When the Deftones dropped their 1995 debut, Adrenaline, the Sacramento, California–based four-piece established themselves as a defining force in the growing nu-metal field. When they came roaring back with Around the Fur two years later, however, it was clear that they were not only one of the tightest, inventive and most dynamic metal units of the moment — they were also pointing the way toward the future of heavy music itself.
Like Adrenaline, the songs on Around the Fur were powered by guitarist Stephen Carpenter's down-tuned, alternately drone-y and chunky riffing, drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Chi Cheng's power-tool rhythmic thrust and singer Chino Moreno's distinctive croons and shrieks. But Around the Fur, released on October 28th, 1997, also evidenced a band that was as indebted to shoegaze and New Wave — not to mention acts like Depeche Mode and the Cure — as they were to their throttling metal and punk forebears. From the opening track, "My Own Summer (Shove It)," which juxtaposed Carpenter's mudslide riffing against Moreno's enigmatic, whispered vocal, to the textured and pulsing "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)," the darkly impressionistic "Dai the Flu" to the raging sonic exorcism "Headup," Around the Fur was a wild and wildly diverse ride, and one that sounds as fresh and unique today as it did when it was first released two decades ago. As Carpenter explained, "Human beings love all kinds of music. To get stuck in one kind and one kind only, that's insane to me."
These days, the Deftones — which also includes DJ/keyboardist Frank Delgado (who contributed to Fur but was not a full member of the band at the time) and bassist Sergio Vega, who stepped in for Cheng following the tragic car accident that led to his passing in 2013 — continue to push the envelope, most recently with 2016's Gore, their eighth album. And it was Around the Fur that put them on that trailblazing path they continue to pursue, consistently exploring the outer realms of heavy music and redefining what the style can be.
1. The title Around the Fur is often thought to be a sexual allusion — it's not
Chino Moreno has acknowledged that the album title Around the Fur sounds "sexual." As he said in a 1997 interview for Dutch television, "People have been asking me a lot about that, especially with the album cover." But, he continued, the actual meaning of the phrase had more to do with sonics than sex. "Our music," Moreno explained, "I picture it as being, you know, very ugly, [with] heavy chords. Everything's really abrasive. And at the same time it's really soothing. And I think I picture fur as being very glamorous and very beautiful. But around the inside it's skin. And it's ugly. So it's somewhat of a metaphor for the music and the way I feel sometimes about people being really pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside."
2. Prior to recording the album, Chi Cheng almost left the Deftones — to become an English teacher
After finishing up the touring cycle in support of Adrenaline, the Deftones reconvened at a warehouse in Sacramento near the end of 1996 to begin work on the follow-up. At first, however, they were doing it without bassist Chi Cheng, who was down in San Diego — where he was considering leaving the band to become a teacher. "We had our little beefs with him because of that," recalled Carpenter. "[Chi] was like, 'Ah, I'll just be an English teacher. I don't need this rock & roll shit.' That was one of the things he was throwing around." As it turned out, there was a quick and easy solution to Cheng's dilemma. "We were just like, 'Get up here!,'" Carpenter said. "And he finally did."
3. One of the album's songs gave birth to the name of Max Cavalera's post-Sepultura band Soulfly
The album's most aggressive track, "Headup," was co-written by Max Cavalera, who also shares lead vocals duties with Moreno on the song. It was written in tribute to Cavalera's stepson, Dana, who had been killed in a car accident and was a friend of Moreno's. According to Cavalera, emotions ran high in the studio when he and Moreno were tracking the vocals. "It was almost as if we had Dana in the studio sitting between the two of us," he recalled in an interview excerpted on songfacts.com. "We were raging so hard, and I remember looking up and seeing Chino had smashed his nose and there was blood all over his face." "Headup" is also notable for the fact that Cavalera screams the word "soulfly," which later became the name of his post-Sepultura band, in the chorus. "That was the first time I used the word, but it was not until a year later that I actually used it for the name of the band," he told PureGrainAudio.com in 2010. "So when I did the song with them, it was just a song, but that was the first time the word 'soulfly' appeared."
4. Among the non-metal bands who love the Deftones — and in particular Around the Fur — is British space-prog rockers Muse
The Deftones have always been vocal about their love for bands outside of the metal genre, and one band that has expressed their love right back is Muse, who have often jammed on the "Headup" riff onstage at their concerts. What's more, Muse singer Matt Bellamy once named Around the Fur alongside Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Tom Waits' Mule Variations as an album he loves, and back in the Nineties the two acts shared a label home at Maverick. Indeed, when asked in 1999 by an NME interviewer, "Don't you feel sick to the stomach knowing that you're label mates with Alanis Morissette?" Bellamy responded about Maverick, "Not really, they've got Deftones and I really love Deftones."
5. Abe Cunningham played a different snare drum on almost every song on Around the Fur
The band members' willingness to experiment with tones and textures on Around the Fur trickled all the way down to even the drums, with Abe Cunningham consistently changing up his gear throughout the sessions. "We used the same kit throughout the whole record," he told Modern Drummer magazine in a 1997 interview, "but I swapped different snares around for practically every song." Cunningham continued, "I think I've sort of refined what I want in a snare sound now. I always liked getting a nice crack, but the older I'm getting, the more I'm getting into that fatter sound. I'm always adjusting my snare tension just to try to blend that crack with the fat sound."
6. Around the Fur closer "MX" features the sound of Stephen Carpenter taking a hit off "the Zong bong"
Several members of the Deftones — and Carpenter, in particular — have never been shy about proclaiming their love of weed. On Around the Fur, however, they put it all out there, tacking a hidden clip onto the end of final track "MX" that included the sound of someone taking a giant hit from a bong. "That was the Zong bong," Carpenter said. "It wasn't really big, probably a foot long. A nice little good-sized bong. But, yeah, I was doing bong rips all the time. That was the best." As for where the clip came from? "That was the answering machine we had at the apartment where we lived when we were making the record," he revealed. "If you would've rung our bell on the panel, you would've gotten that message."
7. The Around the Fur album cover might be iconic — but that doesn't mean the band members like it
The cover shot for Around the Fur, taken by future Jackass associate Rick Kosick, is instantly recognizable, though Carpenter claims that there was no great thought behind how it came to be. "There's no fancy reason for why it was used or anything like that," he said. "It just stood out for whatever reason. My thing about each one of our albums is that they're simply snapshots in time. And that cover is a representation of that time — that period making that record." But while it was indeed a moment in time, Moreno, for one, has stated that he's not necessarily a fan of that particular moment. "That cover is horrible," he told Kerrang! "At the time, we all lived in an apartment complex and were partying every night. We were at the hot tub and this was just a random shot [that] somehow we picked as the cover. On the back cover, there's a picture of the girl from the waist down. In the original, Frank [Delgado]'s in the hot tub next to her, so we Photoshopped him out of it."
8. Stephen Carpenter listened to Depeche Mode nonstop during the making of Around the Fur
If anything, the Deftones' sound was a product of all the non-metal they listened to. Carpenter has said that during the time they were recording Around the Fur he had Depeche Mode's then-new album Ultra on "24-hour repeat." Moreno, meanwhile, stated that his intake of metal was minimal. "I didn't grow up listening to heavy music," he told Dutch television. "But I always thought that the Cure and, like, Depeche Mode and bands like that were emotionally heavy and I love that. That moved me more than somebody screaming. So that's why I never really listened to heavy metal. So with [Around the Fur] especially I figured I could make it equally as heavy … but without yelling all the time."
Go deeper into the story behind Deftones' Around the Fur with Revolver's "Game-Changers" documentary: