Published Sep 27, 2018Paul Curcio — known best as the producer of Metallica's historic 1983 debut Kill 'Em All — has died. Curcio's daughter, Brianne Curcio-Smith, confirmed that he died of heart failure September 10 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Curcio was 74.
A native of Rochester, New York, Curcio's industry career began as a co-founding guitarist of the Mojo Men. The group scored a hit with 1966 single "Dance With Me," produced by Sly Stone, and 1967's Buffalo Springfield cover "Sit Down, I Think I Love You," produced by Van Dyke Parks.
After relocating to San Francisco with the group in 1964, Curcio founded Pacific Recording in San Mateo in 1968. The studio was the first in the Bay Area (third in the United States) to be equipped with a 16-track tape machine. Pacific Recording was used by the Grateful Dead to record 1969's Aoxomoxoa, and by Santana to record their 1969 self-titled debut.
Curcio moved back to Rochester in the late 70's to found his Music America studio. In 1983, he was approached by Metallica's then-manager and Megaforce Records founder Jon "Jonny Z" Zazula about recording the band's debut album.
In an interview with Billboard earlier this year, Curcio recalled that Zazula chose him to helm the sessions as he was willing to book the band at an inexpensive rate. Curcio told the site that Kill 'Em All had been budgeted at a lump-sum total of $15,000 for about 17 days' worth of work.
As Zazula explained to author Martin Popoff in Metallica: The Complete Illustrated History, Curcio "was just mixing Kirk like Carlos Santana…I get there at the end of the album, after being broke from finalizing the recording, and James is all depressed. And Lars has to speak to me, and he says, 'Jonny, this isn't heavy enough.' So we went in and had James redo all the rhythms, with the big, big chunky sound he's famous for."
Curcio told Billboard in the interview that he was proud of the album and Metallica's subsequent success. Kill 'Em All has since been recognized as a groundbreaking release when considering the influence and evolution of thrash metal.
Curcio also produced Blue Cheer's 1984 reunion album The Beast Is Back for Megaforce. He relocated Music America to Nashville, and closed the studio in the mid-'90s. Curcio subsequently moved to the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area, where he remained active in talent scouting and development.