Alternative Press August 2000
Ride On
Itıs mid-afternoon and the members of the Deftones are just crawling out of their beds at a Petaluma motel. They have spent the last three days rehearsing for a pair of warm-up shows in this small Northern California town in anticipation of the release of their third Maverick full-length, White Pony. The last time all five members played together was eight months ago, and that was just a one-off thing. Before that, it was last summerıs Ozzfest, where they only had to perform onstage for a half an hour. Tonightıs show will be three times as long, and the bandıs nerves are starting to show.
The new album sounds dramatically different that anything they have done in the past, so it has taken them a while to translate the new music to the live setting. For frontman Chino Moreno, who claims to get stage fright even under the best of circumstances, this gig has been the source of major turmoil for the past week. ³I woke up this morning going, ŒOh my God, we have to perform tonight,ı² he says. ³Iım fucking tripping.²
The gap between performances is the longest the Deftones have gone without playing onstage together in their 12-year existence. When they were starting out in nearby Sacramento, the band used to rehearse every night in guitarist Stephen Carpenterıs garage. That is, until his mother got sick of the racket and gave them the boot. After that they played all the local clubs until they were courted and signed by Madonnaıs Maverick label. Soon after, they started touring, spreading the word about their 1995 debut, Adrenaline. They steadily progressed from playing dives to guesting major festivals to headlining shows. But after their second album, 1997ıs Around The Fur, kept them on the road for nearly two years, the Deftones decided to lay low for a while. They all took separate vacations and only reconvened when they had to begin work on the new album.
While much noise has been made about the delays that held up the release of the White Pony, the band claims they simply needed the time to recharge their batteries. When they did enter the studio once again, they ended up spending four months on the making of White Pony, double the time they spent on Around The Fur. And even with producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) back on board for the sessions, the album somehow came out sounding wildly different from the first two discs. During their time away, the Deftones had re-invented themselves as spiritually enlightened beings of the new century. Now they sound like no other band: Theyıre a psychedelic band with an all-too-real grasp on reality. Theyıre a hard rock band with a vulnerable underbelly. Theyıre an experimental band with heart-sinking melodies.
Today, the Deftones seem rather anxious about how this new direction is going to sit with their fans. While Moreno works himself into a blind panic, each of the bandıs members deal with the situation in his own way. Drummer Abe Cunningham and DJ Frank Delgado get lost in quiet contemplation. Bassist Chi Cheng turns his focus to completing work on his forthcoming spoken-word album. And Carpenter takes it upon himself to mercilessly rile the other guys, to ensure that theyıre all in a more fragile mental state than he is come show time.
Thus far heıs successful. Everyoneıs a bit fraught, so they decide to get something to eat. A table is being held at a restaurant across the street from the motel. The band piles into three separate cars for the 30-second drive. Upon arrival, however, Moreno declares the place unsuitable, so the caravan sets off again across town to a local brewery. Within minutes of the bandıs arrival, Carpenter insults the sprightly waitress. Fortunately, the whole situation is quickly ironed out and everyone gently comes back down to earth.
Moreno slouches in his eat and lets his head fall back. ³People think when youıve got a record deal, youıve made it,² he sighs. ³But thereıs a lot of shit that comes with it. You have to make a lot of people happy, including your fans. Our fans are hardcore. I donıt want to do anything to let them down.²

Has the album turned out the way you imagined it would?
Chino: I donıt think we so much envisioned how it was going to turn out, but in the end we were all happy with the way it turned out. From the beginning, we honestly didnıt know exactly what we wanted to do.

There were rumors that you were turning into perfectionists in the studio. Is there any truth to that?
Chino: Weıre just lazy. We took a long time on the album, true, but a lot of it wasnıt recording, it was writing. Actually, it wasnıt even writing; it was trying to write.

Did you go through a dry spell?
Chino: I donıt thin anybody had a block on them. In the beginning, Stephen would write songs or I would write songs and we would plays them, but we werenıt all writing songs together until halfway through the writing process. Thatıs when it started to come together.

