The Dark Side of the White Pony: The Deftones New Album Raises Them from the Underground by Vanessa Lops www.deftonesworld.com -------------- It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon in Virginia and, as the phone is rings, I'm expecting a gruff tour manager to answer it, screaming, "Whaddaya want??!!" Behind him, I'd like to imagine a room full of deafeningly loud music and a bunch of drunken roadies, partying and acting the way we all dream rock stars act at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I am to be sorely disappointed. Chino Moreno, diabolic soundpiece for the Deftones, greets me on the phone and politely explains, "I'm at the mall trying to buy some shoes." Buying shoes??? "Actually,' says Moreno, 'I get my shoes stolen almost every other day, so I've got a shoe fund now." The Deftones -- comprised of Stephan Carpenter on guitar, Frank Delgado on turntables, Chi Cheng on bass, Abe Cunningham on drums, and Moreno on vocals/guitar -- recently released White Pony, their third album on Maverick Records. "The name started out as the graphic itself, the picture of a pony," Moreno explains. "I thought we should use it as propaganda to represent our individuality, to say, 'We are the white pony amongst all these other bands,' and we stuck with it." While White Pony suggests a tame, unassuming innocence, the Deftones' new album is ripping through the charts like the Black Stallion, shooting these guys straight into the record industry's Winner's Circle. The first single, "Change," is on dozens of radio playlists, including San Diego's Rock 105.3, and tickets to their shows are selling like marriage licenses in Vegas. The album seems likely to flush these veterans from the underground and make the Deftones a household name. The usual rock-and-roll 'Success Story' is short-lived and tumultuous: Groups gain instant success by xeroxing the latest rock trend, then their frail bubble bursts when the next trend eclipses their temporary, borrowed star. But this is not the Deftones' story. Prior to White Pony, the band had already trotted a few warm-up furlongs through success. Their two previous albums sold over 1.2 million copies combined, and established the Deftones not only as trailblazers on the rap/metal front but also as a legitimate, reliable revenue stream for Maverick. These numbers were reached without a hit single and without bribing MTV for video-play. Instead, the band developed a very loyal, underground fan base. One would think this would put them in a position to make a hit single, manipulate their marketing to appeal to the masses, hire an image man and usurp the ephemeral King of Rock throne, right? Wrong. What the Deftones chose not to do is as responsible for their success as what they chose to do: They went about making aggressive music and refused to package it as some new toy for testosterone-addled frat cats. By shunning proven rock paradigms and heeding their own instincts, they proved their musical depth and passion, adding their own chapter to the book of Modern Rock. "I think it's a natural evolution," says Moreno. "We didn't have a set mind going into this record, we just wanted to do something a bit left-field of everything that was going on." The band demonstrated their commitment to this philosophy when Maverick requested the creation of a more mainstream version of "Pink Maggot." "I did a straight-up rap/rock version of it, so I could show them that if I wanted to do this cheesy, rap/rock shit, I could," explains Moreno. "So I played it, they loved it, and I said, 'Good -- now it's not going on the record.'" While the Deftones wanted to steer against the grain, they were still concerned about fans' reactions to the softer sonics on White Pony. "Honestly, I was a little worried when it first came out. I wondered, 'Man, what if people trip out? Did we completely alienate our fans?' But we've always had these elements in our music and now the highs are higher and the lows are lower." The album took a year to make, considerably longer than their previous two albums, with the extra time spent on the songwriting. Traditionally, Moreno inks out the lyrics and the band convenes later to write the music. On White Pony, he explains, the bandmembers wrote together as well as separately and compared the results. "That has a lot to do with why the record is so diverse,' he says, 'but it's a good balance. I think we all wanted to go the same place with the record, but had different ways of getting there, so sometimes tension built up and we'd freak out. But it all worked out in the end." White Pony continues to champion the Deftones' signature, abstract lyrics, including the song "Feiticiera" (named after a Brazilian television show on which contestants compete for the chance to drink from the hostess' navel), a song in which the narrator is kidnapped. While the captive is obviously being held against his will, the listener must decide whether or not he is enjoying himself. "Digital Bath" describes someone electrocuting a girl in a bathtub and wanting to experience that sensation -- but despite its violence, it has a passionate, beautiful landscape of sound, typical of the band's sweet-yet-sinister side. The album's closing track, "Pink Maggot," begins with just guitars and vocals, invoking nakedness and inferiority; yet, by the time it hits the final, climactic chorus, it is about taking control and feeling triumphant. "A lot of bands these days gear towards kids that get picked on in school and say, 'Its okay, I was picked on, too,'" Moreno says. "It's not okay to be picked on -- it's okay to be different, but when you start to think, 'Oh, I'm different' and feel sorry for yourself, you're not progressing in life. Confidence is one of the most important things in life, and if you have it, you can basically do anything. 