Jon Zazula, or Jonny Z, as he’s better known, is metal royalty. As the owner of East Brunswick record store Rock’n Roll Heaven in the early ’80s, he fell into tape trading and co-founded Megaforce Records with his wife Marsha to put out music by a band he’d helped discover via tape trading called Metallica. He was also a part of the Old Bridge Metal Militia, a group of like-minded metal fans that championed heavy music in central Jersey. Following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation throughout New Jersey last year, Zazula literally had a dream about putting on a benefit concert, and with the help of the Militia, made it a reality. Headlined by Anvil, Twisted Sister, Raven and more, the show will take place on Saturday May 11 at the Encore Events Center in Freehold NJ. We caught up with Zazula to talk about the show and the legacy of the Old Bridge Metal Militia.
Tell us how this whole benefit came about.
I was introduced to Facebook late in the game. Within two weeks I had 3 or 400 friends. People just came out of the woodwork. It was unbelievable. So I started getting involved with the social networking. So many times people were talking about an Old Bridge reunion. They would always kid about it. One night I went to sleep and had a dream that I put on a show and the lineup was going to be Raven, Anvil, and The Rods and we were going to do it at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. That’s the dream I had and I told it to Marsha and I said ‘do you have any problems if I make that a reality?’ She told me to talk to the powers that be. So I talked to Ray and Joe from the Militia. They said that they would love to have Anvil down as a favor to the friends of the community and everybody loves Raven so that’s really exciting. Ray asked me to bring down The Rods because he thinks nobody really knows who they are and they’re going to get blown away. Unbelievable band. The guitarist is amazing and the drummer is the best you’ll ever see. That night you’ll have 2 great drummers; Rob Reiner and Carl Canedy, so it should be interesting. So we called up and made this event for Asbury Park. In the beginning, people wouldn’t even answer the phone.
Were they not taking it seriously?
No. First of all people were saying “Raven? Anvil? Big deal. They’re not going to do any business. The Rods nobody ever heard of.” They were all discouraged. I went to Stan Riverstone and I asked him to help me on a few things where I wasn’t connected and he got me a date, May 11th at the Stone Pony. So here we go, we’re at the Stone Pony. I have my back turned and the Stone Pony gives the date away. So I’m sitting there with nothing to do. Maria from Adrenaline PR and Stan had both told me about a new place called Encore Events Center right in Freehold, NJ. I said I don’t know how that could be. Who’s going to come to Freehold? We went to see the place and it blew our minds. It’s a great, great place to see a concert.
How long has it been open?
It’s been open I guess over a year. It’s part of iPlay America, which is this big indoor amusement park. It’s got indoor go-karts and all kinds of stuff. If you want to get there early to the show, you can have a ball playing in the park inside. We went into the venue. It holds 1800 people. The Encore people said if we really believed in it, they’d give us the venue, but if you can get anything bigger to join the bill, that may help. Ed Trunk, who’s a very dear friend he used to work for me, said “what about Twisted Sister? They’re looking to do a show for Sandy victims.” I said that’d be great and asked if he could send management, who is [guitarist]Jay Jay [French], a note, let him know what’s going on. In two days, we spoke and Jay Jay called me and said they’d love to do it.
It all came together very quickly then.
Very quickly. I guess if you treat people right, they remember that. I see Dee all the time. We’re always running into each other. Anvil, I went and saw them right after they did the movie. I was in the movie. Raven I see every time they’re in the area. The Rods I never get to see which is sad. I hear that this Lords of Mercy band are really good. I’m looking forward to seeing them. They’re an Old Bridge band who plays all over the area. This could be a really big step for them. Chris Homeny from Old Bridge Metal Militia, the new guy, he’s been working with us to do this. He’s been delivering all the artwork for the posters and for everything. We’ve got sponsorships now. Next thing you know you have Twisted Sister. Then you get TT Quick and not only that, but Ed Trunk is going to be there from That Metal Show, as well as Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine. I heard Don Jamieson gave up a few concerts because he just couldn’t miss this. It’s that special. I look forward to meeting him. We’re going to try to raise at least $50,000 that night.
Give me a brief history of the Old Bridge Metal Militia for those who may not be aware of what it is.