What was the turning point?
Chino: When we wrote ³Change (In The House Of Flies).² That was one of those defining songs were we we all wrote together. It started out with Stephen and I playing guitar and Frank doing his keyboard thing over it. Right then, everybody joined in. Nobody told anybody else what to do, it all just came out freely. Thatıs when it all started to come together.

How many songs were you dealing with at any given time?
Chino: We only recorded about 13 songs, and I only put vocals on 10 of them. I had two weeks booked for my vocals and I ended up spending two months. They scheduled it so I would do a song a day, but I would do a song every three days. I would start one song, do a certain amount of it and go on to another song. It just happened that way.

Was there any external pressure to get the album done quicker?
Frank: A lot of people wanted us to hurry up and get this out, but we were kind of like, ³Fuck them. We work at our own pace.²

Do you think you may have unintentionally stretched out the recording process because it afforded you a break from the tour-and-promotion grind?
Chino: Iıll tell you one thing, by the time we started working on the record I was tired of touring. I wanted to go in and write more music. I was excited to do that. When Ozzfest came up, I wasnıt too happy to do that. I was ready to come home the whole time. So it was a break from all that. In a way, it was a vacation to write a record, and thatıs how we looked at it. We just wanted to take our time.

White Pony is not like your first two albums. Do you think it better reflects your personal tastes?
Chino: The extremes of the highs and lows just became more intensified. This one is more open. Itıs laid out a little better.

Chi: This time it all came around. We didnıt feel like we had anything to lose, so we made the record we wanted to make.

Frank: It may sound selfish, but we just wanted to make a record that we would like, that we would listen to. We werenıt trying to make an album for the fans. We werenıt trying to make a record for the label. We were trying to make a record for us. So thatıs what we did.

Itıs a pretty diverse-sounding collection of songs. Is there a them that ties the album together?
Chino: Not really. Lyrically, the only thing I did differently-which is kind of a big thing-is I basically didnıt sing about myself on this record. I made up a lot of story lines and some dialogue, even. I took myself completely out of it and wrote about other things. Once I did that I was able to sing about anything I wanted to. As long as I can identify with what I was writing-some thing seductive, sad or angry-I could be a lot more general. Thereıs a lot of stuff on this record that people are going to question me about, and I can just remove myself from it. Itıs not me. Iım writing a story here. Iım just filling up this space with some thought that is enjoyable.

You all have such strong personalities. How do you find a common ground with your music?
Chino: I donıt know.

Frank: Music. We donıt talk about it at all. We just get on stage and make it work. All of us enjoy eachotherıs company even though we irritate each other so much. I donıt know how to explain it.

Do you take criticism well from each other?
Chino: Thatıs the thing, we would take criticism if we were all cool about it, but weıre not like that. Weıre just like, ³Man, that shit is fucking wack!²

Stephen: We talk so much shit. We try to hurt each other every day, all day long.

Chino: Weıre all insecure. As much confidence as we have, we all have that insecure button that we all know each of us has. Motherfuckers make a point to push that shit.

Frank: But you get us together to make some music or play a show and weıre unstoppable.

How do you get anything done?
Stephen: Thatıs the mystery.

Frank: Thatıs what this album is: Itıs the whole fucking beating down process. Thatıs it man.

Chino: There was a few times making this record that Terry Date was like, ³Iım out.² Stephen has made him quit on every album. In fact, we both quit the same night.

Stephen: I quit, too.

How long did that last?
Stephen: About 45 minutes; [until] after the joint was lit up. Terry Date has quit on every record. [On] the first album [after] he quit, I felt bad. I thought, ³Maybe Iım a dick.² The second record, he did it again. But he keeps coming back. This time, Iım like, ³Fine, motherfucker, go home. Iıll get someone else in here.² You canıt threaten me, because Iım like, ³Go ahead.²

Chino: You know, we still had a fun time doing this. As much drama as there was, it was all made up. Another thing, man, Tony Hawkıs Pro Skater [video game], that shit held us up like a motherfucker, I swear to God, we would come into the studio in the daytime and play that thing until thee in the morning. Terry had to come out of the studio every few hours to try to get us in there.

