The Metal Hall of Fame is honored today to be talking to one of the great influencers in modern Metal: Amy Sciarretto. She’s probably best-known in this world for Atom Splitter PR, which has got great history in the Metal scene, and she’s got a strong writing presence elsewhere. Amy, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Amy: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Jack: So I saw a few years ago that MetalSucks listed you as one of the “most influential people in Metal today.”I don’t know if you remember that. How did that change things for you?
Amy: Yes! Of course. I was very, very flattered. I was very surprised when it happened, but it meant a lot to me. They were rolling those out, like 1 or 2 a day. . . I remember it was in the middle of the Revolver Awards in New York, and I was doing press for that, that year. And I was in the middle of having my carpets replaced and my whole house was packed up. So I was sitting on my couch working and I noticed I was getting tagged a lot on Facebook, and I was like, “What the hell is this?” And I looked and a lot of my colleagues and friends were saying, “Hey, I’m so proud of you for this!” and they were posting the link. And it was totally a surprise! Because I was telling Monte Connor – – who I used to work with at Roadrunner – – when they were rolling those out, I was like, “You’re gonna be number 1.” And he’s like, “No, it’s gonna be Brian Slagel, totally.” And you know, I did not expect to be on there. It was very sweet, it meant a lot to me. It was a nice recognition, because it recognized the stuff that publicists in general do for bands.
The publicist is the person behind-the-scenes who’s really in the shit, and in the front lines. Really for the bands, the publicist is kind of the catch-all, I think. And it was a really great look at what publicists do, and it was just nice that they chose me. Those guys are great, I read the site every day, so it was really awesome to see that.
Jack: You mentioned your history with Roadrunner. Prior to Roadrunner, you wrote with CMJ and FMBQ. Can you tell us a little bit about how your career led you to that award, from humble beginnings to where you are today.
Amy: Oh goodness (laughs). I started out in high school and early college writing for local publications. And at that time, there was an abundance of local magazines and weeklies, monthlies, Arts and Entertainment publications and music publications, and I was writing for like 9 or 10. And because I grew up outside of Philly, I started out writing for a local Philadelphia magazine called Chord. It was a music magazine, and a friend of mine there said, “I don’t wanna write for this magazine anymore, why don’t you take over for me?” And that got my foot in the door. I got paid $5 a review, which to me was getting a free CD, getting free tickets to the show, and getting to talk to the bands that I liked. It was amazing! I was in college, a lot of my friends were partying and didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives, and I was like, oh my god, I’m going to interview the bands that I love for free, I’m getting into the show for free, and I’m getting the music early, that was like a dream come true for me.
And that kind of spiraled. Chord was first, then I started writing for Rockpile, which was another local Philly music magazine, and then I started running my school’s college radio station, and then I met somebody who connected me with this skateboarding magazine called Juice in New York, and so I started writing for them as well. After that, I also served as the music editor for my school’s newspaper; all those things helped.
I got an internship at FMQB, then after I graduated college, I got hired at FMQB as the Metal assistant, basically inputting radio charts manually and writing reviews. And then 2 months after that, I sent my resume out as a press release, and I then had a couple of job interviews at CMJ, TVT Records, Victory Records, and then, I really wanted to job at CMJ and I started out as an assistant, copy-editing and writing reviews, and then a few months after that, they turned the Metal section over to me, and the rest is history.
I worked at CMJ for a couple of years, and it was one of my favorite jobs ever, because I got to write about Metal and go to shows all week. I was very close with a lot of people at Roadrunner because I was writing about all their bands, and I was offered a job in the press dept., and I turned it down at first, and then 2 years later they came back and offered me another interview and I wound up taking a job in the radio department. So I worked in the promo dept at Roadrunner doing promo for Metal stations, college, commercial, community, late night Metal shows on commercial radio stations in Madison, Philly, LA. . . I did video promos for the whole roster; I did alternative, specialty radio, and then a few years in after doing that, they switched me to the press dept. And I was there. . . almost 13 years, I think?
And then when I left Roadrunner, I started my own PR company, and most of the bands I worked with at Roadrunner I still work with, so it’s kinda like I still work there. We’ll always be a family, I love everyone and I’m still close with everyone who’s still there – – it’s kind of a very different place now. And I still work with them; it’s like I never left. And I got to expand and work with a lot of different bands. I mean, I left Roadrunner on a Friday, and I started my company on Monday. (laughs) And I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do, but it just turns out this is probably what I’m supposed to be doing. So that’s kinda like the Reader’s Digest version, if you will.
