Have you ever wondered where musical groups like Modest Mouse or Foo Fighters got the inspiration for their band names?  You aren’t alone.

One aspect of the music world that has always interested me is the process of choosing a band name or moniker. Often when you ask musicians how they arrived at their choice, you get some boring, non-committal answers. Every now and then, though, you hear a humorous anecdote or even obtain a rare glimpse into a musician’s psyche.

We’ve all had those moments when someone says something funky or interesting and you think, “that would be a great band name”.  Do famous music band names happen serendipitously? Or is there really a method to the madness?

This image shows there are definitely categories when it comes to naming heavy metal bands. Whether they were intentional or not is unclear.

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Image, https://www.jwz.org/blog/?s=heavy+metal

In addition to the variety of categories, there are some common words that are used, or overused as the case may be. According to one informal study, the top three overused words in heavy metal band names are death, black, and dark.

Since classification is the process of putting something into a category or group according to particular characteristics, what are the characteristics of a good band name?

Some non-professional researchers put together a scale for determining the quality of a band name.  After determining the best and worst band names of all time (Butthole Surfers and Goo Goo Dolls, respectively), they assigned values to band names, on a scale of -5 to 5. The rating is based solely on the name, not the music, i.e. U2 is in the “Astonishingly Bad Band Names” category.

This very non-scientific exercise demonstrates the subjectiveness of this particular topic. It’s like asking someone to recognize good art; like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.

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Image, https://www.flickr.com/photos/peyri/538306624 

Many believe that the bands who played at the famous CBGB in New York City are a good representation of quality. That too is very subjective. However, if you evaluate the names of the bands who did play at CBGB, that is a whole new kind of category. It would be less about the name itself, and more about its environment. This does not make it a lesser category, but a different descriptor entirely.

What other types of categories would be less about the name and more about some other trait? Financial success could be one, as well as the number of albums released. It would also be interesting to see a cross-referenced category of bands with a common member, i.e. Paul McCartney and David Grohl.

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Image, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_McCartney_discography

If you find yourself in the position to be naming a band, maybe the theme of naming itself should be your inspiration. With some alliteration, names like Cold Classification or Turbulent Taxonomy could be contenders. Or, moving into the more funky genres, names like Defeated Terms or Metadata Nutrition are memorable. If all else fails, there is the Heavy Metal Band Name Generator to “do the heavy lifting for you”.

And to answer the original question, Modest Mouse was inspired by Virginia Woolf and Foo Fighters received inspiration from UFOs in WWII.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.