“Chicago Sun-Times” – July 2003 // Chino Interviewed



“Hard rock to the core”

July 25, 2003


It’s been 15 years since vocalist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter
and drummer Abe Cunningham started jamming together as high school students
in Sacramento, Calif., and eight years since the group (which is completed by
bassist Chi Cheng and DJ Frank Delgado) debuted with 1995’s aptly titled “Adrenaline.”

That disc and 1997’s “Around the Fur” marked the Deftones as one of the most
aggressive of the so-called “rap-rock” or “nu-metal” bands, but it was with
2000’s platinum-selling third effort that the band showed the breadth of its
musical vision. “White Pony” incorporated dense layers of psychedelic/noise guitar
(think Pink Floyd meets My Bloody Valentine), added grinding industrial textures a
la Tool, and alternated Moreno’s savage screaming with more melodic, moody and
ethereal interludes.

The group’s self-titled fourth album continues in this experimental vein, and it’s
another strong collection of swirling, layered and subtly nuanced hard rock. Following
a rare club performance at Metro the week the disc was released, the Deftones are
performing at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero as part of
Metallica’s Summer Sanitarium Tour.

I spoke with Moreno shortly after the album was completed last spring.

Question. Tell me about making this album.

Answer. It happened over a long time–it was a couple of years making this one–and it has
a different sound than “White Pony.” You’ve got three albums behind you, and you don’t
want to follow any of the same formulas that you used on any of those other records,
so there’s a lot more thinking involved. It wasn’t over-thinking. I’m just glad there
are deadlines, because then the album has to be done! If it wasn’t for the deadline,
the mother—–r would never be done, because we’d just want to keep on working on it!
It’s also cool because this record happened over a time in our lives–the year and a half
that we got to spend actually living our lives. Since we got signed in ’95, we got put out
on tour, and at the most we’d get a couple of months off here, a couple of months off there.
But we pretty much stayed on tour and then went in to make records. This time, we got to
get off the road and go home and kick it. I got to go home and live in my house, drive
in my car, do s— that normal people do. Clean my pool.

Q. But you wound up jumping into a number of side projects during the down time.
You formed Team Sleep and made an as-yet-unreleased album with some unlikely collaborators,
including former Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton, ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur
and former Helium guitarist and vocalist Mary Timony.

A. But that was also a good thing–a totally useful thing. I know for myself, I can only
watch so much f—ing television! You can only rake so many leaves until there are no
more to rake.
We were all kind of involved in our things. Stephen was making music with B-Real
[of Cypress Hill]. It’s just that Stephen lives in L.A., and the rest of us still live
in Sacramento. We made this specific time off so we didn’t even have to think Deftones.
We all did anyway, but it was nice to take a break.

Q. When you write with the Deftones, you add your lyrics after the song has already come
together, right?

A. It’s always been that way. I’ll just hear something and feel a certain thing and start
singing. I let the music create it, whatever mood it may be. But the music is already
pretty much written.

Q. In the past, you were often playing different characters in your songs, adopting roles
like David Bowie or Peter Gabriel might. I’m thinking of a tune like the kidnap fantasy

A. There was a lot more of that on “White Pony” than on this one. This one was more stream
of consciousness. Playing parts was more on the earlier records. That was a time in my life
when I was kind of bored, and I just wanted to be somebody else.

Q. So what are you talking about on “Deftones”?

A. The Earth.

Q. The lyrics seem to be a lot more optimistic. In the single “Minerva,” you sing, “God
bless you all for the song you saved us.” Where is that sentiment coming from?

A. I just think there’s some beautiful s— going on right now, but there’s some really
f—ing shady s— going on, too. But there are some really simple things–like a woman’s
voice or hearing someone sing a song–that can just instill this feeling of ecstasy. It can
be the simplest thing, but everything can build on that.
I don’t want to preach to anybody. My opinions are my opinions. I just want to sing about
romance and good s—. If anybody listens to that song and gets a message, that’s a positive
thing. I don’t want to have to explain what that song should mean; it should mean how it makes
you feel. I’m pretty damn sure it will make people feel happy.

Q. When you talk about mood, I hear an awful lot of Pink Floyd in your music.

A. It is a total mood thing. I can’t believe that more people aren’t influenced by them. It’s
good to have songs where people can do whatever they want. Just because a band has been
pigeonholed into whatever kind of scene–for us it’s nu metal or whatever–I just hear sounds.
I hear so much stuff going on around me, and I try to take it in. Not so much fit stuff in or
cram stuff into another gear, but you can take something that started out over here and take
it somewhere way away from this Earth. And Pink Floyd definitely did that.

Q. Let’s talk about racism. Did you ever experience any prejudice as a Hispanic in a scene that
is dominated by white rockers and metalheads?

A. In the beginning, almost every interview we did, that got brought up to us: “Isn’t it weird
that you guys play metal?” And I was like, “What do you mean it’s weird?” For one, I don’t know
what it’s like to be white, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I just like what I like.
It’s not like we’re trying to be anything. I like all kinds of music–I listen to the Too Short
tape and a whole a lot more. I take in any music.
As far as like where I grew up, the [other Hispanic kids] called me “the white one,” but they
were cool about it. It’s not like they were messing with me; they were just teasing me.
The sun would go down and I’d see them go off to go do something–to get into trouble–and I’d
just go the other way. I was into something different. Luckily, I had Stephen and a handful of
other guys who were into music, playing it and listening to it, and we all just kind of came
together–all the kids who were into skateboarding and listening to different types of music.

Q. Do you think the Deftones have kept their hardcore metal following despite the experimentation
of the last two discs?

A. Definitely. I thought we’d lose that audience when we did “White Pony.” We still hear from a
lot of people who ask, “What’s your new album like? Is it more like ‘Around the Fur,’ more hard
and heavy?” And I’m like, “It’s hard and heavy, but it’s also nice and sweet sometimes, too.”
But that’s how our records have always been. If people really listen to “Adrenaline,” it had
some of the melodic stuff, too, but there was also a lot of the knucklehead s—, like me
screaming and being pissed-off at everybody and thinking everybody was out to get me and s—.

Q. How do you feel when the band is categorized as “nu metal”?

A. Nobody wants to be pigeonholed, man. To me, it’s just metal.

Q. Well, one of the things that distinguish the genre is that it’s much more influenced by hip-hop.

A. The whole world is, man. There are Eminems all over the place! I see ’em every day on every
corner. To me, that’s really what I grew up in, the urban s—, and when I see everybody else
trying to be like that, I’m like, “How is that fun to be like?” I’m glad I don’t live in the
neighborhood any more, know what I’m saying? I don’t get it how people want to be so down with
the ghetto. It shaped the person I am or whatever, but it’s certainly nothing to glorify.