I don’t know how I came to hear of HATRIOT in the first place but it didn’t take me long to notice that this is the new band from former Exodus singer Steve Souza. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Looking at your collective CV?s I?m impressed. How did Hatriot come together?
-It was a twist of fate really. I was pretty much over the thought of putting together an original band and starting from scratch again. It is just such a pain in the ass you know. Basically I ran into this guitar player kid named Kosta Varvatakis at a show his band was playing. He was very skilled on the instrument and knew everything about thrash. He knows more about thrash than I do! We just really clicked and started working on songs and that was the beginning of Hatriot. We tried out some players and eventually arrived at the line-up that we have today.
If I say that Hatriot is like a continuation of Exodus circa “Pleasure Of The Flesh”, would you scold me for saying that?
-No I would never scold you. That is a really cool comparison actually. ‘Pleasures’ was my first record with Exodus and now here comes my first record with Hatriot. They are close to 30 years apart and I sit and think of how different my mindset was and how things have changed so much in my life since then. It’s really an amazing feeling to still be doing music on this level. Back when we did ‘Pleasures’ I was just happy to be making a real album. I had no idea the amount of success I would enjoy, or where my career would take me. No idea at all. Now I look back on that with a very proud heart and I just wonder what this new chapter of my life will be with Hatriot. I’ve got my boys in the band with me and life has come full circle. It is really exciting for me.
Your thrash metal seem very political, from band name to cover art. Has music in general become too conformed?
-I think pop music and mainstream music have become way too conformed. Not metal really. Metal keeps pushing the envelope and I like the thought of that. Metal is supposed to be angry and aggressive. It is supposed to offend some and make some think. Thrash has always had political overtones, and Hatriot is no exception to that rule. Not all of our material is political, but there are hints of it in the lyrics and artwork. Of course the name Hatriot is a play on words. It is a very agressive statement and I think it works well for a thrash metal band.
I have no idea what it is like living in a country were almost 25% percent of its population are dirt poor. How does this affect you as musicians?
Well I think the best metal music is made when times are difficult. The economy here in the USA has been fucked for several years now. The government doesn’t do much to help the lower class or even the middle class. It is a shame really. I am very fortunate to have a good construction job where I can make decent money and have a good life. Thrash metal provides an outlet for frustration and I think there is a lot of angry pissed off metal coming out of America right now because of the economy. That is the only upside to it really.
Is there a difference having family working with you in band format than to work with family in a regular business?
-Not really. I mean we have a great relationship. The boys grew up around heavy metal and they know how this stuff works. It’s in their blood and they have been around it literally their whole lives. I’m dad when they need me to be dad, and I’m their bandmate and band leader as well. They are both very mature and hard working, so I very rarely have to get on them about doing their part in the band. They work their asses off for Hatriot and they understand that the microscope is going to be on them because they are a Souza. There are haters out there that are just looking to tear them down, so they have to up their game. They have to be awesome at every show and they are ready to do what it takes to make that happen.
As a band has touring/gigs ever been as important as it seems today, in this era of easy access via download?
-It is definitely a difficult business these days, and I would say touring is more important than ever. There are very few record stores anymore, so bands have to pound the pavement and get the music directly to the fans. The downside is the price of fuel makes it hard to hit all the major markets on a tour. We are going to do our best with Hatriot to get out there and get in front of the fans. We love playing live. Downloading may be the way of the future, but for me nothing beats seeing a live concert and then buying the CDs and t-shirts right there at the merch table. I like the old school ways!
Are you lost as a band if you don?t keep up with all the new social media? Can you still rely on good old press coverage and word of mouth to build a reputation?
-Again it is a double edge sword. The internet makes it a whole new ballgame. Back in the day if you wanted to hear ‘Pleasures Of The Flesh’ you had to go out and buy it. That’s the only way you could get the music. Now it’s everywhere. You can hear it on youtube, rip it from a torrent site, hear it on all the social media sites, and that makes it hard to sell music. I understand that. Why pay for something if you can get it free? I think for most bands the social media route is the way to go. For Hatriot I think there is already a fanbase there because of my past bands. It is cool for us because we have a marketing angle already built in to what we are doing. We are very fortunate to have that. I’m not sure that press coverage is enough to break a band anymore, just because the music world is so oversaturated. It’s insane really. Seems like everyone and their mother has a band!
I like my music on physical format to which I have a need to burn every legal download unto CD. Today there are people that don?t even know what a CD or vinyl is. How do you battle things like that in promoting your band?
-There’s not a lot you can do. You just have to be smart when it comes to recording budgets and tour costs to try and offset the loss from downloading. Instead of spending a hundred grand on the record, make it happen for twenty grand. Instead of touring in a bus, pack everything into a van and trailer. You just have to make smart business decisions to stay afloat in today’s market. I like my music on CD or vinyl. I like to look at the pictures and read the liner notes, and I think there are a lot of metal fans who feel the same way. Metal fans are collectors. They want all the formats when an album comes out. To me I think the younger generation is missing out on a real cool part of the listening experience. All you can really do is offer some real cool packaging and hope the fans will want it, or do a package deal where they get the cd and a shirt for a discounted price. You’ve got to make it worth it for the fans. I think the die hards realize that without selling our record we can’t afford to make another record. It all comes down to that really.
Recently I?ve come across more bands that do it themselves instead of relying on labels to get it done. Have the record industry shot itself in the foot by releasing too much crap and by not being open to new ways of marketing music?
-The record companies were once the big gate keepers that could make or break a band and those days are definitely over. I think the demise of the record business is due more to the technology of today and how cheap it is to make an album. It is really supply and demand. There are way too many bands out there now so obviously there is little demand. Back in the old days bands were totally dependent on a record company. Now the times have totally changed. I think the record industry was very arrogant for many years and did not adapt with the changes that were going on with technology. It came back to bite them in the ass, and I don’t feel sorry for the industry one bit. They brought it on themselves.
As someone that has experienced being signed to major labels how different is the record business these days?
-It is completely different. These days bands are in control of their own destiny and I think it is a great thing. A record company can be a good thing if they act as a partner for promotion and marketing, but there is really no reason to sign your life away and have your career rest in their hands. I hear of bands signing these ‘360 deals’ where the label gets money from everything – your merchandise, your shows, your records and publishing, and basically every other revenue stream that exists. To me that is insane. There are too many ways to market and promote as an independent artist for me to ever consider doing a 360 deal. That is career suicide, but these labels convince young bands that it is the way to go and many of them fall for it. The business these days is based on merchandise and branding, not so much selling music.
What kind of expectations do you have when you sign with a label? What was that made you chose a German label such as Massacre?
-Well we already have an in house team working with Hatriot, so anything the label can bring to the table is just a bonus really. We chose Massacre Records because they are very passionate about the music and understand what we are trying to accomplish with the band. Expectations are really just to manuafacture and distribute the album and assist us in promoting it. Again, we have our own people that work every day for the band, so Massacre is joining forces with them to make it happen. We are very excited about the partnership.
I take it Hatriot is in for the long haul. What plans do you have to further the name of the band?
-Hatriot is definitely here for the long haul. This could be one of the last chapters in my metal legacy, so I am taking it very seriously. The album, ‘Heroes Of Origin,’ comes out January 25th on Massacre Records. From there we will be touring the world to support the album. After that you can count on us hitting the studio for the second album and continuing the cycle all over again. We are going non stop and want to take over the world.