New Doc on A&R Executive Michael Alago, Who Signed METALLICA To A Major Label, Is Worth Going Out of Your Way To See
There's a cliché that gets passed around the five boroughs, "only in New York," to the point that the cliché has become a joke. But if you can humor me for a moment, only in New York can a Hispanic gay kid who lived in Boro Park, Brooklyn, surrounded by Hasidic Jews, hustle his way up the ladder of the music industry to a prominent A & R position where he signed such acts like Metallica, Metal Church and later White Zombie.
“Who the Fuck Is That Guy”? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago was directed by Drew Stone, whose name might sound familiar from releasing other killer rock docs: The New York Hardcore Chronicles Film and All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film. This film chronicles the journey of Michael Alago from getting enamored with the party scene of the late 70s at places like Max's Kansas City and CBGBs to starting a Dead Boys fan club to landing his first gig at the world famous Ritz night club (more familiar to current New Yorkers as the just-recently-shut-down Webster Hall) to an A & R position at Elektra Records and signing Metallica and beyond.
But this isn't just a story about Alago's journey, it's also a story about the old New York. Alago weaves his story through the lenses of what New York was in the late 70s and early 80s. Plenty of footage of archival photos set the tone and the mood for what a party life was back then. Alago can be seen photographed with everybody from James Hetfield to U2's Bono to Tina Turner. Alago talked about how he hustled his way to a job at The Ritz nightclub, working under world-famous promoter Jerry Brandt and eventually becoming the talent booker at the nightclub, which eventually led to his A&R gig.
What drove Alago was ultimately his passion for music. It was that passion that led him to the infamous metal gig in August of 1984 at Roseland Ballroom headlined by Raven, and featuring support from Metallica and Anthrax, where he saw the fury of Metallica and signed them to Elektra Records, their first major label deal, and propelled them to success.
Rob Zombie credits a lot of White Zombie's success to Alago. Zombie noted that the band sounded terrible when Alago discovered them and he really molded them and figured out the vision all based on liking one riff in one song.
Alago makes no secret of his homosexuality, and it has a big focus in the documentary. There is an early scene in the documentary where Alago describes how gay folks hooked up before the age of mobile apps that is worth the price of admission alone. Eventually, the documentary does take a dark turn, as Alago discusses his dark period in the late 90s that almost found him dead. But Alago persevered and has now put a focus on a new passion, photography, while still keeping a foot in the music business. Alago most recently worked with the hardcore supergroup Bloodclot, and got them signed to Metal Blade Records.
Overall, “Who the Fuck Is That Guy”? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago is a great viewing for any student of the music business, especially if you're a metal fan. There are a ton of big names interviewed here: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Rob Zombie, Phil Anselmo, and even Cyndi Lauper to name a few. As mentioned, the doc is a quick 75 minutes, and keeps moving along so it's over before you know.
“Who the Fuck Is That Guy”? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago is now available at Amazon on iTunes and cable VOD services. Look for it on Netflix in the coming months.