It’s no surprise that the many of the world’s top DJs have opted for stage names rather than their real names. Not only is the stage name a great way to create a particular aura, but with so many of the top DJs being Dutch or Swedish, their real names would have been hard to remember and pronounce for English-speakers.
Using The DJ List as it stands today as a reference point, here is a list of the top 10 DJs and their birth names.
Real name: Tijs Michiel Verwest (Dutch)
With his real name being unpronounceable for most English speakers, “Tiesto” is an excellent choice. It’s close to his first name and sounds both Italian and Scandinavian, evoking a classy and mysterious image.
In this interview with AskMen, Tiesto explains that it is a nickname of his real name and that he likes it because it sounds happy and magical.
2. Armin Van Buuren
Real name: Armin Van Buuren (Dutch)
Armin Van Buuren was lucky to be born with a name that sounds both aristocratic and strong (historically some Dutch royals had the name Buren”), so it makes sense that he stuck with it.
Real name: Robbert van de Corput (Dutch)
The double b in “Robbert” is odd in English and “Corput” sounds dull. The name definitely had to change, and Hardwell is a good, solid, English-sounding choice for a DJ whose music often “goes harder.”
According to Festicket, the name was suggested by Hardwell’s father after his son had his first DJ gig at age 12 (a friend’s party). “Hardwell” is a loose translation of the family name, Corput – with “cor” translating to “hart” in Latin and “put” translating to “well” in Dutch.
4. David Guetta
Real name: Pierre David Guetta (French)
Based on his name, most people would probably assume that David Guetta was of Italian origin and possibly British or American, but he is actually French. “Pierre Guetta” sounds funny when said quickly, so I can see why he went with his middle name, David.
5. Martin Garrix
Real name: Martijn Gerard Garritsen (Dutch)
If he had dropped the “j” in his first name and left out his middle name, “Martin Garritsen” wouldn’t have been the worst DJ name, but “Martin Garrix” is by far catchier. Having an “x” in a name always sounds cooler, too. Garrix, who is only 20 years old, briefly mentions the name change in this 2013 interview with DJ Mag.
Real name: Tim Bergling (Swedish)
This is a rare example of a DJ name being harder to pronounce than the real name. “Tim Bergling” has a melodious sound to it and probably would have worked fine.
Bergling, who retired from live DJing earlier this year, has said that he came up with “Avicii” (pronounced “Aveechee”), when he found that his real name was already being used on MySpace. The name is based on the Sanskrit word for the lowest level of Buddhist hell. This 2013 article in Dancing Astronaut discusses the name change in more detail.
7. Carl Cox
Real name: Carl Cox (British)
This 54-year-old, Barbados-born DJ was lucky to be born with a short, easy-to-pronounce name, if not all that evocative or memorable.
Real name: Nick van de Wall (Dutch)
From his DJ name, you might assume that Afrojack was American and probably black. However, he was actually born in the Netherlands, with his mother being Dutch and his father from Suriname (South America).
If he had used his real first name, “Afronick” might not have had the same ring to it, so I can see why he went with “Jack” instead. According to Ministry of Sound, he chose the name based on a hairstyle he had when younger and “jacking,” a form of dancing to house music.
9. Axwell & Ingrosso
Real names: Axel Christofer Hedfors & Sebastian Carmine Ingrosso (Swedish)
Axwell & Ingrosso is an interesting hybrid of their actual names, which would have been much too long for a stage name. It also contains the cool “x” and the Italian flavour. (Sebastian Ingrosso is actually of Italian origin so they came by the latter honestly).
10. Calvin Harris
Real name: Adam Richard Wiles (Scottish)
He made the switch from one Anglo-Saxon name to another, but “Calvin Harris” is much better than his birth name, and has a classy feel. According to Digital Spy, Calvin Harris has said that he changed his name so that people could not tell whether he was black or white.