MEGAFORCE RECORDS Founder Talks About METALLICA's Early Days

METALLICA fan site For Whom Metallica Tolls recently conducted an interview with Johnny Zazula, Executive Producer of METALLICA's debut LP, "Kill 'Em All", and founder of Megaforce Records, the first record company to sign METALLICA. Several excerpts from the interview follow:

For Whom Metallica Tolls: Do you remember who gave you your copy of "No Life Till Leather" [METALLICA's demo tape]?

Johnny Z: "The demo was handed to me by a good customer at the record store (we were still in a flea market in those days). It was funny because we tried not to listen to demos at the store in those days. The customer told me that it would be exactly what I love and I should give it a try. So off went ANGELWITCH and on went METALLICA. I flipped. The rest is history. After that listening to demos was common practice."

For Whom Metallica Tolls: What did you think of they guys when they showed up on your doorstep?

Johnny Z: "When the guys came to my house for the very first time, it was quite an experience. The U-Haul truck parked in front of the house and I was told that it cost every cent I had sent and now the band had arrived at my door step without a dime and with no place to stay other than my house. Marsha [Johnny's wife] and I just had a child in those days and the house was sort of small but we all shared the space anyway. All the boys were a little parched from the journey so I offered them something to drink. They weren't interested in anything but my booze. It was all very weird. No one took the time to pour, they just started guzzling down all the bottles. [Dave] Mustaine was the first to show signs of the evils of alcohol; he got sick all over everything. I took the guys over to the record store to hang out for the rest of the night, they had a good time, finished all my booze while Dave was outside the flea market throwing up all over everything and everybody. Right at the entrance; it was a sight to behold. That was the very beginning. All of a sudden there were five people that I was now responsible for and they bought a one-way ticket with no thought of how they would ever return to El Cerrito; there were five, because they travelled with their soundman friend, Mark Whitaker."

For Whom Metallica Tolls: Was it hard giving up METALLICA to Elektra, or were you prepared for how big they would get?

Johnny Z: "It was very hard giving up the band to Elektra but it was truly the best move that they could have made at the time. I was always sure that METALLICA were to be the biggest band in the world. I never anticipated not being by their side through to the end. History proved that Marsha and I were to see success many times after METALLICA's departure, which only proved that we were ready for the challenge, but hey, such is life."

For Whom Metallica Tolls: Do you remember where you were when you heard about Cliff [Burton] and the bus accident?

Johnny Z: "I had just left Cliff a day earlier when they were in the U.K., he was shopping for jewelry at the Great Bullfrog. Marsha and I were due back in the USA to visit a new band in San Francisco at that time called [LEGACY]. Later they became the undeniable metal force known as TESTAMENT. We were in our hotel when ANTHRAX tour manager Tony Incigeri called me at two in the morning and woke me up to 'Oh my god — Cliff is dead...there's been an accident.' Marsha and I were very bummed; so was our daughter, Rikki Leigh, who remembers Cliff as the guy who always read her fairy tales before she went to sleep. Marsha and I couldn't fall back to sleep and we left our San Francisco hotel for a long walk down by Pier 37 in the Bay. That night we went to TESTAMENT's rehearsal space. It seemed that every band in the Bay Area was there that night but it wasn't the bands that were playing that night; instead every rehearsal space was filled with bass players trying to learn Cliff's parts. It was insane as we went from room to room listening to 'Pulling Teeth'... over and over."

Read the entire interview at


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