Published In: Oor (Dutch Magazine)
Date: June 24th 2000
The Deftones have always gone their own way. Like good pioneers, the band from Sacramento helped invent the current 'nu metal'-scene, molded this to their own likings only to - with their third album 'White Pony' - abandon it without looking back.
While followers like Slipknot, Kittie and Sevendust are still trying hard to get closer to the Deftones sound, the band is already moving on, away from the monster they created their selves. The third album, White Pony, proves just that. While their previous albums -Adrenaline ('95)- and -Around the fur ('97)- still consisted of mind blowing guitar riffs and dragging passages, the 12 songs on White Pony sound more like a complete album. this takes the band (currently consisting of singer Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng, drummer Abe Cunningham and DJ Frank Delgado) closer to Tool (singer Maynard does a guest performance) or the later Faith No More. that White Pony is not a lucky shot we learn from a meeting with Chino several hours before a sold out Paradiso concert: Deftones is consciously moving away from it's own scene.
That Chino is already in Amsterdam is actually kinda weird. White Pony isn't even in the stores yet and still the band is already touring through Europe. "It doesn't really matter", Chino laughs, "Most fans already know the album from the Internet. When we had a show in Los Angeles last week, everyone was singing all our new songs word by word! That was really crazy. It's not like the old days when people where anxiously waiting for a new album. The songs are mostly spread by illegal downloads." How do you feel about that? "Uhm well, I just conveniently called it illegal, but actually it's more about the fans exchanging music among their selves and through Napster. I consider it trading. I don't encourage it, but I do understand; after all we kept them waiting for a new album for three years. If I was a fan I would get impatient too. Actually it's pretty good promotion, cause once the album is released, the real fans will buy it anyway. That's the way we did things in the early days as well with tapes, eventually you want the real thing. Besides, I can sit here and get mad about it, but it will happen anyway." I heard there was a point where you changed your name to Pony 1. "A misunderstanding. I sang along with a song on the sevendust album [Bender] using that name. I do alot of those guest performances and it seemed handy to use a nickname. Unfortunately the media exaggerated that." Talking about pony's, White Pony is a lot more melodic then it's predecessors. "We've always worked with a lot of melody, something that comes out even more with me changing roles. As a singer I already mostly set the main tone of melody, but I'm adding more musical influences, mainly in the songs where I play guitar. We're still heavy, but the heaviness is not just brutal and consists of a certain warmth. We still use intense heavy chords, only they aren't as riff oriented as before. My way of playing the guitar can be compared more to bands that have influenced me, like The Cure. Stephen takes the other end, he plays really heavy. That combination gives us a different sound and gives us a such dynamics. Now that I write more, it's noticeable throughout the whole line."
The songs sound more like songs, less like compositions. "Yeah, earlier on we were working more on riffs and the different elements we tried to fit into a song. This time we just wrote songs. you don't just create dynamics with different riffs, but also for example by sliding the volume up and down." With White Pony you moved away even further from the metal scene. "We are always being associated with that. look, we started all this with Korn. they went their way, we went ours. They got Korn copies, we got Deftones imitations. now, with White Pony, we are harder to imitate then ever. not that we strictly worked with a certain formula in the past, but we still had those typical stop-go moments and rap parts. I had got bored with that after a while. Last three years I've heard so much overdone music. Unfortunately we were on tour ourselves so we couldn't record anything new. Now that we had the chance I really wanted to avoid everything we had done or heard, or what people expected of us. So we wrote a lot of songs that went straight into the trash can."
History repeats itself. It happened with metal from the 80's and grunge from 10 years ago: Because of the many copycats the styles got blurred. "Exactly. and in stead of complaining about it, we rather take new turns. So I'm not gonna bitch at Limp Bizkit because we were the pioneers and they took advantage of it and sell three times as many records. No, we move on and open new doors. White Pony is very broadly oriented. No matter what genre you like, somewhere on this album there's a couple of minutes you like." You're getting closer to Tool and Faith No More now, mainly because of the dramatic building of compositions. "I agree. Though I rather compare us to the Beastie Boys. They have always developed themselves and made completely different albums. Now they can just jam on their records, or exchange instruments among themselves. They have the ability to make every song completely different and still keep sounding like the Beastie Boys. That's how I would like to broaden the Deftones sound too, that keeps things interesting. It's a tradition that goes back to bowie and depeche mode, who, whether they are using electronics or real instruments, always stayed recognizable. As long as the songs are good, that's what it's all about."
