James Sliman broke into the entertainment business as the Dead Boys' tour manager. He has spent the last 25 years as a publicist, working with clients from AC/DC to Bette Midler. He recently left Cleveland's Rust Records to form James Sliman Media Relations.
What have you been listening to lately?
I'm not very impressed with a lot of new music these days. I listen to a lot of great stuff from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. In the '90s I liked Green Day, Sublime, Sugar Ray. Lately, the guys in Cherry Monroe turned me on to Butch Walker, so I've been listening to his stuff and a little Edwin McCain.
If you programmed a radio station, what would it be like?
It would be as much like the old WMMS as possible. I grew up here in the '70s, and there will never be another commercial station like that. When I was in high school, they played stuff like Roxy Music, Queen, Mott the Hoople, Bad Company, the Alex Harvey band, Todd Rundgren, the Tubes, etc. -- all very edgy music at that time. Nobody takes chances anymore. The only cool stations are college stations like the Baldwin-Wallace station and John Carroll.
When does an aspiring band really need a publicist?
When the band is tight musically and has a solid lineup of members, it can be taken seriously; it's ready for media exposure to promote its music and live shows. This can lead to getting the attention of record labels, booking agents, event coordinators, clubs looking for bands, etc.
What can a band do to make sure it never gets discovered?
It can simply refrain from making any efforts to get people to its shows -- like making fliers and posters, getting newspaper ads, putting together a proper press kit, trying to get written about and mentioned on college radio shows, etc. If a band thinks that its music alone will attract the crowds and attention it needs, then it is being very naive.
Cleveland has changed since the Dead Boys days, but what's still the same?
All through the '70s in Cleveland, I was part of a group of about 30 or 40 people who were always at the right club on the right night, backstage at the best Belkin shows and at the Agora for the live Monday-night broadcasts on WMMS. That group was almost like family. I've been back here about two years, and I'm seeing that many of those people are still here or have come back. They're older, but are still willing to be supportive of certain bands or musical trends. It's a kind of feeling that is still there.