The 20 Greatest Deftones Songs – Ranked

Forming in Sacramento, California all the way back in 1988, and releasing eight outstanding LPs over the last 25 years (with number nine on its way), Deftones have indelibly shaped the alternative metal genre while remaining a band apart. Always one step ahead, that bit smarter, sharper, more daring than even their closest peers, they rapidly outgrew the nu-metal boom from which they emerged, changed the game with third album White Pony and have proceeded to drive towards the horizon ever since.

Although the core dynamic between vocalist Chino Moreno’s art-rock fixation and guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s far heavier metal influence remains key, the collective has always been crucial, with Abe Cunningham’s pounding drums propelling the vision, electronic-specialist Frank Delgado layering it up since his arrival in 1998, while tragically-departed bassist Chi Cheng and his successor Sergio Vega add a warmth and fullness of body.

Choosing just 20 songs to represent a catalogue this complex and universally rewarding feels almost reductive, but we’ve had a crack at distilling down what has made Deftones’ journey so fascinating nonetheless. As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments…

20. Beware (Saturday Night Wrist, 2006)

Fifth album Saturday Night Wrist was the product of unprecedented tension in the Deftones camp. Moving away from long-time producer Terry Date with a view to working with Gorillaz collaborator Dan The Automator before eventually settling on legendary Pink Floyd recordist Bob Ezrin, they were in unfamiliar territory from the off. Add into that Chino’s struggle with addiction and a failing marriage – not to mention his preoccupation with (excellent) side-project Team Sleep – and they were being truly stretched. Although the resultant album remains a thrilling listen, Beware is its only standalone track to make this list. A cautionary tale from Chino against the lure of sex, drugs alcohol and any other vice that can derail the creative process, it pulsates with temptation and threat.

19. Diamond Eyes (Diamond Eyes, 2010)

Deftones were already working on their sixth album – tentatively named Eros – when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in the car crash that would leave him in a semi-comatose state for the next four-and-a-half years before ultimately claiming his life. That work was put on ice, no longer representative of its creators as artists or human beings in the wake of the accident. When they did return in 2010, this title-track opened the album which would define their onward journey. Devastatingly heavy yet painfully beautiful, it came on like the soundtrack to some metaphysical horror movie, with Chino declaring, ‘I am the shadow, and the smoke in your eyes / I am the ghost, that hides in the night’ as it builds towards its utterly cataclysmic climax.

18. Digital Bath (White Pony, 2000)

If the brilliance of White Pony is in its delicate balance of beauty and menace, then Digital Bath might be its purest distillation. The album was the first to feature keyboard/turntable specialist Frank Delgado as a permanent member, and his fingerprints are all over this, lending the quieter passages of its turbulent song structure both shimmering stillness and unfathomable depth, irresistibly inviting the listener to dive in. The deeper inspiration of Chino’s pseudo-sexual 5am musing on what it would be like to predatorily lure a woman into a bath, electrocute her, then dry her off and dress her back up again lends the composition another, more nightmarish dimension.

17. Prayers/Triangles (Gore, 2016)

A showcase of the perpetual motion – that churning ebb and flow – that has always pulsated at the heart of Deftones’ work, the lead single for eighth album Gore felt immediately familiar to the band’s faithful following. At the same time, it is bathed in a warmth which feels more aligned with Chino’s blissfully ambient side-project Palms. Although the ethereal lyrics (‘There’s a new strange godless demon awake, inside me / There’s a force divine terrorising the angels I keep’) are a reckoning on the light/dark, good/bad dichotomy within the human psyche and the art we create, it is the sense of tentative positivity here that wins its place on this list.

16. Romantic Dreams (Koi No Yokan, 2012)

Although seventh album Koi No Yokan might be the band’s least-compelling body of work as an overarching collection – scant criticism in the context of this back catalogue – its numerous stand-out moments are amongst their most individually bracing. Fourth and final single Romantic Dreams burns like the last embers of a hazy summer night. That album title is a Japanese term referring not to love at first sight, but the expectation of falling in love at a later point, and the concept is reflected in Chino’s strange, soaring lyrics (‘I promise to watch and raise your babies’ and ‘I wish this night wouldn’t end’). All the while Carpenter’s riffage provides an anxious, chaotic counterpoint, touching Meshuggah levels of heaviosity.

15. Minerva (Deftones, 2003)

The lead single (and by some distance, the finest track) from Deftones’ self-titled fourth album is one of their most majestic compositions, and provided the first real signpost of the dreamier sounds the band have been exploring since. Full of shoegaze influence, it layers-up its numerous textures into a crushingly heavyweight whole, indebted to Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream era and Chicagoan alt.rockers Hum. A sea of feedback swells and subsides as Chino reckons on the desensitisation of heartbreak, ‘I get all numb when she sings it’s over / Such a strange numb and it brings my knees to the earth.’ Conversely, the epic music video – shot over 22 hours in California’s Colorado Desert – is the spectacular outcome of its makers having painfully endured sandstorms and sub-zero conditions.

