Formed by pals Tom Hunting and Kirk Hammett in 1980 and named after a Leon Uris novel, Exodus stands proudly as one of the founders of the Bay Area’s longstanding and lauded thrash metal scene. Now on the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour with the equally essential Bay Area thrashers, Testament, Exodus' latest album Blood In, Blood Out – their tenth studio effort – features the return of singer Steve “Zetro” Souza and a cameo appearance on a track by Hammett.
While Gary Holt, who joined in ’81 might be the only member of the band to appear in every recording, drummer Tom Hunting is the only remaining founding member of the band. He took the time to speak to New Times about the band’s past problems, similarities between songs and sandwiches, and how the band triumphed over the numerous obstacles it's faced along the way.
New Times: You’re the only original member of Exodus. Even though you’ve left a couple of times, what has brought you back, and what keeps you going artistically?
Tom Hunting: Artistically I think it’s the creation of the music that drives me. As far as rejoining the band, I never wanted to leave the band those times in the first place. I felt like I was having some kinds of problems and that I needed to change my lifestyle a little bit and just step away from it for a while.
But coming back is always easy because it’s kind of like a brotherhood. And you miss that when you step away. You miss the relationship, you miss carousing around every night with the guys, being on stage. You miss all of the relationships that you make. It’s a special kind of life that you can’t get any other way.
The band’s been known for rocky relations within.
Not really. I wouldn’t ever really say that there were rocky relations within the band. I think that we’re a pretty tight-knit group and we don’t operate on the same kind of level that other bands do. We are a brotherhood and it’s got to be that way.
And yes, brothers do fight some times.
I know that. I’ve got two brothers.
But you love each other [laughs].
Steve “Zetro” Souza returned to the band last year. Since you’ve done six albums with him and four with Rob Dukes, what was the approach to the recording of Blood In, Blood Out?
On Blood In, Blood Out, we were 95% done with the record with Rob and it was just that it was album number ten and it needed to be special. We love the music that we made with Rob. We love all the touring that we did with Rob but this album had to be special and I won’t get too deep into what was going on but some things were happening that we didn’t want to happen and some things weren’t happening that we did want to happen, so Zetro stepped in and basically sang his way back into the band. He just came in for a final run and put it down on tape. It just sounded natural. So we did what we did and had to move on.
You also had Kirk Hammett appear on “Salt the Wound.” How did that come about?
Dude, that was easy. We did the recording, guitars and vocals, and all the other tracking other than drums. I live in a ranch house in California where there are goats and stuff, so we set up a little studio there and Jack did all of the production on it. He tracked everybody and he’s got his own Pro Tools rig so we set it up out there. Kirk came over, we barbecued some chickens, had some beers and laid out the solos and that was that.
It was easy and it was fun [laughs]. It was good that one of the founding members of the band got to finally be on a record.
You did say you wanted to make it special, that adds to it.
Totally, it was fun, dude. We had a good time and it was very – I hate to use a “hippie” word – but it was very organic.
I understand that, but now that you’ve mentioned food, about two years ago you told a colleague of mine over at the Denver Westword, that “building a song was like building the best sandwich possible.”
Yeah. I stand by that. Oh yeah, I stand by that. The drums are the bread that holds everything together.
You should know.
The meat is the riffs and all the other stuff is just, you know, cheese and condiments. The bass guitar is like the mayo. You can’t have your sandwich without it.
You guys toured South America last year.
Absolutely, it was awesome.
How did that go?
It was killer. It was awesome. The record wasn’t out yet. It came out while we were down there and so we didn’t really play anything off it and it was a great tour. I think we’ll be doing it again soon.
Where did you play?
We used to do it biannually but the market’s gotten better there so we’re going to try going every year.
Well, Brazil is a huge metal country.
Brazil’s a huge metal country but, you know, our shows sell out in Argentina, Peru, Chile...We have a longstanding relationship with South America. We’ve been going down there since ’97 and we kinda built it up from nothing for ourselves. The shows at first were drawing 400 to 500 people and now we can pack a hall so it’s kinda cool.
That’s good. How’s the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour going?
It’s going good so far. We got like ten more shows to do and then we go home when it’s done for about two and a half weeks and then we’re off to Europe for a pretty extensive tour over there. It’s going to be something like eight shows with Testament and then we break off to go on our own and then we’ll do some German and Dutch shows. Three in England too. Two nights in London and one night in Manchester where we haven’t been for a long time, so we’re looking forward to that before finishing up in Finland.
Then I’m going on vacation.
Dark Roots of Thrash II featuring Exodus, Testament and Shattered Sun. 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $33.15 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074 or visit cultureroom.net.