BOOK REVIEW: Jon Zazula & Harold Claros-Maldonado: Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula

I wish I could say I knew Jonny Zazula back in the day, but I wasn’t quite old enough. Sure, I had heard all the stories. As a major Metallica and Anthrax fan, Jon and his wife Marsha’s life stories are Metal history as much as any riff, album or chorus. I bumped into Jon about twelve years ago at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey. I was there to see a Testament headline show. Jon and Eddie Trunk, who owes his career to Jon and Marsha to an extent, walked right by and I totally fanboyed out. I’m pretty sure I blurted out something lame like “Holy shit, Jonny Z! Thanks for everything!”, since that what was in my heart. He gave me like a half-pat on the arm, half a “hey dude I need to get by you” move and slipped past me on his way backstage. Trunk just smiled. That was my in-person brush with him, until a recent phone interview (coming soon) for this book release. The book is a memoir about an enterprising music lover who put a genre or two on his back and raised up everyone around him toward greatness.

Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula is life’s journey full of stories essential to the music fans, music makers, and really anyone who cares so much it hurts about anything. Much like the author, I am a product of the New York City Housing Authority (aka the projects), from the Bronx, New York. Although I came up later and about a mile away from him (he said my hood was nicer), it’s a hardscrabble place to come from that can exact a toll. A place where a lack of necessities and familial struggles either eat you up and spit you out, or harden you. In Jonny, it fostered optimism, ingenuity, and ferocious of hustle. He looked into an abyss early in life, and became enterprising and active rather than crumble. The experiences from his childhood and teen years, such as playing drums and falling in love with music, earning an encyclopedic knowledge of Rock, Jazz, and other forms of music shaped him forever and helped him escape. Music can do that for you. It can save you like it saved many Bronx kids. His motto “Nothing To It, But To Do It” (possibly an ode to the great poet laureate Maya Angelou) came to him in the form of a chance meeting with Jimi Hendrix and guided him ever since.

Jon fell into the music business, but you could say it was also his destiny. His entire life was pushing him in that direction from his Rock N Roll Heaven shop at a flea market in New Jersey, to putting on shows, to putting out records, it was calling him. And thank goodness he listened! What Jon and Marsha Zazula created with the founding and legend status of Megaforce Records, working with the Old Bridge Metal Militia, CraZed Management, Breaking Bands LLC (with Chuck Billy of Testament, and music PR legend Maria Ferrero of Adrenaline PR, a masterful run with a toys and collectibles business, and more can never be undone. Artists as wide-ranging as Metallica, Anthrax, Testament, Mercyful Fate, Overkill, Exciter, Stormtroopers of Death, Method of Destruction, Ace Frehley, King’s X, Ministry, Mindfunk, Nudeswirl, Warren Haynes, Disco Biscuits and others to name just a few of the 1000s shaped music history. No genre was lifted more so than Thrash Metal, which is why you see Jon, Marsha and the Megaforce name pop up in every book and documentary about heavy music. Their careers are living history.

Yes, mistakes were made along the way. In learning brand new businesses and skills along the way, some that had never even been done before, you are going to have a few implosions. Jon is as brutally honest about his errors and missteps as he glows about the triumphs. He doesn’t come off as bitter, but more disappointed about some of the less fine days, and ultimately the great outweighed the not good. The book is well thought out, with great little details and insane rock n roll stories anecdotes along the way. The best thing I learned about Jon reading the book his how unselfish and charitable he is, how he tried to uplift others and made partners out of people who others would have made subordinates. He has a heart of gold and kind soul, even though back in the day, he had a crazy reputation and intensity about him.

It’s fitting that Chuck Billy wrote forward with many kind words since they have been friends and partners for thirty-five years. This illustrates perfectly the kinds of relationships he made. His wife Marsha wrote the epilogue and is just cements her status as the quiet Sherpa (Jon’s words) to some of youthful Jonny’s wildness. You can see why they are meant for each other and how they complimented each other in business and in love.

This book is essential reading for any rock or metal fan, but especially anyone considering a career in the music business.

Holy shit, Jonny Z! Thanks for everything.

 

9 / 10

KEITH CHACHKES