Rebellious personas are to rock 'n' roll what cocaine was to the eighties: in high demand, deliciously indulgent, and a way to catch a buzz that makes it okay for men to rock garishly colored neon outfits. Stage names are a huge part of those heavy metal, punk, and rock personas, In fact, more musicians than not utilize them, and lots of them actually have interesting back stories that help paint a complete picture of the musician's initial pre-fame persona.
It's a fascinating concept to me, and I'm not talking about just mainstream artists. We all know that Marilyn Manson came up with his stage name by combining the names of Charles Manson and Marilyn Monroe, and that Ozzy gained his name from the shortening of his last name Osbourne in the England schoolyard. No, I'm talking about the black metallers in Norway and the glam gods of Los Angeles, too.
When many legendary artists started out decades ago, the importance of choosing the right name to nail that first impression didn't have nearly the amount of pressure on it as it does today. Think about it.
Celebrities, the people our society is told to idolize, insist of choosing baby names that are so "unique" half the kids are going to grow up wondering if their parents had a fetish with grocery store produce or a European strippers. MySpace helped spur the notion that a profile name needs to define you, just like bands feel that their name should as well. Those who know marketing know that first impressions are everything, and that names are supposed to be tailored for consumers to not only immediately understand what a product is, but to immediately want to be a part of it as well.
So don't you ever wonder about the original names of some of your favorite metal stars? Where they came from and where they intended to go? The teenage names that were booked for arson, graffiti, not turning the volume down for their neighbors during garage band practices? Well, I do. Which is why I compiled a list of some of my favorite stage names of all time.
Dio Real Name: Ronald James Padavona
Most people know Dio's real name, but he originally chose it after mafia member Johnny Dio back in the early 1960s when he played in Ronnie Dio and the Prophets.
Axl Rose Name: William Bruce Bailey
When Axl learned that his father was actually his stepfather at age 17, he reclaimed his given birth name William Bruce Rose, Jr., even though he never met his real father, who was murdered in 1984. Once he began to play music, he took the name Axl from his original band AXL, and legally changed it prior to signing with Geffen Records in 1986.
Nergal Real Name: Adam Michal Darski
Behemoth's frontman, just like many other black metal bands, chose his stage name from Babylonian mythology. Specifically, Nergal is a deity that pertains to self-inflicted death. The name also refers to the god of plague and pestilence.
Cronos Name: Conrad Lant
Venom's frontman picked this name from Greek mythology. Cronos was the most evil of Uranus' sons, an evil soul who castrated his own father and became the rule of the Universe. Unfortunately for him, he was overthrown by his own son, Zeus. Lant has said in past interviews that he wanted to not only have the evil persona he chose to personify the band, but that he wanted to make a personal choice to actually become that character. Yikes.
Iggy Pop Name: James Osterberg Jr.
He may be credited as the "Godfather of Punk," but before he was known as the infamous Iggy Pop he was James Osterberg. Before fronting The Stooges, he was a drummer for his first band in high school, The Iguanas. The band name spurred the stage name "Iggy," but "Pop" came from an even more personal place. Iggy had a friend name Jimmy Pop who talked him into shaving his eyebrows when he was living with the Stooges in Michigan. Thus, "Iggy Pop" was born.
KISS Ace Frehley Name: Paul Daniel Frehley
This legend's stage persona of the "Spaceman" reflected his love for science fiction and the fact that he often felt like he was "from another planet."
Paul Stanley Name: Stanley Harvey Eisen
"Starchild" was due to the fact that Stanley was known as a hopeless romantic and a "starry-eyed lover."
Gene Simmons Name: Chaim Weitz
Simmons was known for being quite the cynic, so that, combined with his dark sense of humor, was enough for him to become known as "The Demon."
Peter Criss Name: George Peter John Criscuola
Criss' persona was the "Catman." Think it's the more pussy stage name of the band? Well, it may not seem too tough, the name originated from the fact that he had such a rough upbringing in Brooklyn, New York, that it was said he had nine lives.
Alice Cooper Name: Vincent Damon Furnier
When it came to creating music, Vincent and his fellow musicians just wanted to create a band that was villainous and shocking. In the late 1960s, he settled on Alice Cooper because it conjured an image of a little girl with a lollipop in one hand, and a butcher knife in the other. Then, he modeled his look off Bette Davis' dark-eyed persona in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and the character, Barbarella played by Jane Fonda in the cult Italian sci-fi/skin flick from 1968.
King Diamond Name: Kim Bendix Peterson
I guess with a name like Kim, something's gotta be done when you're a dude in a metal world. In 1976, King played his first show with a band called Brainstorm that wore makeup that was inspired by Alice Cooper. King chose his stage name based upon a persona he wanted to project, so he decided to keep it even after the band broke up. Three bands later, King still rocks his original stage name.
Dani Filth Name: Daniel Lloyd Davey
Don't let the sweet accent fool you; Dani loves him some filth. As Cradle of Filth's vocalist and writer, he decided to make part of the band name his own, and uses the spelling "Dani" because it meants "Berft Of God" in Hebrew.
Slash Name: Saul Hudson
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We all know that Slash never stops moving and creating. Whether he's cameo-ing in friend's bands, rocking out with Myles Davis, getting bound and gagged by Fergie, or just making sweet, sweet love to his guitar on stage, he never seems to just stop and rest. He must have always been that way; he gained the nickname Slash from one of his friend's dads when he was a teenager, because of his tendency to be always moving.
What would your heavy metal stage name be? Here's a website to generate your own rockstar name for fun.