Metallica Stopped Big Name From Getting Record Deal

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The A&R executive and music industry professional Michael Alago recently talked about what led him to strike a deal with legendary band, Metallica. During a recent conversation with Stefan Adika on the Artists on Record podcast, he describe how he signed with the band with Elektra Records in 1984.

Michael Alago decided to sign after watching Metallica performance

It is not unknown how Alago started making his way in the music industry at a very early age, and by 1983, he started working for Elektra as an Artists and Repertoire executive where he was looking for young and promising talent to sign with the label.

During the same year, Metallica released its debut album “Kill ‘Em All” through Megaforce Records which is an independent label founded by John and Marsha Zazula, who also represented Anthrax, as well as the British proto-thrash band Raven which re-located to the US in 1983.

During the interview, Alago outlined how he was originally asked by John Zazula to sign Raven with Elektra, but he instead decided to go after Metallica after hearing the classic, “Kill ‘Em All.” He got Metallica their first major-label deal and he also gained popularity by working with artists such as Misfits, Cyndi Lauper, Nina Simone, and Johnny Rotten.

Here is what he said about the incident:

“…Soon after I got to Elektra in ’83 Johnny [Zazula] called me up and he told me about his label. And he wanted me to hear some of the artists on his label. So he brought me a small box of records – maybe Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’, the first Anthrax [album], Raven… And initially, he wanted me to sign Raven. And I love the Gallagher Brothers. They’re marvelous. And so I did a demo with them. I think like a five-song demo, I gave them five grand.

“But the problem was, I heard ‘Kill ‘Em All’. And that completely blew me away, because I never heard anything like that – all of us never heard anything like that, ever. Because these young people were combining hard rock, punk rock, British heavy metal into this one thing that you mixed up, and it’s called Metallica – sometimes it was called Alcoholica [laughs] – but officially, it was called Metallica.”