The man who discovered Metallica tells his story in 'Heavy Tales'
Written by Classic Rock 93.9 on November 4, 2019
Industry veteran Jon “Johnny Z” Zazula, who signed Metallica to their first record deal, tells his story in Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. In the book, Zazula describes how he first discovered the future metal superstars when he heard their 1982 demo tape
“I said, right away, ‘This is the answer,'” Zazula tells ABC Audio. “‘This is America’s answer to the entire European metal scene, except it’s better.'”
After connecting with Lars Ulrich by phone, Zazula became Metallica’s manager and tried to get them a record deal. When that didn’t work — “Either the deals were crap, or they didn’t have a clue what Metallica was doing,” Zazula recalls — he decided to start his own label, Megaforce Records, which would eventually become the home of artists including Anthrax, Testament and Mercyful Fate.
Naturally, Heavy Tales is stuffed with various industry anecdotes, but beyond that, the book is a personal story about Zazula, his struggle with mental health, and his enduring relationship with his wife, Marsha.
“It’s a story about myself, Marsha [and] the team around me,” he shares.
That combination of heavy metal and personal history is evident from the book’s opening, which retells the story of Metallica’s 1984 show at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, which ended with them signing with Elektra Records
While Zazula feels that night “changed the course” of metal, it’s also a painful memory, since Metallica also decided to leave him and sign with a new manager.
“It was an agony and an ecstasy,” Zazula says. “I get into that in the book…I explain the reason why I’m no longer the manager of Metallica.”
“Most people say, ‘I feel sorry for you, Jon,'” he says with a laugh. “But it’s OK. I went on and did a lot of great things after that.”
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