“Undecover” – 1997 // Abe Interviewed

The Mighty Mighty Deftones

By Paul Cashmere

Tranquil Sacramento, California is the home of possibly the world’s heaviest band, The Deftones.
The band is made up of two Mexicans, a Chinese guy and a white dude, all with common musical
tastes. The mutual friends formed around 10 years ago and were one for the first acts signed
to Madonna’s Maverick Record label.

They are also the headlining act for the upcoming Van’s Warped tour.

While making their first tour downunder, Abe Cunningham came into Undercover and caught up with
Executive Producer Paul Cashmere and Timdog.

You are not only a rock band, but now movie stars. Tell us about you part in the second Crow

Yeah that was kind of a funny thing. We actually filmed the whole part for three days, all day
long, 15 – 16 hours and they ended up editing it down to this one little section.
It was pretty cool, it was a while back. It was kind of exciting.

The movie was full of disasters.

Yeah totally. It was plagued, it was cursed. Brandon Lee was killed on the first one
and one of the days they were doing this huge stunt, where a guy falls off a huge skyscraper,
and the stunt broke his back. I think the whole movie was plagued. Nonetheless, it was a cool
experience just to see how the movies are made.

The other movie you were involved with was Escape From L.A.

Right. I haven’t seen the movie. I heard it was terrible.
We were just on the soundtrack on that, we just gave them the song.

Deftones are a very multicultural band. Two Mexicans, a Chinese guy and a white dude.

Where we come from, California, it is so mixed up,
Actually, the whole States is pretty mixed up.
I don’t think we really think of it at all.
More people make a bigger deal of it than we do. We grew up in a neighborhood were
everyone is mixed up. It’s just the way it is.
I suppose it gives us more to draw from. We are all Americans, but everyone has their
cultural backgrounds. I am the token white boy. People do make a big deal of that, but
I don’t care. It’s pretty good.

Musically, I can’t pick any cultural influences.

Music can be for anybody. It doesn’t have to be for a certain type of person. It’s
this beautiful thing and anybody can do it and that’s the beauty of it. We just happen
to be four or five guys that are racially mixed up, but that’s no big deal whatsoever.

Terry Date who produced your first album must have worked out well because he’s back for the
second album.

We were more impressed the second time. We got Terry from the Pantera records, the Soundgarden
records, all this different shit. He’s just made some amazing bad ass records, but on top of
all that, he is the most down to earth, most coolest, so mellow person to work with.
He is just nice. Some Producers come in and are more hands on, but he comes in and
engineers the records. He has an opinion, but he’s basically there to record the band.
We learned a lot doing the first record and come time to do the second one, we were more
mellow because we had done it once before. To me, the second record sounds so much better
than the first. It’s thicker and fatter, but we took a little more time with it and we have
a lot of ideas for the third one coming up.

How would you describe the sound of the Deftones for someone who has never heard the band?

It’s easy to say that it’s very heavy music, but it’s much for than that. We love all kinds
of music so we have so much to draw from. I just say come with an open ear, check it out.
You have to listen deep for the little thing s going on besides the heaviness of it all. We
are a heavy band, but we are a pop band too.

So what do you also listen to?

We all listen to the same styles of music, but we also listen to a lot of stuff that’s far off.
As a band Faith No More, Bad Brains, Helmet, Pantera. Everybody takes stuff from other bands.
If you are a writer or whatever, it’s how you take it. It’s not about stealing people’s shit.
It’s about taking it and then taking it somewhere else.

Tell us about your contributions to both the Duran Duran and the Depeche Mode tribute albums.

Those are two bands that we love. Chino particularly is a big fan of both of those bands.
Vocally he gets a lot of style from those bands. He is way into new wave and shit, and the
English bands of that time. It’s also fun, because people wouldn’t expect it from us.
For The Chauffeur, the Duran Duran one, we tried to do it three or four years ago but we never
had time. We always wanted to do it, but when the tribute album came up, we just said we’ll do
The Chauffeur. For the Depeche Mode album To Have Or To Hold, we made it a real heavy song.
It was just cool to be able to do that. You can give it a different life.

