Gary James Interview With
Mega Force Records owner
Back in the early 1980s when Heavy Metal ruled supreme, there was a man who was leading the way. His name was Jon Z and his record company was known as Mega Force. Jon Z said at the time: "The rise of Heavy Metal in America has now been spearheaded by Mega Force. Mega Force is the first major Metal label in America. We're the next I.R.S. Records and Casablanca Records, only it will be Metal."
Q - Jon, how did you go from running Rock And Roll Heaven, a record store, to starting your own record label?
A - We started the store because the record stores in the area weren't carrying the proper music and they weren't carrying enough Metal. We wanted to build a place where people could go to get the proper records and buy what they want. Then what happened, there were too many bands that were floating around that were excellent that were getting beat up and chewed up, Man O War for one. We decided they should have the proper people behind them who know how to market Metal, understand Metal, know the crowd, know the Metal underground throughout the country and the world. So, we took it into our own hands to start our own record company.
Q - What is your title at Mega Force?
A - I am the Secretary and Marsha Z is the President. The Vice-President is Hedy Tehreni, another woman. The reason why the women are the head is, Heavy Metal is the most macho music in the world. It's a very womanizing music. I believe in women. I think it is probably ironic that the number one world-wide label for Heavy Metal is a Metal label run and owned by women.
Q - Besides Man O War, who else is recording for Mega Force?
A - The first group that came out on Mega Force was a group called Metallica. Metallica's album by the way is the biggest seller on Mega Force. It sold 17,000 world-wide the first week. We did a Venom single. They're probably one of the heaviest bands out of England. That we only did a thousand pressings as a test to create a stir. It sold out in half an hour. Raven, they are the next AC/DC of America, except they're much better, they're much faster and a lot more fun to watch. They are currently on tour with Metallica. There will be other bands as well. I'm not going to name them because we're in the middle of negotiation, but it's gonna shake the world when they find out who they are.
Q - Big names you're talking about?
A - Oh, yeah. No jokes. Serious business.
Q - So many people complain that Heavy Metal music is just plain noise. What do you say to those people and do you genuinely enjoy the music?
A - Well, let me tell you, I was a big Cream fan, a die-hard Hendrix fan, a big Sabbath fan, a big Mountain fan. Duran Duran and Men At Work is bottled music to me. I think it's music for mindless wimps. The radio we listen to has lost all the guts it had in the '60s. The Jimi Hendrixs, the Jim Morrisons, the Janis Joplins, they're all dead, except now they're big heroes. If you remember, when they started in the '60s, it took them four years to get on the radio. They weren't played right away. "Purple Haze" didn't even get on the radio 'til the man died. But the DJs in those days were right out of college, coming out of the '60s movement and they fought for it and got it on the air. Now these same DJs are Program Directors and playing this bottled music from Australia for the mindless masses and they're very content with their play lists. What has happened is, they've become just as bad as their predecessors in the old days. So, the music scene in America has died. The reason we're moving with Heavy Metal? It's the long hair, the leather jackets, the denim. It's the re-birth of the '60s. It's the re-birth of America with minds, the America I love. This other stuff is the apathy, go dance it away, the world will change tomorrow if you can sweat it out in some nightclub somewhere and dance. This is the reason why Metal has stayed. We truly believe that it's the true guts and re-birth of the '60s in Metal.
Q - Was it expensive to launch Mega Force?
A - It was very expensive, because we're not doing it like an independent who will put out anything, some of it that sounds like garbage. For instance, Metallica, the first album we had, the band literally went into the studio which was paid for, paid for production, put the band up and toured them in the Northwest area. We gave them twelve dates before they even did the album. No record label would do that, major or minor. We have backers now who believe in what we're doing. They've seen us in action. You're talking mega bucks to get Mega Force started.
Q - So, aside from running a record company, you also serve as a group's booking agency?
A - We don't trust management and we don't even trust agencies because they know how to deal with bands who get record play and have a commercial sound. These bands we have do not stoop to commerciality and will not rip the public off and change in mid-stream. These are bands that are Heavy Metal to the max. So, the only people who could manage them are the people who understand them. So, we manage these bands as well. Man O War we do not manage. They need no management. We may guide them, but that's the extent of that. Raven, Metallica and any other band that comes on to Mega Force will be managed by us, unless they are a self-contained managing band that know what they are doing.
Q - With so many independent labels joining major labels for distribution, how will Mega Force Records be able to compete with Warner Brothers or CBS on their scale of marketing, distribution and promotion?
A - We will never have the money that these big people have to throw out. But I'll spend $10 like they spend $10,000 to get the word out. E.M.I. did nothing for Man O War. In one day I sold 25% of what they sold in the world in one year, the reason being that the name Jon Z and Marsha Z are the gospel in Heavy Metal throughout the U.S. and very, very well accepted throughout the world. The name Mega Force is a rally for all the major Metal people to get behind and push this label to success. We might not spend $200,000 on limousines and cocaine, but we will spend $60,000 to tour the band in front of the people from coast to coast and build them and get the underground and the word of mouth to spread, which the major labels don't have any idea of who to talk to.
Q - Why would a record company sign group and then not get behind them?
A - A major label only knows how to spend $250,000 to $500,000 in promotion, which means it has to be readily acceptable for MTV, has to be readily played for the mindless masses on mindless radio. If something has any meat, guts or meaning to it, it will not be played on the radio, therefore will not sell records, therefore will not sell a million records. If it can't sell a million records, what's the sense of putting $250,000 behind it? They don't know how to put $10,000 behind it. Therefore it's much easier for them to do what's normal; put out a record, get it to the radio station, put something up somebody's nose and say "Here. Time for you to play this now. Look at this band. I'll take care of you with something else." I can't do that and I'm not going to put anything up anybody's nose. I'll put it to their ears. It's a rough battle I have, believe me. It's not an easy game.