14. Rocket Skates (Diamond Eyes, 2010)

Another heavyweight Diamond Eyes banger, Rocket Skates is all about that bludgeoning main riff. Less the soundtrack for a trip to the skate park than for some awesomely destructive spree, its almost unrelenting aggression and that distinct screech of GUNS! RAZORS! KNIVES!’ grab the listener by the throat and refuse to let go. We could deconstruct the latent sadism and twisted mystery of Chinos lyrics, or Rocket Skates’ role in the evolution of the quiet/loud formula in the Deftones DNA, but this is less a song to be fastidiously pored-over than a visceral statement best experienced at full volume.

13. Back To School (Mini Maggit)

A re-worked version of the seven-minute (also excellent) Pink Maggit which appeared on White Pony’s original release, disdained by the band as their attempt at writing a by-numbers hit single for the inevitable reissue it may have been, but Back To School captures a pivotal moment in time, bridging the first three albums spectacularly. Merging the crunchy rap-rock of Adrenaline, Around The Fur’s coming-of-age excitement and the artsy experimentalism of White Pony, it became the gateway drug for so many Millennial nu-metallers to move on to higher-minded sounds. The Paul Hunter-directed, Grant High School-set music video is a classic of the era.

12. Bored (Adrenaline, 1995)

Deftones’ debut LP proper (having released five extended demo tapes over the first half of the 1990s) was more about raw potential than any kind of balanced realisation of broader vision. Bored feels like a stand-out amongst the harsh, unrefined crunch elsewhere on the album, with the authenticity of Chino’s anguished wail (‘I GET BOOORED!’) and the thumping confidence of his bandmates’ composition demanding that they were talked about in the same breath as mighty Californian comrades Korn who had emerged the previous year.

11. Beauty School (Diamond Eyes, 2010)

A high-finesse sonic spectacle, Beauty School is as well-suited to pushing high end audio equipment to the limit as it is to stirring listeners’ souls. Interpretations of Chino’s characteristically arty/schlocky lyrics – ‘I like you when when you take off your face / Put away all your teeth / And take us way underneath / ’Cause you could die if you take it alone’ – have varied from the gently metaphorical (it being about embracing the beauty within) to the more playfully literal (a warning on the dangers of ingesting MDMA solo). Regardless of your reading, there’s a seductive yet insidious power that swirls throughout.

10. Lotion (Around The Fur, 1997)

One of the most powerfully tortured compositions on Around The Fur, Lotion was another prime example of Deftones’ harsh/soothing balance. The gut-punch as Chino wretches ‘I feel sick, I feel sick, I feel sick’ is countered by his conciliatory ‘It’s classical anyway / How cool are you I remember’. Crucially, rather than blending into perfunctory angst, every emotion is keenly felt. The contemptuous message to less committed contemporaries bleeding from lyrics like, ‘You’re just plain boring and you bore me to sleep’ and, ‘Hop off the train for a second and try to find your own fucking heart’ still feels relevant 23 years on.

9. Leathers (Koi No Yokan, 2012)

Leathers wasn’t officially a single off 2012’s Koi No Yokan, but it was the first music leaked out to a ravenous fanbase through the band’s official website. It felt like a guarantee that even after Chi Cheng’s accident and the subsequent upheaval (he would pass less than a month after the album was released), the band were able to continue on as powerful as they had been before. If anything, the drop from that distinctive ambient intro into one of their heaviest ever riffs – Chino seething, ‘This is your chance revolt, resist! / Open your chest, look down, reach in!’ – felt like a promise that they’d processed the pain of preceding years into some of their most inspired sounds.

8. Teething (The Crow: City Of Angels Soundtrack, 1996)

A crashing stand-alone release, it’s bewildering that Teething seems to have been lost to everyone but Deftones die-hards. Cropping up on the soundtrack to questionable The Crow sequel City Of Angels’ soundtrack alongside a host of heavyweight contemporaries like White Zombie and Korn, there are nu-metal hallmarks – the snarling, spring-loaded riffage, Abe Cunningham’s primal percussion, Chino’s furious rhymes – but the song was also a showcase for the uncompromising intelligence of a band happy to unleash their most angular attack on what was a huge commercial opportunity at the time. ‘How the fuck you gonna tell me what you don’t know,’ Chino rhymes with fitting defiance. ‘You got hair, clothes, the fashion, the cash flow / How the fuck you gonna tell me something? You’re this close to fashion, the cash flow!’

7. Tempest (Koi No Yokan, 2012)

Over the course of the Koi No Yokan cycle, struggling through a complex emotional process, the band frequently found themselves pondering on the end of the world. Although the idea of a whole album on the apocalypse was nixed, Tempest made it as the most compelling track on the album. Layering up from a murky first 60 seconds into one of their most powerful statements of foreboding, there is a breathtaking marriage of wonder and dread. When Chino says, ‘I’d like to be taken apart from the inside / Then spit through the circle right to the end’ you believe every word.

