Def Jams

Many bands coveted Deftones' support slot on this year's Summer Sanitarium Tour, opening for Metallica, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. If singer Chino Moreno had his way, one of those other groups would have taken it. Deftones hesitantly took their spot on the bill, only after a 3-to-2 vote that found Moreno strongly on the side of the dissenters. "A big part of me has a problem opening up for Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, two bands that wouldn't exist if it weren't for me," he told Revolver in its August issue.

Now that the tour is over, Moreno's stance has softened somewhat, but he still wouldn't have played those shows if he could do it over again. "I mean, we had a brand-new record that just came out, and you kind of want it to be perceived a certain way, and all of a sudden you get thrown onto a package where you get a 45-minute set in the daytime."

He does have a point. Deftones' latest self-titled disc is deserving of its own showcase, an album that's not out of place shelved next to your Depeche Mode discs (check the moody "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event"). Following on the heels of 2000's breakout, White Pony, Deftones is the sound of the Smiths at the wheel of a steamroller, a record that's equal parts heart and heaviness. It's louder than a bomb, sure, but there are real songs there, melodies among the maladies. It's something you can't always say for the band's fellow Summer Sanitarium inmates. I caught up with Moreno at his home in Sacramento before he left for tour.

It took awhile to make this record--something like two years. At some point, do you just have to say, "OK, that's as good as we can make it?"

Um, kind of. I mean, not really. It's more like deadlines. This record was weird in that way. Our last record, the Pony record, it took about a year to make. We kind of just did that record at our leisure. When the record was done...I mean, it was actually our most successful record to that point. I don't know. It just seemed like if we work at our own pace and kind of live the record as we make it, you know, it seemed to work out good. So we kind of tried to do the same thing with this new record. And it took a little longer than White Pony, but I don't know; it's just a different way of doing it, maybe. I mean, just trying to, like, totally take it easy and making it as we make it. Our second record, Around the Fur, we wrote and recorded it in, like, four months. And I think that record is just as good as all the other ones. It depends. We're gonna go in the studio in the new year and start a new record, and this one we're going to attempt to do it faster. Just because, I mean, I don't know. It seemed like a long-ass time to be making a record. It didn't while we were doing it.

Before, on White Pony especially, when you sang, you played different parts or characters or whatever. But this time, you don't do that much. Would you say the lyrics are more personal?

It's stream of conscious, but a lot of the stuff--in some ways, I'm sure--reflects what I'm thinking or whatever. But I always still try to be a little metaphorical and just not be so blatant about what I'm talking about or what I'm thinking about. I just try to be--I know it sounds corny--but more artsy. Just using the words like I'm painting a picture or something like that as opposed to me just saying, "This is what's going on." Just get more visual. I don't really go in with a concept. I didn't really go in with a concept on this record as I did with White Pony, where I decided that I wanted to make characters and make certain things. It took a lot of time to write because I tried not to do certain things.

You didn't want to make the same record again.

Yeah. But this new record, the one we're working on now, I've already started putting concepts together. Because, I don't know, for some reason, when I put concepts together, it's kind of fun. It makes it more interesting, because there's a lot more drama involved. With this new record, I just wanted to be kind of stream of conscious. And when you try to make stuff stream of conscious, it has to be stream of conscious. You can't plan it to be stream of conscious. It has to just happen. It tends to be real time-consuming. [Laughs.]I'd read that you and guitarist Stephen Carpenter didn't always see eye to eye while making White Pony. Was it different this time around?

Uh, I don't know. We always have to kind of work with each other. Obviously, him and I, we like a lot of the same music, but we also are into a lot of different stuff, too. As far as the music we make, everything that comes out of the guitar is usually really aggressive-sounding. I think he's learned to be a little more dynamic over time. I've learned as well, you know, to work with him. It's just hard because a lot of times we're in a different headspace, and if you're writing a song with somebody and their headspace is somewhere else--it's not where he's at is bad or where I'm at is bad, it's just a different place, you know what I mean? It seems to work out, though. I mean, as far as we both work with each other. I guess that's where the dynamic of our band kind of comes from, him and I seeing different things. When it works out together, it ends up being something special. It's definitely worth it.

Do you think it helps that both of you have different musical projects you work on between Deftones records?

Kind of. In a way, I mean, I think anything that we do on our own could be Deftones as well. Because the stuff I write with Team Sleep is the same stuff I write over Deftones music. It's just that Deftones music is different. It's a lot more energetic. And Stephen as well: The same heavy stuff he writes for Kush he writes for Deftones, except instead of having me sing over it, [Cypress Hill's] B-Real is rapping over it. Between the White Pony tours and recording the Deftones record, we had taken, like, six months off, and in that six months, that's pretty much when we started doing our side projects. We were just home and we weren't doing anything, so everybody just wanted to be creative. That's pretty much why everybody started doing their side things. It wasn't like we needed to go get an outlet and do something besides Deftones. It's just that we wanted to do something. We'd already said that we weren't gonna do anything Deftones for, like, six months. Just because since we started the band we hadn't had any time off from the band.

Well, that's what I was going to ask. You guys have been playing together for almost 15 years. Is it hard to keep something like this together for so long?

Not really. I mean, I'm sure it is, but for us it doesn't seem to be that big of a problem. We've been friends long before we were making music together. Obviously, with anything, with anybody, with any relationship, you need time apart. I think it's good for us that we don't tour as much as we used to. That was just, like, insane. From the time we got our record deal in '95, we pretty much went on tour, and we were on tour the whole time. If we weren't on tour, we were in the studio making a record. And that was when we were kids. Now we're men--we're all in our 30s--and it's good to have a little time apart. But when we get together, it's good. It's more special now. We all have our separate lives, and then we come together and play music or go on tour together, and it's exciting.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain

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