Doing The Devil’s Work: An Interview with Amy Sciarretto

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By Laina Dawes

I know I’m dating myself here, but as I kid I was enamored with Circus, Creem and Rolling Stone magazines. I thought that the best job in the world would be to have a career like writers Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson, being able to tour, ala Cameron Crowe with cool bands. Despite being a black girl with no discernable musical talent, I wanted to be treated like a rock star, getting an insight into a fantasy world that only a few would ever experience.

Twenty-plus years later, the passion is still there but reality set in a long time ago. My romanticism about the music era, admittedly conceived during the 80’s metal scene, has petty much dissolved, replaced with trying to get my ‘hustle on’ in the presently bloated, yet financially turbulent music industry. But regardless of the era, it’s always been difficult to navigate the murky waters if you don’t have a mentor or a clue as what to do. So even for you young’ uns who have not popped your proverbial cherry in the music industry….y’all gonna need some help.

“I get so many emails a day, through Facebook and even through my personal email account from people who don’t know me – and even people who do know me,” explains music journalist Amy Sciarretto, who teamed up with her friend and colleague Rick Florino to pen Do the Devil’s Work for Him: How to Make it in the Music Industry (and Stay in it) (McCarren Publishing). “I was giving advice away so much that I realized I was giving the same advice over and over again, so obviously there was a need for this information, so why don’t we put it in a book?”

In addition to her full-time position as Director of Publicity and Artist Relations at Roadrunner Records, the 15-year music industry veteran has written for Decibel, Revolver, Hit Parader, Kerrang! Terrorizer, Outburn, Noisecreep and several other publications. She met LA-based Florino, who has several years of music and film industry experience and is currently entertainment editor for LAX Magazine and a music editor for ARTISTdirect.com, when he asked her to write for his the music magazine he founded, Ruin. Admiring each other’s writing style, they decided to collaborate on a project that not only offers advice about entering and succeeding in the music industry, but through a ‘he said, she said’ narrative, they back up their advice with personal antidotes and contributions from metal musicians, such as The Deftones’ Chino Moreno, System Of A Down’s Shavo Odadjian, and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders:

Embody honesty 100%—pure and blatant honesty. Anything else is see-through, transparent bullshit that won’t amount to a damn thing. If you’re truly sincere about your art and how it’s translated to the world, our music lives forever. No one wants this to be misinterpreted by any means! This is our band’s statement—our life, our sacrifice and our ultimate mission. Any misconstrued information would be unacceptable.

Chatting with Sciarretto from Roadrunner’s Manhattan offices, I am surprised that at 7pm, she is still in work mode. One of the issues that are discussed in Do the Devil’s Work is that people considering a career in the music industry have to realize that it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. “People have to realize that I’ll be out on a Saturday night and get a text message about someone who says that they are not on the guest list and are standing outside wanting me to fix it” she says, after admitting that on most days she gets to her office at 7:30am. “It requires me to call the floor manager and try and get that person in immediately. Bands will call at the very last minute and want me to get them in to an event or a festival that is happening in their town. What I mean by lifestyle is that it’s not 9-5. Sometimes you have to do things that are beyond what you expected. You go out for drinks, you meet fans, and it’s not a compartmentalized career.”

The book starts off with some pretty common-sense advice – advice you’d think most people would have. Do you think that the younger generation might not be willing to do the necessary leg work to get into the industry?

Sciarretto: I don’t think that it’s a generational thing. I think that it’s a case-by-case situation – it really depends on the individual. I have managed probably 60-70 interns and this point, and some of them have great backgrounds, they really have the want to do this, but as I say in the book, you put them into the environment, you put them out into the wild, and they crumble. Its sink or swim….and they sink. For those who really want it bad, they swim. I don’t think that people realize – and really it comes down to that – how much work goes into it. It’s a competitive business and it’s a lifestyle and people do not realize that people who want cool jobs people want to do something that they are passionate for, I think people need to know what it’s going to take, because wanting to do it and having the smarts or taking the classes or even just having Internships, you have to go that extra mile. It’s competitive.

