Jon Zazula är en stor del av thrashgenren i och med skivbolaget Megaforce Records och såg till att Metallica hamnade på allas läppar. Han är just nu aktuell med sin självbiografi “Heavy tales”, så vi passade på att ringa upp Jon, som numera njuter av sitt pensionärsliv.
Which album would you say, had the biggest impact on you growing up?
If we´re going way back, we´re going back to Chubby Checker and “The twist” (1960) That was the first one I ever bought on my own with my own money. The album that changed my life was probably “Fresh cream” (Cream) (1966).
Do you still have those?
I have none of my albums anymore, except for some of my Megaforce albums. I pretty much got rid of everything in my life already. I think I had more than 4000 albums.
Would you say you were an avid collector?
Yes, I was an avid collector and it wasn´t 4000 crappy albums, it was 4000 great albums.
Your store Rock and Roll Heaven sounds like it was a great place. People came to buy albums or hang out. It must´ve been a great time?
I felt like a preacher on a mountain! Everybody left with an album, whether it was Motörhead or Angel Witch or Accept. They all left with something.
Of all the albums you´ve been involved with, which one would you say is the most important one to you, or the one you´re the most proud of?
Well, I´m most proud of “Kill ém all” (1983), but I must tell you that when Raven´s “All for one” (1983) came out, I was very proud of that one. When Mercyful Fate´s “Melissa” (1983) was released on Megaforce I was very proud of that and Manowar. But the one I was probably most proud of would have to be “Kill ém all”
Do you still listen to that album?
I listen to it, sure. Not every day. I listen to all kinds of music, but I listen to “Kill ém all”, I would say once every six weeks.
Who were you closest to in the band?
Well, Cliff was the closest member of the band to Marsha and myself. But my interaction was mostly with Lars.
If Cliff would´ve been alive today, do you think Metallica would´ve become what they are?
Absolutely! There was no stopping the band and Cliff was a big part of it. I think it would´ve happened even faster.
Do you think a guy like Cliff would´ve appreciated an album like “Lulu”?
I can´t say that. If Cliff would´ve been on it, it may have been a different album and if it would´ve been something that he wanted to do… but Cliff has to be alive to make that call, nobody else.
I´ve not really understood the Roseland show you put on when Michael Alago the day after signed Metallica to Elektra. I think you say in the book that it was a showcase. Was it your intention that they should sign with a major label?
Yes, it was always our intention to sign them to a major label. We were looking at the band more as managers then record company and we wanted to see the band grow and they were first and foremost on the decision making and that´s why we did the showcase, to sign the band. What I didn´t expect was Metallica to leave us lock, stock and barrel. That´s why I say it was the agony and the ecstasy of that night. It was a major success.
All these other bands you worked with, was there a band you felt should have become way bigger than they did?
Every band has their own signing. I was not surprised, but I always wanted and thought Raven would be bigger than they got. I thought they were a special band and they should´ve made it to the top.
Are you still receiving money from all the work you did with Metallica?
That I can´t discuss.
Working with Ace Frehley? You say in the book that it was all cool for that first album and then he got into the drinking again. Any fun stories from working with Ace?
The only thing I can tell you that was a great story was the five minutes I actually managed Ace and took him to England to play at the Hammersmith Odeon and we sold it out. That was a great moment. People really wanted to see the show in England and Ace went on pretty much club style and I think it disappointed people. The show was great, but they wanted a big Ace. I wasn´t prepared to do that for one show.
You managed Soilwork for like three albums. There´s a picture of you and Björn Strid in the book. He obviously means something to you?
We have a very warm, loving relationship as friends. When we parted company as managers and client we just remained honest friends forever and still talk today. In fact, I think he´s coming very soon to our home in America to visit us for a few days. We remain very close with him today. Not as close as I´d like to, but we´re both busy people.
How do you look at Björn as a singer?
I think he´s one of the best singers in the entire business. I love his singing and especially when you listen to The Night Flight Orchestra you get to hear some great stuff. The Night Flight Orchestra is one band through and through.
You were part of Ministry´s “Psalm 69” (1992), a personal favorite of mine. How do you look at that album today? For me it´s one of the greatest albums released in the 90´s.
It´s a very important record because it took industrial and combined it with metal. It was one of the heaviest records I think I ever put out. A song like “Just one fix” is too much for words. “Jesus built my hot rod” is one of the greatest of all time. The music´s fantastic and way ahead of its time.
The first time you heard it and the band was working on that music, could you feel they were on to something?
We knew something was going to happen just coming out of the monitors. A song like “Stigmata” (1988) set us up for what was going to happen. The song “Thieves” (1989) also. These were very heavy songs and if Al (Jourgensen) was going to top that it was going to be an avalanche and that´s exactly what he did. We were very successful by the way when it came out. I think we sold like three million records.
What´s your take on Al? Is he a genius in some way?
He absolutely is a genius, and a mad man. I think you have to read Al´s book, it speaks for itself. The thing is, he´s totally a genius.
Of all the bands throughout the years, which one was the most fun to work with? Metallica?
Marsha and I spent 11 years with Anthrax and we didn´t spend 11 years because we weren´t having fun. We had a ball. It´s the most fun band we worked with. Great guys.
You also released Icon´s “Right between the eyes” (1989)?
Yes. What happened was, Eddie Trunk came to work with us and he wanted that band signed and even if we had hired a person to work radio and they were a radio friendly band, nobody wanted Megaforce with pop metal. It was a catastrophe and the band just got swallowed up and that was it. A great band.
What are you up to nowadays?
Just doing interviews for the book. I have no idea what I´m doing in January. I´m taking it easy. I´m enjoying retirement.
What was it like putting the book together? It must´ve been just a wave of memories?
Well, to tell you the truth, I forgot most of it. Harold Claros-Maldonado put everything in a time order for me, he made the timeline. I knew up to a certain point and he took it from there. Just putting that crazy discography together was a big job in itself. We managed to do that and what he didn´t know, I knew and what I didn´t know, he knew so it was quite a job. It was a real… how about this… it was a real mindfuck! Everybody likes it and I´m thrilled. If you read the book you´ll know where I came from.
I recently bought one of those special issues of Classic Rock Magazine and it´s all about Metallica. The last quote in it is about you and it says “Should you ever stumble across him, buy that man a pint from us.”
Wow, I heard about that! (laughs) Well, this is the real story.
You must feel that you´ve really been important for that whole genre?
Now I do more than ever. There´s no denying what we did. It was just part of my life and I didn´t give it a second thought. Now I can say “Holy shit!”
I love the fact that the name Megaforce came from that sci-fi movie back in 1982. I was checking out an old trailer on YouTube and it just looks amazing.
Yeah, Megaforce was definitely stolen from that movie. It was a terrible movie. (laughs)
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk (Soilwork)