“Alternative Press” – August, 2000 // Deftones Interviewed

AP (Alternative Press) – 145 – AUGUST 2000

* www.deftonesworld.com *


These are just a few of the dark theme and incidents that shaped and delayed the Deftones
anticipated new album, White Pony. Aidin Vaziri pries open this gift horse’s mouth and takes a
good look down its throught.

Ride On

It’s mid-afternoon and the members of the Deftones are just crawling out of their beds at a
Petaluma motel. They have spent the last three days rehearsing for a pair of warm-up shows
in this small Northern California town in anticipation of the release of their third Maverick
full-length, White Pony. The last time all five members played together was eight months ago,
and that was just a one-off thing. Before that, it was last summer’s Ozzfest, where they only
had to perform onstage for a half an hour. Tonight’s show will be three times as long, and the
band’s nerves are starting to show.
The new album sounds dramatically different that anything they have done in the past, so it has
taken them a while to translate the new music to the live setting. For frontman Chino Moreno,
who claims to get stage fright even under the best of circumstances, this gig has been the
source of major turmoil for the past week. “I woke up this morning going, ‘Oh my God, we have
to perform tonight,’” he says. “I’m fucking tripping.”

The gap between performances is the longest the Deftones have gone without playing onstage
together in their 12-year existence. When they were starting out in nearby Sacramento, the
band used to rehearse every night in guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s garage. That is, until his
mother got sick of the racket and gave them the boot. After that they played all the local
clubs until they were courted and signed by Madonna’s Maverick label. Soon after, they started
touring, spreading the word about their 1995 debut, Adrenaline. They steadily progressed from
playing dives to guesting major festivals to headlining shows. But after their second album,
1997’s Around The Fur, kept them on the road for nearly two years, the Deftones decided to lay
low for a while. They all took separate vacations and only reconvened when they had to begin
work on the new album.

While much noise has been made about the delays that held up the release of the White Pony,
the band claims they simply needed the time to recharge their batteries. When they did enter the
studio once again, they ended up spending four months on the making of White Pony, double the
time they spent on Around The Fur. And even with producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera)
back on board for the sessions, the album somehow came out sounding wildly different from the
first two discs. During their time away, the Deftones had re-invented themselves as spiritually
enlightened beings of the new century. Now they sound like no other band: They’re a psychedelic
band with an all-too-real grasp on reality. They’re a hard rock band with a vulnerable
underbelly. They’re an experimental band with heart-sinking melodies.

Today, the Deftones seem rather anxious about how this new direction is going to sit with their
fans. While Moreno works himself into a blind panic, each of the band’s members deal with the
situation in his own way. Drummer Abe Cunningham and DJ Frank Delgado get lost in quiet
contemplation. Bassist Chi Cheng turns his focus to completing work on his forthcoming
spoken-word album. And Carpenter takes it upon himself to mercilessly rile the other guys,
to ensure that they’re all in a more fragile mental state than he is come show time.
Thus far he’s successful. Everyone’s a bit fraught, so they decide to get something to eat.
A table is being held at a restaurant across the street from the motel. The band piles into
three separate cars for the 30-second drive. Upon arrival, however, Moreno declares the place
unsuitable, so the caravan sets off again across town to a local brewery. Within minutes of
the band’s arrival, Carpenter insults the sprightly waitress. Fortunately, the whole situation
is quickly ironed out and everyone gently comes back down to earth.
Moreno slouches in his eat and lets his head fall back. “People think when you’ve got a record
deal, you’ve made it,” he sighs. “But there’s a lot of shit that comes with it. You have to
make a lot of people happy, including your fans. Our fans are hardcore. I don’t want to do
anything to let them down.”

Has the album turned out the way you imagined it would?
Chino: I don’t think we so much envisioned how it was going to turn out, but in the end
we were all happy with the way it turned out. From the beginning, we honestly didn’t know
exactly what we wanted to do.

There were rumors that you were turning into perfectionists in the studio. Is there any truth
to that?
Chino: We’re just lazy. We took a long time on the album, true, but a lot of it wasn’t
recording, it was writing. Actually, it wasn’t even writing; it was trying to write.

