Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Malkmus forced to rename his album out of fear he's not as famous as L.A. Guns

Illustration for article titled Stephen Malkmus forced to rename his album out of fear he's not as famous as L.A. Guns

The forthcoming album from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks, Mirror Traffic (due August 23), already has a built-in audience of Pavement worshippers, plus those who maybe aren’t as into the Jicks stuff, but who are nevertheless curious to see whether putting Malkmus and Beck together will engender some sort of cosmic slacker singularity. But according to an email exchange between Malkmus and his old Silver Jews bandmate David Berman, the album very nearly attracted an audience of confused, equally ardent ’80s glam-metal fans by going under the title L.A. Guns, until a team of entertainment lawyers intervened.


In the ensuing back-and-forth (which Berman posted in full on his blog), a group of record company executives fretted over Malkmus’ initial suggestion, citing a case where Aerosmith was sued by the band Pump over its album of the same name. Though that lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful thanks to Pump’s relative obscurity, Malkmus’ reps argued that there was a more likely possibility for confusion here because “L.A. Guns are an established group, certainly more famous than SM's album and quite possibly more famous than SM himself. So, without taking into account additional facts, it's conceivable that a consumer might buy SM's album entitled L.A. Guns while mistakenly believing it's an album by L.A. Guns.” And then, presumably they would riot, metal-style.

Of course, some could take issue with the argument that L.A. Guns is “more famous” than Stephen Malkmus, considering these days L.A. Guns is chiefly remembered as the group whose original incarnation led to Guns ‘N’ Roses, and that, ultimately, they probably rank somewhere among Autograph and W.A.S.P. in the realm of “famous L.A. metal bands.” But even setting that aside (though we know you won’t!), you can see why the record company wouldn’t want to get into it, considering not even the members of L.A. Guns are sure who is L.A. Guns anymore: As the lawyers point out, there are currently two competing versions of L.A. Guns out there on the club and street fair circuit—one led by original guitarist Tracii Guns, one by fourth or fifth singer Phil Lewis—who continue to tussle over the long-since muddied rights to the L.A. Guns name like two homeless men fighting over who gets to sleep on the subway grate.

Naturally, this creates an atmosphere of confusion that Malkmus’ lawyers claimed he could probably exploit, but you can also see why they balked at getting involved in the mess—even rejecting the notion of spelling it L.A. Gunz, as the band’s fans “might not remember how the group spells its name, so the Z might not make a difference.” Essentially, they seem to believe that L.A. Guns fans operate purely on instinct and basic shape recognition, which must be an exhilarating way to live. Anyway, just a note to indie-rockers: You still have to wait for Joe Lesté to retire before you can call your album Bang Tango. We know you want to. [via Pitchfork]