Monte Conner, who worked with Roadrunner at the time, said the band was offered a contract if they were willing to change their name. He claims the owner of the label at the time would have also had the band sign away their rights to merchandising and publishing.
“Have you ever wondered what is pictured on the first Deftones album Adrenaline? I have often wondered as well but it was not until I sat down to write this post that I discovered what it is. It’s a nasal aspirator, also commonly called a ‘bulb syringe.’ Since infants can’t blow their own noses, these snot-sucking devices gently remove baby boogers and mucus from their nasal passageways. That’s why they usually come in pink or blue. These syringes can also be used to clean an infant’s ears, and they make larger ones for adult ears as well. Check out the pink one shown here. The focus on the pic is very soft, just like on the Deftones cover. How is that for a cool match?
“But surely there must be more to the post than this? There is. Now get ready for the real reveal. The story of how I almost signed the Deftones and asked them to change their name as a condition of the deal! Yes, you read that right, both those things really happened!”
He adds regarding the ridiculous name controversy:
“In 1993, after seeing “def” added to the dictionary, Rick Rubin, the arbiter of all things hip, decided the word had lost its cool factor, and made the bold move of changing the name of his highly successful record label from Def American Recordings to simply American Recordings. The mainstreaming of the word went against the anti-establishment image that he was trying to project for the label. In typical Rubin style, he was going to make the name change an event, and a highly publicized mock funeral was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles on August 27, 1993 to bury the word ‘def.’
“More importantly, at the same exact time, there was a full-blown ska movement happening in America with bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sublime, No Doubt, Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, Rancid, Less Than Jake, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. To me, the “tones” part of the band’s name made them sound like a ska band.
“So “def” and was no longer cool, and “tones” lumped the band in with the ska movement. The name simply had to go. Surprisingly, I got no real pushback from the band. I don’t know if it was because they agreed with me, or they were simply hungry for a deal and would do whatever it took to get signed. Not only was I the first A&R guy to offer them a deal, but I was the ONLY A&R guy to offer them a deal! When you are the only label chasing a band, and there is no competition, it gives you a lot of leverage. Regardless of what the reason was, they went along with my demand. During the contract negotiations they would regularly run new names past me, even suggesting at one point that maybe they should call themselves “Engine No. 9,” named after the best track on the demo.
Obviously, Def Tones didn’t end up giving in to the pressure. But, as Conner points out, some bands did end up changing their names back in the day.
“Was this the first time I ever asked a band to change their name? Nope. In a similar situation I asked both Xecutioner and Amon to change their names. Today, you know those bands as Obituary and Deicide.”
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