Munsey Ricci is a bit of a fixture in the heavy metal world. For over 20 years, he has been responsible for getting both metal gods and metal underdogs on the air. A bit of a master wheeler-dealer, he makes a living working for record labels and bands, getting their music airplay on radio throughout the country. He attends over 125 shows a year, and is not easy to miss, with his long, black, curly hair and his thick New York accent (and yes, you can probably hear him over the music). Check out how he keeps his enthusiasm going in the Q&A below.
How did you get into the music business, specifically marketing and artist development?
I started like most people: I was in a thrash band. We played from Virginia up to Maine. We didn’t get signed, [and] then you couldn’t really press your own album. The cost in the ‘80s was just extremely expensive. So I went back to college. From there I started to program the radio station on campus, WQCC. It’s really one of the only ways to really learn record promotion. In order to be effective, you have to know it from both sides of the fence.
I see some label nationals that never programmed before. It’s not that they do a bad job, but you really need to understand the inner workings of programming. Without that, a little bit of brains and the gift of gab, you’ll never make a good promo guy.
I worked my way through college so I wouldn’t have a huge student loan. So I spent 4 years part-time working for CMJ. I also worked part-time at the famed Combat In-Effect Records in Hollis, Queens. It gave me the basics on what and what not to do. One too many up-and-coming industry executives kill their own careers before [they] start. It’s not rocket science; they just can’t seem to figure out the system.
Today, [Skateboard Marketing] has two people on staff. One of the perks is we buy lunch every day. I also pick the staff up at the train station in the morning, and then take them back at night. You have to take care of your staff. It’s another adrenaline rush just knowing you have to get your people in place.
What bands are you most proud of your work with and what are some of your greatest accomplishments in artist development?
We handle records for all the majors and most indie labels. We started working with L.A. Guns, Doro & The Almighty first in 1991. Then we came on board with Mötörhead, Ronnie James Dio, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Testament, Overkill and Anthrax. We also worked with AC/DC, Morbid Angel, Soilwork, Arch Enemy and Dream Theater. Skateboard Marketing’s roster is pretty large. But one of the most satisfying artists to work with was Nothingface. We had them as an unsigned artist with the first EP. They moved on to TVT Records and made a big nitch on the metal scene. The band crashed on the floor of my living room for the first tour. It’s rough for new artists just getting out on the road. I love those guys.
What artists have been the most challenging or rewarding to work with?
Mötörhead, Ronnie James Dio, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. All five are legendary bands, so they do work themselves in some sense. But you need to be on top of the syndicators and major market stations. You would not believe that there are some stations that refuse to play any of them. I’m not shocked by it, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. But at the end of the campaign, you have a gold or platinum plaque for your wall, plus a good feeling of achievement. There is nothing better than getting up in the morning and hammering the phones. It’s all about getting results. Anybody can just call or email a station. But to have the working relationship and get it done—that’s what it’s all about. Make it happen! Then you look at Overkill, Exodus and Testament, three more great bands that will never get any respect on commercial radio, outside of the commercial metal shows. They all sell out venues and the fans love them. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus they are all awesome to work with.
Could you continue on doing what you do if you were told you couldn’t swear anymore?
Fuck no! I’ll swear as much as I want! They can deal with it and like it!
What album(s) did you get and have your mind blown to the point you knew it was going to explode?
One new band I totally dig is System Divide on Metal Blade. I am way into Soilwork and Lacuna Coil. They have a little of both mixed in. I think the vibe they have is really cool. I am also totally digging the new Warbringer. It’s traditional just like Evile and Bonded By Blood. Plus Generation Kill with Rob Dukes from Exodus. It’s another great album. I am all about the thrash.
You have personal relationships with some artists, would you say they’re some of the greatest sources of inspiration for you to continue what you’re doing—relationships that go beyond music?
Yes and no, all forms of music inspire me. But the one thing that’s most important is I love what I do. I am really into getting up in the morning and working records. I live for getting on the phones and making something happen from nothing. That’s really what the gig is all about. It’s an adrenaline rush for me. If you like what you do, then you will never have a problem going to work. You also have to know how to treat people. It’s something I learned early in my career.
One big inspiration I have, which sounds really silly, is Tony Iommi’s water bottle. I picked him up at the airport, took him to a few syndicators for interviews. He fell asleep in the back seat of my car and forgot his water bottle on the floor. It sits on top of my refrigerator. It may sound silly, but its great memories of what you’ve done will inspire you too. But one thing is for sure, you learn who your friends are really fast.