What's in a Name?

The surviving members of Stone Temple Pilots recently announced their decision to carry on as STP, as well as announcing open auditions to be their new lead singer. Predictably, there are some who disagree:

Responding to a fan who called in and suggested that the band should change its name in the wake of Scott Weiland’s death, Robert said, “There were 3/4 of us that were responsible with Scott, making STP. For instance, you have a company like Coca Cola, and you have someone running Coca Cola. If they’re not there any more, do you change the name of Coca Cola?”

Robert added, “It’s easy for someone to say that, and get on their computer, and write that in, but if you’re in that position in life, that’s the last thing I want to do right now.” He explained that it might be easier to change the name if the band were in their 20s and it was relatively early in their career, but that he now “can’t afford to do it.”

I covered this ground in my Alice in Chains book, when the three surviving members decided to continue with the band a few years after Layne Staley’s death. Here’s Sean Kinney’s take on that issue in a 2010 interview with Seattle Weekly:

There was no thought of using a different name. “It never even crossed our mind to change the name,” says Kinney. “We could call ourselves Leather Snake, go play our songs, and people would go, ‘The guys from Alice in Chains are playing the club down the street!’ They’d never be, like, ‘Hey! Leather Snake kicks ass!'”

Historically, there have been two major precedents for bands that have carried on after the death of their lead singer. After Ian Curtis’s suicide, the surviving members of Joy Division regrouped as New Order, who went on to have an influential career in their own right.  In that case, there was an agreement among the four members of Joy Division beforehand that if any of them left, the others would not continue under the Joy Division name. Beyond that, the name change would (arguably) make more sense in this case because the sound of New Order would be very different than the sound of Joy Division.

The second precedent was AC/DC’s decision to carry on with Brian Johnson following the death of Bon Scott. Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains both chose this option. Jerry Cantrell himself has made the explicit comparison of Alice in Chains to AC/DC in terms of both bands’ willingness to carry on with a new singer.

One thing the DeLeo brothers didn’t mention in that interview was that they tried a name change earlier in their career: when STP briefly changed their name to Talk Show for their only release with Dave Coutts as lead singer.

The reality is that aside from a few exceptions (Trent Reznor, Kurt Cobain, Lemmy Kilmister, etc.) in general all the band members make up the band’s sound and trademark. Scott may have been the voice of STP, but it was Dean, Robert and Eric’s band as well, and unless there is some dispute on ownership of the name, I see no reason why they can’t or shouldn’t carry on as STP.  Scott had been out of the band for years.  The bottom line is that STP is what they are and do, and through no fault of their own the band was hobbled for years by drug addiction and dysfunction. They shouldn’t have to start over from square one for something they have worked so hard for.

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