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How your favorite DJ got their name

It's something you wonder at least once about your fave selector

  • Mixmag Staff
  • 14 February 2017

What's in a name?

Plying their craft under a pseudonym is a popular practice among DJs and producers. Unusual aliases have ironically become the norm, with established names in the dance world including Thugfucker and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

Artist's reasons for using stage names vary: some simply like the way the word sounds, others have stranger or more complex back-stories. We've compiled the origin of over 60 DJ names into a handy list below, read on to find out more.

Agoria

Sébastien Devaud first started throwing parties under the name Agora, meaning "meeting place" in Greek. When choosing his DJ name he simply added an 'i'.

AnD

This is right up there with Californian dance-punk group !!! as one of the least Google-able names in music (someone should tell them about SEO). It's taken from the duo's first names, Andy and Dimitri.

Aphex Twin

The first part is taken from the producer's love for soundsystem company Aphex. 'Twin' is in tribute to his deceased older brother who was also called Richard James and died at birth.

Avicii

Swedish DJ Tim Bergling chose this moniker because his real name was already in use on MySpace. It is the name given to the lowest level of Buddhist hell; presumably his music is what they listen to down there.

B.Traits

During her teenage years, one of Brianna Price's friends turned to her and said: "you have so many baby traits". The name B.Traits stuck ever since, like a more streetwise Emma Bunton.

Bicep

The phrase Feel My Bicep was picked out when the Irish duo began their blog, wanting something that was "wacky, arrogant and rather daft" with connotations of 80s house and Italo.

Boards Of Canada

Cult Scottish duo Michael and Marcus Sandison followed a complex process when making their tracks that involved recording their audio onto a VHS, then playing it back out of a TV and rerecording that sound. They also watched a lot of documentaries made by the National Film Board of Canada on that VHS player.

Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris might be a household name these days, but the man didn't exist as we know him until Adam Wiles settled on assuming the moniker for his first release. In 2009 he revealed its troublesome origin to magazine ShortList: "My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought Calvin Harris sounded a bit more racially ambiguous. I thought people might not know if I was black or not. After that, I was stuck with it." EDM fans, your fave is problematic.

Catz 'N Dogz

The Polish pair were initially part of a trio titled 3 Channels, but had to change the name after a member left in 2007. Obviously Catz 'N Dogz was the next logical choice.

Daft Punk

As Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are two of the most celebrated artists in history. But it wasn't always that way. The duo were once part of French rock outfit Darlin' who were ridiculed by British magazine Melody Maker as "daft punky trash". Soon after, they ditched the guitars and bought synthesizers, birthing Daft Punk. We should have been crueller to The Libertines when they started out, who knows what they might have become.

Deadmau5

Joel Zimmerman dismantled his computer one day and found the carcass of a dead mouse in there, earning him the affectionate nickname "dead mouse guy" among his friends. When signing up to an internet chat room the name Deadmouse breached the 8 character limit, so he shortened it to deadmau5.

DJ Food

In 1990 Coldcut members Jonathan More and Matt Black decided to start a new project on the premise of providing metaphorical "food for DJs."

DJ Mustard

The LA-born hip hop and R&B DJ's first name is Dijon.


DJ Paypal

The anonymous LuckyMe and Teklife affiliate chose to work under DJ Paypal as a way of satirising US commercialisation. Speaking to Truants about the meaning behind his name and those of fellow Mall Music artists such as DJ Mastercard, he revealed: "We're concerned about America. How the USA globalizes commercial thought. It's gone pretty far. All people think about is 'buy buy buy … sell sell sell'. We want to show how ironic it is."

DJ Richard

When the White Material honcho first decided to get into producing aged 18 he didn't have a computer. He overcame this by borrowing a computer belonging to his friend's dad, whose name was Richard.

DJ Sprinkles

Terre Thaemlitz explained to Dummy Mag that she caught an advert for an instant cake mix that contained candy sprinkles in which the voiceover's voice said "With Sprinkles in the mix!" like some "weird hip hop DJ shout-out". She settled on the name because more importantly "it was a faggy name that didn't sound like the macho DJ names of the day."

DJ Tennis

Manfredi Romano took his name from his love for the sport; he used to be a semi-professional tennis player before he became a DJ.

Drexciya

The seminal electro two-piece's name refers to a myth based around the 1781 Zong massacre in which an English slave owner mass murdered at least 132 slaves by throwing them overboard so he could claim insurance money upon their death. The myth follows that the unborn babies of the murdered pregnant women developed the ability to breathe underwater and came to live in an ocean floor city called Drexciya.

