Hard-rockin' 'Wrist'

June 15, 2007

BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC

The most innovative group to emerge from the late-'90s crop of nu-metal or rap-rock bands, Sacramento's Deftones have created an enduring sound out of guitarist Stephen Carpenter's mix of metal riffing and My Bloody Valentine-like sonic swirl, DJ Frank Delgado's Public Enemy-like sonics, vocalist Chino Moreno's fondness for the atmospheric mope-rock of the Cure and Depeche Mode and the rolling rhythms of Abe Cunningham and Chi Heng.

Released last Fall, "Saturday Night Wrist" found the group once again expanding the parameters of its sound, working with producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, KISS, Pink Floyd) and creating one of the most listenable, creative and uncompromising hard-rock albums since the debut of Rage Against the Machine. I spoke with Carpenter about the album and the tour that brings the band to Chicago tonight.

Q. The new album is another really impressive disc from the Deftones, Stephen. Tell me about making this one and working with Bob Ezrin -- I mean, this is the guy who made "The Wall" with Pink Floyd!

A. I didn't even relate to him in that sense; he was just Bob to me. I honestly didn't even know anything of what he had done, except for Pink Floyd and KISS. Chino and Abe wanted to work with him; I'm not sure how his name got into the pool, but I guess when our manager found out he was interested in working with us, the opportunity came up. We were actually starting to work with Dan "the Automator" Nakamura [Beastie Boys], and then it went to Ezrin. I didn't really have half the issues that anyone had with him. I think a lot of stuff was said in the press long ago before the record came out, and it's been misinterpreted.

Q. How did you approach the songwriting this time?

A. Generally as we always have. The difference is, working with Bob, he was really focused on trying to condense things, and melodically, he would switch things up on us. I certainly know that what I've learned through this process is that I'm very adamant about what I like to do. It's not like I'm not interested in what somebody else is saying, but their idea is no greater or less than my own. It's like, "Look, I'd rather take the risk on my own, and if I make some crap, so be it. But it's the crap I made, and I'm still going to like it.'"

Q. Well, the band has always had that attitude, and it's led you to consistently pushing the envelope to go somewhere new.

A. That's generally our band's attitude. Working with Bob, we were hoping for someone to give us a change, but what we realized throughout the thing is that we are who we are. No one is going to make us be a band that we aren't. We're really focused on making music we enjoy, and it has made an impact on people's lives. Lots of bands have done that for lots of people, and I think that's what's great about music.

Q. But it seems as if the Deftones have a particularly indulgent audience, in that they're willing to let you take chances, experiment and twist the sound. You say, "We are who we are," but every record has introduced a different version of the band's sound.

A. That's been our approach from the start: to not do the same thing. I think from talking to our fans throughout the years, they ultimately feel the same way. They like change; change is good. It's never so dramatic that you're disorientating them, but you have to mix it up somewhat.

I think there is a metal edge to our band that's really at the core. As a guitar player, I like to play metal; I enjoy playing other stuff, but my riffs will always be metal-based. That sound always remains consistent, but that's largely because of me.

Q. It's a hard sound to fake; you either deliver or you don't.

A. You know, that will cross over to any topic in life: Faking it is faking it. People that know see right through it, and the others that are gullible will eventually open their eyes and be like, "Oh, man! We've been had!"

Ezrin adds to stellar list

Much of the advance press for the Deftones' sixth album focused on the difficulties the group had with producer Bob Ezrin. ("We brought Bob in because we'd gotten so familiar and comfortable with [previous producer] Terry Date," singer Chino Moreno told the Nashville City Paper. "But he had a heavy schedule and he wasn't in the mood for anyone not being prepared.") But the musicians have downplayed the tensions since the disc's release, and it stands as one of the strongest recordings of their career.

By all accounts, Ezrin, as much of a "rock star" as many of the musicians he works with, is not shy about expressing his opinions for how a recording can be improved. But then he's earned the right, as a quick look at his resume indicates. Here are my choices for the best albums he's helmed, all of them wonderfully complex efforts that stand with the artists' best:

 Pink Floyd, "The Wall" (1979)
 Lou Reed, "Berlin" (1973)
 Peter Gabriel, "Peter Gabriel (I)" (1977)
 KISS, "Destroyer" (1976)
 Alice Cooper, "School's Out" (1972)

DEFTONES; DIR EN GRAY; THE FALL OF TROY

 7 tonight
 Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine
 Tickets, $31
 (312) 559-1212

 

 

 

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