As if choosing a cool band name wasn’t hard enough, many acts have been forced to change theirs due to legal issues, other bands or simply for creative reasons. But the question remains; does an artist by any other name still sound as sweet? We decided to take a look at a small selection of these artists who, for some reason or another, are no longer known by the previous moniker.
Death From Above 1979
The Canadian dance-punk duo were originally known simply as ‘Death From Above’ (as seen on their early Romantic Rights EP) but ran into some legal trouble with influential New York City label, DFA Records. Well, more specifically, label co-founder James Murphy, who had pegged ‘Death From Above’ as a working name for a LCD Soundsystem side-project. In response, the arbitrary ‘1979’ was added as it was the year drummer Sebastien Grainger was born – and the same number tattooed onto his arm.
Pearl Jam once played music under the same name as basketball All Star, Mookie Blaylock, even naming their debut album Ten after his jersey number. But apparently the player, who was also technically a brand, couldn’t share the limelight with the young grunge upstarts, forcing them to take up a new moniker.
Ahead of embarking on a US tour and making their debut at SXSW 2014, this trio of electro-loving Melbournites decided to rebrand after “months of strongly worded letters and colourful internal debate regarding an existing US trademark on the name Rufus.” Their solution? Simply add a tail – dubbing themselves RÜFÜS DU SOL… but only in North America, the rest of the world still gets ignore the sunny suffix.
Some former members of stoner rock band Kyuss got together in 2010 to promote co-founder John Garcia’s new solo ventures, as Kyuss Lives! At the beginning of 2012, they revealed the band would continue to tour indefinitely, exclusively playing Kyuss material and even began work on a new album. However, just last month, a court ruled against Garcia releasing any audio recordings and even encouraged them to re-brand with a new name after original member and Queens Of The Stone Age linchpin, Josh Homme filed a federal lawsuit.
This clean cut Brisbane indie quintet originally went by the name Cub Scouts, but after the real-life Scouts Australia took issue with the misrepresentation of their name, the band swapped to their new moniker. Frontman Tim Nelson found the whole affair rather silly, at best. “Some of the band cracked up laughing when our manager told us about the letter but I was just in shock because I don’t think we are a particularly offensive band.”
Many artists mark a change in musical direction with a change in name. Enter Snoop Lion, the rebirth of Snoop Dogg for the release of his 2013 reggae album Reincarnated. Though the Doggfather seemed to be serious about the name change being permanent, he’s switched fluidly between both kinds of Snoop since. Seems you can’t teach an old dogg new tricks…
Sublime revolutionised the ’90s ska scene and had a strong future ahead of them before frontman Bradley Norwell’s death from a heroin overdose in 1996. Although we heard some new material under The Long Beach Dub Allstars banner, the Sublime name was held in respectful memory until remaining original members Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson started collaborating with musician Rome Ramirez in 2009.
They continued to play under the name until Norwell’s estate issued a legal challenge to the use of the trademarked name for a venture not including Norwell. As a result, they changed they became Sublime with Rome in January 2010, released a new album, Yours Truly, and completed a sold out tour of Australia.
The Raconteurs were first to become The Saboteurs for the Australian market after a Queensland jazz band of the same name refused a monetary payment for the title. Instead, they demanded more money from the record label for the use of the name, “to see what would happen” – unbeknownst that it was in fact Jack White’s team that were trying to secure it.
The Verve added a ‘The’ to the front after the legendary US jazz label of the same name contacted them threatening legal action. It’s safe to say the addition of the pronoun didn’t hinder any of their success.
Blink-182 added the trio of digits on the end of their name to avoid any awkward bar brawls with the Irish rock/pop act that was already playing under that name. They’ve been making up ridiculous theories for what the number represents ever since.
Panic! At The Disco
In January 2008, punk-cabaret-turned-mellow heads Panic! At The Disco unveiled a new logo that dared to drop the exclamation point from their name, which immediately caused outrage among the band’s immense fan base. On July 10, 2009, it was reported that the band had regained the exclamation point, putting a close to their days as simply Panic At The Disco. Punctuation purists everywhere still rue the day.
Not many would call Mos Def by his birth name, Dante Terrell Smith, and even fewer now will know him as Mos, as the artist recently changed his name to the more feeble and forgettable Yasiin Bey in honour of his Muslim beliefs.
The Morning Benders
US group The Morning Benders feared a backlash after gaining knowledge that ‘bender’ held negative homosexual connotations in the UK. They subsequently lost a band member, relocated to the East Coast and became POP Etc.
The Temper Trap
The Temper Trap was going to be simply Temper Temper, but were forced to slightly alter their name due to a US band already being called that.
When trying to get someone into the bedroom, it’s a bit of a tongue twister to say, ‘Oh, this track? It’s by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’. but it’s indeed the name fans settled on after the Purple One attempted to break free from his contract with Warners. Even changing his name to the unpronounceable love symbol and etching the word “slave” into his head. He did return to his better-known name though, and continued to use it until his untimely passing.
The British singer/songwriter had no problems with the court or other acts using his namesake, because who would want to use Reginald Dwight? Not John; and thus the change in musical moniker.
The Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers were once The Dust Brothers, named after US producers of the same name. When the British duo went on their first international tour in 1995, including a trip to America, the original Dust Brothers threatened legal action. They quickly settled on a new name, inspired by one of their breakout singles: “Chemical Beats”.
Warsaw wanted to distance themselves from another Brit outfit, punk band Warsaw Pakt, thus came the newly-christened Joy Division. Their were named after the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in 1955 novel The House of Dolls. Fun times.
The Irish misfits who mixed punk with Celtic music were always troublemakers. They were originally called Póg mo Thóin (Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse”), until complaints received by the BBC DJ who was championing them shortened their name to simply The Pogues, which ended up sticking.
On A Friday famously changed their name to Radiohead after signing a record contract with Parlophone. Their original name was coined from their weekly rehearsal slot at school, while their new go-by came from the Talking Heads’ song ‘Radio Head’ in a last minute decision.
Think One Direction is just another boy band? Nuh-uh, it’s actually the name of a punk band from the US who formed in 2009. They wanted to take Simon Cowell to court for a payout and to discuss royalties, but they’ve recently settled amicably. Let’s assume Uncharted Shores, the new name the American musicians have trumped for, are now a touch richer than they ever would be as the other One Direction.
Santogold created a bit of confusion for her fans when she changed one vowel in her name to become Santigold. The musician was apparently sued by a jeweller, filmmaker and infomercial-based salesman who went by the name of Santo Gold. You may know him from his 1985 wrestling-themed science fiction film, Santo Gold’s Blood Circus. With Santigold’s actual name being Santi White, it seems to make a bit more sense anyhow.
Shihad were attempting to break into the American music market when September 11 happened, forcing them to change their name to the rather weak Pacifier, named after their 2002 album, because it apparently sounded too much like ‘Jihad’. A decision that the group recently explained made them “feel like frauds” the similarity wasn’t a coincidence though. “When we were 15 we were all into this sci-fi movie Dune,” says drummer Tom Larkin. “Dune uses all these Arabic words throughout the movie and the end battle is a Jihad. We were stupid and thought it’d be a great name for a band.
The Sydney-sometimes-London-based trio PVT were formerly simply Pivot, but dropped the vowels from their name in 2010 after an American band of the same title issued legal action. Although PVT is now printed, they can still be known as Pivot everywhere outside of the USA.