The liner notes for 1997 album 'The Quest' asked "Could it be possible for humans to breath underwater? A foetus in its mother's womb is certainly alive in an aquatic environment. During the greatest holocaust the world has ever known, pregnant America-bound African slaves were thrown overboard by the thousands during labour for being sick and disruptive cargo. Is it possible that they could have given birth at sea to babies that never needed air?"

Eats Everything

Not actually because he eats everything, but because he chows down and likes a lot of music. Daniel Pearce admitted to Westword: "I eat a lot and I play everything. It's a stupid name. I don't eat everything. I've been asked a million times and I'm just now realizing how much I don't eat - I'm quite picky... But I do eat a lot of certain things. There's a modicum of truth in it."

Efdemin

The name Efdemin comes from a radio play Phillip Sollmann heard when he was young. He explained his thought process to RA: "There was a character called Mikhail Efdemin. He was a kind of bad character from Romania, the guy who everybody was afraid of. So I liked the name and just picked it up." Don't mess.

FaltyDL

FaltyDL was the first name that came to mind when Drew Lustman was prompted by AOL to enter a username as a teenager. He told Pitchfork: "DL are my initials, and I've never spelled 'Falty' with a 'u' because I can't spell."

Fatboy Slim

Norman Cook wanted his name to be a major contradiction so settled on Fatboy Slim.

Flying Lotus

As a child Steven Ellison would obsessively ask people what their desired superpower would be, and explain that all he wanted was to be able to fly.

Friend Within

Inspired by The Inbetweeners, he named a cat that used to come into his garden 'Friend'. A random word generator was used to get 'Within', and then it was just a matter of adding them together. Using the same method, we've just coined the name Bus Wankers Dynasty – help yourself, budding DJs.

Future Brown

In an interview with The Guardian, Fatima Al Qadiri explained that one day a friend of the four-piece was tripping on mushrooms and invented a colour that was "an unnatural shade of brown, an artificial shade that doesn't exist in nature."

Grimes

Claire Boucher took to Twitter late one evening last December to come clean about the origin of her name after years of avoiding the question, or lying about it being aSimpsons reference. She wrote: "on myspace ur genre could be grime and u could have 3 genres so i was plural grime, b4 knowing what grime was." Boucher was later pleased to discover that she actually loves grime music.

Happa

The half-Iranian DJ was making an internet forum screen name starting with 'HalfAPersianPrinceAnd' before running out of characters.

Hudson Mohawke

Previously working under the name of DJ Itchy, Ross Birchard became Hudson Mohawke after seeing the name engraved on a statue in the hallway of his Glasgow university halls.

Jacques Greene

Phillipe Aubin Dionne was raised bilingually by his American dad and French-Canadian mum. He wanted a DJ handle that represented this, so combined a typically French name in Jacques with a typically English name in Greene. Kind of ironic then that this name actually came from his parents after all.

L-Vis 1990

The Night Slugs boss told TimeOut that he took his title from a quote by the band Sigue Sigue Sputnik: "The German remix of '21st Century Boy' has an intro where this deep voice describes the ultimate band, which is going to change the future by resisting the past. And that band is called Elvis 1990." Appropriate then for the head of one of the most influential club labels (Night Slugs) in recent history.

Legowelt

Mean World Of Lego in German. Make sense? Yeah, Danny Wolfers isn't sure why he chose it either, guessing "maybe because it sounds 'techno' like 'Computerwelt' by Kraftwerk."

Lone

Matt Cutler was a bit of a loner growing up, preferring to stay in and make tunes than go out. He also wanted the project to be solely about himself, telling Leftlion: "It's too personal to involve anyone else in so that name seems to be an obvious choice."

Louisahhh!!!

Louisa Pillot decided to stylise her name like this so it was reminiscent of a war cry or shriek of delight.

Mala and Coki

Their friends used to call them Malibu and Coke growing up, so their DJ names are a variation on that. Malibu was Mark Lawrence's favourite drink, "I don't drink it now!" he insisted to The Independent.

Midland

Like label Hessle Audio and one of its founding members Pearson Sound, Harry Agius took inspiration from a street in Leeds' Hyde Park area. Now if we can just find out what he called his first pet then we'll know his porn star name too.

Mano Le Tough

Mano is an abbreviation of the Irishman's surname; Le Tough is taken from a band he was in with school friends called Hang Tough. Scandalously, he admitted to Dazed Digital: "I am not really that tough".

Modeselektor

Modeselektor is a function on the Roland RE-201 space echo analogue delay effects unit.