There was a group of people from Old Bridge. You had Ray Dill, Metal Joe a few others. Then you had about 100-200 people within and around Old Bridge who would come together every week at a clubhouse, the 516, which is a little bar on Route 516. They had it so we took over the place. Ray and Joe would DJ. About 200 of us would air guitar to this massive PA system they brought in to just blow us away. We always had something fresh being played to them as the ears for Marsha and me. If they didn’t like it, I was in trouble. If they thought it was amazing, I knew we were hitting a homerun. That’s how we all got together and we called it the Old Bridge Metal Militia. Metallica actually named their song “Metal Militia” after the Old Bridge Metal Militia. We had other militias at the time too. We had a big group out of Bayonne and East Brunswick, but the Old Bridge one, everyone stayed together for 32 years. We’ve all been talking to each other and hanging out, parties once in awhile, and barbecues I had that dream to do the show. Marsha liked the idea and thought it would be a lot of fun to do a show. We haven’t done anything in years, we’re retired. We put this whole thing together and then TT Quick joined in and before you know it, we’re going to have 1800 people there on May 11th.
How affected were you personally by Sandy?
I was only affected spiritually. I guess I don’t know the right word for it, I just felt terrible. I used to have a house on Long Beach Island, right on the ocean. I don’t think it’s even there anymore. It was a big, beautiful house. I know a lot of people who lost a lot. Some lost everything. Some lost some non-replaceable things. What bothered me, is they still are waiting for money! Congress goes and passes raises to everybody on December 31st and turns down taking care of New Jersey. That really blew my mind. Between everything that’s been going on, Marsha actually suggested that we tell all the bands that they’re going to have to swallow a little bit in terms of what they get paid, as well as all the people involved in the show. I’m not going to take a penny. Marsha’s not taking a penny. The Old Bridge Metal Militia isn’t keeping a penny. Our t-shirt sales, ticket sales, poster sales, VIP sales, which are selling out any second they’re going to go clean. We had 102 tickets at $75 just to do a meet and greet with the bands at 5-6 and that’s already almost gone. 11 or 13 tickets left on that. Ticket sales are off the hook. I know some people who are selling their Rush tickets to come to this.
Rush will be around again. This seems like a one-time thing.
Rush will be around again. This kind of thing I don’t know. I just wanted to do this. I’m not sure how far we’re going to go or what we want to do after this. I do have some ideas that will be just like this.
Do you have any particular charities in mind that you’re going to give to?
Oh yea. We’re going to take care of people in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Ocean counties where churches and the township have notations that these people were the bottom of the list. We’re literally going to go out to them where, if we do make $50,000 that night, we’re going to buy 500 $100 gift cards from say Home Depot. We’re just going to go around giving out gift cards until we spend $50,000. We’ll do it relatively quick. No middle man. No fees to anybody. No 15%s, 25%s. 100% will go.
You’re really finding social media to be a pretty awesome tool.
Yeah it’s crazy! We went out with the 1st announcement. I was told that 64 people picked it up and shared it. I saw press appear in several places. Blabbermouth jumped on it right away. There were others, I don’t even know who they are anymore. I’ve only done, personally, a very limited amount of interviews. I think once the word gets out even more, and the new posters are made, they’re going to hit. Press is hitting everywhere. Radio, Ed Trunk is on it. TV, Ed Trunk is on it. The Rat in New Jersey (WRAT), WDHA, WSOU. It’s a complete assault.
What are you up to personally these days?
I’m very very retired. Tired and retired.
Well you’re coming out of retirement for one day at least.
I wanted to have fun! Already the expenses are overrun by the ticket sales. It’s everything I wanted it to be. It came together relatively fast.
That’s pretty awesome to do just to throw something together in this day and age and have it be as successful as it already is. It’s probably going to sell out.
I hope so. I’m really praying for it. They say that our advance is huge. I know sometimes in metal, you sell everything up front. It’s a long time since I promoted a show and got involved with it the way I am right now. Except for all the tour dates we did with Anthrax etc, going all over the world, this is like going back to school. The funny thing is we wrote the book. It’s like going back to school but reading your own notes.
Things have changed but the very basics are still there.
The very basics are still there and it’s just amazing the thirst there is for people to want to know what it felt like in 1982. People really want to know what the concerts were like and what the room felt like. They’re going to get that on May 11th.
I also suggest you write a book now.
I have to tell you. I’ve been asked by several people and I don’t know. I just can’t write one and have to start searching for publishers and all that stuff.
If it started off 30+ years ago booking shows and ends with this, that’d be a nice ending.
Yeah. I can’t wait to see the other people we work with. Our organization is marvelous. The people in the Old Bridge Metal Militia are amazing. The people in the Anvil fan clubs and it’s unbelievable the stuff they do.
To buy tickets to the Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion, click here.