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Featured image Whats in a name

What’s in a name? – or, how Rookling was christened

A lot of you knew me first by my birth name, and others yet under a different stage name. One night, I stayed up late wondering what changed – and wrote down my answer.

Adam, so the story goes, gave names to all the animals and plants. But notice that he did not name himself. He was made in the image of his creator, and the creator named him to separate image from original. And who names all the gods? Mankind, of course, when our heroic or villainous images grow too big for us to contain. Naming does not happen in a closed loop. It is done by one to the other.

This is still true when we choose new names for ourselves. The need to rename comes with a new awareness of new life taking shape within ourselves. Perhaps we need to separate and confine that new identity, like a man that pushes pencils in a three-piece during daylight hours and transforms into a drag queen at night. And so self-naming is an act of fission: it splits one into two.

Nonetheless, it was named, and there was no going back.

Or perhaps we need to shed our skin and step into a new identity once and for all, no going back, like becoming a Pope or a monarch. This transformation is a kind of historical fission, too, splitting a timeline into Now and Then when the Old names the New.

On the day I turned twenty-one, I decided I wanted a public face for my music. Choosing a stage name empowered me to recognise my inner artist for the first time, even if I did not have much understanding of that figure within me. It was a childish figure, playful yet fearful. Nonetheless, it was named, and there was no going back.

Two and a half years later, I notice that the artist has changed. He has grown, but the evolution has had deeper workings than simply improving his skills. The new artist is driven by a different fuel: he values connection over admiration; he is unswayed by the prospect of being disliked; he is alert to what moves him and quick to collect and channel that power.

So this vitality deserved a new name that marks both fission and transformation. Rookling is the latest image of my artist figure, replacing what came before. But Rookling is at arm’s length from me. His successes and failures of are not bound up with my innate worth. Without that weight on his shoulders, he might just get far.

Rookling plays with his band for the first time on 19th December, in 800A, Berlin-Wedding.

Photo by Jim Kroft. Logo by Teko van Kuyk.

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