JON ZAZULA On METALLICA's 'Kill 'Em All' Debut: 'I Wanted To Put Out A Non-Compromising Record'

October 2, 2019

In a recent interview with Andy Hall of the Des Moines, Iowa radio station Lazer 103.3, Jonathan Zazula, known the world over as Jonny Z, executive producer of METALLICA's debut LP, "Kill 'Em All" and founder of Megaforce Records, shared his memories on working with the legendary metal band. Zazula is slated to release his "Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula" memoir this October. You can listen to the entire chat via the SoundCloud widget below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On his personal relationships with the members of METALLICA prior to the recording of "Kill 'Em All":

Jonny: "Cliff [Burton, bass] was a great guy to me. At night, he even read storybooks to my daughter when I wasn't home so she could fall asleep with all the noise that went on in the living room with three bands being there. James [Hetfield, guitar/vocals] was very quiet, kept to himself. Lars [Ulrich, drums] was a rager, but a brilliant one, and always able to focus no matter what. Dave [Mustaine, lead guitar, later of MEGADETH] was to himself and did what he did. I spoke not that much to Dave, but Lars and Cliff were the people I communicated with the most, who were, I would imagine, grounded the most."

On whether he was involved in the creative process for "Kill 'Em All":

Jonny: "The only job I had was to make sure they went into the studio and walked out of the studio with something better than 'No Life 'Til Leather', a very hard task. Unlike what was happening with record companies on the West Coast who were putting out demos and calling it 'records,' I wanted to put out a well-produced, polished-yet-realistic, non-compromising record, which 'Kill 'Em All' was."

On whether he could have predicted the massive success METALLICA would go on to have:

Jonny: "It was quite wonderful, because it sold 5,000 relatively easy. I remember sending another 2,000 out to the distributor and manufacturing another 2,000 at a time, at a time, at a time. What was funny was METALLICA wasn't the biggest seller after a while on Megaforce. Believe it or not, RAVEN, 'All For One', had outsold 'Kill 'Em All' in the first, let's say, six months of 'Kill 'Em All' being out. It was very interesting that it wasn't my premier band in record sales, METALLICA, at the beginning."

On whether he was concerned the musical jump METALLICA made from "Kill 'Em All" to "Ride The Lightning" would lead to bigger and better things for the group and leave him out of the picture:

Jonny: "Things started to fade when they were recording the album [in Denmark] and I was back running the company, which had grown so fast and so big in America. In those days, you didn't have cellphones or telephone deals with the phone company for long-distance deals, and calling Denmark and calling Sweden, basically, cost a fortune. So, I didn't make that many calls assuming everything was going great, but in that time, they were talking, they were thinking and they were realizing that maybe the grass was greener on the other side, and they made the choice that they made when they came back [to sign with Q Prime Management and Elektra Records]. But it was the distance between them going to Europe and me not communicating, which was a very bad move. I should have gone to Europe with them, but you know what? What happened, happened."

"Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula" is scheduled for release on October 29. "Heavy Tales" is the detailed, never-before-told story of how Jonny Z founded legendary New Jersey-based label Megaforce Records with his wife, Marsha, and built a dynasty unmatched by others — forever changing the scope of heavy metal.

The ebook version of "Heavy Tales" will be released on Black Friday, November 29, 2019.

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