Lars Ulrich, Metallica Pay Tribute to Megaforce Records’ Jon Zazula

Lars Ulrich paid tribute to Jon Zazula, the co-founder of Megaforce Records which released the first two Metallica albums, following news of Zazula’s death Tuesday at the age of 69.

“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 fuckin throw it all to the wind and go for it,” Ulrich wrote in a series of tweets.

Megaforce Records, which “Jonny Z” co-founded in 1982 alongside his wife Marsha — who died in January 2021 — was the onetime home to a number of influential metal acts, including Anthrax, Mercyful Fate and King’s X, as well as artists like the Meat Puppets and Bad Brains. Although established as an East Coast label, the Zazulas extended their reach to the Bay Area upon hearing Metallica’s No Life ’Til Leather demos.

“Thank you for giving us a sense of belonging and ultimately, a sense of self-worth,” Ulrich continued. “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.”

Jon Zazula died Tuesday from complications of the rare neuropathic disorder CIDP, COPD and osteopenia, just over a year after his wife Marsha died from cancer.

Metallica — which released 1983’s Kill ‘Em All and 1984’s Ride the Lightning on Megaforce before signing with Elektra — also honored Zazula Tuesday on social media. “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,” the band wrote.

“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.”