6. Knife Prty (White Pony, 2000)

Reportedly inspired by an unusual tourbus get together where everyone involved found themselves brandishing a separate blade from drummer Abe Cunningham’s knife collection, there’s a trippy, serrated power about Knife Prty. Chino expanded the scenario into the concept of an imaginary secret society where the tension between sex and violence is palpable. Actress/singer Rodleen Getsic, who was working next door to the band’s studio lends to that concept with beguiling guest vocals. On first hearing the album, the studio wanted this to be the lead single from White Pony, but Chino fought the idea because the song was too weird. Even more weirdly, popular Australian EDM duo Knife Party are named after this very song.

5. 7 Words (Adrenaline, 1995)

Written when Chino was just 16 years old, there is a seething anger about this top-of-the-class cut from debut LP Adrenaline that endures a quarter-century down the line. Lashing out at the oppression familiar to so many Latinos of a similar age in central California, the sense of subjugated rebellion is channelled into the pure mosh energy of the album title. Honed by a half-decade of live shows together up to that point rather than any real studio tinkering, there is an incendiary immediacy that strikes from the very first listen. All together now: ‘Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck it, bitch!’

4. Passenger (White Pony, 2000)

Flanked by a host of other incredible tracks it may have been, but no song encapsulates the overarching, boundary-busting brilliance of White Pony better than Passenger. Welcoming aboard Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan at the height of his powers, its six minutes unfold as a showcase for two of the greatest vocalists in alternative metal going full-tilt. Ostensibly charting the experience of getting it on in a car, the song overflows with psychosexual subtext as Chino reckons, ‘Here I lie, still and breathless, just like always…’ as his counterpart slithers in the background like a voice inside his head. Maynard’s ‘Roll the windows down, this cool night air is curious’ hook is arguably a moment to match anything he’s delivered with Tool or A Perfect Circle.

3. Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) (Around The Fur, 1997)

The final single from Around The Fur was also one of the first showcases of the brilliance waiting to be unlocked with their next stop down the road. Opening with a guitar line that could’ve belonged to any number of their nu-metal brethren before unfurling as a more melancholic, textured offering than what had been seen before – the purposeful androgyny of Chino’s voice a riposte to the meat-headed machismo of so much of the rest of the scene – Be Quiet And Drive felt like a rallying cry for a band and fanbase ready to step away. Sounding at times like an evolved version of Foo Fighters’ early work, it also promised that Deftones had what it takes to be utterly huge.

2. Change (In The House Of Flies) (White Pony, 2000)

The lead single from White Pony remains Deftones’ most commercially successful. More than that, it redefined who the Sacramento quintet were at the dawn of the new millennium – an apt buzz-builder for their transmogrification from nu-metal outsiders to alt.metal messiahs. A moody, widescreen soundscape becomes the canvas onto which Chino draws his abstract lyrics, imagining the metamorphosis of a person into a fly before they’re taken home to have their wings ripped off. Delivered with psychosexual sultriness, the band have teased that the song is a metaphorical examination of the change in a person after suffering a traumatic break-up. Whatever the meaning, that woozy delivery – ‘I took you home, set you on the glass / I pulled off your wings, then I laughed’ – remains the peerless vocalist’s most unapologetically creepy-crawly.

1. My Own Summer (Shove It) (Around The Fur, 1997)

Twenty-three years down the line, the lead single from Around The Fur feels like a throwback in many ways. Powered by a Stef Carpenter riff that bites as hard as the sharks featured in its famous music video, and that simple, quiet/loud dynamism that suggested the Californians might be spiritual heirs to Nirvana, My Own Summer has little of the horizon-driving scope or layered complexity of their more recent output. Taken on its own terms, however, it remains their most effective, impactful statement. Arriving amongst the angsty bombast of nu-metal, it was living proof that intelligence, subtlety and artfulness (‘The shade is a tool, a device, a saviour,’ Chino sings. ‘See, I try and look up to the sky but my eyes burn’) were commodities with which the band could make themselves legendary. That initial excitement felt by thinking fans of heavy music at the time lives on with every pulse-quickening, crowd-surging deployment of this smasher in the live arena.

Posted on June 26th 2020, 4:30pm

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Deftones Celebrate White Pony 20th Anniversary with Listening Party and New Merch Collection

Deftones are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their White Pony album with a global listening party and a new capsule of commemorative merch.

The band’s landmark 2000 album turned 20 years old this past Saturday (June 20th), and we’ve already listed 20 reasons why we still love the stellar LP, in addition to examining the album’s enduring impact.

Today (June 22nd), fans can join the band at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT for a global listening party via Deftones’ YouTube channel (posted below), with band members taking part in an online chat as the LP plays.

In addition to soaking in songs like “Change (In the House of Flies)”, “Digital Bath”, and “Passenger” again, fans can also rep White Pony with some new apparel issued in conjunction with the album’s 20th anniversary. A new capsule on Deftones’ merch site offers t-shirts, a hoodie, a satin jacket, a baseball cap, and more.

