Saturday, October 23, 2010

What’s in a name? (A TDM editorial)

Have you ever heard of Stanley Harvey Eisen? Lots of women have and I bet he’s banged more chicks than the sum of your graduating class in High School. How about Michael Peter Balzary? He’s one of the modern day’s most famous and respected bassists who has guest thumped on many albums.

Stage names have been a part of mainstream music for about as long as music’s been popular and musician’s been idolized; but why do people change their name when they go on stage?


Rob Liz (a stage name of sorts) and I have had talked about this off and on, with the most recent conversation centering around one of my favourite bands, Avenged Sevenfold. “Why do they have fake-ass names?” “Their names are gay”. I’ve heard it over and over, mostly from people who hate A7X (for whatever stupid reason) and it’s all the same. Their names make them suck. Shouldn’t it be about the music?

As far as I’m concerned, Avenged Sevenfold is made up of some of the most amazing musicians out there. This band is composed of two of the best guitarists out there today, with shredding that’s up there with the best of them, and their solos are legendary, instilling within me the feelings of some of the great harmonized solos from Iron Maiden (Murray and Smith) and Judas Priest (Tipton and Downing. Their drummer was regarded as one of the best of this generation, recently winning a fan-polled award, Revolver Magazine’s BEST DRUMMER. Let’s not even get me started on the songwriting. It’s epic!

So why is it, no matter how talented and creative these musicians are, no matter how many records they sell, they suck because they have stage names…? I wish I knew.

According to Wikipedia: “A performer will often take a stage name because his/her real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or because it projects an undesired image.”

So here we have The Rev (Jimmy Sullivan), Synyster Gates (Brian Haner), M Shadows (Matt Sanders), Zacky Vengeance (Zachary Baker), and Johnny Christ (Jonathon Steward): five individuals who alone are a musical force to be reckoned with, but together creates one of the greatest bands of our time: But they have stupid names.


This phenomenon isn’t just limited to heavy metal and hard rock. Sure, we’ve all heard of Sting (Gordon Sumner), The Edge (David Howell Evans) and Slash (Saul Hudson); but what about rappers? Marshall Bruce Mathers III is more famously known as Eminem and/or Slim Shady. Lil Wayne is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. There’s Jewel (Kilcher), Pink (Alecia Beth Moore). Even the world of Country music has been plagued by artists using fake names; Troyal "Garth" Brooks, and Conway Twitty's real name is Harold Lloyd Jenkins.

Still why do it? I’d like to think, that at least in today’s world, people like Brian Warner can call themselves Marilyn Manson and use that as excuse to do and say the things that normal people just don’t talk about in polite conversation. They can go up there on stage and become someone else; renaming themselves as a key to tap into that unlimited well of awesomeness, to go from just playing music to becoming the music. There’s nothing wrong with that. Actors do it all the time, reinventing themselves, albeit temporarily, to be able to, with the help of special effects and the vision of a director, become someone else and do things that they possibly never would have thought possible, all for the entertainment of their audience; us. We wouldn’t have Darth Vader without someone putting on a costume and synthesizing one of the most famous voices in Hollywood to create the ultimate villain and downright worst dad ever. So what’s the big deal, Rob?


You’ve said, in one of your arguments, that it’s ok for a band like Dimmu Borgir to use stage names because their real names are so hard to pronounce. You’re completely right! How on earth do you pronounce Sven {Silenoz}??? Or what about Tom (Galder}?? It boggles the mind. Shagrath, though is a hard one, I have to admit: Stian?? Almost sounds like the last two syllables in Sebastian, but I could be wrong.. Those crazy Norse names!

shagrath composite
Shagrath and Stian (together again for the first time)

Even still, I have to admit, I’m glad for some of them. I absolutely worship at the altar of Kamelot and will til I die, but I thank the gods of rock and roll that lead singer Roy Sætre Khantatat, decided to go with Roy Khan or just Khan, because that last name IS a doozy!

Either way you look at it, it’s been going on for decades, this alter ego business. Think back to when you were a kid and you were scared shitless when in the presence of “The Demon” from KISS (Gene Simmons or his birth name Chaim Witz) when he was bludgeoning your ears with his bass guitar on TV. Let’s not forget his cohorts Ace Frehley “Catman” and “The Star Child” Stanley Harvey Eisen, or more famously, Paul Stanley.


Becoming these characters give them the freedom and permission to become the best musicians they can be, pulling forth from that well of inspiration where the most amazing guitar solos and those epic choruses come from. It also give us permission to worship them like the rock gods they are, though you’ll never hear a crowd shouting the name Michael Peter Balzary. They’ll be chanting him by his alter ego; Flea! Flea! Flea! Balzary just doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue that well, does it?

Oh yeah, by the way Rob. Ronald James Padavona = God


1 comment:

Rob Liz said...

Nice topic to cover. And long overdue. Ok now to it. While I get some of your points of why people use stage names there are some obvious points here that are taken out of context.

The compare and contrast to Avenged Sevenfold and Dimmu Borgir, or more aptly the comparison to doucherock and black metal, is that black metal has a theme and base their names on the idealogy of evil,satanism,paganism,or the black arts. Hence the name of the genre. I also said in passing that the Norwegians in general have unpronounceable names. Silenoz real name btw isn't just Sven but Sven Atle Kopperud.
Avenged Sevenfold gave themselves these names to try and be hip. That's it.They have no theme, nor do they represent any form of music that is theatrical in the vein of Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson.
The rap stars you mentioned give themselves these names as homages to the streets where every ganbanger or hustler has a street name. So therefore they have a theme.Avenged Sevenfold are not from the "streets" therefore have no reason to give themselves rap style names.
Country stars typically have the most yokelish names in real life so they give themselves names that don't make them come across as some backwoods redneck.Avenged Sevenfold have normal names that are just fine for the stage.

For the record I'm not against stage names. I myself use a shortened version of my name because it is easily misprounounced. Also the "Z" at the end makes me look cool. See what I did there? Stage names have their purposes. What I have a problem with is the fake reasons to use stage names. Should it be about the music? Sure it should.So why with all of this evidence is it necessary to use ridiculous stage names filled with puns and laughter when the music is so "godly" as you put it?(It's not btw)

I guarantee you that if they did not use these stage names the world would not have given two shits about this band by now. Because at large people are casual music listeners that don't pay much attention to the intricacies of what's being done but they will remember names. Doesn't that also defeat the purpose of making music? Or is it ok because they're selling tons of records?