What is the best etiquette for people breaking into music journalism? How competitive is it?

I prefer to look at it like everybody is working for a common goal. You are doing things for a common good, so I write about what I want to write about. I’m going to pitch something that I don’t think others are going to write about. I think people should look at other writers as their colleagues, and not your competition. I have great connections with other writers; people that I can ask to look over a pitch or an article for me. Rick is a perfect example. We met because he liked my writing and asked me to write for his magazine, and sometimes if I write a press release I can ask him to take a look at it to make sure that it reads okay. Ultimately, what you write is what will get people’s attention, and editors will see what you can do.

Please explain the following chapters: “Common Sense: Don’t leave home without it.”

It’s funny, because a friend of mine just said the other day that the title sounded a bit pretentious. I say that common sense is common – but it’s not so common. The common sense chapter gives suggestions, such as “don’t use an email address that says ‘Iliketokillpeople@gmail.com’” when you’re sending out a resume. People actually do that! Don’t say to your boss – if you’re an intern – “Ill do these menial tasks for you and I’ll pretend that I like it” – you don’t say that! People don’t realize, because they think that some of the barriers in the office are loosened, like because you don’t have to wear a suit and your boss is wearing a rock T-shirt, that they can say inappropriate stuff to them.

“Close Encounter of the Metal Kind”:

For me, that chapter to me was the hardest. I have interviewed everyone from Stone Gossard to Ben from Dillinger Escape Plan. I’ve interviewed everybody – even Leonardo DiCaprio. But we focused on our key experiences, like spending the day with Zakk Wylde – I still laugh out loud when I think about that story – to me interviewing Danzig and asking him for an autograph, and telling him that I’m a geek and then getting into an argument with him, and him snapping at me “you’re not a geek!” I’ve had some interesting experiences, like the time Slash kept me waiting for four hours – and this was not at the height of Guns & Roses! I’ve interviewed people while their sitting around candles, meditating or surrounded by their families.

Any ‘do’s and don’ts’ about how to approach interviews?

Oh definitely. We definitely say, “Put the lock and the brakes on the fan-boy stuff.” If a band notices that about you, that you’re not super-serious, than they won’t take the interview seriously. We definitely talk about how to hold your own with bands and celebrities.

Were their any musicians that contributed to the book who asked you to give advice to journalists / industry workers on things that really piss them off?

No! I was kinda hoping they would and was disappointed when they didn’t. I think they were trying to be cordial. I think that it’s a case where you would have to be in the moment, see them shoot an interviewer a dirty look and then ask them later what happened.

Are their different standards in working within the metal music industry than in any other genres?

Yeah, I think that their can be, but really it depends on what your personal goals are and where you choose to work. Obviously you can go to work with a hoodie that has something politically incorrect on it. It’s just common sense.

As a woman, have you encountered any difficulties in the metal scene as a metal journalist?

That’s always a funny question to answer. I think that because a lot of people don’t think that women even like metal, don’t really ‘get it’, but overall, not really. I’ve been backstage trying to get a band to sit down and do five minutes with me because I’ve been assigned a story and I get paid to do that. People think that you’re back there because you want to hook up with the band-dude. It’s definitely male-dominated, but I think that anytime a strong woman pops up, people will be like ‘whoa.’ But it’s good, and it’s always good for people to shake things up a bit. I prefer to get my rage out by listening to Hatebreed, ya know?

Do Devil’s Work for Him: How to Make it in the Music Industry (and Stay in it) will be available at book retailers nationwide on June 26th. A NYC book release party is slated for September. Please check the DTHW Twitter, MySpace and Facebook pages for more details.
www.twitter.com/dothedevilswork

http://www.myspace.com/dothedevilsworkforhim

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/pages/Do-the-Devils-Work-for-Him-by-Amy-Sciarretto-Rick-Florino/84602634811?ref=nf

http://www.rickflorino.com

http://www.mccarrenpublishing.com/devilswork.htm

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.