10 artists forced to change their name
What famous artists started out in the music business and had to change the way they got their name? Some examples are more drastic than others…
The chemical brothers
When Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons started out as a DJ duo, they operated as The Dust Brothers after the LA production team of EZ Mike and King Gizmo, who did the business for Beastie Boys and Beck, among others.
Once the British Dust Brothers started to catch on and booked gigs in the US, the inevitable branding issue kicked in and Ed and Tom renamed themselves The Chemical Brothers after their track Chemical Beats.
Have you ever wondered if all the big name bands have been taken? Well, they may have sold out sooner than you first thought, as Britpop pioneers Brett Anderson found out when their album Dog Man Star was due out in the US in 1994.
A singer who performed as Suede forced the label to release the album as The London Suede, and the situation still exists in the US, as their ninth album Autofiction was announced with the name in Stateside game.
The trio of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and then-drummer Scott Raynor fell apart just before the release of their debut album Cheshire Cat in 1995 – they performed under the name simply ‘Blink’, but there was already a Dublin group already bearing this title, signed on the fairly well-known label Parlophone.
Given the rest of the week to find an alternative, the group added the number “182”, claiming that was the number of times Al Pacino said the word “f**k” in the movie Scarface.
No more spoilsport legal shenanigans: Richard Ashcroft and his crew were originally known by the very shoegazey one-word name “Verve”. That was, until their 1993 debut album, A Storm In Heaven, when they caught the eye of veteran jazz label also called Verve. To avoid legal issues, they added the “definite article”, but that wouldn’t be the end of The Verve’s legal troubles…
The California rockers were once known as Xero, then became Hybrid Theory after a line-up shakeup that saw the arrival of lead singer Chester Bennington. A self-titled EP under that name brought them to the attention of Warner Bros, who would only sign them if they changed their name to avoid confusion with the British trip-hop duo called Hybrid, whose track Kid 2000 appears in the Kevin And Perry movie is going big. Linkin Park was named after Lincoln Park in Santa Monica, but changed the spelling to get the website domain name!
Gary Lightbody and his friends formed a band under the name Shrug in 1994, but quickly discovered there were a number of artists with that name. They changed it to Polarbear and released an EP, titled Starfighter Pilot, in June 1997. However, Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery had also started a band called Polar Bear and released a self-titled EP in 1996. Result: l Lightbody team became Snow Patrol.
stone age queens
Josh Homme, of course, was originally in the famous American rock band Kyuss, but his first project after the band broke up in 1995 was called Gamma Ray. However, after releasing a single under the moniker, Homme received a legal letter from a German speed metal band also called Gamma Ray and an overhaul was in order.
death from above
The Canadian duo of Sebastian Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler quickly found themselves at the end of a cease and desist letter from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who had run Death From Above Records since 2001.
The 1979 was apparently the fewest characters required to make the name significantly different and was also Grainger’s birth year. The duo reunited in 2012 and released their third album Outrage Is Now in 2018, but “1979” had dropped and remains missing.
Philadelphia singer-songwriter Santi White released his self-titled debut album in 2008 as Santogold, but the 2012 follow-up Master Of My Make Believe revealed a subtle moniker change.
Change the graffiti on the bathroom wall, get your tattoo fixed, airbrush your t-shirt, and change the name on your year-end list,” she announced in February 2009. “Santogold is now Santigold. She doesn’t tell you why, that’s how it is.” The annoying truth was that there was already a Santo Gold, a jewelry company owned by Baltimore filmmaker Santo Victor Rigatuso. It’s showbiz.
power of the sea
Sometimes the meaning of a band name can become problematic due to social changes, which is the fate of Kendal’s main purveyors of angular indie rock. Originally known as British Air Power, the name British Sea Power was an ironic statement about the country’s outdated view of itself – their debut album is called The Decline Of British Sea Power, for example.
In August 2021, following such impactful events as Brexit and the arrival of the Black Lives Matter movement, the band dropped “British” from their name, saying they were worried about “a rise of some kind of nationalism in this world – an isolationist and antagonistic nationalism with which we do not want to run the risk of being confused.