10 Questions with ... Munsey Ricci
August 9, 2016
1) What made you want to get into the music business? Who were some of your early mentors?
I was kind of young, my sister had some old Who and Zeppelin albums around. But it wasn't until I listened to Black Sabbath is when it really hit me. I was blown away and fell in love with the heavy sludgy sound and blazing guitar riffs. When your 12 years old and hear that, it's a total mind twist. It made me want to buy a guitar and learn everything Iommi wrote. That's what really put the hook in me. It wasn't until I discovered Diamond Head, UFO and Pentagram is when it's all about the fast and heavy really kicked in. After hearing the NWOBHM, thrash wave it became a life set for me. The bands were just amazing, Especially the Bay Area thrash scene.
2) What was your first promo job and give us a rundown of the labels and positions you held before forming Skateboard Marketing?
I was in college and landed a part-time gig at CMJ Media. I put the magazine together and wrote sporadic reviews on records. I was also MD/PD for my college station WQCC. It wasn't long until I landed a gig at Combat-In Effect Records in Hollis, Queens. It was the home to a lot of the bands I was really into. Megadeth and Death were Combat bands before they signed with other labels. Pokey from Leeway was my supervisor; it was a really cool place to be. I learned the ropes in 1987 there. It wasn't until 1989 when PolyGram Records was the last major label without a metal department. They had a monster roster. Warlock, Onslaught, Mortal Sin, Mother Love Bone, Kiss, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc. So I created the first metal department for Mercury and Polydor. It really wasn't that hard, all you needed was a list and get on the phones and put together a system. I also had David Leach, Dave Loncao and Tim Hyde as mentors to teach me the ropes and how to work the charts. Looking back it was one of the best places to be when you're in your early 20s.
3) You worked at PolyGram as Dir./National Metal Promotion for a few years and had quite a roster of metal bands. What are some of the best highlights of your time with PolyGram?
There was nothing like major label in the late '80s and early '90s. We had budgets as well as record sales. Almost everything we put out was certified Gold or Platinum. Plus you had the pleasure of working with Kiss and the Scorpions. Every night I'd be sitting in Drew Murray or Brenda Romano's office picking their brains on how do you do this? But the absolute best was my first tour. Joe Riccitelli came down from Boston to do national. He and Leach called me in the office and asked me to cover the Northeast for the Yngwie tour. I had to go on the road with the guys for a week and cover the meet-and-greets with WHJY, WBCN, WGIR and a few other stations. He said meet the tour bus tomorrow at the Parker Meridian Hotel, go home and pack and don't be late. Bus call was 9a. That was the Ronnie James Dio/Yngwie Eclipse tour in 1990. Later that year I was awarded my first Gold plaque for Cocked And Loaded by L.A. Guns. Those were two milestones that were amazing to me.
4) You started your own company Skateboard Marketing 25 years ago this month. Congratulations on this achievement. What prompted you to start your own biz all those years ago?
There were a lot of changes going on. PolyGram Label Group had Polydor and Mercury became separate companies. Staffers were getting cut. So I sat down with Johnny Barbis and Sky Daniels one night, they said, "Work indie; I think you're really going to like doing it. "So they gave me a few records to work and Skateboard Marketing Ltd. was born. Our roster was pretty simple -- L.A. Guns, The Almighty, Yngwie and a few others. The following year Atlantic hired us on Overkill and Savatage. Capital EMI hired us on a few records. In 1993 we picked up Black Sabbath and Motorhead. By 1995/96 we had Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and select artists on Geffen, Elektra, Warner Bros. and Columbia/Epic. Especially the name of the company. We were nameless until a marathon conversation with Chris Payne from Reno. He said he'd skitch on his deck to New York and we'll come up with a name. As I hung up the phone it hit me. Skateboard Marketing ... it kind of stuck so I filed for trademark and charter then rolled with it. I set up my living room and part of my kitchen as an office in my old apartment. Then hired John La Rosa from WRHU part-time.
5) What's the best thing about doing indie promotion and marketing on your own?
