Meet the woman who let Metallica rehearse in her basement

Metallica in 1985
(Image credit: Icon and Image)

On May 20, 1983, Jon and Marsha Zazula received a letter of complaint from a local council jobsworth. 

The Zazulas, owners of Megaforce Records, had been allowing noisy, obnoxious rock’n’roll bands to stay, and rehearse, at their domestic abode – and it had to stop, warned the jobsworth. Net curtains were twitching and neighbours were complaining. 

The timing of the letter was unfortunate, because one of Megaforce’s bands – a fledgling act called Metallica – had just arrived in town and needed somewhere to hang out. So Jon and Marsha enlisted the help of Megaforce employee Victoria Calandra.

“Metallica were sent to my house in Cortland, New York,” Calandra recalls. “We had no problem with the neighbours. It was an old Victorian house that was really built well. 

"Dave Mustaine had just been given a bus ticket and sent back to California. Kirk Hammett was barely 21, and so shy and talented. And Cliff Burton was one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. They were very young and very respectful. I was their housemother, cook and hairdresser, and made sure they followed all the rules.”

Having Metallica rehearse in her basement was a challenge, Calandra admits. “If they stayed in there after 11pm, I locked them in. James Hetfield broke through the door one night, however. They hung blankets on the walls and said it was really similar to where they jammed in California. They rehearsed for their first big tour while they stayed there.”

The Megaforce bands who were sent over to Calandra’s house after Metallica included Anthrax, Exciter, Overkill, TT Quick and Raven.

“They stayed the longest,” Calandra says. “They were there for three years."

This feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 196, published in May 2014.

Jon Wiederhorn

Jon Wiederhorn is a veteran author, music journalist and host of the Backstaged: The Devil in Metal podcast. He is the co-author of the books Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, My Riot: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory, and author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends. He has worked on staff at Rolling Stone, MTV, VH1, Guitar Magazine,, and, while his writing has appeared in TV Guide, Blender, SPIN, Classic Rock, Revolver, Metal Hammer, Stuff, Inked, Loudwire and Melody Maker.