As previously reported, Deftones recently revealed that they plan to reissue White Pony later this year with a bonus alternate LP called Black Stallion. The extra disc will fulfill the band’s longtime dream of having each song on the album remixed, with DJ Shadow among the artists offering new takes on the White Pony tracks.

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Deftones Unveil New White Pony 20th Anniversary Merch Line

With a reissue on the way and an album listening party planned for later today (June 22), Deftones are doing plenty to celebrate the 20th anniversary of White Pony. And now fans will even be able to wear their love for the Sacramento gang’s third album with a new ‘White Pony 20th Anniversary Capsule’ merch drop.

Featuring a couple of T-shirts, a baseball tee, a longsleeve, a hoodie, jacket, shorts and even a White Pony flag, Deftones’ new anniversary collection is clearly a must-have for fans of Chino Moreno and co.’s iconic LP, with the ‘Shut up and take my money’ GIF instantly coming to mind when scanning the collection…

Read this: Deftones: An oral history of White Pony

As well as releasing a whole load of White Pony merch, Chino confirmed last week that an upcoming reissue of the record will also come with a full remix album.

“We’re going to do a sort of flipside entitled Black Stallion,” he said. “A lot of people are on it – some that inspired the writing on the original record itself. We had that idea pretty much 20 years ago, even before we started writing White Pony. It’s something we always joked about, and now it’s actually come to life.”

The reissue will also feature the ‘definitive’ White Pony tracklist, amending the fact that, when the LP appeared on streaming services, single Back To School (Mini Maggit) was track one, when in fact White Pony was originally supposed to begin with the song Feiticeira.

“I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to correct the order on streaming,” pondered Chino. “But at this point in time it kinda is what it is. I still think it’s a great record, but when we do the reissue we’re definitely going with the original version, mainly because that’s what it was intended to be.”

Check out Deftones’ new White Pony merch below:

Posted on June 22nd 2020, 2:11pm

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Deftones: An Oral History Of White Pony

The new millennium was less than a week old when Deftones decamped to a Hollywood mansion to begin work on their third album.

They were already in imperious form: their two previous albums – 1995’s Adrenaline and 1997’s Around The Fur – established them as one of the most acclaimed, innovative and incendiary bands to emerge in the ’90s. And a lot of bands (not to mention labels) were getting rich by peddling a brain cell-deficient strain of their musical DNA. But while Deftones – alongside Korn – were hailed as the founding fathers of the ascendant nu-metal scene, that very notion rankled with them. Instead of pride, they felt constricted – prisoners of association to a scene they never intended to create.

What was needed, then, was a defining artistic statement – a clinical, inarguable separation from the endless procession of baggy-jeaned angst reciters they had left in their wake. White Pony would eventually prove to be just that: a grandstanding realisation of their bid for individuation.

Between indulging in rock’n’roll excess and frequent spells on Tony Hawks on the PS1, together frontman/guitarist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng, drummer Abe Cunningham and turntablist Frank Delgado found a way of re-forging their signature sound. Applying a rich sense of ambience and atmosphere to their music, Deftones tempered their innate ferocity without diluting. With Terry Date on production and some magnificent guest vocals from Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on Passenger and Rodleen Getsic on Knife Party, the outcome was an 11-track body of work that continues to beguile listeners to this day.

Part of the enduring appeal of White Pony is its marriage of music that hits immediately with oblique lyrics that often defy direct interpretation. Then again, you don’t need to understand what Chino means when he sings ‘I taste you much better off teeth taste’ on Korea – you just feel it. What’s more, for all the poetic abstraction on offer, there remains a vivid cinematic quality to the narratives of songs like Change (In The House Of Flies), Digital Bath and Passenger. Abductions. Drug-induced hazes. Sexual fantasies. Doomed teenage romances. Murder via kitchen appliance and bathwater. Religious visions. In many ways White Pony is an album just waiting to be turned into a David Lynch film.

Released 20 years ago on June 20, it debuted at Number Three in the United States – catapulting the band onto the same shiny MTV shows and countdowns that typically featured Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. Here, then, is an album that belongs in a rarefied fraternity of classic albums such as Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Tool’s Lateralus and Nirvana’s In Utero – a defiantly dark, scrupulously artistic and profoundly anti-commercial record that somehow tapped into an audience of millions worldwide.

Naturally, as with Adrenaline and Around The Fur, bands tried to imitate it, but this new blueprint was too complex to mimic (insert your own Shite Pony examples here). Bands could approximate the energy of Deftones’ music, but not the nuances, the musical intelligence and the lyrical abstraction. The Sacramento band had reached a summit even their most accomplished of peers could not.

Here, to mark the 20th anniversary of this classic album, what follows are collated observations and reflections given to Kerrang! over the years by Chino Moreno and Abe Cunningham on the classic album that left indelible hoofprints on modern rock music…

It All Started With The Artwork

Chino Moreno (vocals/guitar): “White Pony was definitely the only record up to that point where the art came before the music. I said I wanted to call it White Pony – there’s an old ’80s song [by Danish duo Laid Back] that has this line in it: ‘If you want to ride, ride the white pony.’ It’s a total drug reference. I looked on clipart for a free art outline of a pony and said I wanted that to be our thing. We were going to call the record White Pony before any song was written. That was the only time we ever did it, and it’s crazy how iconic it is now.”