Did you go through a dry spell?
Chino: I don’t think anybody had a block on them. In the beginning, Stephen would write
songs or I would write songs and we would plays them, but we weren’t all writing songs
together until halfway through the writing process. That’s when it started to come together.

What was the turning point?
Chino: When we wrote “Change (In The House Of Flies).” That was one of those defining songs
were we we all wrote together. It started out with Stephen and I playing guitar and Frank
doing his keyboard thing over it. Right then, everybody joined in. Nobody told anybody else
what to do, it all just came out freely. That’s when it all started to come together.

How many songs were you dealing with at any given time?
Chino: We only recorded about 13 songs, and I only put vocals on 10 of them. I had two weeks
booked for my vocals and I ended up spending two months. They scheduled it so I would do a
song a day, but I would do a song every three days. I would start one song, do a certain
amount of it and go on to another song. It just happened that way.

Was there any external pressure to get the album done quicker?
Frank: A lot of people wanted us to hurry up and get this out, but we were kind of like,
“Fuck them. We work at our own pace.”

Do you think you may have unintentionally stretched out the recording process because it
afforded you a break from the tour-and-promotion grind?
Chino: I’ll tell you one thing, by the time we started working on the record I was tired of
touring. I wanted to go in and write more music. I was excited to do that. When Ozzfest came
up, I wasn’t too happy to do that. I was ready to come home the whole time. So it was a break
from all that. In a way, it was a vacation to write a record, and that’s how we looked at it.
We just wanted to take our time.

White Pony is not like your first two albums. Do you think it better reflects your personal
Chino: The extremes of the highs and lows just became more intensified. This one is more open.
It’s laid out a little better.

Chi: This time it all came around. We didn’t feel like we had anything to lose, so we made the
record we wanted to make.

Frank: It may sound selfish, but we just wanted to make a record that we would like, that we
would listen to. We weren’t trying to make an album for the fans. We weren’t trying to make a
record for the label. We were trying to make a record for us. So that’s what we did.

It’s a pretty diverse-sounding collection of songs.
Is there a them that ties the album together?
Chino: Not really. Lyrically, the only thing I did differently-which is kind of a big thing-is
I basically didn’t sing about myself on this record. I made up a lot of story lines and some
dialogue, even. I took myself completely out of it and wrote about other things. Once I did
that I was able to sing about anything I wanted to. As long as I can identify with what I was
writing-some thing seductive, sad or angry-I could be a lot more general.
There’s a lot of stuff on this record that people are going to question me about, and I can
just remove myself from it. It’s not me. I’m writing a story here. I’m just filling up this
space with some thought that is enjoyable.

You all have such strong personalities. How do you find a common ground with your music?
Chino: I don’t know.

Frank: Music. We don’t talk about it at all. We just get on stage and make it work. All of
us enjoy eachother’s company even though we irritate each other so much. I don’t know how to
explain it.

Do you take criticism well from each other?
Chino: That’s the thing, we would take criticism if we were all cool about it, but we’re not
like that. We’re just like, “Man, that shit is fucking wack!”

Stephen: We talk so much shit. We try to hurt each other every day, all day long.

Chino: We’re all insecure. As much confidence as we have, we all have that insecure button
that we all know each of us has. Motherfuckers make a point to push that shit.

Frank: But you get us together to make some music or play a show and we’re unstoppable.

How do you get anything done?
Stephen: That’s the mystery.

Frank: That’s what this album is: It’s the whole fucking beating down process. That’s it man.

Chino: There was a few times making this record that Terry Date was like, “I’m out.”
Stephen has made him quit on every album. In fact, we both quit the same night.

Stephen: I quit, too.

How long did that last?
Stephen: About 45 minutes; [until] after the joint was lit up. Terry Date has quit on every
record. [On] the first album [after] he quit, I felt bad. I thought, “Maybe I’m a dick.”
The second record, he did it again. But he keeps coming back. This time, I’m like, “Fine,
motherfucker, go home. I’ll get someone else in here.” You can’t threaten me, because I’m
like, “Go ahead.”

