Heavy Tales is the story of how one American couple who ran a flea market stall helped create the golden era of Heavy Metal, and released the most important albums in its history.
Marsha and husband Jon Zazula, founded Megaforce Records in New Jersey, USA in 1983, and were instrumental in the careers of Metallica and Raven.
By the early ‘80s Raven had released two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ on the Neat record label based in North East England. But when Neat got a call from Zazula, Raven knew their future was Stateside not Tyneside.
Zazula has documented the story in his new book where he remembers listening to Raven’s first album Rock Until You Drop.
‘That album was recorded for about 1,000 pounds with a group of the greatest fucking musicians. You’ll hear the greatest jam, grooves and change up’s. I saw a number on the back of the cover and called David Wood, head of the label’.
I asked Jon if he can remember meeting Wood.
‘Yes the mastermind. This man had the key to the pulse and Neat records was his Kingdom. He came to the US and stayed at my home and we discussed the breaking of Raven and Venom in America’.
‘Venom were a crazy lot. They stayed with me in the States. Abaddon burnt down my kitchen and Cronos ate my glassware. There was blood and glass in my sink from when he spit it out. Mantas was quiet but always held the centre. No Mantas no Venom. But he had two maniacs at his side’.
Around this time, Zazula unexpectedly received a demo tape from an unsigned band.
‘As soon as I heard it I was blown away. I thought this was America’s answer to the NWOBHM. When I came upon Metallica it was like mounting a lightning bolt’.
‘We also worked with Raven on releasing their album and had them headlining a summer tour with Metallica. When Raven hit the stage nothing can compare. They tore it up. I can honestly say that Raven were heavily on the rise. When they toured with Metallica as their opener, they were still able to maintain headline status every single night’.
‘The Raven/Metallica tour was a success. We sold a lot of band merchandise and people took notice. Raven and Metallica played an amazing show in Chicago which we filmed in case they would ever use it for promotion’.
‘I spent some time in Newcastle. I stayed in a flat with Raven drummer, Rob Wacko Hunter. I was fortunate to meet John and Mark’s (Gallagher) parents. They were wonderful people’.
Zazula remembers offering the bands a place to stay when they were out on America’s east coast gigging.
‘There was a point when Raven, Venom and Metallica were all hanging at Casa Z ! I was trying to work in the basement with my desk surrounded by sleeping bodies snoring away’.
In 1983 Megaforce released Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All and became the label in America for Heavy Metal. The book also includes stories of managing and releasing albums by Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Overkill, Ministry and more.
HEAVY TALES: The Metal, The Music, The Madness. As lived by Jon Zazula – out now on kindle or paperback.
As a mark of respect this post was held back due to the death of Marsha Zazula, on 10 January 2021. Rest in Peace.
On line interview and book extracts by Gary Alikivi December 2020 & June 2021.