“Metallica would not be who we are or where we are today without Jon Zazula and his wife, Marsha.”
The band shared these words on social media after death of Jon Zazula, better known as Jonny Z, earlier this year. It was a particularly painful moment for Metallica and the entire heavy metal world as they were still grieving loss of Marsha just a year earlier.
To say that the Zazulas changed rock and roll as the world knows it would be a serious understatement. They believed in Metallica so much that Jon and Marsha started a record label –Megaforce Records– so they actually could release the band’s music, specifically, Kill them all and RID the lightning.
But that was only the beginning.
“They made such an impact on the metal world,” Maria Ferreroalso known as Metal Maria, says with love and admiration in her voice, “but that effect is not only because of Metallica or Anthrax or Merciful fate or Excite or Manowar or SWEET or Overkill or Raven … they gave the world identity.”
A new identity
As Director of Publicity and A&R for Megaforce, Metal was Maria Zazulas’ first employee at their newly established record label. She stepped into the role with full force. But it was more than just a career opportunity; what Jon and Marsha gave Maria was an opportunity to truly discover who she was always meant to be.
“Just the other day I was looking at a picture of myself when I was 13,” says Ferrero. “I had a really bad haircut, I was dressed terribly. I had a stepmother dressing me at the time. I didn’t even look happy. It didn’t look like me.”
Ferrero is quick to describe herself as a punk rock chick through and through, so while some might think seeing an old photo like that would evoke negative vibes, it actually serves as a huge encouragement because it reminds her that the Zazulas brought her into their family.
“When I saw that picture, it was amazing because it reminded me that Jon and Marsha forged this movement, and that movement helped me find my identity,” Ferrero says, fighting back tears. “This is my life. Forty-one years of doing this. I signed Testament when i was 18 Violence when I was 21. I brought in Ministry for management. Jon and Marsha agreed mean uneducated suburban punk rock girl to do all that.”
Ferrero viewed Jon and Marsha as peers and always considered them to be “Iron Man” types. It is still hard for her to face the reality that they are no longer around.
“They’re gone, both my best friends, they’re gone. I never thought they’d die. I never thought about it. They were so tough and they did so much. I really don’t know who I wanted to be, I don’t know who anyone would be without them.”
A fitting tribute
In late September, Metallica announced a very special show in a 7,000-seat theater in Hollywood, Florida. Set to Nov. 6, their announcement promised that it would be a unique experience for concertgoers as this special concert would reflect their first ever US tour as well as pay tribute to the Zazula family.
“We’re doing a special set list for you full of songs from our days with Jonny and Marsha at Megaforce,” the band announced. “Our main touring partner from that time, Raven, will be joining us to add to the celebration and bring back the memories.”
Needless to say, when Metallica announced the show, Ferrero was ready to celebrate and heal.
At first she thought the concert was just for family– for her and other selected families and most importantly for daughters Danielle, Blaire and Rikki. But when the band started talking to her about gathering photos and videos to use for production, Ferrero realized that this show would be for the whole Metallica family.
“It’s a family reunion in the truest sense,” explains Ferrero. “This concert is who we are, we’re a fucking heavy metal family. We’re one big heavy metal family. We might fight about things, but it doesn’t matter…the beginning, the middle and the end of the day , we will never stop, we will never quit, because we are Metallica. It’s always going to boil down to that.”
She pauses for a moment as she thinks about what she just said.
“Of course this concert is for the Zazula family,” she states with a serious tone. “My goodness. Absolutely. But it’s also for the entire universe, and I mean the universe. There are people around the world that you don’t know, that you may never meet, but if you happen to see someone and they’re wearing a heavy metal shirt, this is your family.”
Ecstasy of Old-School Metal
Metal Maria is excited to connect and reconnect with her Metallica family on Nov. 6, and she’s obviously excited about the band delving into their early catalog. In anticipation, she’s started putting together a list of songs she hopes the boys will play as they celebrate their heritage and the legacy of Jon and Marsha.
As fans might expect, her old-school setlist opens with Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold,” a song that Metallica began using as their “walk-on music” in 1983 thanks to Jonny Z.
“[It worked so well]it still introduces the band today,” Jonny Z once told a Metallica biographer Mick Wall. “Marsha and I are huge Morricone fans and I always thought it would be a great piece of music for a great metal band to go on stage to. And it is!”
Ferrero is quick to agree.
“We were all waiting with bated breath for Metallica Turn on bright and while we waited we heard this epic, orchestral embodiment of music. It took my mind to a relaxed state and set me up for the ultimate thrash metal effect… It gave me goosebumps when I heard it then, and it still gives me goosebumps when I hear it today.”
Metal Maria’s Dream Old-School Metallica Setlist
“Ecstasy of Gold”
“Light Up Bright”
“Am I evil?”
“RIDE THE LIGHTNING”
“Search and Destroy”
“(Anesthesia) – Pulling teeth”
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
“Fade to Black”
“I can damn well see James in his spandex pants with a bullet belt on, just standing there in a V position with his guitar,” says Ferrero, recalling the first time she heard “Turn on bright.” “He had many pimples on his face. I mean we were kids! We were children. Church was clean-cut and added some class on stage with his black and white motorcycle leather jacket and Capezio shoes. Then there was Cliff, larger than life with his bell bottoms and his “no give a fuck” hairdo, which resembles Cousin Itt with red hair. He stood out.”
Thinking of the one band member left in this memory, Ferrero begins to laugh to himself.
“And LarsOh Lars. He just wore spandex with his long, curly hair. He beat the drums like an animal. I don’t know if he played the right way then, and I don’t know if he even is today. Everybody likes to kick his balls, because who doesn’t like to sack a tiger?”
When Ferrero starts thinking about “Pulling Teeth – (Anesthesia),” her tone turns somber.
“It was always Cliff’s moment. If Cliff got a moment, it meant something you also got a moment. It was always solemn when he played “Anæsthesia”. Connecting with him because of his song, yes, it was a really special thing.”
That “special thing” continues to this day, not just through one song or one concert, but through the collective experience and connection of the entire Metallica family.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for you and people like you and all the fans supporting it all, it would never have motivated Metallica to continue,” says Ferrero. “And it wouldn’t have inspired other people to keep going either. You are important. The fans are important. As I said and as I have said for 41 years and as I will always say: We are one big family.”
We will never stop, we will never quit, because we are Metallica.
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Here are some of our favorite Metallica T-shirts
Not only have Metallica created some of the best heavy metal in the last 40 years, they’ve also created some of the most iconic T-shirts. For the past four decades, they have worked with incredible artists like Pushead, Brian Ewing and others to bring their songs and albums to life. In the gallery below, we’ve selected some of our favorite T-shirts currently available at Metallica’s official online store. Which one is your favorite?