“SacBee.com” – May 2003 // Deftones Interviewed

“Worth the wait Sacramento’s Deftones celebrate
their fourth CD with a show for hometown fans”

By Chris Macias – sacbee.com

The Deftones are one of the crown jewels of Sacramento’s music scene,
with the band’s three albums collectively selling nearly 3 million copies.
Overall, the group’s story is one about homeboys-done-good from Sac Town,
but written on the Deftones’ terms and at their own pace.Now, after a year
in the making, the Deftones are finally unveiling a fourth album.

The Deftones are running late. No surprise there.
Spend some time with the band, and you’ll learn pretty quickly about something
called “Deftones time.” It means that if you’ve got any business scheduled
with the group, plan on starting at least an hour late. Or, when word comes
that the Deftones’ new album will be out in late 2002, well, better not hold
your breath.
That’s just the Deftones’ style: hard to pin down for time commitments, a bit
hardheaded and, ultimately, one of hard rock’s trailblazing bands.

The Deftones are also one of the crown jewels of Sacramento’s music scene, with
the band’s three albums collectively selling nearly 3 million copies. Overall,
the group’s story is one about homeboys-done-good from Sac Town, but written on the
Deftones’ terms and at their own pace.

Now, after a year in the making, the Deftones are finally unveiling a fourth album.
On Tuesday, the band will release 11 tracks of new material on the self-titled
“Deftones.” In a nod — make that a headbang — to the group’s River City roots,
the band will christen its new album with a concert at downtown’s Crest Theatre,
also on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the question remains: Will the Deftones make it back to their West
Sacramento studio in time to meet with the press and then get a rehearsal going?

It’s about three weeks before the new album hits stores, and the band is away on a
last-minute photo shoot with Request and Mass Appeal magazines. Still, the Deftones’
studio is buzzing with busy work. Instrument cases are being stenciled and guitars
given a fine-tuning by its road crew, a prelude to an upcoming summer on the road.

At last, a van arrives. Drummer Abe Cunningham emerges bleary-eyed and running on fumes,
having been up all night to greet the birth of his second child. Stephen Carpenter,
the Deftones’ guitarist, wears a sleepy scowl, looking like he’s either on the verge
of dozing off or is plotting to kick your butt. The rest of the guys — singer-guitarist
Chino Moreno, bassist Chi Cheng and DJ-keyboardist Frank Delgado — waste little time
before picking up their instruments.

This block of time, or whatever’s left of it, is supposed to be reserved for band interviews.
But soon, a full-blown jam blossoms. It’s a thunderstorm of brooding and bruising
guitar at a dirge-like tempo, a subsonic rumble that just might register on the Richter
scale. Call it a preview of the new album’s punch power.

The night will be long, and rehearsal is expected to last into the wee hours.
But with a bit of music released from their systems, Moreno and Cheng settle in the
studio’s loft to chat about their new album.

“It’s a really weird time right now,” says Moreno, kicking back on the couch. “We’re
finished with the album and I’m excited about it. But there’s anticipation and anxiety
in there. I’m definitely tensed out.”

“Deftones” is the successor to 2000’s “White Pony,” the band’s most successful album to
date, and expectations are high. When “White Pony” was released, it entered the charts at
No. 3 and went on to sell more than a million copies. And “Elite,” one of the songs on
“White Pony,” won a 2001 Grammy for best metal performance.

Still, the group wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to capitalize on “White Pony’s” momentum.
The Deftones spent the better part of 2002 writing and recording the new album in their
West Sacramento studio, as well as in Seattle and Los Angeles. In the end, the band moved
at a speed that was too slow for its label, Maverick Records.

Just how slow?

“We got fined for not turning our record in (on time),” says Moreno. “It was a lot of money,
too. They wanted our record out last year, and we told them, ‘Alright, we can do it.’
But they threw a clause in there where if the record’s not out by a certain date, we’d
get fined.

“The whole time we were working on our record, I don’t think we were stressing about,
‘Oh, it’s got to be done by this day,'” Moreno continues. “It was just done when it was done.”

The Deftones never wanted to play by the record industry’s rules, anyway. The group’s
debut album, 1995’s “Adrenaline,” was too harsh for mainstream radio, given Moreno’s
shriek-a-lot vocals and the band’s maximum musical crunch. The group tweaked its sound on
a forward-thinking sophomore album, 1997’s “Around the Fur,” by balancing its heavy metal
wallop with passages of soothing singing and sullen brushstrokes.

Both albums deviated from hard rock’s standard playbook, emphasizing texture and dynamics
much more than the average metal maniacs. In turn, the Deftones’ distinctive sound was
inspiring other groups. Upstart bands such as P.O.D. and Linkin Park began pilfering elements
of the Deftones’ moody metal and became rock stars themselves.

“White Pony,” however, was the Deftones’ watershed moment. Equal parts brainy and bombastic,
the album oozed with atmosphere and experimentation. Dreamy beats, epic song structures and
spooky melodies and were all fair game, though the band’s signature guitar blast was never
far away.

