This story has been updated with information that was provided by the family
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Sebastian Marino, founder of the production company Audio Images, died New Year’s morning. He is survived by his wife, Betsy, and five children, Julia, Emily, Joey, Jenna, Mason, his brothers John and Frank, and his mother, Jeanette.
“A gentle giant, extremely humble, and willing to do the best for everyone he dealt with,” John Marino said in a phone interview.
Audio Images provides live sound equipment, lighting and other stage solutions to festivals, tours, and venues across the country — mainly up and down the East Coast — as well as local festivals like the Rochester International Jazz Festival.
Marino started the company when he realized that his playing days as a guitarist for metal bands Overkill and Anvil were coming to an end, said Don Weeks, the head of the lighting department at Audio Images.
Weeks and Marino met in the 1980s. Then, both were in bands. Soon after, Marino — called “Seb” by everyone who spoke to News 8 — was doing sound with a company called Cobra Sound, and Weeks was touring doing lights.
But as Marino was touring, he wanted some extra income. So he started his sound company, Weeks said. He added the name “Audio Images” was first used for his side business around 1995.
“He just kept growing the company a little bit every year. He would get a little bit bigger, buy some more equipment and just kept going,” Week said, reminiscing how the amount of gear had grown from a couple pieces to the headquarters move from Rochester to Batavia just to add space. “And he had this vision of getting to a certain point. And he’s gotten to that vision and gone from there.”
But despite how much the company has grown — including a burgeoning expansion to Florida that he started before Marino’s death that the company will continue — he remained a family man. That would come to be his defining trait.
“He did everything for his kids,” Weeks said of Marino’s three daughters and son. “He’s big on the family.”
That feeling of family extended outside his own nuclear family. Weeks’ ears began to tear when he talked about how everyone at Audio Images thought of “Seb” as a boss and a friend, even when Marino was putting in 100 hour weeks.
And in the Rochester community, as Audio Images was growing into his own, Marino became involved with Uncle Plum, a no-longer-active veritable Rochester supergroup. That group had Elvio Fernandes — who would go on to join internationally touring group Daughtry — guitarist Mike Gladstone, bassist Paul Akers, and the late drummer Joe Lana.
Gladstone said that he was “their fifth Beatle,” helping the band with finances, live sound, and more.
“I also compared him to our Brian Epstein from The Beatles, the Beatles manager,” Gladstone said. He is currently active in the Greater Rochester music scene with his original band, Junkyardfieldtrip, and Chicago cover band Fairport Canal Authority. “And also Mal Evans, who less people might know about who is the roadie for The Beatles. He was kind of all those people rolled up in one, when he had to be tough, he was, but he took great care of us.
“We were definitely family. He was a brother.”
Gladstone also recalls what it meant to him to have such a great guitarist who not only was helping the band, but was complementary of his own playing.
“He had the biggest hands I’ve ever seen on a human being,” Gladstone said, laughing. “It always amazed me that the guy was able to play as incredibly as he (did).”
Sebastian’s brother John said Sebastian had a memorable handshake, and his family nicknamed him “Paws.”
Heart handshake in tow, Marino’s gift of treating everyone like family extended to even in the most pressured-filled situations.
“He’s been there with us from almost the beginning,” said Rochester International Jazz Festival producer Marc Iacona in a phone interview. “To have that size of an organization at your fingertips and have a relationship meant a lot to John and I. We never looked at it as a transaction… It’s just hometown family. We felt that they were part of our event.”
Iacona continued to discuss how unassuming “Seb” was, and admired his ability to tackle any issues his a calm manner. But another memory produced audible sobs.
“Just his warm smile,” he said.
Weeks and Gladstone said his smile could light a room, too. But they also say “Seb” always put others first. They say likely countless others have been touched by Marino, with Weeks adding that Marino would always train as many people as he could, giving countless numbers of production workers their start.
Needless to say, Marino would come to have quite the large family.
On social media, employees at Audio Images, musicians, production workers, and so much more were sharing their thoughts and memories of Marino.
One of those was Fernandes, who wrote this on his Facebook page:
“On top of his accomplishments as a sound engineer and business owner, Sebastian was a gifted musician. He was the guitarist for two hugely successful heavy metal bands… Overkill and Anvil. He toured all over the world, recorded, produced, and wrote songs on multiple albums, and reached a level that many only dream of. He was humble to a fault and only spoke about his success if you forced it out of him. He was more interested in lifting everyone else up and celebrating the success of his friends, clients, family, etc…”
Fernandes also initiated the call to have Marino inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame on that post. There is an online nomination link here.
In a statement, the Rochester Music Hall of Fame said:
“A tragic loss has been felt by the Rochester music community with the sudden passing of Sebastian Marino. ‘Seb’ was a mentor to many talented people in the production community and was always kind-hearted. He was a leader in sound and lighting with his company Audio Images, and had a very successful music career with internationally acclaimed bands Anvil and Overkill. The Rochester Music Hall of Fame wholeheartedly welcomes nominations for inductees, as we proudly celebrate our immensely talented music community.”