Sue Marcus, a wild-haired, sassy bi-product of the Just Say Yes generation, is insanely passionate about the work she does. As a self-taught power publicist going into her 14th year of supreme industry reign – she boasts both a diverse roster and a virtually unmatched sense of camaraderie with her artists. She can make all these claims, too, while not being locked within the parameters of the Corporate DeathGrip, but instead heading up a thriving independent business founded on her own terms. Not too shabby, Sue. Long-time super fan and fellow loudmouth, Teeter Sperber, sat down and asked her some of the tuff questions. Get to know your potential future publicist, party people!
1. Yr a Full Blooded Jerzey Girl - Confirm or Deny!
I am indeed. A full-blooded born and bred Jerzey Girl. I spent my early years growing up in Wayne, home of the first New Jersey mall ever - Willowbrook - where I held an illustrious retail position at the Thom McCann shoe store. I was an unabashed Mall-Rat, and up until I was 14 years old, I would blow dry and feather my hair every single day. All the concerts I went to see were at the Meadowland's in Secaucus. I grew up on WPLJ where they played "Bruce Juice" every morning, Jersey’s required daily dose of Springsteen.
2. During yr early days in the work force, you had a rather "normal" 9-5 desk job. What was it? Did you have to wear a gray power suit? What made you move into the music industry, and, more specifically, into being a publicist?
My first real job in NYC was at Shearson Lehman Hutton as a sales assistant to six stockbrokers. I put on a suit everyday and was at work from 9am to 6pm. I stuck it out there for 2 years before I finally quit, realizing this was SO not the career path I wanted to pursue.
My reasons for moving into the music industry were simple; I have always been obsessed with music. While working my incredibly corporate job, I was going to see bands 4 nights a week with my best friend. I could always be found reading fanzines such as Your Flesh and Flipside and national mags like Spin - I just wasn’t cut out to enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal! I reached a point when I realized that if I was going to devote 40+ hours a week to my job, it should involve something I love. That something was music.
3. Word is out: You worked at Roadrunner Records for 6 1/2 years. Please detail some of the most amazing projects you worked on. In yr early days, what was the least illustrious aspect of yr gig there? Did you ever have to get coffee or answer phones or pick up dry cleaning? Be Honest!
Hmmm, some of the highlights would include the first cover story I secured, which was Type O Negative on the cover of Alternative Press. I was also really psyched when I got the Venus Beads in David Fricke's column in Rolling Stone. Maybe it’s my selective memory, but I don’t recall any awful tasks.
I had the chance to work with so many great artists that were all very different including Shelter, Die Monster Die, Black Train Jack, Sepultura, Buzzoven, Blue Mountain, etc. It was all very thrilling and rewarding because I started with very little experience. I was able to get media attention for the artists and the label that they had never had previously. My early achievements put me in a great position within the company.
4. Rumor has it that you once appeared ON THE COVER of SPIN MAGAZINE. Confirm or Deny! If yes, you are SO FAMOUS. Please elaborate in detail.
I did indeed appear on the cover of Spin Magazine, but not the real cover!! It was the paper cover that is on the outside of subscription and comp issues. At the time, I was still working at Roadrunner and was good friends with everyone in the marketing department over at Spin. They chose 12 people (one for each month) to appear on the cover as an Ad Campaign. We were all involved in the entertainment field but with very different jobs; each selected to show the varying make-up of the Spin reader. I was photographed with a Sepultura shirt being pulled over my head. Down the line, I actually used a photocopy of that as a cover sheet to my resume!
5. After your stint at Roadrunner, you got scooped up by Mercury Records cause your kick ass reputation had so supremely preceded you. What cool projects did you get to work there?
I had accomplished a lot in my job at Roadrunner and as a result was on the radar of a few major label publicists. My good friend and mentor recommended me for the job at Mercury Records. I went in as a Senior Director and inherited an unusual roster of artists, even some projects that were not so cool. Right off the bat, I worked hard to strengthen my roster by calling dibs on any worthwhile projects that I knew were upcoming. This strategy allowed me to work with The Refreshments, Roni Size & Reprazent, 4Hero, Joan Osborne, Spaulding Gray, Maggie Estep, Nashville Pussy, Boyzone, etc. Once the label merged with Island and Def Jam, I also worked with Insane Clown Posse, The Cardigans, Hanson, MJ Cole, and more.
6. Three bands that have moved you to tears and why?
The first would have to be Built to Spill. It’s weird, I really cannot remember when I first heard this band, but they instantly became one of my favorites. I must have listened to There’s Nothing Wrong With Love a thousand times. “Reasons” always found a way onto every mix tape I ever made. I spent many a late night at home listening to this record, over and over. I love them now with the same sense of urgency and don’t think I will ever tire of them. When I saw Doug Martsch play at Bowery Ballroom a few months ago, I was almost brought to tears. Something about his lyrics and delivery just cuts really close to my heart.
