Interview with Amy Sciarretto
Conducted by Robert Williams
"Do The Devil’s Work For Him" is a new book co-authored by metal journalist/publicist/industry experts Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino. Gathering together their valuable knowledge, earned through years of hard work blazing their respective trails in the world of heavy metal journalism "Do The Devil’s Work For Him" also features insight and tips from heavy metal artists themselves, proving to be as enjoyable a read, as one that offers first hand knowledge for those entertaining the idea of breaking into the field. Amy Sciarretto recently took some time to fill in Metal-Rules.com about her new book as well as personal highlights in her storied career and some future goals.
How are you doing today Amy?
I’m great. How are you?
Great thanks! So last June your new book "Do The Devil’s Work For Him" that you co-authored with Rick Florino was released, offering valuable and precious insight into the world of metal journalism from two utmost experts on this topic. What would you like to tell our readers about your new book?
I would say that anyone who is interested in working in the music business… I think it’s really geared towards… mostly people who are probably in high school or college who are figuring out what they want to do and if you know that you have that thing inside you that makes you want to work in the entertainment business, whether it’s movies or music and you want to pull back the curtain and you want to be the person backstage making things happen, not just having the party, then that’s who I think the book is really geared for.
It’s really kind of an easy read, it’s meant to be a pocket guide and it also provides a lot of information and a lot of advice from artists as well. The book has got a lot of different perspectives in it.
How did you originally become involved in music journalism?
I started really, really early because when most of my friends in high school were just interested in partying and having fun, I knew when I was fifteen that I wanted to be on Mtv or that I wanted to write and I was always a good writer. I knew that I wanted to write about music and then it just started snowballing from there. When I started really early… like before I got to college, I would go to a lot of shows and I would go see local bands. One of my friends was in a local death metal band in Philly called Starkweather and he wrote for a magazine that was called "All That" and I told him how I had wanted to write for magazines and he told me "I don’t wanna do this anymore. Why don’t you just take over my gig?" and he sent me the magazines and he got me in touch with the editor.
It just started from there. "All That" changed it’s name to "Chord" and I started writing for a local Philly monthly music magazine called "Rockpile" and then I would work at my college radio station and I took over that and I took over the school newspaper as their music editor, then I interned at a local radio magazine… So I just did everything. I street-teamed… and it just started snowballing from those local gigs. I started getting paid and I started writing for skate magazines that were national, so it was very easy because one thing just built on top… it was like a building upward effect… like erecting a skyscraper so to speak.
Back then all that I cared about was getting music for free and getting into shows and getting to talk to bands that I loved and then it was like "Oh. I’m getting paid to do this too!" It really was a snowball effect and then when I got out of college I started working at CMJ, which was a radio trade magazine where I got promoted to be the metal editor after three months of working there. Then I started writing for Revolver, Kerrang, Spin.com, VH-1.com… Teen People… it just started spiraling. You know, once I started picking up gigs, more kept coming in. It was an accumulative effect I guess.
Let’s focus on how you transitioned from freelancing to landing steady paid gigs. What was your overall gameplan pursuing these bigger, higher profile paying gigs at that time?
When "All That" became "Chord" I had sent them a sample review first, I think it was for "Texas Is The Reason" and I sent it to them and they were like "This is good. Do you want to write?"
With Revolver, they came to me because a friend of mine that I worked with at CMJ was going to work to do marketing with them and they were like "We need a metal writer to do columns." and she was like "I have the perfect person!" because I was CMJ’s fulltime Loud Rock editor and I wrote Revolver’s Black Metal and Hardcore pages, I created them and I did them for six years, I think.
When I was looking for a job I had already had those freelance experiences. I wanted an in-house job, so I sent out a press release on myself. I sent out all of the clips that I had amassed from the school paper from "Chord" from "All That" and FMQB where I interned and "Juice" magazine and "Rockpile" and all the magazines I was writing for…
I made a press kit of myself with clippings of my best work and showed them that I had written for all of these magazines and I sent the press kit to a bunch of different magazines that I had wanted to write for. When I sent out resumes, I sent them out as press kits so that they would stand out and not just be another resume for a job, it was actually a document about me.
You also made the exciting jump from writing for magazines and online outlets to working as a lead publicist at one of the world’s largest metal record label’s. How did you end up in the publicity department at Roadrunner Records?
I worked at CMJ, which was a radio trade magazine and I worked very closely with Roadrunner. When I moved I had been at CMJ for a few years and Roadrunner had a job opening and they asked me if I had wanted to interview for it because I had done so much work with Roadrunner.
I interviewed for a job there at Roadrunner in 2000 and it wasn’t the right time. I got offered the job but it wasn’t the right time to take the job so I turned it down at the time, because I didn’t feel like I had accompished everything that I wanted to accomplish at CMJ, which was creating an airplay chart I wanted to do.
Then a year and a half later I was feeling like I need to grow, I can still freelance a ton on the side but I feel like it’s time to learn something more and work at a record label. Roadrunner had two job openings and I interviewed for both and I wound up getting the radio job first, that was the job that I had wanted more anyway because I was already working in radio at a trade magazine.
