'Diamond Eyes Donít Blink!'
California-based hard rock band The Deftones have been rocking hard since 1988. Comprised of Chino Moreno (vocals), Abe Cunningham (drums/percussion), Stephen Carpenter (guitar), Chi Cheng (bass), Frank Delgado (keyboards/turntables), they have released 5 studio albums, in addition to the early May 2010 release of their sixth record, Diamond Eyes. In 2008, the band hit a rough patch when bassist Chi Cheng was critically injured in a car accident.
Drummer Abe Cunningham sat down with Exclusive Magazineís Ashley Trombley to talk about the current state of the band, MySpace, the newest album, and snow owls.
There has been a rumor that has circulated over the years about the origin of the Deftones, involving getting hit by a car and a settlement. Whatís the real story? "Oh, yeah, thatís f**king crazy, and Iím gonna fix it right now. Ready? Chino, our singer, and I met in junior high school. He lived in the same neighborhood as Stephen, our guitarist. And this is the huge thing that I will dispel right now: Stephen got into an accident when he was young, like 16. He got hit by a car by a drunk driver when he was skateboarding. He got a settlement, and bought a bunch of gear."
"People say the money he got bought the gear and we started the band. No. He bought a bunch of guitar gear that by the time we started the band, he didnít have anymore. But we started the band when we were like 15, and like I said, I knew Chino and he knew Stephen, and we just hooked up one day. We started jamming, and here we are now."
How did the name come to be? "We started back in 1988, and back then ďDefĒ was huge, like DefJam. It was a pretty popular word at the time. And after all these years, I still think itís a funny name, but whatís in a name? It was just nothing more than ďDefĒ was pretty popular and ďTonesĒ was meant to encompass all sounds. We just wanted it to be a no-holds-barred kind of thing, we could do whatever we wanted. Itís just a silly name that Stephen made up, but here we are, itís still our name."
Out of all of the six albums you guys currently have, which one do you think is of the greatest quality, or cleanest sound? "I think a lot of people love White Pony because of its production and think that itís our best record and that we can never top it. And thatís cool because if we made our best record ten years ago, it frees us up to do whatever the hell we want, and just have fun. But I think our new record is the cleanest sounding. I donít mean slickest sounding, production wise, but I think itís the cleanest sounding record. That and White Pony are the two that were probably recorded the best."
Which one would you say, then, is the most raw, in terms of production? "The most raw is probably Around the Fur, our second record, but I think the worst production on any of our records is Saturday Night Wrist. Itís not too bad, but itís just not one of my favorites."
What was it like working with Bob Ezrin on Saturday Night Wrist? "It was a trip. Thereís been a lot said that we didnít get along, and quite frankly, in his defense, we were in no place at all as a band, as friends, and we were so scattered in our own lives that it was just a horrendous time. And a lot of things were said, and he actually didnít even finish the record. And none of us have a problem with Bob--I want to make that very clear--heís a great dude, and heís been in the business a long time. It was just a bad pairing, and bad timing."
Letís talk a little bit about the newest album, Diamond Eyes. What would you say the style is like on this record? "Weíre thrilled. There was a lot of doubt around the time of Chiís accident that weíd even keep going, so all of us are absolutely thrilled with the way it came out. I think itís a great representation of what we like. We always try to make a record that people will put on and not take off until itís done. But itís a testament to where weíre at right now."
Who are some of the bands influences? "Weíve always been sort of a metal-based band, but weíve taken it in so many directions due to our love of so much different music, but I donít know if there is any one band that made us want to be who we are. And I think that the whole premise of our band was a situation where we could make any kind of music and not be held to one genre. I think when we formed as a band was a great time because there was so much of a mixture of so much sound going on that allowed us to experiment with so much stuff. Good time."
Any significance to the owl on the album cover? "When it came time to choose the cover for the record, we were presented with a bunch of ideas and mock covers from this guy Frank Maddocks who had done the covers for our past few records. He just laid all these ideas on the table and we saw that one. Thereís such a stark contrast between the purity of the owl and how light and fluffy the feathers are, and the still black background. And the owlís eyes are so deep that you can look into them for an eternity and never find the end. I donít think it even ties too much into the record itself, but itís a cool thing. Itís in the video, and is popping up everywhere."
The video for the premier single was heralded to be released on MySpace. Has the response been positive? "MySpace is a trip. We put out a viral video to our song ĎRocket Skatesí just to kind of let people know weíre still here. The first real single was ĎDiamond Eyesí, and we did a video for that also. The response has been great. Weíre out playing live now, and itís great to hear that people know the stuff. Itís great that theyíre digging it. Weíre happy dudes."
The video for 'Diamond Eyes' is a little dark. Is there a theme to the video? "No, other than the owl is a reoccurring theme. This record is actually optimistic. Iím sure itís got some dark themes, and some of the visuals of that video probably made it look dark, but Diamond Eyes is actually an optimistic record. To me, it kind of reminds me of Labyrinth with David Bowie."
In 2008, bassist Chi Cheng got into a very serious automobile accident. In what ways has the dynamic of the band changed since his departure? "Itís had a tremendous affect on us. Itís only been a year and a half, and itís the craziest thing in the world. And the hardest part is that heís still alive, itís not like he was killed in the accident. But heís unable to communicate, but up until that point, we were getting along great as a band again. Everything was going great in all our lives, and then that happened. It kicked us in the ass in several ways."
"It had an affect on how we live our lives, made us think about the fact that everything can be taken so quick. And I think everybody knows that, but itís easy to get complacent about things. We really appreciate things. It really turned it around. As a band, weíre having the best time and itís crazy that he canít be here to share it with us."
Is there any hope for his return? "We have hope all day long. Heís a really strong dude. Heís making very, very slow progress, but thereís just no telling what can happen with these kind of injuries. The fact that heís still alive is a testament to that. He got it really bad, man. But thereís always hope. Heís gotten support from people all over the world, and thatís a great place to be. And we just keep sending it his way."
I looked at the tour dates, and I noticed that you play Michigan twice. What can the Michigan fans expect? "Hopefully good times. For people who have seen us in the past, weíve had some crazy times in the past six or seven years, but right now I think the band is playing the best we ever have. Weíre really treating the music with respect. Hopefully, theyíll see a band thatís on fire again, thatís how I look at it and also have an excellent time. Thatís our intent."
Finally, what do you feel is the secret to the Deftonesí longevity? "I have no idea! We were all friends beforehand. I think that anything you do in life you can do better if you start off with a good friendship. Weíve been at it a long time, weíve been patient. Just patience and I guess just us being who we are, for better or worse."
Interviewed by: Ashley Trombley
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