White Ponycover

They Knew They Had To Change Things Up

Chino: “When we went into it we didn’t have an idea of what kind of record we wanted to make, but we knew we wanted to do something different, a little bit left of centre. At that time, especially after Around The Fur, a lot of bands were coming out and the nu-metal stigma was starting to brew and we were getting tossed in with that whole category of music. White Pony was our answer to it, just to get experimental and try different things and not follow any formulas that we had stumbled upon before.”

Abe Cunningham (drums): “It was our stand against everything that was going on at the time. I just think of it as a beautiful white horse running free – and at the time that white horse running free was us! In the scheme of things at that time, all the stuff that was going on musically – trends and whatnot – it was very important to us to go somewhere different. We took a hard left and went the other way and carved our own path, which we’d been doing the whole time anyway, but that was intentional.”

There Were Some Creative Tensions Simmering In The Studio

Chino: “We went through a whole lot of shit trying to [record] it; it was probably the hardest record to make at the time. For one, when I started playing guitar that caused friction between me and Stephen. My intention when I started to play guitar wasn’t to take the band in a different direction, I was just in a very creative space and just writing music and coming up with stuff. Stephen didn’t mind at first, and I think the first song we wrote together was Change (In The House Of Flies), which was the big single off that record. We wrote that together, and were like, ‘Wow! We did this!’ I know that he wasn’t too happy about me playing guitar, but he couldn’t deny the fact that we wrote a great song. What eventually happened was that he and I, without making it apparent, were trying to outdo each other. He would write a song like, say, Elite and I was like, ‘That’s an awesome, heavy tune,’ and then I’d say, ‘Look at this!’ and I’d written Digital Bath. We kept trying to outdo each other and in the meantime we were building a big tower of music, and songs that were great. It actually ended up working out in the long run.”

They May Have Enjoyed The Odd Party Or Two While Recording

Chino: “We did put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, but we kind of lived wild when we made it. We all moved into this big house in the Hollywood hills right after New Year’s, on January 2, 2000. It was a wild time. I didn’t have, and never really do have, a definitive idea of what I’m going to sing about or what I’m going to write about lyrically. But everything I was writing about at the time, to a certain extent, I was kind of living. It was five guys living in this mansion, sleeping very little, and with our heads buried in music… We were all living like there was no tomorrow, and there’s a lot of stuff in there, lyrically, that I was singing about that was going on from Knife Party and Digital Bath – a lot of psychedelic, drug-induced songs. That was actually what was going on at the time.”

Abe: “We were loud, young men having a blast! We had a pretty large recording budget, whereas our previous records were done pretty cheap. Going into these sessions we had budget – and we spent it! We worked really hard, but there was a lot of excess…”

It Taught Them Some Lessons About The Music Business

Chino: “I felt its success was well-deserved. I was extra-cocky, too, because White Pony was not a nu-metal record. At that time in the charts, higher than us were bands that were spawned from what we started but were doing it intensified by 100. Limp Bizkit was an intensified version of Adrenaline. I knew why people liked it, but my instinct was, ‘Fuck that, I want to do something completely different,’ which we did. When we were successful with that, it made me believe in myself and to follow my heart in doing what we do… I do wish the record had never got re-released [with Back To School as the first track], that was like an 11th hour [decision]. The label told us how great the record was, and after the press and fans did too, and it was selling, it was like, ‘You can get more out of this!’ It was a lesson learned in greed, you know what I mean? Because that’s what it was, it was a greedy move by the record company and, by default, us.”

It Did A Lot To Ensure Their Legacy

Abe: “It’s our best attempt at trying to meld all the sounds we love into one thing, and I actually think we really pulled it off on that. People obviously like us for different reasons, some like the harder stuff, some like the softer stuff, and that record just encompasses everything at once. It’s a pivotal cornerstone in our existence and a favourite of many people who dig our music. I have nothing but good things to say about this White Pony now it’s an older horse. We branched out, and that’s probably why we’re still around today.”

Chino: “I’m really proud of it. It’s a really dynamic record, it goes through a lot of peaks and valleys, and that’s what, to me, makes an album really interesting: you don’t just hear the first couple of songs and you’ve heard the whole thing. Every song goes somewhere else, and comes back full-circle. I love it.”

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Posted on June 20th 2020, 9:00am

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“This record embedded in our brains”: the endless power of Deftones’ ‘White Pony’

Deftones in 2000. Credit: James Minchin III

“Massive in pretension, slightly too long and gothic,” read the original NME 8/10 review of Deftones’ ambitious third album ‘White Pony’ back in 2000, “but when all the pieces fit, you can’t deny its unstoppable power.”

So powerful was the experimental ambition, pure musicality and onslaught of bangers on the Sacremento art-metallers’ opus that here we are celebrating it two decades later. As the band themselves would attest, the true promise of the album – which turns 20 today (June 20) – has only bloomed over time.