I took that job and I did that for six years and then I transferred into the publicity department three years ago and I’ve been there ever since. It’s been a great learning experience. I learn new things everyday, it’s very challenging and because I write too, I know so many writers and editors from the writing I have done… We’re cut from the same cloth, so I understand what writers are going through. I understand deadlines, I understand looking for a story, I understand telling a band’s story and how and what they are looking for.
I think that benefits me being a writer too, being on both sides.
For someone such as yourself who has sixteen years experience in the music industry, I think it would be interesting to get your perspective on what you have found to be the most challenging thus far in regards to your career…
Oh gosh… So many things. There could be scenarios of dealing with a band like Slipknot that has nine members and getting something done. You have to be very organized, you have to be very on top of things. There’s so many people working as media out there now that the music business is changing, it’s probably double what it was five years ago… Blogs are popping up… It’s like mice, they’re multiplying and that’s a great thing! I think it’s really great that people are taking the initiative to create things but it’s a lot to manage, it’s a lot to keep track of.
There’s so much out there you have to manage it, prioritize it, package it, take care of it, nurture it. So… I find that challenging, but I like it because I am very organized. I also am really good at multi-tasking and I feel like if anybody tell’s you that you can’t do something, it’s only because they can’t do it. You know? I believe that I can do it.
I work a lot. I work almost twenty hours a day but if you love what you do, your alive… I really believe that.
Getting back to your book "Do The Devil’s Work For Him" At what point did you make the decision to put pen to paper and basically co-author a "How To" guide for up and coming journalists?
All the time people are sending me messages… From people I don’t know. Some people I do know but I get a lot of messages from people I don’t know that find me on myspace or Facebook or even LinkedIn which is like a professional networking site and say "Hey! How do I get a career like yours? How do I get to where your at?" and some people just think like "Will you just help me get into this magazine?"
It doesn’t work that way. It’s not what I did. I had to start and lay a foundation and I realized getting all of these email’s and questions from people and the need for this information was there, but maybe it wasn’t readily available or people don’t know, it’s maybe not as much common sense for some people, so we decided "Put it in a book!"
It was Rick’s (Rick Florino "Do The Devil’s Work Form Him" co-author) idea. I was in a long distance relationship so I was always out in LA and Rick and I would meet up and have dinner and talk about it and he was like "Hey I have this idea! Let’s do a book together…" and I was like "You know, that’s a great idea." because I get so many requests for the information.
If people need the information, why not compile it in a book and help people in their careers. A book like that didn’t exist when I started out and I kinda learned by trial and error. Hopefully this book will assist people in their trial and error processes, with just a little bit of backup.
Tell me about your co-author Rick Florino… What does his professional background encompass?
He’s like me. He’s prolific. He is the editor in chief at ArtistDirect. He does a lot of movie coverage and music. He started "Ruin" (magazine) on his own. That’s how I met him, because he had started this magazine and he wanted me to write for it. The publisher for "Ruin" was Gus from "Chord" which was one of the first magazines I had wrote for, so out of loyalty to Gus who gave me one of my first jobs I said "Yes. I will help you with your new metal magazine your starting." and Rick and I just hit it off and we’ve been friends ever since.
He also was doing a lot with LAX, he’s been doing Bloody-Disgusting.com, he’s done Shockhound… I’m sure I’m forgetting things in there, but he’s very prolific…
So far, what would you say have been some career highlights?
Oh Gosh… Hmmm… So what do you mean? Just like awesome things that have happened to me? God! There’s been so many of them. Hanging out with Bill (Meis from E1 Entertainment who is present at this conversation) is definitely at the top of the list… I’m trying to think…
One of my really great experiences was working a Slipknot show at Madison Square Garden in New York. It’s the world’s most famous arena and that day, being backstage with the band and getting interviews done and talking to the band, you know, making sure they got their interviews done, taking care of the media, just dealing with all of the craziness with the press that day…
It was a hectic day but when the stagelights went down and Slipknot took the stage at Madison Square Garden and it was close to being sold out, there were so many thousands of "maggots" screaming… I was so proud of them. I was so proud that they were playing that venue having worked with that band for so many years. Seeing that was like watching your kid grow up. You know?
Also, seeing a band like Killswitch Engage who I have worked with since the beginning, seeing them start out as a really small baby-band and then seeing them go to to become a gold selling band and having fans that are so into them, being a part of that process has been really rewarding.
On the writing side I would have to say writing a cover story for Kerrang, which is an international rock bible, everybody knows Kerrang. Doing cover stories for them was definitely a very key thing for me. Writing for Revolver… Tom who was the old editor of Revolver was like "You do a great job. You cover bands before they are hot, you are always the first to cover those bands in our magazine." Creating those columns was a very big honor. I love being a part of Noisecreep. When Seth, who is a very good friend of mine, the editor, came to me and said "Hey I have this thing that I’ve been looking to start." I didn’t have any idea what it was and I was like "Oh yeah, I’d absolutely love to be a part of it." and writing about metal everyday again has really made me feel the passion again because I wasn’t writing everyday like I used to.