Jack: So who were some of your favorite people – – artists or the people behind the scenes – – that you’ve worked with over the years?
Amy: Oh, there’s so many, you know. I worked for many years with people like Monte Conner and Jonas over at Roadrunner. Dave, the head of the promotion dept at Roadrunner, was my boss for a long time, and was really one of the greatest people you’d ever want to work for. Jamie Roberts who worked in the press dept at Roadrunner, she was a top mentor of mine. She taught me a lot of valuable lessons. When I was immature and just starting out, I didn’t understand that if I got something done, she would be like, “OK, you have to make it a departmental thing, not an individual thing.” And I was like, “Oh, but it’s my score,” and she said “No, when the department does well, that means everybody does well.” So she taught me great things about the greater good. She taught me how to really look at things from a broader perspective. Yeah, she taught me a lot. Bram Teitelman, who I worked with at FMQB, taught me what a Solid was, when to do it and why. . . All the great people I worked with at Fearless. . . Sean at Rise. . . Kenny and Vaughn who manage Killswitch Engage, they’re just great guys who understand it and give you the room to get your job done. . . Cory Brennan, who manages Slipknot, I worked with him forever.
Slipknot. . . you know, I worked with them for over a decade. Paul Gray passed away when was handling them, and it was one of the. . . it WAS hands-down the hardest day of my professional life – – ever, because somebody I cared about died, and a band I considered family just lost a family member, and I was just there through their press conference in Iowa to support them through it as a member of their family. . . . You know, Corey Taylor, hands-down, better-than-advertised. He’s an awesome person. He’s smart, funny, engaging, he just lights up every room he walks into. . . Ronnie from Falling in Reverse, I think he’s a superstar in a totally different way. Even in this age where everything’s on social media, he’s still a guy who has some mystery to him. So yeah, there’s tons. I could go on and on and on.
Jack: It’s great to hear that you’re not just talking about the super-superstars who are all over our TV and radio, so it’s great to hear you talk about some of the people who are in the trenches and doing great work and doing important work. I think that’s great.
So, I also grew up in Jersey. There’s a unique kind of NJ passion for Metal. What do you think helped form the New Jersey metal scene for all of us who grew up in that?
Amy: I’ve talked to the guys in the band Thursday, who are good friends of mine about this. New Jersey, it isn’t New York and it isn’t Philly, but it’s right in the middle. And it’s kind of like the hub, because it doesn’t take too long to get to Washington DC or Baltimore, it doesn’t take that long to get to Hartford or Rhode Island, or Boston, and people think, oh, South Jersey is Philly and North Jersey is New York, but it really isn’t. You know, people from Jersey are so proudly from NJ, and a lot of these pockets of bands that started, E-Town Concrete, Thursday, all these bands were proudly New Jersey. They weren’t trying to be New York, they weren’t trying to be something else, but I think sometimes the rest of the country sometimes tries to put them in the New York or the Philly bracket, and I think it’s because New Jersey is constantly in the shadow of these two major metropolises, and I think it makes the attitude and the creativity zing a little bit more. .
Jack: So let’s circle back to your career. What are the absolute highs of your career? What things are you the most proud of, when you look back on it right now?
Amy: When Slipknot sold out Madison Square Garden, that was one of the greatest experiences I;ve had; I got to work the show and the tour. Slipknot having the number 1 record with “All Hope is Gone.” That was another huge thing to see. It was great to watch Killswitch Engage develop and become a Gold-selling band after losing their original singer, who eventually came back, and the band’s still going strong. That period and that time and place really can’t be replicated.
I worked with bands like Machine Head and DevilDriver, and we also worked with Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, and all those bands, and it was just a time that will never be replicated. It’s also been fun; I worked with the band Attila, and it was fun to see them starting out getting bad press in small outlets and then flipping the script when they started getting good press in big outlets, and that trickled down to getting good press in small outfits and the big Metal outlets that had had previously given them bad press. So it was funny how the trajectory on that was totally opposite, because it usually starts out small and you grow it’ it kinda went backwards. And it really worked out for them, because it turned a lot of heads that way.
Working with Grammy-nominated bands doing Grammy Red Carpets, with people like Dave Mustaine, I Prevail, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Underoath. It’s really rewarding. Yes they make music because they love it and they’re creative, but nobody makes music because they don’t want anybody to hear it, and they don’t want anybody to love and appreciate it, so it’s always great to see our artists get those accolades.
