“Review-Journal” – October 2004 // Abe Interviewed


“Testing Their Metal”

The Deftones are practically the root of contemporary metal, and the band isn’t
afraid to try new things. The Deftones’ next metal album will be “brainy,” “harsh”
and “pretty,” band members say.

Metal music is the new punk rock. Punk music itself has been co-opted by corporations.
So has metal. But at least metal doesn’t get played on adult-pop stations the way
pop-punk does.

If a parent walked into a kid’s room and heard a pop-punk band, that parent might
actually relate to the kid. But how many parents walk into a kid’s room, hear a
screaming Deftones song and are happy about it?

“That’s right,” Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham says. “I think that’s cool. It’s
almost (normal) to see a kid with different colored, six-foot spikes (in their
hair). No one ever blinks an eye. But maybe we’re more dangerous.”

New metal is inspired by what punk used to be, too. Cunningham and his bandmates
grew up on classic anti-establishment punk.

“We grew up on a lot of those bands and that ethic. For the longest time, we did
it ourselves. I guess that all stopped when we signed on the dotted line, which
has been really good, but it also is the worst decision we’ve ever done,” he says.

Cunningham dubs the current form of pop-punk “Hot Topic punk” after the mall store
that sells black clothes and stickers. If listeners prefer that type of music,
“more power to them, but at the same time, it’s good to know the roots of things,”
he says.

The Deftones have been around so long — 16 years — the band is almost the root
of contemporary metal. The Sacramento, Calif., band was basically underground until
its dotted-line, major-label debut, “Around the Fur,” came out in 1997. At that
time, the band’s hard-pounding sound and singer Chino Moreno’s hoarse, full-on
screaming appealed to people who didn’t just slam dance but bloodied each other in
mosh pits.

In 2000, though, the band’s “White Pony” album was hailed as a sort of “Sgt. Pepper”
of hard-core rock, because it tamed the high-pitched squeals and incorporated a
complex structure of smart, sweet-sounding melodies, without losing its metal edge.

Some “White Pony” songs were hard for kids to mosh to. The band’s next album,
2003’s “Deftones,” ratcheted up some rougher edges. Moshers seemed to eat that
up in concert, but the album didn’t appeal to the crossover fans that “White Pony”
brought to the Deftones.

Last month, Moreno told MTV that the band’s next album will be more like “White Pony.”
But the band stands behind “Deftones.”

“The (new) songs are kind of brainy. They’re more Rush than Tool in a way,”
Moreno said on MTV. “On our last record, we got kind of lazy by writing as few
riffs as possible. This one we’re writing way more riffs.”

Cunningham doesn’t use the word “brainy.” He says the new songs sound like the
Deftones. No huge departures.

“There’s harsh (rock tunes), and there’s pretty (songs). But it’s all strong.
We feel really good, and we’re all stoked with it,” he says, speaking at breakneck
speed. He’s a fast talker. “This is the most we prepared in the longest time,”
he says. “We have about 18 to 20 songs that are complete right now. We haven’t
had more than that since we made our first record.”

In the past, the Deftones have recorded in Sacramento and in a Malibu mansion.
This time, after touring for about a month, they plan to head to a studio in

“It’ll be the dead of winter with no distractions. We might as well be in a
studio, like little beavers building a dam,” he says.

The group will also be working with a new producer, Bob Ezrin, who produced
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” among other major works.

“We’ve never worked with a musician-(producer). And Bob is a classically trained
pianist,” Cunningham says. “He could have a million ideas, and if we don’t like
it, it’s our” final say-so.

Cunningham is looking forward to going into a studio so soon after playing a
tour of small venues.

“Coming directly off the road, we’ll be on fire,” he says.

That will be a departure. The band normally falls into a usual rock band
routine, he says.

“You get caught in the standard cycle,” he says. “Writing, recording, touring.
Writing, recording, touring. Bam, bam, bam. … But this time we have a plethora
of songs.

“And we’ve been through a lot. We’ve been together 16 years now, and the past
10 we’ve been out in the world touring the globe and having records out,” he
says. “We’ve gone through a lot of stuff — marriages, divorces, kids. But
right now, it feels really good. Everyone’s really getting along well.”