'Pink Maggot' is a confidence builder, an end-of-the-record, epic kind of feeling." The CD is available in an enhanced version with features such as video footage of the band, lyrics, and a "Pac-Man"-type video game that uses a white pony as the Pac-Man while the bandmembers' faces are trying to kill it. Much to his chagrin, Moreno's face moves the slowest. "I think Chi [Cheng] is the fastest,' he laments. 'That's whack!" The band also used some strategic marketing tools for this album, beginning with an interactive, Internet "house party" projected live from a club on the Santa Monica Pier to fans connected to the band's Website. They also issued a limited-edition version of the CD, only 100,000 copies, which include an additional song, "The Boy's Republic." Moreno and Abe Cunningham were junior-high classmates in Sacramento, way back in 1989. Knowing that Cunningham was a drummer and neighbor Stephan Carpenter played guitar, Moreno dragged Cunningham home on the bus after school one day and introduced them. They started writing songs. A reluctant Moreno was asked to sing. "Probably because I was the guy who hooked them up," explains Moreno. "And I was like, 'Nah, I can't sing,' and they said, 'Just do it,' and so I tried. Then I just kept on doing it." Thus began the Deftones. For the next year, they played out of a garage and finally booked their first show -- at a backyard barbecue. "We didn't try to make it big and have a record deal or anything like that, we were just kids having fun," says Moreno. Their first club show was in a 300-seater club, where the band bought a slew of tickets themselves and gave them away at school. "We really rocked it, and the promoter gave us shows with some bigger bands in the Bay Area at the time, like Fungo Mungo and Psychofunkapus and, eventually, Primus. "At that first show, I asked Stephan, 'What's the name of our band?' and he said, 'The Deftones.' I said, 'Alright.'" In 1994, while playing a gig in Bakersfield, the Deftones ran into future Korn producer Ross Robinson, who swapped a Korn demo with the band for one of their own. As a result, the bands started hooking up shows together. They booked a show in Los Angeles at the Dragonfly, and Moreno distinctly remembers his first live Korn experience. "I remember standing there going, 'Damn, these motherfuckers rock!' I couldn't believe there was another band out there like us, because at the time I didn't hear much stuff like what we were doing." A few days later, the Deftones decided to play an impromptu set after the headliners and Korn had finished. The club was virtually empty except for Korn and a few straggling fans. What the band didn't realize was that a rep from Maverick was lurking in the back. Soon after, Moreno and Cheng received a phone call at Tower Records, where they worked pricing magazines. Maverick wanted to fly them down to L.A. for an audition. "We were like 'What????' So they flew us down and we played. The president of Maverick watched and we [had] played three songs when he interrupted us and said, 'I don't need to hear anymore, I'll sign you on the spot.' I was like, 'Daaaamn!!'" The Deftones signed with Maverick and began work on their first album, Adrenaline. After its 1995 release, they toured with Bad Brains, then continued touring the U.S. for over two years. Exhausted, they withdrew to Seattle and recorded Around the Fur, which took only four months to record. "We went to Europe to build a following and then came back to the states. Around the Fur debuted at twenty-something on Billboard -- we freaked out!" They got back on the road for another two years, and then it was time to record White Pony. "We started on White Pony when we got home from the Black Sabbath/Pantera tour. We wrote some songs, then did Ozzfest, then came home and wrote some more." The band split their time between recording spots in Sausalito and Los Angeles, where their planned studio schedule included a mere two weeks on vocals and two weeks mixing the album. As it turned out, the vocals alone took over two months. "I took my time," explains Moreno. "I just really wanted to make sure I was making something good." While in L.A., the band rented a house in the Hollywood Hills, which was the same reportedly haunted space Korn and Orgy had previously rented for recording. "I saw a couple of creepy things going on, doors moving and weird stuff," Moreno recalls of the old haunt. "Then I ran into the guys from Orgy at a bar a few nights later and they were like, 'Are you staying at the Doheny house? Man, that place is bugged out!' So I started staying at a hotel. It was too nuts." Along with their dedication to the Deftones, both Carpenter and Moreno have engaged in side projects. Carpenter's band is called Kush, with B-Real from Cypress Hill and members of Fear Factory. "It's straight-up, heavy-ass shit," explains Moreno. "I have the wimpy side project, called Team Sleep. We do really slow stuff, keyboards and DJ with really soft vocals and guitars. It's like the song 'Teenager,' from White Pony." Prior to White Pony's release, the Deftones did a short European tour, returning to their homeland for the first distribution. So far, the White Pony tour is a hands-down success. "This one debuted at number three," Moreno says with modest pride. "It's almost a pattern, but it gets better and better. Almost every show is sold out, people are going insane trying to get in, and the energy level is really high." Opening for Deftones on this tour is Glassjaw, a hardcore but melodic band. Moreno describes them as "something different from the typical, aggressive, frat-rock kind of stuff that's out now." This tour ends in mid-August, and will take the Deftones back to Europe for a few weeks, after which they'll take some much deserved down time. But not too much time -- soon after, they're scheduled on a package tour here in the U.S. "I can't confirm who the other bands on the tour are,' Moreno teases, 'but you'll find out soon.'
“Slamm Magazine” – June, 2000 // Chino Interviewed
October 13, 2011 By Leave a Comment
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