Jack: So who are you excited about right now from your current crop of artists?
Amy: It depends, I love this band Movements that we work with, they’ve got that Post-Hardcore sounds that’s very ‘90s. August Burns Red are on their 8th or 9th album, and they’re still just cranking out music that kids love, angry music for happy people. There’s so much! We just have so many great bands that we work with. Devil Wears Prada made a really, interesting, creative left turn on their most recent album. Atreyu is another one. . . It’s interesting to me because I see that a lot of my female friends love them, and a lot of my friends’ dads like them too, and then my friends who love Hardcore love them. It’s interesting to see when bands have these kinds of wide audiences. You just wonder, how are they getting this exposure? And you realize that you probably had something to do with that, working with them behind the scenes.
Jack: So, even outside of Metal, I know you have passions for fashion and dogs too. Talk to me a little about these passions, and how you keep everything balanced, so you have room for everything you want in your life.
Amy: When you run your own business, especially when you work in the music industry, it’s always more of a lifestyle than it is a job. I mean if the West Coast needs something, or it’s a guest list at 9:00 at night, you’re kinda dialed in at all times. But, you know, I really try to take time for my bulldogs, Higgins and Titus. Spending time with them is important to me and important to them. Spending time with my friends, and stuff like that. That kinda stuff you have to make time for, you have to be really cognizant of it.
I just don’t ever let any grass grow under my feet; I’m always on the go. I’m always on the move, I always want to do something; I don’t like sitting still. This is making me crazy right now, this quarantining, but obviously we have to do it, and understandably so. But I get up at 5:00 every day and write a little bit. I wrote for 5 or 6 years for this female, Millennial-focused website called Bustle, and I loved it! For 5 years it was amazing, but it was time to move on. I loved writing about fashion and beauty. It woke my brain up in the morning, and I could still do emails, and then by the time I started diving into my PR brain, I was already woken up, ready-to-go, and all wheels were already turning, you know? And I loved those quiet hours to myself.
I still get up at 5:30, I walk Higgins, I take care of things, I do emails. . . I take Saturdays and Sundays to work with walking dogs at the shelter. It brings me back down to earth, it reminds me of what’s important, it reminds me to do things for others, and you know, it just takes me out of my head for a little while, it takes me out of doing stuff that’s not related to my job for a little bit. It’s really important! And I just really enjoy doing it; I’ve made a lot of friends doing it, and the dogs need me as much as I need them. When you work with an animal that’s either been abused or abandoned or is a stray, they’re in a transition phase, because you know they’re just in a shelter temporarily until they move on to their next home. I really love being a part of their journey, and just helping make that uncertain time a little more pleasant for them. It’s good exercise, and I’ve learned a lot about patience, because there’s some dogs that just try my patience like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve learned a lot about survival. I learn a lot about forgiveness just through watching how dogs who’ve been through some really terrible stuff are able to let that go, so to speak.
Jack: That’s really a great thing that you do. It has nothing to do with Metal, but that’s all right.
Amy: (laughs) Yes, there’s so many things to life.
Jack: You know, some people in this industry feel like you have to be hard and kind of an asshole to be successful, but your professional and promotional emails are always really nice, and I think that’s what you convey. And you obviously work really hard, but I think it’s good to be the nice guy/nice girl in the industry.
Amy: Yeah! There’s a saying that you should be kind, because everybody you know or everybody you encounter is fighting a battle you don’t know anything about. So I believe in being nice to people until they give me a reason not to be. Hey, I get frustrated just like the rest of us, but I try to remember that, like, you’re talking to somebody’s friend, somebody’s mom, daughter, cousin, somebody cares about these people, and you shouldn’t be an asshole to them for no reason. It’s like, whenever I see somebody being rude to service industry workers, like waitresses or flight attendants or hotel staff or food servers, I don’t understand why you’re being rude to those people. That’s somebody’s mom or that’s somebody’s kid; I wouldn’t want somebody to be treating someone that I care about like that. So I just try to always think that way, and just try to be cognizant of being nice to others, because not everybody is. And I know I don’t like it when people treat me like shit. In the volunteer work that I do, there’s another saying: “You haven’t lived today until you’ve done something for somebody that can’t repay you.” And I try to employ that in my life every day, and that’s why I work with the dogs. Like I said, those dogs, they still do something for me, but it’s just good to remember that you can still help others without it being a huge cost to yourself, and you can learn something about yourself that way.