Dukes, however, has made some unflattering remarks about the “Blood In, Blood Out” album and Exodus’ decision to bring Souza back into the lineup. But Souza says he’s trying not to pay that any mind.
“I don’t care to comment on that at all,” he says. “It’s unfortunate. We all wish Rob the best of luck. We hope he does well in the future. I really like what he does with Generation Kill; I think it’s really good stuff. I hope he continues it. But as far as how he feels about (Exodus), I had nothing to do with that at all. It’s between him and the other guys.”