“I would describe the record as a slow-burner,” frontman Chino Moreno tells NME. “I remember when we were first putting it together – the songs were expansive and it all goes through a journey – but I don’t think that you can completely take that in when listening to it for the first time. The more you listen to it, the more you get out of it. It lends itself to having a longer shelf life.”

It certainly wasn’t what was expected at the time. Forming in 1988, the band bonded over a love of The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, alongside alternative pop, metal, trance, rap and hardcore punk as much as the emerging grunge scene that came to the fore throughout the early ‘90s.

Their melting pot of tastes made Deftones seem a welcome alternative when they arrived with the gloomy but brutal and quickfire post-hardcore of debut album ‘Adrenaline’ in 1995. The record drew comparisons to Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins, but was also sadly tagged with the lazy label of ‘nu-metal’. Lauren Mayberry, now singer of Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches, became a fan as a teenager. “It was ‘nu-metal’ but also it wasn’t at all,” she says. “There were soundscapes and stories and it just felt different from anything else we were listening to at the time. It was hardcore but it was post-rock, shoegaze, trip-hop, so many other things.”

‘Adrenaline’ sold modestly and word-of-mouth success kept them going through to 1997 follow-up ‘Around The Fur’, a record that further emphasised their and post-punk influences. The washed-out, weird single ‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)’ became an MTV2 anthem and set them apart from the rest of the scene, but you’d still hear them mentioned in the same sentence as KoRn and other nu-metallers. By the time the turn of the century rolled around, rock music was in the clutches of berks like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock, and rap-rock was co-opted as the party soundtrack to boozed-up frat boys.

Deftones knew this was their moment to make their mark and show the world who they really were. “People can recognise that ‘White Pony’ was just five guys hanging out, taking chances and believing in themselves,” says keyboardist Frank Delgado. “We were blazing our own trail, considering what was going on in the musical climate. I think it still sticks out for people.”

Drummer Abe Cunningham agrees: “We always existed in our own bubble. Up until this point, we had a tiny bit of success with the second record. We didn’t have much radio play, maybe a little bit of video stuff on MTV, but we just did what the fuck we wanted.”

Recalling the laid-back vibe and open approach when writing and recording ‘White Pony’, Moreno remembers it as “a wild time”. “I was 26-years-old when we recorded it,” he says. “We were young and full of life and the record mirrors that. We all lived together on houseboats in South Toledo on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Every day was an adventure. We were just having a blast and it felt really liberating to know we were taking a chance and living through it. When I hear that record now, it definitely takes me back to that time.”

He continues: “It’s funny how many people love that record now. I remember when a lot of fans first heard it and were like, ‘What is this?’ We just came off ‘Around The Fur’ which was a lot more aggressive in some ways and people were like, ‘What is going on here?’ I remember going into a chat room and had to get out because I was about to cry.”

‘White Pony’ certainly reflects that sense of adventure in sound. From the slick grooves meets woozy atmospherics of ‘Digital Bath’ to the pummelling rage of ‘Elite’, the glitchy tenderness and intimacy of ‘Teenager’ and anthemic primal scream therapy of ‘Knife Prty’, it’s an album bombastic in its dynamics and consistent in containing its own nightmarish little dream world.

“We were young and full of life; the record mirrors that” – Deftones’ Chino Moreno

Moreno had the cosmic horror movie lyrics to match the filmic sound. “New, cool meat / She pops the trunk, and she removes me,” he sings on ‘Feiticeira. On ‘Change (In the House Flies)’ he croons: “I took you home, set you on the glass, I pulled off your wings, then I laughed”. The spirit of the album is probably best represented by ‘Passenger’, a duet with Tool’s Maynard James Keenan that sees the pair howl over an operatic epic about a car ride about to spin out of control: “Mirrors sideways, Who cares what’s behind? / Just like always. Still your passenger.”

“We were recording in South Toledo, and [Keenan’s other band] A Perfect Circle were playing nearby,” recalls Moreno. “I remember because we got pulled over by the cops because I was speeding on the freeway on the way there. The next day, he came by the studio. We had just finished ‘Change’, and it wasn’t until we were near the end of the record that I still hadn’t had any ideas for ‘Passenger’. We just sat there and wrote it line-by-line. It was fun to collaborate with someone of his calibre. For me, as a singer, to trade lines with someone with a voice like his was super-special.”

For an indication of the album’s weirdness, look no further than the fact that Maynard plays bowls on it. “Next door to us was another tiny room where Foo Fighters were trying out new guitarists,” remembers drummer Abe Cunningham. “There was a line of like a hundred people trying out for Foo Fighters, and we’re next door when Maynard rolls up with these Tibetan glass bowls going ‘Woooo… woooo…’. It was great.”

The album was released to universal critical acclaim – but the bafflement of some fans – on June 20, 2000. Either way, the band became known as ‘the heavy metal Radiohead’. Maybe that was just because snobs didn’t consider hard rock to be all that ‘clever’, but here was a heavy band wearing long Dickies board shorts, with tube socks pulled up to their knees, who had created a complete mood-piece from start to finish.

