“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”.