Curcio is best known among rock historians for the studios he helped build. In 1968, he founded Pacific Recording in San Mateo, California, where Santana recorded their debut self-titled album and the Grateful Dead laid down the music for Aoxomoxoa. Two years later, he had moved back to his hometown of Rochester, New York, and set up Music America Studios. It was at that space that Curcio helped Metallica put together their first album, one of thrash metal’s first and finest moments.
The album took just about two weeks to record and mix, at a total cost of $15,000, with the band butting heads along the way with Curcio for not making them sound like the powerhouse that they were. As Jonny Zazula, the founder of Megaforce Records and executive producer of Kill ‘Em All told the writers of Metallica: The Complete Illustrated History, “He 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 continued to work with Megaforce after that, producing Blue Cheer’s 1985 album The Beast Is Back, as well as helming sessions by other metal acts like Znöwhite and Krayz. Later, he moved Music America to Nashville before closing the studio down in the ‘90s and moving to Florida where he continued to work in the music industry, developing artists and scouting for new talent.
He is survived by four children, two grandchildren, and his sister and niece.