Well, for one year at least. In 2001, the band’s record label Maverick re-released ‘White Pony’ with the single ‘Back To School’ lazily tacked onto the start. “Look back I sift through all the cliques – roaming’ the halls all year, making me sick,” spat Moreno on the band’s radio-friendly, rap-heavy anthem for high school losers.

The band protested and spoke out about the revised track list, but if you go on Spotify today, this is the version of the album you’ll find. Moreno later called ‘Back To School’ “a calculated song, that had been built up with only one aim in mind: It should be a single”. He also admitted “I liked the sequence [of the album] we had when we first turned it in. When this version came out, a little part inside all of us felt like, ‘Fuck! We just totally compromised,’ and I know that a lot of our fans felt bad about it too.”

Still, the track’s mass appeal of led many down the rabbit hole to discover the truth about ‘White Pony’ – such as Lauren Mayberry, then a young mosher finding herself.

CHVRCHES backstage at Reading 2019. Credit: Andy Ford/NME

“I remember being at someone’s house and seeing the video for ‘Back To School’ on TV,” she tells NME. “At the time, everyone I knew was listening to Blink-182, Green Day, Bouncing Souls or Britney Spears – but most of the nu-metal stuff that was around didn’t really appeal to me as it felt very forcibly macho. I don’t think I could articulate it in those terms at the time – more that it just felt inaccessible when I was trying to listen to it and trying to be ‘down’, and I couldn’t figure out why.”

As well their genre-defying approach, Mayberry also fell for Moreno’s twisted way with words. While Moreno describes them as “not personal” but “just a vibe”, his vivid poeticism certainly leaves a mark.

Says Mayberry: “I like that he really paints with his words and there is often a duality in what he’s saying or how he’s saying it. He can talk about love with imagery that is really grotesque, or say something very sweet in an environment that sounds really aggressive. I think the fly in the ointment is the thing that makes you think twice.

“Most nu-metal stuff didn’t appeal to me as it felt forcibly macho” – Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry

“Lyrically, there were songs about love and obsession, moments of real darkness and weirdness, religious images, and then a song like ‘Passenger’, which to me always felt like it was a sort of coming-of-age romance or friendship story. I can’t think of any other nu-metal band who were going that deep.”

With a band that screamed of otherness, Mayberry felt at home among their fandom – something that wasn’t that easy in rock at the time: “As a teenage girl coming-of-age in a moment where a lot of bands, shows and other fans were very clearly not open to your presence, it meant a lot to me, and it’s something I’ve thought about as I’ve gone through my career as well.”

Mayberry remains a hardcore Deftones fan to this day – a fact made all the sweeter when Moreno handpicked Chvrches to play with them at their festival Dia De Los Deftones last year. The decision made headlines when Hatebreed singer Jamey Jasta argued that a heavier band should have taken their place, completely missing the point that Deftones’ appeal goes far beyond the metal community.

That’s why an album like ‘White Pony’ resonates so strongly today. Would it be fair to say that it challenged what a metal band could be?

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” replies Deftones Jason Butler, super-fan and frontman of Californian hardcore political punks Fever 333. “Whether people know it or not, whether the band know it or not, they changed the game. There are a few albums you can look at and say, ‘This changed my life’, but the game? Deftones’ ‘White Pony’ did that.”

He continues: “What they and [producer] Terry Date did, from Abe’s cathedral-sounding drums and the weird sound on Chino’s voice to the guitar, Terry’s soundscapes and the bass – everything about it was so different. If you were to isolate any of it, I don’t think people would have understood it the way that they did. That’s what makes something perennial.”

FEVER 333 perform live, 2019. CREDIT: Getty

From the heavy AF realm of Fever 333 and Deafheaven to the poppier likes of Chvrches, Muse, and Paramore, ‘White Pony’’s is as much about spirit as it is about sound.

“That album really showed me that you should feel free to eradicate and obliterate all the boundaries,” Butler says. “It doesn’t matter that you may have been influenced by or even sampled from other genres that typically don’t go together, if you can do that tastefully and genuinely, you should do that. You should take the risk.”

‘White Pony’ went platinum in 2002 and became beloved as one of the landmark albums of the 21st Century – of any genre. To draw on the old Radiohead comparison, it was a watershed moment like ‘OK Computer’ or ‘Kid A’.

And the band themselves will now be giving the record the celebration it deserves: later this year they’ll be reissuing ‘White Pony’ with the original tracklist. They’ll also fulfil their dream of releasing a remix album called ‘Black Stallion’, featuring their hero DJ Shadow. Bizarrely, the band approached the Californian producer about this before they’d even made the album.

