Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers Give Back To Old Bridge Militia Foundation
It’s not often that millionaire rock stars give back, but Metallica seems not to have forgotten what was given to them at the start of their career by a band of head-banging misfits they dubbed Old Bridge Militia.
Having lost many friends to various perils, those misfits grew up and formed Old Bridge Militia Foundation (www.oldbridgemilitia.com), a charity that supports needy children with music equipment and lessons. When the foundation formed in 2014, Metallica allowed the charity to adopt the design of its lightning bolts-shaped logo. The band also donated several memorabilia items to raffle, as well as a drum head from James Hetfield that’s signed, “Forever Grateful, Forever Brothers, Forever Connected.” The foundation had the drum head framed and display it at their events.
A fundraiser is scheduled on May 14 at Old Bridge Elks Lodge in honor of fallen Militia man and Metallica roadie Bob Szuminsky. Featuring Baelfire, Rocker, Frankenstein 3000, Mercury Rising, Black Reign, and DJ Alex Kayne, the “Bulldozer” Bash will raise money to bring music to children in need.
Old Bridge Militia leaders and foundation founders “Metal” Joe Chimienti and “Rockin’” Ray Dill were helpful friends of Jon and Marsha Zazula, owners of Metallica’s first label, Megaforce Records. They said they realize the foundation wouldn’t be possible without Metallica. They recently reciprocated by helping the band’s management with photos and stories for the repackaging of Metallica’s Kill ’Em All and Ride the Lightning albums.
Here’s a chat with Chimienti and Dill about Old Bridge Militia and its foundation:
How did Old Bridge Militia help Metallica’s early career?
Joe: Jonny Z came down to my house down in Farmingdale with a cassette tape, the demo tape they had recorded in California. We were having a big party. We all fell in love with it. We told him how great it was.
Then a couple of weeks later, they show up. They came over to Ray’s house first on Englishtown Road in Old Bridge, just to hang out and meet us. They had Dave Mustaine with them, before he got kicked out. And it was just a night of hanging out, partying heavily, playing all the music that we had from all the heavy stuff that we bought from Johnny, stuff that we were into. It was just a real long night of partying.
Ray: James was throwing up all over the place.
They were like 19?
Ray: We’ve got like three or four years on them. James was a very quiet man. Mustaine was a wild man. Lars was the one running everything. And Cliff Burton could have been an Old Bridge guy. He had a liking to the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Joe: That’s the story that hasn’t been written, that conversation between Jonny Z and Metallica to get them to come to New Jersey.
Ray: Jonny opened the store (Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven) in December of ’81. He would order and give us the albums to take home and try them out. If I didn’t like them, I’d give them back. So I’d tell him what’s hot.
And we used to DJ at Club 516. They used to have cover bands. But when Metallica or Slayer was in town, we hung out there. Anthrax.
Joe: It would be on the marquee Old Bridge Militia welcomes Metallica, welcomes Slayer.
Would Metallica have made it without your help?
Ray: Yeah, they would have made it.
Joe: There was nothin’ stoppin’ those dudes. They would have made it without Jonny. They were destined to make it. You could tell from the cassette tape that there was something special there. Then, when we met them, you could tell that there was something different about them, the way they didn’t care, the way they dressed, the way they were like fans. They were like us, except that they could play and come up with the killer shit.
Ray: They weren’t pretty boys. They wrote songs that deal with people who had problems. They were a regular man band.
We were going to shows before that, when Ratt came into the picture, and Motley Crue, and all that. It was all about the girls and the hair. Me and Joe were big into the club scene: The Red Fox (Inn) in New Brunswick, which became the Main Event; Zaffy’s (in Piscataway), Emmett’s (Inn in Jamesburg). But they were all pretty boys, like White Tiger.
Then you met these guys, and they were like you. They related to the people. They related to the whole generation that was coming up. A lot of kids were angry, and they related to that music.
I had a Motley Crue poster on the wall. My living room was set up to look like a record store. I had albums and all the posters Jonny gave me all over. And I had Motley Crue’s first album on the wall, and James says, ‘What’s this?’ And I’m like, what the hell is he talking about, who’s Motley Crue. And he says, ‘Poser.’
Joe: They came in April 1983, and they stayed on and off until they toured Europe in February 1984. They wrote ‘Fade to Black’ on my couch. That was about when they had their gear stolen. The guys went up to Boston with U-Haul with all their shit on a Thursday afternoon. Friday at 3 o’clock in the morning, I get a call, and it’s Jonny Z, saying that the U-Haul got stolen in Boston. They don’t find out for a couple of hours that the guitars are inside because it was a big snow storm. For about three or four hours, that they had nothing left. No equipment, no drums. But they found out the guitars, which was one each.
(At the house), they (also) worked on ‘Fight Fire with Fire,’ ‘Trapped Under Ice,’ and ‘Fade to Black.’ But we didn’t know about ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and ‘Trapped Under Ice.’ We found out about that in Guitar World. And when Metallica was on the Howard Stern show, James said he remembered writing ‘Fade to Black’ on ‘Metal’ Joe’s couch. Stern was like, ‘Who’s ‘Metal’ Joe?’ And James goes, ‘You don’t know who ‘Metal’ Joe is? The infamous ‘Metal’ Joe, we hung out at his house when our manager threw us out of his house,’ which was Jonny. But we didn’t find out about these songs until 30 years later.