You have a steady relationship with Max Cavalera.

We were always huge fans of Sepultura. We met Max through his step son Dana, who was a good
friend of ours and was killed a few years ago. That was what Headup was all about.
There’s a song First Commandment on his record that was about the people who say he was killed.
Max is a cool guy and I wish that band was still together but he is kind of like family to us.

On your song Headup, you feature Max and he sings the lyric “soulfly” which went on to become
the name of his new band.

We wrote that before his new band was together. About six months ago, we did a TV show in
Paris and Max came on and did Headup with us. He was in town doing some other stuff.
He announced that night, after we did the song, that his new band was going to be called
Soulfly. We didn’t know it, it was pretty wild. It was from our song, but it’s cool shit.

How has The Deftones progressed from one album to the next.

I think it’s a natural progression. We were on the road a lot, and it’s easy to make the
same record twice, but we didn’t want to do that, we wanted to take it somewhere else. We
needed to grow as a band. We wanted to get lose. Someone said it was just being comfortable
in the studio, just being tighter. You play every night constantly, but you can’t help it but
get better.

What does Around The Fur mean?

It’s a metaphor for life. Chino came up with the title. He was fascinated by the shadiness
of certain things. It is literally like a fur coat. Fur is beautiful on the outside, but on
the inside it is basically a dead animal. It’s like the good and bad in life and how people
can cover things up. Everyone thinks it’s sexual but that’s not what it was meant to be.

So what does Deftones mean then?

We’ve been around 10 years now. The first show we ever played was a backyard barbarque.
We were like 16. We were so excited, it was our first show. We had 6 or 7 songs but we didn’t
have a name. So we decided it was Def, and we needed a name so we called ourselves The Deftones.
It was like the 80’s, everything was Def then. Tones was almost like a classic ‘50ish band name,
like with all those bands that ended with ‘Tones. It’s been our name ever since, but then,
a name is a name. It’s the music that speaks. Metallica is a silly name too.

Who was your favorite band to tour with?

We’ve toured with so many different bands. One of the best was with Bad Brains.
They were still the original band then. They didn’t last long because HR
flipped out and cracked a kids skull open with a mike stand and they broke up.
But then, I mean Jimmy Hendrix flipped out too.

What’s happening for you tour wise?

We are going to a lot of places we haven’t been before. We are going to Japan after this.
We are just touring and writing new songs. We are doing Van’s Warped and will be back in
Australia in January for that.

When you play live, there are five of you.

Yeah, we take Frank with us. He’s a DJ. He plays on both records, but he doesn’t scratch
though. He adds aural texture, he adds ambience. He has the craziest record collection and
he picks his sounds. I mean, bands have DJ’s who scratch and that’s kind of cliche, but for
him its just another instrument, but instead of using a voice, he uses records.
He’s been on both of our albums, and he’ s been out with us for the last year and a
half straight. He’s basically part of the band. He is from Sacramento too and whenever
we played there, he would come down and play with us, so we just said, come out with us

What’s your advise to new bands?

A lot of people come up and ask us questions, which is funny because I think of us as a band
that is just coming up, but people are just starting to hear about us. We’ve always just done
what we do. You’ve just got to come from your heart. People think you just get signed and you
put your record out, and if you can get backing from a label that is cool too. It’s not that
easy though. It’s a weird business but you have just got to make yourself happy as a band.
If it makes you happy, you can just keep on going. At times, there are ups and downs, but if
its real and it comes from inside, you keep doing your shit and keep on going.

The Deftones are part of the Maverick label, owned by Madonna. Do you have anything to do with

Oh yeah. She’s the boss. She’s come out to three or four of our shows. She is the boss. She’s
not like day to day, but she’s around. I listen to Madonna man, we listen to so much music. I
have nothing but respect for her. She has created some serious shit for herself and we are able
to benefit because of her.

Who is your favorite Spice Girl?

I like Scary Spice.