"Metallica would not be who we are or where we are today without Jon Zazula and his wife, Marsha."

The band shared those words on social media following the death of Jon Zazula, better known as Jonny Z, earlier this year. It was an especially painful moment for Metallica, and the entire heavy metal world, as they were still grieving the loss of Marsha just a year earlier.

To say the Zazulas changed rock and roll as the world knows it would be a severe understatement. They believed in Metallica so much that Jon and Marsha started a record label—Megaforce Records—so they could actually release the band's music, specifically, Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning.

But that was only the beginning.

"They made such an impact on the metal world," Maria Ferrero, also known as Metal Maria, says with fondness and admiration in her voice, "but that impact isn't just because of Metallica or Anthrax or Mercyful Fate or Exciter or Manowar or S.O.D. or Overkill or Raven ... they gave the world identity."

A New Identity

As the Director of Publicity and A&R for Megaforce, Metal Maria was the 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," Ferrero says. "I had a really bad hairstyle, I was horribly dressed. 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 picture like that would conjure negative vibes, it actually serves as a tremendous encouragement because it reminds her that the Zazulas brought her into their family.

"When I saw that photo, it was awesome 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, Vio-Lence when I was 21. I brought in Ministry for management. Jon and Marsha allowed me, an uneducated suburban punk rock chick, to do all of that."

Jon and Marsha Zazula
Jon and Marsha Zazula, shared by Maria Ferrero
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Ferrero looked to Jon and Marsha as peers and always considered them to be "Iron Man" types of people. It's still difficult for her to face the reality that they are no longer around.

"They're gone, both of my best friends, they're gone. I never thought they would die. I never considered it. They were so tough and they did so much. I truly don't know who I would be, I don't know who anybody would be, without them."

A Fitting Tribute

Near the end of September, Metallica announced a very special show at a 7,000-seat theater in Hollywood, Florida. Set for Nov. 6, their announcement promised it would be a unique experience for concertgoers as this particular gig would reflect their first-ever U.S. tour as well as pay tribute to the Zazula family.

"We’ll be cooking up a special setlist 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.

Metallica - Nov. 6, 2022
Metallica
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At first, she thought the concert was just for family—for her and other chosen family and most significantly, for daughters Danielle, Blaire and Rikki. But when the band started talking to her about gathering photos and videos that they could use for production, Ferrero realized that this show would be for the whole Metallica Family.

"It's a family gathering in the truest sense," Ferrero explains. "This concert is who we are, we are a fucking heavy metal family. We are one big heavy metal family. We might fight over things, but it doesn't matter...the beginning, middle and end of the day, we'll never stop, we'll never quit, 'cause we're 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 definitely for the Zazula family," she states with a serious tone. "My goodness. Absolutely. But it's also for the entire universe, and I do mean 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, that's your family."

Ecstasy of Old-School Metal

Metal Maria is excited to connect and reconnect with her Metallica Family on Nov. 6, and of course, she's thrilled for the band to dive into their early catalog. In anticipation of that, she has started to put together a list of songs she hopes the boys will play as they celebrate their legacy and the legacy of Jon and Marsha.

As fans should expect, her old-school setlist opens with Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold," a song that Metallica started 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 Metallica biographer Mick Wall. "Marsha and I are big Morricone fans and I'd always thought that would be a great piece of music for some awesome metal band to walk onstage to. And it is!"

Ferrero is quick to agree.

"We all waited with bated breath for Metallica to hit the lights and while waiting, 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 impact ... It gave me goosebumps when I heard it back then and it still gives me goosebumps when I hear it today."

Metal Maria's Dream Old-School Metallica Setlist
"The Ecstasy of Gold"
"Hit the Lights"
"Metal Militia"
"Blitzkrieg"
"Am I Evil?"
"Ride the Lightning"
"Seek & Destroy"
"(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth"
"Whiplash"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
"Fade to Black"

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"I can fucking see James in his spandex pants with his bullet belt on, just standing there in the V position with his guitar," Ferrero says as she thinks about the first time she heard "Hit the Lights." "He had a lot of zits on his face. I mean, we were kids! We were kids. Kirk was clean-cut and added some class onstage with his black and white motorcycle leather jacket and his Capezio shoes. Then there was Cliff, bigger than life with his bellbottoms and his "no giving a fuck" hairstyle, like Cousin Itt with red hair. He stood out."

Thinking about the one band member left in this memory, Ferrero starts to laugh to herself.

"And Lars, oh Lars. He just wore spandex back there with his long, curly hair. He was hitting the drums like an animal. I don't know if he was playing the right way back then and I don't know if he even is today. Everybody likes to bust his balls, because who doesn't like to bag a tiger?"

Metallica - 1984
Ross Halfin, Official Metallica Website, Metallica.com
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When Ferrero starts thinking about "Pulling Teeth - (Anesthesia)," her tone turns somber.

"That was always Cliff's moment. If Cliff got a moment, that meant you were getting a moment, too. It was always solemn when he played "Anesthesia." To connect with him because of his song, well, it was a really special thing."

That "special thing" continues to this day, not just through one song or one concert, but through the entire collective experience and connection of the Metallica Family.

"Honestly, if it wasn't for you and people like you and all the fans to support all of it, it would never have motivated Metallica to keep going," Ferrero says. "And it wouldn't have inspired other people to keep going either. You're important. The fans are important. Like I said and like I've been saying for 41 years and like I'll always say: We are one big family."

We'll never stop, we'll never quit, 'cause we're Metallica.

Watch Metallica Perform "Whiplash" Live in 1983

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