With the whole ‘Fade to Black’ thing when their stuff got stolen, they were leaving the house to go on their first European tour, and me and Ray scraped together $100 each and gave it to Metallica, and that’s what they left with. Three guitars and $200 to go on their first European tour.
Ray: When we got to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lars came over, and I said, ‘Remember when you guys left that money.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, man.’ And he reaches into his pocket for his wallet. I said, ‘Get out of here with that. Don’t even bother.’ And he pulls his hands up.
Did they write ‘Metal Militia’ for Old Bridge Militia?
Joe: No, that was already written before they even met us. We didn’t name ourselves the Old Bridge Militia. They named us in ’83. That’s when they thanked us on Kill ’Em All. But if you listen to the words, that was us. ‘They just want to spread the word,’ and that was what we did. But they had written for a lot of other people too out in California.
Did Mustaine get thrown out in Old Bridge?
Ray: No, he got thrown out in Queens. They did two gigs, one at the Paramount Theater (in Staten Island), and they played L’Amours. That night after L’Amours, they stayed at my house. The next day, they head back put to Queens to a rehearsal room. And by Wednesday, he was gone. By the following Friday, they already were playing the Showplace in Dover, Kirk’s first show.
It’s amazing how much New Jersey plays into Metallica’s early career.
Joe: They played the roller skating rink on Route 9. Skateway 9. It’s a gym now, a New York Sports Club (in Marlboro).
First place they played in New Jersey was my bedroom with Dave Mustaine, and James couldn’t play because there was only one guitar. James was all pissed off about that, so he just sat on the floor. They played until Lars broke every stick in the house and was bleeding all over the place. True story. It was all over the ceiling.
That’s what’s amazing about that house. Dave Mustaine played upstairs. Kirk Hammett played downstairs. Same house. Who can say that anywhere? That Dave Mustaine played upstairs in a bedroom and then Kirk Hammett downstairs in a basement?
Slayer played down there too. When Slayer came through, we met them at Jonny’s store. They came for an in-store, and they had no place to stay.
Ray: Joe said, ‘Listen, Metallica just left. They stayed at my house.’ They said, ‘Really?’ Joe gave them address. We never figured they would show up. A couple of hours later, they show up. Joe’s got a couple of guys hunting in his backyard.
They shot down a crow. Tom Araya was driving a Camaro and a little U-Haul. And the bird landed right there. And it was like, ‘Welcome to New Jersey.’
Joe: Every one of the big four—Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer—was at my house at some point.
So what was it like being flown out to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Metallica when they were inducted in 2009?
Joe: Tony D. from Q-Prime told me that Cliff Bernstein said, ‘You need to do right by these people who did right by you in the beginning.’ Tony D. said, ‘I wanna tell you, you and ‘Rockin’’ Ray were the first two that they wanted us to find.
Ray: In comes Jimmy Page and Joe Perry, and we’re shaking hands with them. They had a big party the night before. Joe and Lars were the last ones to leave the party. They had to get someone to drag Lars out, they were so wasted.
The next day, they’re rehearsing with Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, the guy from the Chili Peppers, then all of Metallica. Lars walks in and says, ‘I’m not impressed. Where’s Richie Blackmore,’ because he’s a big Deep Purple guy.
Since 2009, they’ve been awesome. They brought me and my friends up on stage two years ago at a big festival in Canada. They signed all these shirts that we raffle off.
What led to the formation of the foundation?
Ray: There were a lot of drugs. We lost a lot of people, like “Bulldozer” Bob, who was a roadie with Metallica. I got out of the scene. Joe married my sister (in 1989). I got involved in the church. He got involved in the church. We’re spiritually connected with Christ I feel. He led us to do this. We’re going to leave something good behind after all that craziness that went on then. And that’s what we’re doing now.
We’re working with Squigno, an artist from New Brunswick who’s worked with Metallica. He was the first one we called. And he came up with, ‘OK, I’ll take your M and your A from militia, and see if we could do Metallica.’ We got ahold of Metallica and had to meet with Q-Prime (Management) to sign off on this. Because we sell shirts, we sell hats, and all the money goes to the kids, music lessons and equipment for underprivileged kids or kids with autism.
God’s been good to us. He get us here for a reason to do what we’re doin’.
Bob Makin is a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, to which he has contributed since 1988. He now is an entertainment writer with MyCentralJersey.com, a part of USA Today Network.
A fundraiser is scheduled on May 14 at Old Bridge Elks Lodge in honor of fallen Militia man and Metallica roadie Bob Szuminsky. Featuring Baelfire, Rocker, Frankenstein 3000, Mercury Rising, Black Reign, and DJ Alex Kayne, the “Bulldozer” Bash will raise money to bring music to children in need. For more information, go to oldbridgemilitia.com.