|Posted by SimonWaldram on May 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM|
I sometimes wonder if I would be more popular and/or successful if I didn't use my real name for my music and instead used some kind of band name or an inscrutable word or phrase instead. Here's why...
Every so often when I'm in a music shop or looking through the online catalogue or an indie label I'll come across a record that instantly grabs my attention before I've actually even heard anything from it. This may well have happened to you too. For me it will usually have some kind of enigma to it...maybe a mysterous looking cover or a strange band name. This instant level of interest rarely happens when I see a record made under the name of an individual...especially if it's just some bloke.
I think quite a lot of people, including myself, like to put their own definitions and interpretations onto the people making their favorite music, that way they can see whatever they want in them. This is easist to do when you know nothing about who is actually making the music. If a record is credited to an odd sounding band name and there are no credits or photos of people on the sleeve then you can pretend to yourself that it was made by absolutely anyone. Does it sound like it was made by two speed freak siamese twins in a garage late one night somewhere in South America? Then what the hell, maybe it was!
However our perceptions and idea about the music can often be subverted the other way when you know it's a specific solo artist that's made the record you're listening to. There they are on the cover, maybe holding the guitar they used to play the songs. However they want to portray themselves...moody, artistic, an icon of some sort....it's probably reflected in the photo they (or the record company) has chosed. Because of this the listener feels they have to bend somewhat to the personality of the performer. If it's just one person singing songs which seems to be about themselves then often any mystery is lost.
Here's an example of what I mean: You may or may not be familar with the music of Jandek, who has been making challenging and idiosyncratic records for 35 years without people ever knowing much about him at all. Jandek's name and reputation grew slowly but steadily over several decades partly because of the mystery surrounding him. People wondered: "Who is making this music?" "Is Jandek a person or collective?" "Is the person on the cover of the records Jandek or someone else?" All sorts of rumours spread over the years. One was that when Jandek albums started featuring other musicians in the early 80's he had met them in some kind of halfway house. A number of years back we learned that the man behind Jandek is almost certain named Sterling R. Smith. How much of an enigma would there have been behind those records if they were released under the name Sterling Smith or The Sterling R. Smith Experience? Everyone would have realised it was just a guy making crazy records at home and maybe not bothered with them. Of course they would have missed if they out had done this as old Sterl's best records are really great.
And maybe that's the point and it's just a superficial thing anyway. Perhaps some people would actually think it was pretty stupid if I went by the name of Static Moon or Eternal Burrow or The Lansing Thunder Corporation (sorry, they are all terrible name, they were just the first 3 that came into my head). After all, I would think it was silly if my musical heroes like R. Stevie Moore, Daniel Johnston or Steven Davies went by anything other than their real names. Often of course a performer's personalilty often is integral to their appeal, but I guess you have to have a big personaility for that to be the case. In my case I'm not really sure that my personality should matter to anyone listening and I hope that people can put their own definations on the songs and take whatever it is they want to take from them.