How are you doing today Steve?
I am going real good man. Things are really moving along with the band and we are gearing up to record our debut record. I couldn’t be happier.
You have kept busy the last several years since your departure from Bay Area thrash titans Exodus fronting your new band Hatriot. Now you are finally ready to record your debut full length album for Massacre Records entitled "Heroes Of Origin". Let's talk about everything that has brought you to the here and now, how did Hatriot originally form?
Well I was at a metal show watching my son Nick’s band. Nick plays drums in Hatriot now, but at the time he was about 17 and was playing around town with his band. So I went to see his band and there was this kid named Kosta whose band was playing the same night. Kosta is a guitar player and he was just killing it that night. After the gig I was talking to him and he knew all about the old thrash scene and was really into it. We hit it off and began writing together, which led to us forming Hatriot together.
How did you find the right players for this band and how did you originally meet these young guys? as is the efficiency with them?
I found them lurking under every rock and in every alley in the bay area! Two of the members are my sons and the other two I met by chance. There have been a few other people play with Hatriot over the past year, but yes they are all younger guys. I am the old man of the band! Basically once the word got out that I was doing another band I had a lot of people hit me up wanting to play, but I’m not interested in doing this for a hobby. If I’m going to get back out in the ring with this thing it has to be to kick ass. So with the younger guys in the band there is plenty of energy and drive. They are all excited about it. It is their first time to really get out in the national spotlight. They look at me as their fearless leader who is steering the ship.
Hatriot made their live debut about a year ago at the Bay Area Metal Fest. Looking back, what all do you recall about that first performance? Were you nervous at the prospect of being back out there? Did it just come naturally? Were you happy with the reception and how the show went in general? That must have been an exciting moment for you...
Oh no I never get nervous. It is second nature to me and just comes natural. Every time I hit the stage it is my goal to kick their fucking teeth in. The show went great and the fans were very receptive to what we were doing. It did feel great to be back on stage. I am very proud of what we have going on with Hatriot and to get the support and love from the fans, especially the bay area fans, is a big deal to me.
Tell me about the song writing process for "Heroes Of Origin" - How long have you been working on these songs? Were these the first songs that were written as a band or have you guys been refining your sound in general over the years?
We have constantly been working on songs and honing our craft since the band formed, so it is a work in progress. We are going to use three songs from the demo, as well as the video song, "Blood Stained Wings.” The rest of the record is all brand new stuff. I promise this will be a well-rounded thrash record and it will not disappoint.
What would you say inspired you as an artist lyrically on "Heroes Of Origin"? Where did you draw your primary inspiration for the lyrics on the debut album?
I draw inspiration from a lot of places. It could be world events or it could be a movie. Sometimes lyrics come from my imagination, stories that I make up in my head. I always write about dark subjects. The world is getting more violent and there is no shortage of crazy shit going on that I can write about.
Describe what the album title "Heroes Of Origin" means to you...
It means that we are the heroes who come up from the fire to save all things that are great in humanity.
You guys are working with producer Juan Urteaga (Machine Head, Exodus, Testament) for the debut. What do you feel Juan brings to the table in terms of modern production and was there a record in particular that he had produced that made you want to work with him?
I have wanted to work with Juan for years, just because of his knowledge of the scene and his knowledge of heavy metal in general. He has worked on the latest Machine Head, Testament, and Exodus records – which all sound awesome. It doesn’t take any more credentials than those. He also just recorded another Massacre band called Deadlands which sounds killer. I know his track record and I know what he will bring to the table for Hatriot, so yes we are very excited to work with him.
How did the record deal with Massacre Records come about and how has it been so far working with everyone from the label?
Actually a guy that helps co-manage Hatriot, by the name of Ace Cook, has a great relationship with a lot of labels and he made it happen with Massacre. Ace also works with Dublin Death Patrol, Laaz Rockit, and a bunch of other bay area bands. He shopped the record around to his contacts and Massacre was the one who seemed the most interested and the most excited to come on board with it. That’s what we were looking at most was getting some excitement from the label. We want to be a priority, not just a band on a roster somewhere. So far all is good with the label.
We are living in a day and age where extensive touring in support of a record is a bold, ambitious albeit risky move for any and all American metal bands both established or up and coming. Considering the current economy and fuel prices, do you foresee Hatriot hitting the road and playing out in support of "Heroes Of Origin'? What markets would you expect to hit? Any chance of some international performances outside the U.S.?
It is our goal to get on the road and bring this to the people. Part of our deal with Massacre is they agree to put us on the road. What’s the point in recording a great record if you are not going to get out and try to sell it? Of course the economics of it all will play a big role in where we get to tour, but I can assure you we are going to get out there the best we can and push this thing. I am sure we will be doing the festivals overseas, and hope to get out as a support act for some bigger tours as well.
Hatriot recently filmed a music video for the track "Blood Stained Wings" - How has the reception for the leadoff track been thus far? Was it easy to all decide as a band on a track to film a music video for?
The video has been very well received so far. I financed the video out of my own wallet just to have one more piece of media out there on the band. We wanted to show the record business what we can do on our own and wanted to give the fans one last free song before they went to buy the album. Now they can stream the four song demo and check out a fifth song in video form. I feel that will be enough to convince fans to buy the record. We chose "Blood Stained Wings” because the song is so fucking heavy and really represents what Hatriot is all about.
