For all the bands that I started, we held a “name the band” contest. I'm pretty sure I won just about every one of the contests, but it definitely tapped into the creative energies of my friends. We never ended up taking anyone's suggestions, but we generally got really impressive contributions.
It was only a matter of time before we then expanded the concept of "naming the band" to some sort of bizarre drinking game. Think of it like Hearts meets HORSE, only more idiotic. It started off simple: come up with a fictional band name, the rest of the peanut gallery would vote “yea” or “nay.” If you had more than a 75% majority agreement, you had to come up with another name starting with the last letter of the previous band name. If you didn't get three 75%+ majority agreements in a row you got a letter. If you did the feat three times in a row, all the rest of the competitors got a letter. There was never really a winner and the rules got more unnecessarily complicated as the game went along, usually because we got more drunk.
One of my friends, Mike Fournier, ended up being the sort of de facto stenographer for these boozing-cum-brainstorming sessions. Moleskine books upon moleskine books were filled up with every single brainfart that we came up. No idea was deeemed too stupid to go into the book. (Which probably explains the reason why Mike had volumes of them). We managed to find uses for these names on the cover of one of my former band's album covers (which you can pick up here. I still feel this was the single best recording I've ever appeared on, and hey, it's on vinyl!)
I eventually picked up my own moleskine book. At first, that too was used to write down idiotic drunken comments. My ear was trained to hear random disembodied phrases that would make for great band names. Intelligent Afghan Design? Hells yeah. Ruhbraska? Ditto. I guess in many ways this over-analysis became a sort of mental illness. I began over-analyzing what people were saying to capture for future insider joke-dom, and eventually I noticed all these disembodied phrases people say all the time that they don't realize they're saying, like YOU WHAT, or SO UH. I wrote them down as I felt I had to start putting those entries in crosswords.
My moleskine book now serves as a depository for all my brainfarts for puzzles. Say my tongue gets tied and a phrase comes out all wrong, that might be the basis for some sort of a punning-based theme -- note goes into the moleskine. Perhaps I might stumble upon an all-too-obvious word or phrase that simply has to be put in a puzzle: note goes into the moleskine.
It's probably nothing new to other writers. Almost all writing friends carry notebook around and scribble notes for themselves. (Big surprise, Mike's a writer and is always writing notes.) I often find that when I can't think of themes, typically, there's some sort of fleeting concept scribbled down in the moleskine. But alongside ideas of “words that I simply must put in puzzles,” I still write fictional band names. After thumbing through it now, I feel that The Storting would make for an amazing metal band name. Maybe if I were playing that band name drinking game, I'd even get some “yea” votes.
Quick "thank you" to Rex Parker and Amy Reynaldo for co-awarding me "Best New Website" in their 2008 Oryx awards. I am honored to share the award with Matt Gaffney. Read about the other winners here.