“‘White Pony’ changed the game” – Fever 333’s Jason Butler

“We’d talk about the record before we’d done anything and say, ‘Our new record is going to be so good that we’re going to have DJ Shadow remix it’ and we’ll call it ‘Black Stallion’,” says drummer Abe Cunningham. “I was DJing and opening for him before me and Chino cornered him at The Cattle Club [in Sacremento]. “We were like, ‘We want you to remix our record!’ He looked at us like we were crazy and said, ‘Send it to me and I’ll listen’. We told him, ‘We haven’t actually written or recorded it yet…’ It was batshit crazy of us, but what’s more crazy is that now he is part of it.”

You certainly can’t deny the “unstoppable power”, as NME put it, of the record: “This record was just embedded in our brains before we put it down to tape,” says Cunningham.

“Going against the grain, doing something daring and actually being successful gave us the confidence to keep going through the years and try different things,” concludes Moreno. “When we started, we didn’t know what kind of band we were going to be. With this record, it helped us to go down that road to figure it out.”

That’s the message that ‘White Pony’ inspires: keep going, do what you want, ride on.

– Deftones’ ‘White Pony’ 20th anniversary reissue will be released later this year. The band will be hold a digital listening party for the album on Monday June 22

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Deftones Have Discussed Releasing Eros Material as an EP

The partially-finished Eros project has long been a hot topic of Deftones lore. The band had been working on an album with that tentative title as the follow-up to Saturday Night Wrist, released in 2006, when bassist Chi Cheng was in a 2008 car accident that left him incapacitated. After a period of grieving, the band enlisted former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega and started a new album from scratch, eventually releasing Diamond Eyes in 2010. Cheng would pass in 2013, but the topic of Eros has come up in interviews ever since, with the band members consistently expressing hesitation about returning to that material.

In a recent chat Download TV conducted with Deftones’ Abe Cunningham over the weekend, the drummer addressed the topic, sharing his thoughts on whether it would ever be released:

“…It was never completed, and that’s what people don’t get, like, ‘What, you’re just sitting on it?’ and I mean no, we’re not just sitting on it, we never finished it. And then he [Chi Cheng] got in his accident and that’s kinda where it just stopped.

“And quite frankly it’s not that good. There’s some songs that are really good. But I gotta be honest, it was like, you know, we were just trying to get back to it and see what we can come up with then… and it’s not that it’s not good, it’s just… there’s a lot attached to it as well, you know? And I understand that people are passionate about that and they want to hear Chi‘s last musical contribution.”

I’m not sure I ever realized the extent to which the Eros tracks were unfinished — I’d thought they were in a mostly recorded state with just some finishing touches needed — but Cunningham makes it sound as if the writing was far from complete with lines like “we were just trying to get back to it and see what we can come up with.”

Cunningham went on to discuss whether the material could ever see the light of day in spite of that:

“We’ve talked about putting out maybe a condensed version or an EP of four or five songs, something like that, and that kind of makes sense. But we have to get into all the legalities of it and all that stuff and also we have to finish it. But yeah, it would be nice for that to see the light of day, definitely.”

Can you imagine revisiting stuff you started writing 12 years ago and trying to get back in the groove with it? It’d be awkward, you’d be out of sorts, disconnected, in a completely different place now. What’s more, all that emotional baggage connected to this particular set of recordings, as Abe acknowledges.

Needless to say “we’ve talked about” is not the same as “we’re going to,” but “we’ve talked about” is still better than “we will never” as far as Deftones fans are concerned. Having said that, given all the fan discussion surrounding Eros over the years — and Cunningham’s stated reluctance due to the unfinished nature of it — it’s hard to imagine it living up to expectations at this point.

Elsewhere in the same interview, Cunningham revealed that the band’s new album is fully mixed and they’re eyeing a September release for it, although that is by no means a confirmed time period.

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New Deftones Album is Complete, Band Eyeing September Release

The Deftones are moving at a typically Deftonesian pace on their new album, which they once promised would be out in 2019, but it seems we’ll get to hear it sooner rather than later: drummer Abe Cunningham indicated in a new interview that the record has now been fully mixed and has moved into the mastering phase. What’s more, he hinted at a possible September release.

Speaking to Download TV as part of this weekend’s virtual celebration of the canceled U.K. festival Download, Cunningham said of the album’s progress:

“We actually tracked everything over the summer, last summer—June and July—we were in the studio tracking. And we’re just taking our time. But we actually just completed everything. We’re mixing…. We were down in L.A. recording, but we mixed up in Seattle.

“We’re working with our old pal Terry Date, who did a bunch of our earlier records and stuff too. He’s up there with this while distancing thing, it was a bit rough, but we figured out a way to kind of do the mixes without being there. It’s a lot better when we’re all in the room; we can knock it out quick and argue and do our things. But, yeah, we just completed that. It’s getting mastered right now, and that’s been the main thing. So it’s been something to do in this strange off time.”

Later, when asked when the record might surface, he was coy, offering simply: “It should be coming along, hopefully, maybe September. I heard something. I can’t remember…”

Take that timeline with a heaping spoonful of salt: like we said, Deftones are gonna Deftones, and they always take longer than they say they will. But who knows, maybe we’ll be sitting here in three months time with new music in our virtual hands.

[via The PRP]

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