The Deftones just don’t like to follow musical formulas. But if the band follows any script,
it’s this: Make a musical statement, distinguish yourself from the pack, and move on again
to uncharted territory.

“On the last album, I wrote this song and I thought it was a great song,” says Cheng.
“But (the other members) were like, ‘Nah, that sounds like Ministry.’
Then, on this album, I wrote a song and Chino was like, ‘Nah, that sounds too much
like a Deftones song.'”

“With (‘White Pony’), it was like we’ve got to get a record out, and it’s got to be
something significantly different than anything that’s around at the time,” Moreno adds.
“I think that record did everything we wanted it to do. This time, I didn’t feel like we
had to try and do anything but what we loved to do. To think that we were just going to
try and do more of what we’d done on any of those (earlier) albums, hell no.”

The new album certainly ups the band’s ante in terms of aggressiveness and adventure.
“Hexagram” is a smackdown of chunky, odd-metered riffs and vocal war cries, while “Minerva”
features a slowly expanding mushroom cloud of doomsday guitar and an equally enormous melody.

“Lucky You,” somewhat similar in tone to “Teenager” from “White Pony,” is the album’s
hush-hush moment with its down-tempo drum loop and falsetto vocals. Piano and acoustic
instruments appear on “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event,” perhaps the album’s most
elegantly arranged track.

“I just wanted to make something that was a beautiful album, not like being sappy or soft,
but something that reflects,” says Moreno. “I originally liked the title ‘Lovers,’ but this
was before we’d written any songs, or maybe a couple of songs. But once the name got out
(on the Internet), I didn’t like it anymore. I thought about it for a while, but I kind of
liked the idea of having a body of work that wasn’t labeled. It was just us, just raw.”

“Deftones” also marked a breakthrough for the band’s infamously testy songwriting process.
“White Pony,” for example, didn’t get off the ground without plenty of head butting between
the metal-minded Carpenter and Moreno, a champion for the Deftones’ softer side.

The making of “Deftones” also wasn’t devoid of arguments, and the guys are still game to
partake in some brotherly smack talk. (“I don’t want to talk,” Cheng deadpans as the
interview opens. “I just want to listen to Chino speak. It’s very inspirational.”) But
with the new album, the band’s level of creative harmony was about as good as it gets.

“It’s kind of worked itself out,” says Moreno. “We broke down that whole feeling of
‘We’ve got to do what I want to do.’ I did a lot of dictating on the last album. I did
some this time as well, but I eased up a little on everyone, trying to tell everyone what
to play. Now, it’s about what we all want to do. This time, it just worked out our way.
We really took our time with it, more time sitting down and analyzing every little thing
we were doing instead of arguing.”

Cheng agrees.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs with us,” he says. “I’m happy that we are closer now
than maybe ever as far as friends go. It was definitely a lot better. I just remember that
everybody was really worried about their parts being super good.”

Next, the Deftones will take their show on the road. Tuesday’s gig at the Crest wil be
the final date of a “guerrilla” tour, where the band plays surprise concerts at clubs and
small theaters across the country. The Deftones will then head overseas on May 29 to rock
various European festivals, and jump on the “Summer Sanitarium” tour in June.

“Summer Sanitarium” is one of the year’s premiere hard-rock shows, pairing the Deftones
with Metallica, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Mudvayne. Given its heavy-hitter lineup, the
tour is booked entirely at sports stadiums, including San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on Aug. 10.

The Deftones will also play their own headlining shows on off nights. Though the band could
easily fill venues in the 5,000-capacity range, the Deftones are especially ready to get back
to basics at more intimate shows.

“That’s why we started making music in the first place — to play in clubs,” says Moreno.
“That’s the best (stuff) right there. When you go on tour and start playing huge sheds and
amphitheaters, the lights are up in your face and you can only see the first few rows.
Once we get back to the clubs, it’s going to bring everything back to life.”

But as far as the group’s shows go, nothing beats the band rocking Sac Town. Locals may
recall a near-possessed Moreno performing despite a bloody nose (a casualty of crowd surfing)
during a surprise gig at the Press Club, or a wild, unannounced concert at Capitol Garage
during the height of “White Pony.”

“This city is just us,” says Moreno. “It’s a big part of what we do — our music, where we grew up,
how we grew up. I didn’t leave this place until we first started touring. That was the
first time I’d left the West Coast. But I love it here. Working on the record in Seattle
was good — I love Seattle as well — but it’s a whole different place. This is part of
our personality.

“One thing I’m proud of is that I don’t feel like any of us have done anything that we
didn’t feel like doing,” Moreno concludes, before heading back to practice.
“The time we’ve taken alone (on ‘Deftones’), this says enough that we were not being
rushed to please people. I think we just make something that we enjoy, and people see
that’s genuine to us.”

In other words, “Deftones time” has done the band just fine.