Monki

Miss Monkman was one of four girls called Lucy in her school year, so people began to call her Monki. She told Inverted-Audio: "Monki would get put on the register and I would be referred to as Monki in assemblies by the teachers and stuff, was quite funny."


Motor City Drum Ensemble

Danilo Plessow hails from Germany's motor city Stuttgart and passionately collects Roland drum machines.

Mount Kimbie

Mount Kimbie found their name when they saw it tattooed on the left collarbone of a druid they bumped into down Glastonbury way. Mysteriously, Dominc Maker revealed to Beat magazine that "the common pronunciation of the name is wrong." Although, he also said in that interview that "If you write Mount Kimbie on your left hand and look at it in a spherical mirror through white 'Kanye West' sunglasses, you will see the hidden secrets within the name." Think he might be having us on.

mssingNo

Incomplete coding in Pokémon Red and Blue means you sometimes encounter glitch Pokémon called Missing Number, stylised as Missingno. due to the 10 character limit. "A wild DJ name appeared!"

Nguzunguzu

The name is taken from a type of prow that is placed on the head of canoes in the Solomon Islands.

Peverelist

Tom Ford told Fact that he started out DJing jungle in Hatfield Peverel, calling himself Hatfield Peverel Junglist Massive. A self-proclaimed "ridiculous name, so I shortened it to Peverelist."

Prosumer

Prosumer references a phrase in Alvin Toffler's techno sci-fi bible 'The Third Wave', meaning to produce and be a consumer at the same time.

Recondite

The German live set master told The DJ List that he wanted his alias to be an "adjective with a clear origin in Latin, describing something which is precious to me." Recondite was perfect because he liked "the sound and the look of the word."

Romare

Studying African American Visual Culture at University, Archie Fairhurst became deeply interested in the work of Romare Bearden and his cut'n'paste artworks. He decided to apply the same method to his music, chopping up samples and piecing them together.

SBTRKT

Aaron Jerome wanted to remove himself as a person from this project and let the music to do the talking. SBTRKT refers to his personal subtraction from the process.

Scuba

Paul Rose had been sending music to Hatcha, but one day in the studio shifted his style to be more stripped back and dubby. He told In The Mix: "Because it was quite different to my other stuff I thought, let's just see what he thinks of it cold. I had to think of something to write on the CD and just picked out the first thing that came to my head! He gave me a call as soon as he got the CD and I said, you know it's me, and he said, 'well, fuck!'"

Shed

Rene Pawlowitz titled his first album 'Shedding The Past' as a mantra to leave the past behind him, and he took his DJ name (well, one of them) from that.

Skepta

Skepta is a misspelling of the word Sceptre. Joseph Adenuga liked the word, but wanted a unique spelling so he could type it into YouTube and only he would come up.

Total Freedom

Total Freedom "used to have a different DJ name" he told The Quietus, before continuing that, "one time I was making a flyer and didn't want to write my old DJ name because I was bored or something. I wrote 'Total Freedom' and was like 'I guess that's my new DJ name'." The Fade To Mind DJ is noted for pushing the boundaries of club music, yet he still feels constrained in his sets, he referred to the name as "like a goal more than a reality."

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

One of the most outlandish names in dance music. Orlando Higginbottom explained to Spin that it derived from his desire to pick something that "couldn't be cool". Well chosen, then.

The Black Madonna

The figure of the Black Madonna has a number of origins, spanning Caribbean culture and dark-skinned renderings of the Virgin Mary. Marea Stamper has loved the concept since she was a teenager and read Longing For Darkness, a book which connects The Black Madonna with Green Tara, an enlightened Buddhist figure that offers protection from fear.

The Chemical Brothers

The two-piece originally began working together as The Dust Brothers in homage to the US duo, until they were served a cease and desist order and changed it to Chemical. Never meet your heroes, or name yourself after them.

Thugfucker

Thugfucker told Planet Notion: that their name is "a way of ensuring that we don't take ourselves too seriously or let our egos get too big. Cause at the end of the day, we're still in a group called Thugfucker. So let's just focus on trying to make good music, good parties and helping as many people have a good time alongside us as possible." Surprisingly noble.

Vakula

Fellow Ukrainian Igor Glushko told Hyponik: "Vakula is not his real name, it is a reminiscence of the major character from Nikolai Gogol's book Evenings On A Farm Near Dikanka." The character is a blacksmith in the short story Christmas Eve who manages to trick the devil, steal slippers from the feet of the Tsarina, and win the heart of a beautiful girl.

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