It's been 15 years since
vocalist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abe
Cunningham started jamming together as high school students in Sacramento,
Calif., and eight years since the group (which is completed by bassist Chi
Cheng and DJ Frank Delgado) debuted with 1995's aptly titled "Adrenaline."
That disc and 1997's "Around the Fur" marked the Deftones as one of the
most aggressive of the so-called "rap-rock" or "nu-metal" bands, but it was
with 2000's platinum-selling third effort that the band showed the breadth
of its musical vision. "White Pony" incorporated dense layers of
psychedelic/noise guitar (think Pink Floyd meets My Bloody Valentine), added
grinding industrial textures a la Tool, and alternated Moreno's savage
screaming with more melodic, moody and ethereal interludes.
Featuring: Metallica, Limp Bizkit, the Deftones, Linkin Park,
* 3 p.m. Saturday
*Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie, Cicero
The group's self-titled fourth album continues in this experimental vein,
and it's another strong collection of swirling, layered and subtly nuanced
hard rock. Following a rare club performance at Metro the week the disc was
released, the Deftones are performing at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hawthorne
Race Course in Cicero as part of Metallica's Summer Sanitarium Tour.
I spoke with Moreno shortly after the album was completed last spring.
Q. Tell me about making this album.
A. It happened over a long time--it was a couple of years making
this one--and it has a different sound than "White Pony." You've got three
albums behind you, and you don't want to follow any of the same formulas
that you used on any of those other records, so there's a lot more thinking
involved. It wasn't over-thinking. I'm just glad there are deadlines,
because then the album has to be done! If it wasn't for the deadline, the
mother-----r would never be done, because we'd just want to keep on working
It's also cool because this record happened over a time in our lives--the
year and a half that we got to spend actually living our lives. Since we got
signed in '95, we got put out on tour, and at the most we'd get a couple of
months off here, a couple of months off there. But we pretty much stayed on
tour and then went in to make records. This time, we got to get off the road
and go home and kick it. I got to go home and live in my house, drive in my
car, do s--- that normal people do. Clean my pool.
Q. But you wound up jumping into a number of side projects
during the down time. You formed Team Sleep and made an as-yet-unreleased
album with some unlikely collaborators, including former Faith No More
vocalist Mike Patton, ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur and former Helium
guitarist and vocalist Mary Timony.
A. But that was also a good thing--a totally useful thing. I know
for myself, I can only watch so much f---ing television! You can only rake
so many leaves until there are no more to rake.
We were all kind of involved in our things. Stephen was making music with
B-Real [of Cypress Hill]. It's just that Stephen lives in L.A., and the rest
of us still live in Sacramento. We made this specific time off so we didn't
even have to think Deftones. We all did anyway, but it was nice to take a
Q. When you write with the Deftones, you add your lyrics after
the song has already come together, right?
A. It's always been that way. I'll just hear something and feel a
certain thing and start singing. I let the music create it, whatever mood it
may be. But the music is already pretty much written.
Q. In the past, you were often playing different characters in
your songs, adopting roles like David Bowie or Peter Gabriel might. I'm
thinking of a tune like the kidnap fantasy "Feiticeira."
A. There was a lot more of that on "White Pony" than on this one.
This one was more stream of consciousness. Playing parts was more on the
earlier records. That was a time in my life when I was kind of bored, and I
just wanted to be somebody else.
Q. So what are you talking about on "Deftones"?
A. The Earth.
Q. The lyrics seem to be a lot more optimistic. In the single
"Minerva," you sing, "God bless you all for the song you saved us." Where is
that sentiment coming from?
A. I just think there's some beautiful s--- going on right now,
but there's some really f---ing shady s--- going on, too. But there are some
really simple things--like a woman's voice or hearing someone sing a
song--that can just instill this feeling of ecstasy. It can be the simplest
thing, but everything can build on that.
I don't want to preach to anybody. My opinions are my opinions. I just
want to sing about romance and good s---. If anybody listens to that song
and gets a message, that's a positive thing. I don't want to have to explain
what that song should mean; it should mean how it makes you feel. I'm pretty
damn sure it will make people feel happy.
Q. When you talk about mood, I hear an awful lot of Pink Floyd
in your music.
A. It is a total mood thing. I can't believe that more people
aren't influenced by them. It's good to have songs where people can do
whatever they want. Just because a band has been pigeonholed into whatever
kind of scene--for us it's nu metal or whatever--I just hear sounds. I hear
so much stuff going on around me, and I try to take it in. Not so much fit
stuff in or cram stuff into another gear, but you can take something that
started out over here and take it somewhere way away from this Earth. And
Pink Floyd definitely did that.
Q. Let's talk about racism. Did you ever experience any
prejudice as a Hispanic in a scene that is dominated by white rockers and
A. In the beginning, almost every interview we did, that got brought up
to us: "Isn't it weird that you guys play metal?" And I was like, "What do
you mean it's weird?" For one, I don't know what it's like to be white, so I
don't have anything to compare it to. I just like what I like. It's not like
we're trying to be anything. I like all kinds of music--I listen to the Too
Short tape and a whole a lot more. I take in any music.
As far as like where I grew up, the [other Hispanic kids] called me "the
white one," but they were cool about it. It's not like they were messing
with me; they were just teasing me. The sun would go down and I'd see them
go off to go do something--to get into trouble--and I'd just go the other
way. I was into something different. Luckily, I had Stephen and a handful of
other guys who were into music, playing it and listening to it, and we all
just kind of came together--all the kids who were into skateboarding and
listening to different types of music.
Q. Do you think the Deftones have kept their hardcore metal
following despite the experimentation of the last two discs?
A. Definitely. I thought we'd lose that audience when we did
"White Pony." We still hear from a lot of people who ask, "What's your new
album like? Is it more like 'Around the Fur,' more hard and heavy?" And I'm
like, "It's hard and heavy, but it's also nice and sweet sometimes, too."
But that's how our records have always been. If people really listen to
"Adrenaline," it had some of the melodic stuff, too, but there was also a
lot of the knucklehead s---, like me screaming and being pissed-off at
everybody and thinking everybody was out to get me and s---.
Q. How do you feel when the band is categorized as "nu metal"?
A. Nobody wants to be pigeonholed, man. To me, it's just metal.
Q. Well, one of the things that distinguish the genre is that
it's much more influenced by hip-hop.
A. The whole world is, man. There are Eminems all over the place!
I see 'em every day on every corner. To me, that's really what I grew up in,
the urban s---, and when I see everybody else trying to be like that, I'm
like, "How is that fun to be like?" I'm glad I don't live in that
neighborhood any more, know what I'm saying? I don't get it how people want
to be so down with the ghetto. It shaped the person I am or whatever, but
it's certainly nothing to glorify.