Chino: You know, we still had a fun time doing this. As much drama as there was, it was all
made up. Another thing, man, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater , that shit held us up like a
motherfucker, I swear to God, we would come into the studio in the daytime and play that
thing until thee in the morning. Terry had to come out of the studio every few hours to try
to get us in there.

Frank: It brought me to tears many a day, man. I was crying.

So you were up against writer’s block, interband turmoil and video-game addiction?
Chino: Yeah, and every day was Mimosa Monday. It turned into Momosa Everyday.

Is there a dictator in the band?
Chino: We’ve got motherfuckers that want to be dictators, but none of us are.

Chi: There’s a lot of chefs in the kitchen, but everybody wants to bake the same thing.

Abe: If you try to be a dictator you get laughed at. Someone will give an order, but they’ll
get ignored.

Chino: We all know when it’s time to get something done. We get it done, but we all try to push
the envelope. We have it in us to wait until the last minute to do shit. I didn’t write any
lyrics at all until all the music was done. I would go in to sing the song. I would put my
headphones on, hear the song and put melodies to it. Then I would go out into the control
room and write the lyrics out, then I would go back in and sing it. That’s the way I like
to write. The best shit comes out like that. If I think about stuff too much, it’ll come out
all shitty.

Do you think the average rock fan gets what you are trying to put across with your lyrics?
Frank: I think if you’re just an average kid, with Chino’s lyrics, you can make them fit any
situation in your life. His lyrics aren’t as simple as a lot of other people’s, so you can
morph them into what you want. That’s what music is about.

Chino: But you have to have some intelligence. If you’re not going to use your brain at all,
you would think I’m making no sense. The way I was inspired to write lyrics was by listening
to the Cure. I don’t sound like the Cure and I don’t try to sound like the Cure, but what I
did learn from a band like that is some of that stuff is just so painted. Whether you know
what [Cure leader] Robert Smith is talking about or not, it’s just the way the song looks when
you hear it. That’s what I try to do with a lot of stuff-use a lot of imagery and never go out
and say what’s going on. Sometimes, I don’t even know what the hell they’re about, but I’ll
find ways to tie it all together. The music the band makes gives me the room to do that.

When you play festivals like Warped and Ozzfest, do you feel like you fit in with the other
acts on the bill?
Chino: I feel like we can fit in, but as far as identifying with any of these other bands,
hell no. Not because I think I’m fucking cerebrally ahead of them, but just because all that
heavy music feels like a big mush to me. I’m just burned out on it, and that’s maybe why we
made the record we made. I didn’t want to make something that sounded like anything we’ve heard
or been hearing.

Do you feel like you’ve mellowed with age?
Chino: I think I have. I’ve mellowed as far as my anger, but I think I’ve gotten more wacked
out in the way I think. I’ve gotten crazier in the way I live my life. Even back when I was
younger, when I didn’t have kids and a wife, I wasn’t mentally out there like I am now.
I think of weirder shit. As far as being mature, though, I can deal with everything that
comes to me.

Chi: we’re allowed certain idiosyncrasies as musicians, so I become a little more eccentric
by default. If I feel like wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers for a week straight,
I’ll just do it. We party every night just because we can.

So is it harder or easier to get into that space where you create these songs? Do you need to
feed off anger and depression?
Chino: Not really. If I was going to make Korn songs, I probably would have to be that way.
But, like I said, on this record, I just stepped out of character. I wrote about certain
things I would think about. I didn’t have to be there or live it. It’s fantasy.

Do you think a lot of people are going to hate this record at first just because it’s different
from your last album?
Chino: We kind of know that’s going to happen with this album, so it’s just like-bear with it.
I remember I bought the Cure’s Disintegration on the same day I bought Japanese Whispers.
I listened to those two records, and I loved the poppy one and just put Disintegration aside.
After a month, I thought Disintegration was the baddest record of all time, and I haven’t
listened to Japanese Whispers since. Those songs were all instant pleasures.
I see us progressing with every record. That’s important to the longevity of the band-to
always progress on records. Who knows it a lot of the other bands that are out today-like
Limp Bizkit and shit-will be around[for as long as we will be]? I doubt they will.