"It's difficult to keep your eye on business matters when you're young and in a band that's out to take over the world. But I understand because I've shared those same experiences and dreams." Mark Bliesener
Mark Bliesener came up with the name for punk's notorious Dead Kennedys, sat behind the drums for ? and the Mysterians and showed Lyle Lovett the way around Europe's smallest clubs and biggest theaters.
Do you think he could teach Denver's local bands a thing or two?
The advice is there for the asking. Last year, Bliesener splintered off from Morris, Bliesener and Associates, the management company that ushered Big Head Todd and the Monsters to nationwide fame, and started his own one-man consulting company. He's since been guiding Japanese and European bands around the United States and vice versa, and has offered plenty of tips to local acts trying to break out of the city's borders.
"It's difficult to keep your eye on business matters when you're young and in a band that's out to take over the world," he said. "But I understand because I've shared those same experiences and dreams. I've been stiffed by a club owner when I was 18, and I've been to the Grammy's with Lyle and the Dirt Band to help them pick up awards. It's nice to have this perspective amount to something."
Bliesener's advice ranges from the obvious (buy a van and hit the road) to the more complicated (when and why you need a publishing company).
Mostly, he let's his experience do the talking.
Bliesener's path started in Chicago, where a nun taught him how to play the drums in the fourth grade. Weaned on an older brother's early rock 'n'roll record collection, he was ready and waiting when the '60s rolled around and offered dozens of bands in need of a rhythm section.
He spent 12 years behind the kit, keeping time with bands such as Humpback Whale, The Prophets and ? and the Mysterians. He joined the last band at the "wrong time," when leader Rudy Martinez first tried mounting a comeback with his legendary Latin-rooted garage band.
"Hey, it was a treat to play "96 Tears" four times a night," Bliesener said, referencing the Mysterians' big hit.
In 1977 he "retired" to Boulder where he taught the nation's first course on rock 'n' roll history, became editor of a pop-music journal called Rocky Mountain Musical Express and traded tapes and records with Jello Biafra.
"One day we were talking about band names and I told him, 'I have the all-time greatest band name, but nobody could ever use it,' "Bliesener said.
A year later, Biafra proved him wrong after moving to San Francisco and christening his punk band the Dead Kennedys.
Bliesener spent most of the '80s handling publicity chores for Feyline Concerts and, later, clients that included Lovett, the World Wrestling Federation and Hot Rize. He spent most of the '90s teamed with Chuck Morris in a management company that handled the careers of Lovett, Leo Kottke, Suzy Bogguss, Highway 101, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others.
Now he's on his own. He left Morris, Bliesener to keep his career interesting and to take advantage of new technologies and corporate structures that have changed the rules of the music business.
"I just saw the computer, the Internet and MP3, and I wanted to jump into something that portends the future," he says. "I see it as a time of great opportunity."
He sees a future filled with greater possibilities for acts who now have a direct link to consumers via the Internet. But he also sees a need for a few of the old rules that mandate that bands get out on the road and meet their fans face to face. He's trying to help artists, labels and promoters put it all together.
If it sounds nebulous, that's part of the plan. Bliesener has helped steer a Japanese band called Nicotine to the right American clubs, launched an e-mail campaign to introduce a boy band called No Authority, started lining up acts for England's Liverpool World Music Festival, offered consulting tips to a pair of independent labels on the West Coast and worked with the Pepsi Center on another program.
"It's a wide range, but that's exactly what I was looking for," he said.
"In the end, I guess I didn't need that day job that my Mom told me I should have to fall back on."