I didn't hear you talk about metal influences yet. "I've always had a broad taste of music. As a teenager I mostly listened to pop music, I loved Michael Jackson. Later on I got interested in punk and hardcore, like Bad Brains. Only when I joined these guys when I was 16 I started listening to metal. I loved it at first, I embraced the metal scene. But I realized at the same time I didn't want to -be- metal. in my music you'll find all those influences. One way or the other they all come out when writing songs. There are for example bits of The Cure in my lyrics. Mostly the abstract way of writing. I never bought any records, I bought tapes. Because they don't print lyrics on those I always needed to listen closely to them again and again to figure out the lyrics and carefully rewrite them. Robert Smith's lines have always fascinated me, especially the dark aspects. You hear some of that in the weird things in my lyrics. Not that I'm trying to imitate them on purpose, but that's just the way they come out." You seem to love British music, you like PJ Harvey for instance. "Yeah I don't know why. I still like it. I listen alot to Britpop." In your own scene people would call that pussy-music.. "Probably, but I don't really care. I love it! I'm always looking for more. If you dedicate yourself to one particular type of music, you exclude yourself from the rest. You don't have to like everything, but at least something from every genre. And yeah, that includes country. I love Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, and even Hank Williams has done some great things. That doesn't make me a Country fan. Same goes for Rap. I like to listen to it, but I don't call myself a Rap fan, cause there's just too much shit out there. Keeping an open mind is the most important thing. I just love good music, that's my only standard."
Your lyrics on White Pony are more unreachable than ever, mostly because this time they are less personal. "This album is less about me, myself and I. There's already too much metal bands out there having that kind of attitude. I call it egocentric music. That's why I cut loose from my own personality and started telling more stories, fictive stories mostly. That's more fun to do then just go around using scenes from your own life. Sometimes I'm still in those stories, but most of the times I just made everything up. I think it's cool to make stuff up. The first song, Feiticeira, is really weird. The 'me' character is held captive in that, but you can't know if he really doesn't like the situation. I like to keep room for interpretation, even for myself. I don't even know what Feiticeira means or how you pronounce it. I think it's the name of a Brazilian erotic TV-show hostess. I guess I have picked that up somewhere. The title doesn't have anything to do with the song, but it's a cool word." Does that go for the album title as well? "Exactly like that. We were especially looking for a strong image. The logo on the cover isn't even a pony, it's a horse. Stephen added a red background on his computer and we thought it looked kinda.. communistic. It looked like a flag. With that we decided about the title, White Pony, even before we had written any songs. That we were high at that time had everything to do with that. People are looking for more though, some say it's about sex or drugs, but we don't even bother to explain. Let them guess. The image is most important, people should be that conditioned about it that they know what band is behind it right away. Call it propaganda." Were you guys high while composing songs in the studio as well? "I wasn't, I don't blow that much. Stephen was, he's always stoned. Especially during these recordings. He would light up first thing in the morning in the studio, only to keep going for the rest of the day. Also because of that the album sounds alot spacier. Cause when you're high, the music suddenly seems to be sounding three dimensional, and you really want to merge it with your feelings. But let's not exclude Frank's part in that. He has added so much with his turntables. He completely merges with the Deftones sound, it's not like we had to hold back to allow him to do some scratch tricks. Frank just floats in and out of the songs and with that he creates a different dimension, weaving new patterns. Is philosophy is that he doesn't want to stick out; If you don't hear him in a song then that's just right. Cause if you listen closely you will hear him, but we didn't involve him to suddenly sound more hip-hop. Frank plays keyboard as well, that makes us sound deeper, especially live. He was involved in the previous albums and tours, now he's a worthy member of the band.
You guys we working again with producer Terry Date right? Word went around that were gonna work with Rick Rubin. "Right, we have tried a lot of people. Actually we were looking for someone who had little background with hard music, preferably a pure pop producer. En when we found out that Terry had produced Limp Bizkit we definitely wanted to get rid of him haha. No that's all bullshit. When we were planning this thing we had started out with Terry and realised that he was the right guy for the job. He is incredible, whatever sound we were looking for, he found it instantly. Terry told us up front: It doesn't matter who produces you, it's gonna be a great album anyway. He realised it's about the songs." And they are again dark and threatening as before. "Hah, even worse then before. depraved mostly. That's because of the music. Because we write the music first and the lyrics afterwards. Since we always sound dark, sad and sinister - even in louder songs - I'm inspired by that while writing lyrics. Something that also flows from my average personal state of mind and inspirational sources. I don't like party music. At least not to make. I do listen do Dr. Dre, and those are plain West coast party-sounds. Contrasts stay important for us. Warm and chilly passages are being varied. Like in the song Teenager, which is beautiful and sad at the same time. Or RX Queen, which expresses an apocalyptical feeling. It's the extremes that keeps things interesting, which toss you back and forth between brutal and softening, comforting and chilly. Else you get bored to death right?" If you tune your lyrics to the music, wouldn't you guys sound completely different when you started writing songs around the lyrics for a change? "Maybe, but I've never done that before. I do write on a regular basis when we are on tour, but that's more like a diary. I prefer to write in the studio with the headphones on. I follow the melody and get inspired. That's what keeps things spontaneously. Right away writing down emotion that are going through your soul at that moment and record them on tape a few minutes later. That works better then singing lyrics you made up for months earlier. Cause maybe now you're in a completely different state of mind. It can be pretty stressful times if you wait with writing lyrics till the last moment, but there's much more emotion involved. Maybe we turn things around somewhere in the future. And maybe we'll make death metal, haha. That's the kind of band we are, we really don't know where we are in a few years."