“Total Guitar” – 2000 // Stef Interviewed

Stef’s interviewed by TOTAL GUITAR (2000)

* www.deftonesworld.com *


Move over Korn – Deftones, on the back of their White Pony album,
are now poised for superstardom.

Uncompromising and abrasive? Check. Forays into acoustic-dom and contemplative
lyrics? Check. One of the best albums so far this year? Check again. On White
Pony, their third album, Deftones have created an record of breathtaking contrasts,
setting themselves even further apart from their so-called ‘nu metal’ counterparts,
and firmly establishing the band as one of the smartest heavy rock acts around.

But the Deftones have always been one step ahead of their contemporaries. Never one
dimensional, obvious or reliant on self-absorbed lyrics about ‘how their life sucks’.
Admittedly, it’s hardly poetry, but singer Chino Moreno’s stream of consciousness
delivery is a welcome diversion in a world often too wrapped up in a blanket of self
pity. And, unlike many bands of a similar ilk who rely on two guitarists to get their
sound, Stef Carpenter is more than capable of delivering it alone. He shifts
effortlessly from hypnotic and heavy riff-based songs like My Own Summer (transcribed
this issue), to the far more pop-tinged affair of new single Change (House Of Flies).

It’s taken three years since the critically acclaimed Around The Fur was released,
for White Pony to appear. And despite the hype surrounding it, the album doesn’t

“We know what we’re doing now. We’re much more confident,” begins Stef. “When we did
the first album, we just wanted to put out a record. We were all really nervous. I don’t
want to sound arrogant, but we’ve just produced a really awesome record.” Okay,
whatever. But Stef’s breathless excitement, when he talks about White Pony, makes it
clear that he’s convinced it’s destined for great things.

But first a warning, if you’re not quite sure what to expect. There’s no Method Mans or
Busta Rhymes or Ice Cubes here. The only departure from the trad four-piece rock band is
Frank Delgado on turntables, now a fully integrated member. Instead, frontman Chino Moreno
is joined by his good friend Maynard James Keenan (Tool/A Perfect Circle) on Passenger,
and Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland (a man with one of the most versatile names in rock
at the moment) helped him with his vocals on RX Queen. Not only that but the acoustic-led
Teenager is, according to Chino, “a love song.” You don’t find many of those on a
Slipknot album.

That’s not to say the Sacramento boys have gone all soft on us. Elite is one of the
hardest songs the band have ever written, where Chino’s voice is put through a robotic
vocoder, and Stef’s ESP is given a free rein to provide one of the most brutal guitar
moments on the album. Similarly, Fieticiera is led by Stef’s trademark growling riffs
and driving rhythms.

This diversity of styles wasn’t initially intended, but was the result of a need for
a compromise, between two conflicting styles of songwriters, Chino and Stef. The
guitarist is quick to confess to a lot of tension between them. “Me and Chino rowed
a lot when we were working on White Pony. It was a really abrasive process and that’s
because we’re both into really different music. Basically, I just wanted to make a
heavy metal album, and Chino was like: ‘No way.’ He’s always represented the softer
side of Deftones. He likes stuff like The Smiths and The Cure and Depeche Mode,
whereas I’m into heavier music, particularly bands that have seven string players
like Fear Factory and [Swede metallers] Meshuggah.”

Perhaps Stef’s hard’n’heavy leanings were part of the reason why Chino decided to
strap on a guitar this time around, though Stef’s metal-edged playing is still, for the
most part, at the forefront. “Chino plays on Pink Maggit, Digital Bath and Teenager -the
acoustic one – is just him playing. He plays on Change, too. All of the quieter, poppier
songs, really.”

For a grind merchant like Stef, Teenager is surely something of a cop out?
Initially, he agrees, “I hate it!, I think Chino’s playing is awful!” Really? “Well, no.”
Pushed further, Stef admits that although acoustic balladry isn’t exactly his cup of tea,
songs like Teenager still have their place – even on a Deftones album. “I suppose I came
round a little to Chino’s way of thinking when we were doing White Pony and I like those
songs a lot better now than I did. I guess it’s important to explore different directions,
and it was time for a change. We couldn’t have made another album like Around The Fur.”

Thrash Metal Kid
Rewind, past Around The Fur, to the mid 80s when Stef was growing up. Bands like Metallica
and Slayer were busy pioneering the thrash metal sound, and quickly became heroes for the
young Stef. It was one of those songs that became the first track he learned to play. “Yeah,
it was Among The Living by Anthrax, I was about 13,” he fondly recalls.

Stef may be a product of 80’s metal, but don’t have him down as any solo aficionado or
spotlight hogger. “What does it for me most, are really good rhythm players. I’m a big fan
of guitarists like James Hetfield, and I think you can hear those influences in my own

It was players such as Hetfield that first attracted Stef to ESPs and he now has two signature
models – a six and seven string, complete with Seymour Duncan pickups. Despite the band
having all their gear nicked (along with the lorry it was in) last year when they were touring
with Black Sabbath, this prompted no real change in Stef’s choice of equipment. The only change
to his original set-up is the acquisition of a TC Electronic FireworX which he says
provides him with unlimited sounds: “I get pretty much all my effects from that now,
although I still use my Rocktron (Replifex – rack effects), my ESPs, and my main amps are
still Marshall. I’ve got pretty much everything I want at the minute. The only thing I’m
thinking about getting is one of those new Line 6 rackmountable heads.”

White Pony was a mostly six-string led affair, and the album, at least from a guitar point
of view, doesn’t differ greatly from Around The Fur. But Stef has something up his sleeve for
the next record. “I’ve been playing seven string a lot more,” he confesses conspiratorially.
“Again, like the new directions we’ve explored on this album, it’s just a matter of moving

forward. I’ve been playing six for a long time now, and now I want to see what I can do with
seven.” Can we really believe Stef when he tells us his favourite guitarists are in Metallica,
Slayer and Fear Factory? Or has he got some Steve Vai workouts and Satch soloing in store?
He says not – and unlike a lot of the ‘player players’, he isn’t of the opinion that
contemporaries Korn, haven’t pushed the seven to its full potential. Not that he’s a big
fan anyway.

“Everyone acts like Korn were the first 7-string players, but what about all of those
death metallers? I could write some Korn songs easily, and there’s not one I really like.
Okay, we know them, they’re our friends, but they’re still living off the hype of that
first record. And as for Fred (Durst, Limp Bizkit), no matter what anyone says, he
completely ripped Chino off. Reality is reality.”

Harsh words maybe, but with Korn becoming increasingly full of their own pomposity
can they really make another album based around Jonathan’s sorry life story?), could Stef
be the new 7-stringer on the block? Especially as he informs us that his good friend Wes
(Limp Bizkit) is fed up of being associated with sevens, and is playing mostly six now.

Whatever the outcome, seven strings will make Deftones even heavier. Wonder if Stef
has told Chino? Somehow we don’t think so…