Zazula and his wife Marsha were instrumental in launching the careers of Metallica and Anthrax. In fact, Zazula started Megaforce so he could release Metallica’s pioneering debut album Kill ‘Em All in 1983. Megaforce would also release the follow-up, Ride the Lightning.
The Megaforce imprint would become synonymous with thrash metal throughout the ’80s, as Zazula signed Anthrax, Testament, Raven, Overkill, and more. The genre owes much to the man, and members of these groups took to social media to share memories of Zazula and pay their respects.
Metallica shared a statement and archival photos of them hanging out with Zazula:
“Heavy music lost one of its great champions today when Jonny Z left this world far too soon. In 1982, when no one wanted to take a chance on four kids from California playing a crazy brand of metal, Jonny and Marsha did, and the rest, as they say, is history. He was a mentor, a manager, a label head and a father figure to us all . . . Metallica would not be who we are or where we are today without Jon Zazula and his wife, Marsha. Our love and sympathy go out to Jonny’s children and his grandchildren, whom he cherished and brought to our shows from the time they were in diapers. We hope they will be able to take some comfort in knowing that he is reunited with Marsha, and that he helped bring so much incredible music to so many. Hopefully there’s a great show goin’ on up there tonight to welcome you!
We’ll miss you Jonny!
James, Lars, Kirk & Robert”
Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield also posted individual tributes to Zazula in a separate statement on Metallica’s website.
Ulrich wrote: “Thank you Jonny for taking a chance on these crazy, noisy, uncompromising and undisciplined dudes from NorCal who didn’t know what was up, down or sideways, but who were ready, willing and more than able to f**kin throw it all to the wind and go for it.. Thank you for giving us a sense of belonging and ultimately, a sense of self-worth. I will forever be grateful for your friendship, advice and blind belief that the music we played could be shared with way more people who were just like us…outsiders and misfits! Rest In Peace my friend.”