A couple weeks ago–without much fanfare or explanation–Santogold changed her stage name to Santigold. Turns out the performer Santo Gold filed an injunction last year to keep the name all for himself. I’m not sure if the case went to court, or if Santigold just didn’t want to deal with the hassle. Long story short, Santo Gold got his wish and is now the only Santo Gold on the block. (Don’t worry, I don’t know who he is either.)
(left: Oh no! They took my stage name!)
This isn’t the first time a musical act has had to tweak their name. Early 90’s college-rock faves, The Charlatans UK, had to add that extra UK to the tail end of their name, because a 1960’s psychedelic rock group from San Francisco had it before they did.
Before Death From Above 1979 split up a couple years ago, they had to add Sebastien Grainger’s birth year to the end of their name, because the production duo DFA (Death From Above) had first dibs, acronym or not.
Blink 182? Yup, they started out as Blink. Want to take a wild guess at what happened? An Irish pop/rock group laid claim to the moniker first.
Bands don’t always have to tack on a number or abbreviation to a pre-existing name. In the late 60’s when the band the Earth was getting confused with another band called Earth, they just decided to change their name to Black Sabbath. You’ve heard of these guys, right?
Black Sabbath eventually inspired a group of guys from the Pacific Northwest to form a band called Skid Row–not the Skid Row you’re thinking about. After going through various name changes, the band finally settled on, Nirvana.
Oops, turns out there was a 1960’s rock group from the UK called Nirvana. The original Nirvana slapped Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana with a lawsuit in 1992. Luckily, Nirvana had hit pay dirt with their Nevermind album the year before and settled the case out of court by slapping down $100,000 to keep their name. The other Nirvana also got to keep their name–and all that money.
I can feel the pain of the artists’ above, because I’ve also been in bands named after pre-existing bands and been in groups whose names were taken by other groups. It’s a bummer being on both sides.
For example, earlier this year I came across a rapper on the internet called OJ Da Juiceman. Why was this of interest to me? Well, ever since I started playing music in the early 90’s, my stage name has been Juiceman. I know what you’re thinking: There already is a Juiceman. True, but he makes juicers, not music. I was actually inspired to call myself Juiceman while walking to the bus stop one morning in high school and noticing a Juiceman Juicer box sitting atop of someone’s trash pile.
It’s not uncommon in music to name yourself after an existing product. Q-Tip anyone? It’s also not uncommon to have to change your name–inspired by an existing product–because someone else already has it. Why do you think no one calls T.I. “Tip” anymore?
(above: We thought we were the only Milkweed.)
The first time I experienced the same-named-band phenomenon was when I started a group called, Milkweed (1994), with my college roommate Mike. The name was inspired by an inside joke and we both thought it was pretty original. After playing together for a year, our college finally got internet access on campus. In the computer lab our hearts were broken when we discovered that there were a handful of other bands named Milkweed. Later that year, the “rocker” guy on MTV’s Real World (don’t remember what season it was) told his roommates he was in a band called (gulp) Milkweed.
Pre-dating Milkweed, my high school friends and I formed a rap group called the D-Boiz (1992). In the 90’s it was quite common in rap music to substitute a “z” for the letter “s” (remember the movie Boyz n The Hood?). To separate ourselves from the rest of the pack, we even took it a step further and replaced the letter “y” with an “i”. Pretty clever, eh?
For a while we were the only D-Boiz around. There was a group that eventually surfaced called Dem Boyz, but Dem Boyz are no D-Boiz. Every time we browsed the record store racks (not that our music ever made it to a record store rack), we made sure there was no other group called D-Boiz.
(left to right: Juiceman, Prof D, and D-Renzo of the D-Boiz.)
Within the last few years though I’ve come across a D Boyz (pretty close) and then one afternoon while patrolling the internet I found a rap group from Detroit called (nooooo!) D-Boiz (hyphen and all).
There’s also a D-Boiz album on iTunes called Heavy Artillery, but I don’t know if that’s from the Detroit group or another bunch of guys called D-Boiz (or maybe the other members of my group are making albums behind my back?).
Here’s the MySpace bio from the Detroit-based D-Boiz:
We some fly ass dudes, that live by fly ass rules, and occasionally carry fly ass tools. Detroit is our home and the world is our stomping ground. If you on some fly shit too, thats whats up, if you not, get yo weak ass off our page. D-BOIZ BITCH!!!!!!!!!!
If these guys ever make it big, I may take a page out of Santo Gold’s book (or better yet, British Nirvana’s) and file a fly ass lawsuit.