No one's consulted the Guinness Book of World Records people about this, but
it's a fair bet that Will Oldham is about to eclipse The Artist Formerly Known As
Prince for the most albums released under different names.
When his two upcoming EPs, Black/Rich Music and Little Joya,
are simultaneously released on June 22, Oldham will officially become (The
Rocker Now Known As) Bonnie "Prince" Billie ... at least, for the time being.
In the past, he's released albums under the band names Palace, Palace Music
and Palace Brothers and -- in a daring career move -- even under his real
What's with the multiple monikers?
"I guess each one is sort-of motivated differently, and this name I work under
now is who I am," said Billie -- as he prefers to be called these days -- from his
home in Shelbyville, Ky., a town that takes its name from the poet Isaac Shelby.
Whatever his name, Billie is rarely specific about things, including his songs.
Calling some of the new tunes from the EPs "religious" in tone and, in some
cases, electronica-based, Billie seems to veer into a characteristically cryptic
voice when asked to talk about his work.
"It sounds like a ceremony, like people were playing music and there was like a
formal ceremony," he said of the song "Joya," which appears on Little
Joya. "Almost like a eulogy, it's like if you went into Central Park and there
were a bunch of people doing the drum thing, but you went with the intention of
having a funeral and they didn't know you."
That said, it's not surprising that the artist has an equally vague explanation for
his most recent change of names. "I'm not sure [when I became Billie]," he said.
"There's not really time off from this kind of work. It's something that goes on all
the time, so it's hard to say when something begins and something ends.
Determining where it occurs in the course of the events is really hard."
The new EPs are his first releases since 1997's Joya. On previous
recordings, Billie's sound has varied as often as his names. On songs such as
"Antagonism"(RealAudio excerpt), Billie played guitar and sang his
words with an earnest, melancholy feel. In contrast, songs such as "Prologue"
and "Exit Music: For A Dick" from the upcoming Little Joya EP are what
Billie said were his electronic songs.
Gene Booth, a spokesperson at Billie's label, Drag City, offered his opinion of
the two EPs.
"Black/Rich Music began as a limited-edition CD that accompanied the
first 1,000 copies of Arise Therefore [a pre-Billie Oldham album released
under the name Palace]," Booth said, adding that both releases are out of print.
"These two EPs show sides of Will Oldham that fans have not heard before."
Billie had his own views. He described the tracks on Black/Rich Music as
religious songs but denied that there was any specific religion or philosophy
being endorsed. "No, they're generally religious songs," he explained. "A new
religion, like the other ones but without any names."
Billie allowed that "The Risen Lord" boasts lyrics copped from a D.H. Lawrence
poem by the same name but denied being a fan of the author. "I'm not a fan of
individuals," he said. "I'm a fan of some work people do. He's dead and I never
The complete track listing for Black/Rich Music is: "Organ: Do What You
Will Do," "Do What You Will Do," "The Risen Lord,"
"Organ: Allowance," "Allowance," "Black/Rich Tune," "Organ: Black/Rich" and
"Guitar: Do What You Will Do."
The complete track listing for Little Joya is: "Prologue," "Joya" and "Exit
Music: For A Dick."