Based in Phoenix, AZ, but originally from Chicago, Mark Nawara is a producer, label owner, and A&R man who has made heavy metal and hard rock his primary focus. Nawara has eclectic tastes when it comes to headbanger music; over the years, he has produced everything from '80s hair metal and pop-metal to alternative metal, thrash metal, death metal/black metal, and metalcore. The Windy City native hasn't been afraid to change with the times; although he was producing hair bands in the late '80s and early '90s, Nawara has favored a more alternative-friendly approach as the head of Pavement Music and, more recently, the Phoenix, AZ-based Crash Music. Nawara, who was born and raised in the Windy City, got into the music business in the '80s. The first album he produced was Diamond Rexx's Land of the Damned, which Island released in 1986. Diamond Rexx parted company with Island after that, but Nawara's relationship with the band continued when, in 1989, he became president of Red Light Records -- a small independent metal/hard rock label that was based in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, IL. Nawara brought Diamond Rexx to Red Light, and the other metal and hard rock bands he worked at that company included Joker, Manikin Laff, and Vishüsgrûv. When Red Light got started, pop-metal, hair metal, and '80s-style hard rock were still huge, and Nawara went after that market. But in 1992-1993, there was a major upheaval in the rock world. When Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit the commercial jackpot, alternative rock and grunge became mainstream -- and all of a sudden, '80s-style headbangers suddenly went out of vogue. MTV lost interest in pop-metal and '80s-style hard rock, which was bad news for many of Red Light's artists. But Nawara, being a pragmatist, kept his ears open and didn't allow himself to be pigeonholed -- headbanger music remained his focus, but the term headbanger music can, of course, refer to a very wide variety of artists (anyone from Kiss to Slayer to Rage Against the Machine). In 1993, Nawara left Red Light (which subsequently folded) due to creative differences with his then-partner and founded his own label, Pavement Music, which had a manufacturing/distribution deal with Zoo/BMG. Pavement's alternative-friendly roster included Crowbar and L.U.N.G.S., among others. At first, Nawara ran Pavement from the Windy City, but in 1996, he moved to Phoenix for two reasons: he wanted to be closer to Los Angeles, where he was doing a lot of business, and he wanted to escape from Chicago's notoriously cold winters. Pavement's relationship with Zoo/BMG lasted four and half years, but ended when BMG decided to sell Zoo in the late '90s. Then, in 2001, Nawara founded another label, Crash Music, whose signings have ranged from Dianno (a band led by former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno) to thrash combo King's Evil to death metal/black acts like Malevolent Creation and Unearthly (a Brazilian band). Crash has also reunited Nawara with Diamond Rexx, who has updated its sound and become more alternative metal-minded in the early 2000s.
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