Names, Names, Names...
What's with the names?

Well, here's the complete rundown:

The name I was born with was Kurt Harland Larson. When I was about 14, I was WAYYY into Anne McCaffrey and J.R.R. Tolkein. I made up a pseudonym out of names from two of their books: Jaxom Valaquenyar. 5 years later, when we started Information Society, we decided to use pseudonymous last names. This was not an important or well-considered idea. We just thought it would be cute. So I shortened Valaquenyar to Valaquen. Paul used 'Schwitters', and Pam used 'Tzara', which were names of two dadaist artists from around the turn of the century. Later, when Kristie and then Jim joined the band, Jim used 'Richter', and Kristie was able to use her real name, Leader, because her name was already cool.

We had the problem that a lot of bands have: When you're just a bunch of college students playing local shows for fun, you don't imagine that anything you do will ever have any lasting consequences. (I wonder how many times "Ten-Thousand Maniacs" regretted choosing that name...) But when you start to get even a LITTLE success, these things become VERY difficult to change. Once several thousand people have heard of you, it becomes very hard to change anything without causing a lot of confusion. The first sign of trouble we had was when we started playing 2 or 3-song shows in NYC and Miami; Everyone who got to know us enough to realize that there were two names for each of us (Me, Paul, Jim, and Amanda at this point, although Amanda used her real name only) thought that 'Robb', 'Cassidy', and 'Larson' were our groovy, made-up stage names, and 'Schwitters', 'Richter', and 'Valaquen' were our embarrassing real names. It was a cultural difference thing. In Minneapolis in 1982, as ex-suburban new-wavers, German dadaist names and Tolkein references seemed cool to us. But to 1986 east coast hipsters, names like 'Robb' and 'Cassidy' seemed cool, and there was no point even TRYING to bring up dadaists.

So, Paul and Jim got smart and just started using their real names only. I didn't, because I've never really liked the name 'Larson'. I kept on using 'Valaquen', which was a huge mistake, because by 1988, when we had a top-40 single, I had come to find the whole thing very embarrassing. It was something I thought of when I was 14. I had to answer questions about the name in radio interviews and so on.... One just never imagines those sorts of consequences.

I knew I had to abandon that stupid name, and I knew that it would be hard, because it had gotten onto our 1st album, which sold over a million copies. Conservatively, that means at least 2 million people had heard that name. So I decided I'd just use my middle name as my last name, (it was my grandfather's first name) and drop 'Valaquen' altogether. To make a smooth transition, I used 'Kurt Harland Valaquen' on our second album, and then just 'Kurt Harland' on the third.

Only goes to show.

Or something.

- Kurt Harland - 07/97