When I worked at CMJ… If that could have been my job forever I would’ve kept it. It just wasn’t. It was my first job out of college but being a metal editor for CMJ for so long, people used to call me "CMJ-Amy". I was so associated with that job and writing that column for eight years and making it a very popular column and it has a long history, but being considered, probably, the person most associated with it, was very much an honor for me as well, because I loved what it represented, I loved exposing bands before they were huge, like writing about Staind and Kittie before they went on to have some great success. That was great too.
Sometimes I wake up and say "Is this my life?" You know, like when something crazy happens… I was telling somebody the other day, Roadrunner has this imprint called "Loud and Proud" and we have Ratt signed to that label. When I was twelve Ratt was like the biggest band out there, Ratt and Bon Jovi and Cinderella… and I can remember being like "Oh my god! These guys are huge rock stars!" The other day when my receptionist buzzed me she was like "Warren DeMartini from Ratt’s on the line for you." and I was like "Oh my god!" you have one of those fan moments where your like "Wait a minute… I’m their publicist." but still your like "Whoa… Somebody from Ratt just called me!"
When I was twelve I had friends who would have given their ovaries to hear a statement like that. My roommate used to say to me "There are tons of Slipknot fans out there that would kill to have your job!" you know what I mean? I never take for granted how lucky and fortunate I am to have the jobs that I have but I did work hard for it too.
That’s the goal of the book is to show people out there who wanna have that "You can do it." I’m telling you that you can do it. People are gonna tell you that you can’t… I’m telling you that you can. You just have to believe in yourself and work really hard.
Tell me four or five things that people might learn from reading "Do The Devil’s Work For Him"
One thing that I learned just from managing people under me as interns and stuff like that is that… "common sense" is not really "common". A lot of people don’t have it. They lack it. I’ve had interns do crazy things where your like "I would have never done that." just because I always mind my "P’s" and "Q’s" when I’m in that position of starting at the bottom. I think people will learn how to conduct themselves, how to approach things, how to approach a professional situation…
They’ll learn that it’s a lifestyle and that it’s not just a job. Most people leave their job at five o’clock and they don’t come back to it until nine o’clock the next day. That’s not how it is in the music business. I leave my office at seven o’clock and I’m still working until eleven o’clock somedays but it’s also like I’m not preparing bank statements, you know what I mean? I’m making sure somebody has a photo pass or listening to a new record and writing about it and listening to some awesome metal and that to me is the greatest job in the world.
We tell people to be versatile. Don’t just focus on one thing. Try to put your hand in a lot of different pots and be really confident and believe in yourself. Work really hard and put your nose to the grindstone and work for free and work a lot. That’s really important. This is a shrinking industry but it’s also really competitive. People have to know that from the beginning.
Having already accomplished a great deal in your chosen field of music business and journalism, what are your personal aspirations for the future?
I always hustle. I always take on extra jobs, I’ll work on the side, I’ll work weekends. I hope to keep growing with my role at Roadrunner and continuing to learn. In the past couple of months I’ve learned another side of PR that isn’t just pitching and securing coverage and making coverage happen but also some priceless PR, like when shit happens, making sure that it’s managed properly, that it doesn’t get out of hand and out of control. That’s been very challenging and very interesting. It’s been a very good learning process for me. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how that works. It’s almost like celebrity PR, you know, like where something happens like with Sandra Bullock… There’s this big story about her husband cheating on her. That’s crisis PR where they issue the statement and try to just sweep it out of the way and worry about the next thing. It’s not anywhere on that level but I have just been dealing with that kind of like "stuff that you don’t want out there" kind of PR.
I hope to keep growing in that role and I hope to keep writing. I wanna keep writing and I wanna do more things and eventually have my own side business… Start my own side business one day. Who knows? It could be anything happening in the future. I’ve been at Roadrunner for almost ten years and I love it there. It’s the kinda place I could retire at, you know? I’d like to keep growing at that company.
Could you ever see yourself in an A&R type of position, scouting and signing bands for a record label?
I always have been interested in A&R because a long time ago when I worked for CMJ I felt like an A&R source. I wrote about bands before most national press did. When I was writing a radio trade magazine column a lot of labels and bands started out at that format of metal radio and that was the audience I was writing for. When I love something and when I connect with it, I wanna tell more people about it, or help it get out to more people. That’s pretty much what A&R is. Finding bands and getting them out to more people and making the music and getting it to that next level.
I’ve always been interested in A&R and I’ve tried to turn on A&R guys at Roadrunner. Monte (Conner – Vice President of A&R at Roadrunner) who has signed everbody from Slipknot to Sepultura, Fear Factory… legendary bands who have developed the metal genre in the past twenty-five years, he asks me all the time "Tell me about some awesome bands." He’s an inspiration because at his age he’s got nothing to prove. He’s signed some of the most important metal bands of all time and he’s still hungry to find the next set of bands that are going to be the most important bands of this generation. That inspires me. He’ll ask me to come check out music all the time and I really appreciate that.
We really appreciate you taking the time to talk metal Amy!
Thank you! I hope it all made sense.