You have the freedom to work records for everyone instead of having to stick to the roster of one specific label. But most of all, you can't be lazy. When you work from home you have to have a strong mindset. You must get up early, get ready and hit the phones hard. Otherwise you'll fail and fail hard. But you also have a mainstay base of artists and labels that rely on you for what you do. It's the relationships that you build over the years that are rewarding.
6) I understand that since Skateboard's inception, you have worked the entire spectrum of radio from syndicated and satellite to commercial and college radio. How has that philosophy worked for you?
When you focus on specialty formats it's very niche. In artist development it's for all artists -- whether it's a heritage or new developing band. There's always a new audience and fan base to tap into. You just need to know where it lives and make it happen. Syndicated metal and Active Rock shows as well as commercial stations with specialty shows have a huge reach. You target your audience with simply a few spins. Also it's essential for Active Rock that there's a story. You can't break a band without building the story first. This philosophy worked in 1989 at PolyGram Records and it still works today. It's just the approach and fan base is a little different.
You are also dealing with a new breed of bands; the format has progressed so you progress with it. Some college stations like WSOU have a big cume. Within these parameters you have smaller stations with a loyal listener base. It's those fans that you want to reach. Not only to help sell a show in the market but to help Soundscan. It's all part of the puzzle that you need to put together.
7) After 25 years with Skateboard, the company's roster has ranged from the smallest to the biggest heavy metal and hard rock bands. Who are some of the bands you've worked with and proud of?
Some of our staple roster is Testament, Motorhead, Soilwork, Exodus, Slayer, Overkill, Doro, BLS and Opeth. Many of the heritage metal acts that have been at it for years. We have handled them since the '90s. We are North American representation for Napalm Records, Nuclear Blast USA, Singerman Entertainment and Niji Entertainment for Ronnie James Dio catalogue. We do a lot of records for eOne, Century Media and Prosthetic, too. We also have a lot of newer bands such as Black Crown Initiate, Carnifex, Avatar and Seek Irony. We started with Machine Head last year, which as a Machine Head fan, it felt good to be part of Machine Head family.
8) Tell us some of the bands you are working with now and how these bands are progressing?
We have Black Crown Initiate on eOne Entertainment; a new band who's on their second record. The first album shot to #1 in three weeks. The new record Selves We Cannot Forgive should hit #1 on the CMJ Metal chart as well. We also have the Sinsaenum which is Joey Jordianson, ex-Slipknot. Meshiaak, who has past members of Slayer, Anthrax and Iced Earth. Valient Thorr on Napalm Records and Barb Wire Dolls on Motorhead Music/UDR. We also can't forget Carnifex and Sabaton and Doro.
9) You've been in the record promotion business for a long time. What are the most important tools/resources you use to stay on top of the Rock and Metal formats' growth and constant daily changes?
It's mainly my relationships; I have them and I use them. It's one of the most important tools you can have. Also your contacts and how you organize the info that you relay to radio and records. It's not rocket science at all. As any experienced promotion guy will tell you. Use what you have and figure out a way to make it happen.
10) Finally, every year your company does an open bar party at the CMJ Convention. As you celebrate 25 years, are there any special events planned for this year's party?
Yes, we are doing our private open bar for radio and records at Webster Hall this year. We have the Balcony in the main ballroom for our open bar. Only this year we are not doing it during the CMJ Convention. We decided to do it during the inaugural Mondo.NYC Convention on September 15th. I have a long relationship with Bobby Haber and Joanne Abbott Green. CMJ was one of my first industry gigs. Bobby was the founder of CMJ in the early '80s. So it made sense to do it with him and Joanne for their new venture. We also have Napalm Records, Nuclear Blast USA, & eOne Entertainment sponsoring the night. It's being co-presented by ReverbNation and Mondo.NYC. So this year is going to be a little more special. Immediately following our private open bar, doors open at Webster Hall for ticket holders and convention badges. Grave Digger and Blind Guardian are playing the main stage in the ballroom. It's going to be a great way to celebrate. We handle both labels for radio in America, so it's two bands that we have become very close with. The open bar is sponsored by Budweiser. Budweiser has become family to us and they have always sponsored all our convention showcase. So I can't imagine doing it with anyone else.