Another group and CD that has taken me through a lot of melancholy times would have to be Everything But The Girl’s Walking Wounded CD. Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn made some of the most beautiful and poignant songs I’ve ever heard. This is also something I still listen to that feels like it will never grow old to me. It makes me sad, but in a very good way. The songs take me on a heartfelt, oddly uplifting journey.
One artist I worked with that really changed my life and the music I listen to would have to be Roni Size & Reprazent. That was back in 1997 when they won the Mercury Music Prize. I had never heard drum'n'bass before hearing New Forms, but I loved it from the moment I heard it. It opened a new world to me and was one of my first big press success story as they were covered in everything from the Wall Street Journal to URB (cover story, baby!).
It’s hard to cut this off at three so I’d like to mention some of my other all time favorites: Green Day (used to listen to everything they put out on my disc man when riding my bike back and forth from Roadrunner), Alex Chilton (from the Box Tops to Big Star, he’s definitely one of my all time favorite artists/songwriters) and the Replacements (they are a staple in my record collection).
7. Mercury folded into what is presently Island Def Jam - you stayed with for IDJ for how many years? Answer honestly: Insane Clown Posse dudes - ugly or not ugly without face paint? This was in the early stages of Island roster building process that has rendered them the major label tour de force that they are today. Still though, in yr entrepreneurial heart of hearts, you were ever so restless! What were yr budding business thoughts at that time?
Surviving the merger was pretty crazy and yes, I did go on to work with some great and very big press records. As a result of it, I worked with Insane Clown Posse, The Cardigans, Hanson, MJ Cole, and more. (And ICP were NOT ugly without their make-up – for the record.)
I was at both incarnations for total of 5 years. I left my job at IDJ, a job that I loved, for a number of reasons. Primarily because I felt it was time to be my own boss! I knew if I didn't do it then, I might never do it, and that was enough to move me into action. It also enabled me to work with artists that I loved and respected regardless of what label they were on, which was a huge bonus. I still miss working at IDJ and would not have had the courage or confidence to branch out on my own if it wasn't for everything I learned there. In addition, when I did leave, everyone there was incredibly supportive, from Lyor Cohen, IDJ CEO, on down.
8. You have a super strong rock/pop/metal background, yet are also the unbridled queen of scoring huge dance and electronic projects. In an industry of so many musically one-dimensional professionals, how did you get so darn multifaceted, Sue? What’s yr secret?
I guess it just reflects my own diverse personal taste. If you look through my record collection, you'd think I was a complete schizophrenic. I strive to keep Stunt Company interesting, and with a varied roster. I think it just shows versatility when a publicist can work everything from Brand New to John Forte to Ms. Dynamite to Timo Maas. My roster is and will always be very eclectic. I think that's a total positive and no one can tell me differently!
9. Stunt Company was born on February 2nd, 2001. How many clients from Island jumped ship with you? How has being yr own boss been treating you? Is it everything-n-more thatcha dreamed of during your days in the Corporate DeathGrip???
Island was great when I left. They really wanted to help me out in my initial months. That said, I was able to take Roni Size, MJ Cole, and The Cardigans with me. I still work with these artists. I am always on the lookout for cool new projects, as well. Being my own boss is awesome, but it definitely has it own set of difficulties. There are things about running your own business that I certainly moan about! However, at least once every day, I think about how thrilled I am with my decision to branch out. It was the coolest and smartest move I have made to date.
10. You seem to be working some promising up and coming projects. With such a heavy workload, how are you still able to snag artists on the rise? Is their no end to yr wildly amazing style?
I'm extremely lucky that the workflow has been steady, but being an indie you have to always try and be aware of new artists and upcoming releases. It's a tough balance as you're doing publicity all day long and trying to keep your ear to the ground about new stuff. My biggest resource would be friends inside and outside the music biz. They are all fanatical about music, so that for sure helps!
11. How didja get so fucking good at what you do?
I never think I'm good enough, so I would say constantly challenging myself and pushing myself to be better. Once I start moving on a specific project, I get in “my mode” and nothing can get in my way, it’s the truth! I've been doing this for so many years now - I think that it lends itself to a kick-ass combination of experience and drive. It also works in my favor that I get to handpick who I work with, and only take on projects I adore – thereby making it that much more organic, and easy to talk my artists up to writers everywhere.
12. What is yr master plan for Stunt Company world domination?
Jeez, that's a tough one. Would like to add a few cool people to my staff and continue to work with new and different artists while developing the ones I have now. Also, it would be rad to know that other indie publicity companies are gossiping around the water cooler about how Stunt is blowing all the others out of the framework. Watch out, everyone!