“LiveWire” – July, 1996 // Stef and Chino Interviewed

June/July 1996

Def Jamming
Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter 
explain the origin of their band's funk/metal/pop/hardcore blend.

By Tomas Pascual


There are many bands these days that lay claim to a diverse section of influences. But no one 
band is as subtly boisterous to about their eclectic mix as are The Deftones. Blending together 
everything from funk to metal, rap and hardcore, The Deftones' coalesce these different energies 
into one coherent electrical stream of sound. The Deftones course is piloted by vocalist and 
frontman Chino Moreno, who expresses his smooth, melodic lyrics emotionally one minute before 
giving way to abrasive, maddened screams the next. Backed by the serene and apocalyptic guitar 
of Stephen Carpenter, this Yin-Yang formula keeps the Deftones' debut Adrenaline progressively 

Originating without a classification per se, The Deftones got their start playing gigs with the 
West Coast's Primus-inspired funk-metal scene. Stephen explains: "We've been together almost 
seven years right now and when we started to play our local scene consisted of the funk-metal 
thing. Primus was just getting big at the time, and there were a lot of those types of bands 
around. We never actually played with them, but we wanted to. We liked the bands, but we just 
wanted to play out, rather than become part of some scene."

"If there was a scene I wasn't in it," says Chino, joining the conversation. "When we played 
we did kind of get thrown into the funk category for some reason. This was back when Primus 
first came out, and since we're from Sacramento and we're close to the Bay Area, every band 
out there was doing that sloppy bass kind of shit. So we got thrown on to all those bills 
because we weren't just straight metal, or straight punk. We always stuck out. What ended up 
happening is that we just started doing our own shows headlining."

One band that started out around the same time as The Deftones whom they are always getting 
compared to is Korn. "It doesn't really bother me," says Chino. "It gets annoying sometimes 
when someone talks to me and that's the first thing they ask me about. They're a great band, 
and we've been around as long as they have. I didn't know anything about them at all until one 
day, they got a hold of our demo tape and we got a hold of theirs and they asked us to play 
with them. When we played with them that first time I remember thinking 'what the fuck?' We had 
never seen each other play before, and there was a lot of similar shit going on. I remember 
thinking they were really good and hoping this style of music would go somewhere, with another 
band going out there and doing this shit."

Chino's unique vocal style is one of The Deftones' most distinguishing characteristics, part of 
which he attributes to a strong influence HR of the Bad Brains. "I just started singing. That 
is how I learned. I listened to a lot of new wave stuff, bands like Depeche Mode and stuff like 
that. So I was really inspired to want to really sing. At the same time, my roots were in rap, 
so that just came out without me consciously trying. That was a trip. I didn't get into Bad 
Brains or any punk rock until after that. I was more into new wave and then I got into punk 
bands like The Misfits, and then for me came the Bad Brains. I tripped out when I first heard 
them. They really inspired me, HR especially, because of his honesty. Maybe lyrically I'm more 
inspired by Depeche Mode, and execution wise I'm more influenced by HR and Bad Brains. Now I 
can look back on a record and see a lot of the different things that have influenced my style."

Alternating smooth vocals and abrasive ones can bee a chore to many vocalists, but for the 
hard-drinking Chino it flows like liquor down his throat. He explains, "It's not really that 
difficult for me. I am a real moody person, I can be in a good mood or act like an asshole and 
that is exactly what comes across in the music. Everything pretty much revolves around love and 
hate - those two moods. All the songs on the record have a lot of feelings of love, or feelings 
of hate. I'll go through both of those moods in one song many times, so it just comes out 
naturally in the music for me. I don't write about one particular subject, so much as just 
talking about how I feel at the moment. I think there are one or two particular songs where 
I talk about a specific incident. But mostly I'm just talking about how I feel at the moment, 
and the transition that I'm going through, that the music is making me feel. The must that the 
band makes trips me out and gets me thinking about things. Like '7 Words,' for example. I was 
really pissed when I wrote that song. If I wasn't pissed, even though it's a heavy song, I 
would've been singing about something sweet."

The Deftones have hit the road in a heavy way in support of their debut, jumping on a variety 
of tours including an aborted Bad Brains tour, Monster Magnet, CIV, Anthrax/Life of Agony, and 
the Ozzy tour, before going out headlining on their own. Chino comments on the diverse crowds 
they've played for, and their reactions. "Well it is weird now because Korn is starting to get 
big now, and a lot of their crowd was at the Ozzy shows. But mostly the people that were at the 
Ozzy shows were there to see Ozzy. You can't blame them for that, they're there to see him and 
he's great. It's not that they were disrespectful, but in between songs during our set they'd 
be chanting "Ozzy, Ozzy!' But, other than that, we never got booed and overall we had a good 
response from most of the shows we've played. I think the best tour we've been on is this one 
right now. We're headlining and all the kids that are showing up are coming because they're 
into what we're doing. It's not like the kids who saw us on the Anthrax tour, who hear power 
chords and immediately begin slam-dancing, without paying attention to our music."

The Deftones are looked upon as an "alternative" band by many, and their video for "7 Words" 
recently aired on MTV's 120 minutes. But really the band's driving guitar-based sound shows a 
lot of metal influence. Stephen explains, "If I had a label to our music, I would describe it 
as Deftones music. The only way you could categorize us is from our heavy drum and guitar 
sound, so that would make us heavy. But there are too many styles involved to just call us one 
thing. I listen to a lot of heavier stuff, Pantera, Sepultura, Down, Helmet, but I listen to a 
lot of other stuff as well. But that's where my influences come from. But even though I play 
heavy there are other things involved in Deftones."

The Deftones will be doing The Warped tour this summer so check out the band's energetic live 
performance, even if you don't bring out a board, you assuredly will not be "Bored".