What’s In A Name

I was recently considering a change of identity. No, not some witness protection-style change of name, face and address; but a change of alias related to my musical output. My ‘sound’ and working practices are constantly changing, so it seemed like a good idea to build up a new name and listener-base. In the end, I decided against it as I seem to have a decent enough (in my view, at least) number of listeners and plays on Last.fm, and to start all over again would mean I’d have to start at zero.

Likewise for my collaboration with Pixieguts. We’ve considered changing the name from ‘Dementio13 Feat Pixieguts‘ (and the confusion between that name and Pix’s and my own solo outputs) to a more ‘band’-like alias which would reflect our music more concisely.

Anyway, it got me to thinking: does it matter what the name is? Surely its the music which matters.
But then, in music, as in many of the Arts, image and cultural-reference is everything.

I’ve written about this subject in part in the blog ‘Twentieth Century Praxis Audio‘. As part of my reminiscences, I mention the name of my eighties band The Red October Factory:

“Our band got christened sometime in early 1985, ‘The Red October
Factory’. The name seemed perfect, it contained the word ‘Factory’ in
it for starters. But it also alluded to the Eastern Bloc (the real Red
October was a Russian factory that either produced warheads, or
chocolate, I can’t remember!) and all that that entailed. The name was
austere and industrial; everything we aspired to be musically.”

Likewise, I mention elsewhere in the post ‘The 10 Commandments Of Electronica‘:

Your name will be without emotion or meaning.
An artist’s moniker is all important; it’s a statement of intent to
your listener…or not, in the case of electronica. Preferably your
artist name will be without any meaning to the average listener at all;
it will involve sheer nonsense (a made-up word such as, say, ‘Autechre‘), or the ultimate in geekery (involving the name of a piece of equipment, like ‘Aphex Twin‘), or, even better, it will involve numbers (’Prefuse 73‘).
By doing this, you are saying, “Listen to me, my music is
technological, it does not stir your emotions, in fact, it is cold and
harsh. It does not follow conventions and is difficult to understand.”
It can also be read as meaning, “My music is a puzzle. To me, as much
as it is to you….in fact, I just recorded a sequence of random noises,
fed it through a ring modulator and then got confused…”

You may, of course, use your own name….but only if you have a middle initial to give you extra kudos (Richard H Kirk).”

Pixiguts pointed out to me that the word “Head” has been part of the names of some very respected and successful bands:
Portishead; Radiohead; Severed Heads; Talking Heads….
Likewise with abbreviations:
DMX, DNA, LFO, ELO, and the ultimate in abbreviated aliases:

or ‘Symbol’ (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince)

Numbers also figure in some names to give credibility:

KRS1, Prefuse73, 808 State, Altern8, and some of my unsigned comrades – SK123 and D551 to name but two.

Its a mystery to me…….if you’re a musician, I’d be interested to hear how you came across your name, and why.

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3 responses to “What’s In A Name

  1. In dealing with Unsigned Artists as a Radio DJ, I’ve found that sometimes a name, just as you said, is made up of words that don’t really mean anything together.

    They are instead singular ideas that get smashed together to try to get a reaction out of someone. It’s kind of like starring at the painting of the vase, or the 2 people, it really depends on how you look at it. The more stuff you throw together, the better chance someone will have a reaction to the name and music.

    Of course, that doesn’t always work.

  2. I originally wrote poetry and song lyrics under the name Venom. My ex said I should just add Lady to it…hence Lady Venom was born. I never thought about changing it though. I have thought about updating my logo but then all my merchandise would have to change as well. I always like to hear how people came up with their names. Beautifully Dead came to me while I was sleeping, or I should say trying to sleep.

  3. Pingback: Bookmarks about Ear

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