He was a teenage metalhead, but none of the cliches applied: He was good at school, he didn’t want to rock out for a living, he got more on his SATs than drool.
“When I was in high school, everyone was like, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ ” recalls heavy metal lifer Marco Barbieri. “And everyone was like, ‘Work sucks, I hate my job.’ I thought, ‘What am I in for?’ Then I thought, ‘There’s a whole business behind this music that I love.’ “
And so the Vegas native went to music business school in the Bay Area, began managing bands, started a photocopied fanzine that eventually morphed into the influential national metal glossy Ill Literature, landed a gig in the publicity department of Metal Blade Records, where he helped develop the careers of bands such as Gwar, the Goo Goo Dolls and Cannibal Corpse, and in 1995, he took over as president of small, but promising indie label Century Media Records. Under his tenure, Century Media would become one of the biggest independent labels of its kind, signing acts such as Lacuna Coil and Shadows Fall, who’d sell hundreds of thousands of records, establishing Barbieri as one of the more significant figures in the metal underground.
And then, 20 years after he left town, Barbieri came back, taking a break from the music industry to join the family real state business.
But he just couldn’t give it up entirely, and now Vegas is beginning to reap the benefits. Under his Salem Rose Music banner, Barbieri has been bringing national and international metal bands such as Monstrosity, God Dethroned and Epicurean to town in addition to helping mentor local bands, signing groups such as Avenger of Blood to publishing deals and providing a much needed industry presence to the fertile, but primitive Vegas metal ranks.
“I’d like to put Vegas on the map, because I think with a lot of booking agents, they don’t even bother, they think that it’s a secondary market or it’s too close to Phoenix or L.A.,” says Barbieri, who also manages Los Angeles thrash upstarts Warbringer. “I want to give some opportunities to a lot of the local bands, because unfortunately, a lot of them don’t develop because they can’t properly showcase themselves.”
Having been a part of the local music scene since the early ’80s when he used to go to generator-powered desert shows, Barbieri has a natural affinity for the Vegas underground, and cites bands such as Empirical, The Genocide Architect and Malus Rex as groups that he’s keeping an eye on.
“There’s some bands that I’ve buddied up with that I think are good or are cool guys,” Barbieri says. “I try to give a few words of wisdom, but at the same time, I don’t want to come to town and be like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m back and here’s what you should do.’ I’m willing to help to a realistic degree. I definitely think that there’s a lot of great talent here.”
And now that talent has a new advocate.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.