Frank: It brought me to tears many a day, man. I was crying.

So you were up against writerıs block, interband turmoil and video-game addiction?
Chino: Yeah, and every day was Mimosa Monday. It turned into Momosa Everyday.

Is there a dictator in the band?
Chino: Weıve got motherfuckers that want to be dictators, but none of us are.

Chi: Thereıs a lot of chefs in the kitchen, but everybody wants to bake the same thing.

Abe: If you try to be a dictator you get laughed at. Someone will give an order, but theyıll get ignored.

Chino: We all know when itıs time to get something done. We get it done, but we all try to push the envelope. We have it in us to wait until the last minute to do shit. I didnıt write any lyrics at all until all the music was done. I would go in to sing the song. I would put my headphones on, hear the song and put melodies to it. Then I would go out into the control room and write the lyrics out, then I would go back in and sing it. Thatıs the way I like to write. The best shit comes out like that. If I think about stuff too much, itıll come out all shitty.

Do you think the average rock fan gets what you are trying to put across with your lyrics?
Frank: I think if youıre just an average kid, with Chinoıs lyrics, you can make them fit any situation in your life. His lyrics arenıt as simple as a lot of other peopleıs, so you can morph them into what you want. Thatıs what music is about.

Chino: But you have to have some intelligence. If youıre not going to use your brain at all, you would think Iım making no sense. The way I was inspired to write lyrics was by listening to the Cure. I donıt sound like the Cure and I donıt try to sound like the Cure, but what I did learn from a band like that is some of that stuff is just so painted. Whether you know what [Cure leader] Robert Smith is talking about or not, itıs just the way the song looks when you hear it. Thatıs what I try to do with a lot of stuff-use a lot of imagery and never go out and say whatıs going on. Sometimes, I donıt even know what the hell theyıre about, but Iıll find ways to tie it all together. The music the band makes gives me the room to do that.

When you play festivals like Warped and Ozzfest, do you feel like you fit in with the other acts on the bill?
Chino: I feel like we can fit in, but as far as identifying with any of these other bands, hell no. Not because I think Iım fucking cerebrally ahead of them, but just because all that heavy music feels like a big mush to me. Iım just burned out on it, and thatıs maybe why we made the record we made. I didnıt want to make something that sounded like anything weıve heard or been hearing.

Do you feel like youıve mellowed with age?
Chino: I think I have. Iıve mellowed as far as my anger, but I think Iıve gotten more wacked out in the way I think. Iıve gotten crazier in the way I live my life. Even back when I was younger, when I didnıt have kids and a wife, I wasnıt mentally out there like I am now. I think of weirder shit. As far as being mature, though, I can deal with everything that comes to me.

Chi: weıre allowed certain idiosyncrasies as musicians, so I become a little more eccentric by default. If I feel like wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers for a week straight, Iıll just do it. We party every night just because we can.

So is it harder or easier to get into that space where you create these songs? Do you need to feed off anger and depression?
Chino: Not really. If I was going to make Korn songs, I probably would have to be that way. But, like I said, on this record, I just stepped out of character. I wrote about certain things I would think about. I didnıt have to be there or live it. Itıs fantasy.

Do you think a lot of people are going to hate this record at first just because itıs different from your last album?
Chino: We kind of know thatıs going to happen with this album, so itıs just like-bear with it. I remember I bought the Cureıs Disintegration on the same day I bought Japanese Whispers. I listened to those two records, and I loved the poppy one and just put Disintegration aside. After a month, I thought Disintegration was the baddest record of all time, and I havenıt listened to Japanese Whispers since. Those songs were all instant pleasures.
I see us progressing with every record. Thatıs important to the longevity of the band-to always progress on records. Who knows it a lot of the other bands that are out today-like Limp Bizkit and shit-will be around[for as long as we will be]? I doubt they will.