I have read in some recent interviews that you feel Hatriot is "pure old school thrash but with the energy of the younger scene" How do you feel about the current state of thrash metal? Do you feel like there are some newer worthwhile bands for seasoned thrash listeners to appreciate? Do you have some current favorites?
I love old school thrash like Kreator and Sodom. They both have newer records out that are really good. I like Shadows Fall a lot, and really like The Haunted a lot. I think the current state of thrash is really strong because the older bands from the first wave are still around or have members in new bands, so that helps create an interest. Because of my history with Exodus I think fans will embrace Hatriot. It sparks some curiosity with them. Then there are younger bands, like Bonded By Blood, who are obviously very influenced by the old school sound and they help to keep that going as well. I think thrash is stronger than ever and will remain that way for a long time.
How is your current relationship with your former band mates in Exodus? Has time healed all wounds?
In my eyes it has. Again, the initial breakup in 2004 was all on me, not on them. It was all my fault. I left the band because of my own personal reasons. It had nothing to do with them. I am very supportive of the band and I think Rob has done a great job helping them move right along. I talk to Gary Holt all the time and we have patched things up. We are friends again and it is all good now.
From all of the thrash metal fans I've been in contact with it seems pretty agreeable that "Tempo Of The Damned" still holds up as a "motherfucker" of a record. Considering that Rick Hunolt recently did some shows with Exodus is there still any hope that you might one day work with Exodus again?
I agree that it is totally a motherfucker of a record. I love that record. I am so proud of all my work with Exodus, but "Tempo” was a great way to end that chapter. It is a killer record from start to finish. I never close doors with anything. You just never know. I can say that right now Exodus has a full line-up and they are doing great. Rob Dukes has been in the band for eight years now so he’s not the "new guy” anymore. He’s doing a great job. I am good friends with the Exodus guys and all the negative shit from the past has been left in the past. Right now my mind is full on with Hatriot and I am totally committed to building Hatriot. However, if time permitted and the Exodus guys needed me to fill in or something I would be good with that. They are my brothers. I am glad to see Rick back doing some shows. I think it is good for his well-being. Rick hasn’t been doing so well in the past few years and I think it is great that he has been asked to do the Exodus shows while Gary is out with Slayer. Rick is family. We all were part of a big whirlwind of experiences back in the day.
What would you consider to be the highlight of your tenure as vocalist for Exodus? What would you note as being your crowning achievements in that band?
The whole ride was a highlight. I mean I got to live the life that most musicians only dream about. I can’t really pinpoint a crowning achievement, but I will say that if I could relive a year it would be 1989. We had just released "Fabulous Disaster” and the world was our oyster at that point.
How did you originally get in to metal music? Who were the bands that changed your life and made you proud to call yourself a metal head?
Well my dad was an old school biker, so there were always hard rock records being played around our house. That was his thing. He loved the rock bands of the time, like Ted Nugent, Hendrix, and Zeppelin. I was always around that so it rubbed off on me. As I grew older I got into heavier stuff like Sabbath and Judas Priest. One day I was hanging outside when a car drove by blaring Iron Maiden. It was the ‘Killers’ album. I had never heard of them, but I stopped the guy and asked "Who the fuck is that?” When he told me it was Iron Maiden I rushed out to the record store and got the album. At that point I was one hundred percent die hard metal all the way.
At what point did you first become interested in singing for a metal band? What was your motivation at that time? Had you considered yourself a vocalist before you started singing in metal bands? Can you remember what originally made you want to sing/scream?
I was probably eight years old. I got Led Zeppelin II right when it came out and I wanted to be like Robert Plant. Those high pitched screams really got me going. Then a few years later came AC/DC. Bon Scott was the ultimate front man. I tried to copy his style and that is how I found my own sound. I had one other band before Legacy, and that was called Metal Warrior. I was real young. Phil Demmel from Machine Head was the guitarist. Every band I have been in has been heavy metal, so I’ve always been a heavy metal vocalist.
What advice would you offer to young metal musicians just starting out? How do you think things differ now compared with when you started out and what are the pros and cons?
Play music for fun. Have fun with it and don’t expect to be a rock star. If that happens then it’s cool but don’t expect it. The music business is a tough gig. You have to worship music and be devoted to it. It has to be your whole life if you want to take it to that level. The biggest difference between the old days and now is the technology that is available today. It is like night and day from when I started out, total opposites. The upside is obviously you can get your music out around the world with your computer. There are a lot more avenues for the indie artist. The downside is everybody is doing it and the market is so oversaturated. It makes things tougher for bands. It is harder to break ahead of the pack.
What's next for Hatriot? Any exciting upcoming plans or recent happenings that you would like to plug?
Right now we are in the middle of recording the record, so that’s where our head is at. There are other business things going on now like getting our passports together and lining up endorsements. So there are a lot of behind the scenes things happening. The main focus is getting the record done so we can get it released in January. From there we are out to take over the world!
I'd like to thank you Steve for taking the time to talk metal! Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your fans reading at home?
Big shout out to Pest Webzine for helping us get the word out. I just want to thank all of the fans for sticking with me and for following all of the chapters in my career. I am very blessed to still be doing this and I don’t take any of it for granted at all. I promise to deliver a kick ass Hatriot record for you all to enjoy. Thanks again and I hope to meet you all on tour! ZETRO
Interviewed by Osiris Stef