For many bands, there’s a message behind the moniker.
Music directly represents the passions of the soul. If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will become the wrong kind of person. —Aristotle
Remember Ace of Base, the innocuous Swedish pop group with ABBA overtones who sold 30 million albums in the early ’90s? A of B had not crossed my mind since ’93 until yesterday, when I listened to a Cracked podcast titled “How a Pop Band Tricked 9 Million Americans into Being Nazis.”
I’d assumed these synth-driven stars spelled “Base” as Bass, a reference to a heavy low end, but Cracked hypothesizes the group went with “Base” as a reference to the WWII-era Keroman Submarine Base. Known as the Base of Aces, it housed German U-boats during the war. This might seem like pretty thin soup by itself, but consider this: Ace of Base founder Ulf Ekberg cut his teeth in a neo-Nazi punk band called Commit Suicide, whose über-creepy lyrics include “Men in white hoods march down the road, we enjoy ourselves when we’re sawing off … heads/Immigrant, we hate you! Out, out, out, out! Nordic people, wake up now! Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot!”
That poorly written, hateful shit Ekberg spewed in his early work makes the Nazi allusion more than likely and forces one to rethink the meaning of these lyrics to Ace of Base’s breakthrough hit “Happy Nation”: “Living in a happy nation/Where the people understand and dream of perfect man.”
As disturbing as this butthole is, one does have to admit that his band name did what a band name should: It employed clever wordplay, sounded cool, and hinted at a secret connection between musicians and their audience while looking good on a T-shirt. It’s a subtle nod that says, “Here’s what we are about. We share a connection.” Knowing what I know now, if I saw Ace of Base on a marquee, I would not go in. But if I saw the Doobie Brothers on a marquee, I would know immediately that these are my people and I’d rush to the front row.
Cliché but true: You only get one chance to make a first impression. That’s why band names remain wildly important. If you’re not clever enough to come up with a catchy handle, you’re probably not going to come up with interesting music or a good show. Everybody judges a book by its cover. That’s why every successful publisher hires the best designers to construct a cover that lures in an audience. Similarly, the name on a marquee, flyer, or Facebook post will draw or repel a crowd, so choose your name wisely.
The Beatles knew how to pick a name. Their moniker was a tip of the hat to their musical heroes, the Crickets, but—on a deeper level—the “a” in place of an “e” referenced their infectious beats. Black Flag was clever as well. A white flag means surrender, so a black flag represented anarchy, the perfect emblem for a bunch of malcontents angry at the system. Lemmy knew what he was doing with the name Motörhead. Not only is "motor head" slang for a speed freak—a shout-out to Lemmy’s fellow amphetamine lovers—but the name also gives a clue about their hell-bent, hot-rod-racing-in-the-red sound.
When I read that the band Contagious Orgasm is playing in town, of course I want to experience that. The band Gay for Johnny Depp makes me think, “Who isn’t?” Funny and lowbrow names like Butt Trumpet, Almighty Lumberjacks of Death, Henry Kissinger's Tits, and Free Beer walk that fine line between clever and stupid, which always puts butts in the seats.
But bands that go cerebral draw longer. The Doors is the perfect highbrow name. Jim Morrison was alluding to Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, which is a drug reference, but on a deeper level points to William Blake’s quote: “When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are ... infinite.”With that name alone, the leather-clad Lizard King spread his agenda: open your mind and break on through to the other side.
Sometimes spreading an agenda trumps breaking your act. Look at Earth Crisis, a band of straight edge vegans known for their work in the animal rights movement. The name suggests that the Earth is in trouble and we need to adjust accordingly. There’s a Scottish band called Dogs Die in Hot Cars. I’ve no idea what they sound like, but their name alone serves as a public service announcement.
My guess is that Aristotle warned about listening to the wrong kind of music because he knew that a message is more easily absorbed when attached to a good melody or rhythm. When people of low character want to spread a destructive message, music can be a Trojan horse. Music can make you fall in love or march into battle, so be careful who you listen to. If you’re a band, find a handle that describes your vibe. While on the subject, check out my new project: the No-Tuning, Over-Playing, Sideways Twangers.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.