Deftones are usually characterized as a metal band because of their occasionally screamed vocals and menacing propulsion. But Deftones pull from several sources, combining the booming rhythms of stoner rock with the experimental edge of prog. Though not as popular as other bands of their era, such as Korn
and Limp Bizkit
, Deftones earned critical acclaim for their challenging, rewarding work while enjoying some mainstream success.
Deftones formed in Sacramento, California, at the end of the 1980s. The three original members were in high school at the time – frontman Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham. A bit later, bassist Chi Cheng joined the group as well. The foursome played throughout California, eventually catching the interest of Maverick Records, Madonna
A Shaky Start:
, the band’s 1995 debut, was a solid but somewhat generic alt-metal
disc. Chino Moreno’s whispered-then-bellowed vocal delivery didn’t seem significantly different than what Jonathan Davis was doing with Korn and was a far cry from the inspired style of Faith No More
’s Mike Patton. The drab angst-rock of the singles “Bored” and “7 Words” failed to capture the fancy of mainstream audiences. It took four years for Adrenaline
to garner gold sales, an indication that Deftones fans came to it late after getting interested in the group thanks to subsequent records.
Finding Their Soulful Side:
Deftones began to show some artistic growth with 1997’s Around the Fur. Though still a metal band, Deftones had developed a more soulful, atmospheric sound, and songs like “My Own Summer (Shove It)” boasted a broader dynamic palette, sharpening the material’s sense of menace and grim foreboding. Even better, Deftones weren’t just copying the approach of other alt-metal bands of the period – with the addition of Frank Delgado to the group’s lineup as a keyboardist and turntablist, they were developing their own sonic identity.
Exploring the Musical Map:
With Delgado now a permanent member, 2000’s White Pony
continued the band’s exploration of a moodier sound. Moreno’s singing had become subtler, expressing rage and longing with nuance and real feeling. As for the Deftones as a group, their songs were confidently wandering all over the musical map, drawing from modern-rock influences like Nine Inch Nails
and Queens of the Stone Age
for the singles “Digital Bath” and “Change (In the House of Flies).” Now a hit on both the mainstream and modern rock charts, Deftones were also enjoying critical respect, something that eluded many of their alt-metal peers.
Uncertainty at the Dawn of a New Century:
The hard rock landscape was shifting as the 21st century got underway – alt-metal and rap-rock
were hot commercial trends, earning new fans but also creating a bit of a backlash because of the genres’ fashionable sounds. 2003’s Deftones
reflects that period of transition, as the band members looked to eschew musical labels and focus on rocking first and foremost. But the back-to-basics move epitomized by the eponymous album title didn’t mean that Deftones reverted to the clichés of their first record, although they did seem to be trying too hard occasionally to prove that they were still principally a metal band.
A New Peak With 'Saturday Night Wrist':
2006’s Saturday Night Wrist
represents Deftones returning to their adventurous ways. The genres that they were once aligned with had long since evaporated, and fittingly Saturday Night Wrist
looks forward, not back. Though they still demonstrate metal’s aggressive tendencies, the Deftones of Saturday Night Wrist
are a melodic, challenging group, suggesting what Faith No More might have achieved if they had not imploded. Saturday Night Wrist
didn’t peak as high on the album charts as previous Deftones records had, but that was more a symptom of a band’s scene collapsing than of their own lessened creative potency.
Deftones were working on a follow-up album that was to be released at the end of 2008 or early 2009. Unfortunately, those plans fell by the wayside when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a serious car accident on November 3, 2008, which left him in a coma
. Eventually, the band decided to recruit Sergio Vega to take over on bass while Cheng was incapacitated. (In April 2013, Cheng died
at the age of 42.)
Deftones released Diamond Eyes
on May 4, 2010. Before Cheng’s accident, the band had been working on an album called Eros
, but the decision was made to shelve those sessions and start from scratch on an entirely new record with Vega handling all bass duties.
Stephen Carpenter – guitar
Abe Cunningham – drums
Frank Delgado – turntable, keyboards
Chino Moreno – vocals, guitar
Sergio Vega – bass
Key Deftones Songs:
“Hole in the Earth” (Purchase/Download
“Change (In the House of Flies)” (Purchase/Download
Around the Fur
B-Sides & Rarities
(outtakes collection) (2005)
Saturday Night Wrist
Koi No Yokan
Chino Moreno, on Deftones' early days.
"We didn't really try to play all the time and go out there and shove our music down people's throats. It was more like we'd always try to just get better and write better songs and then go play them just to see what people thought." (Pollstar, December 22, 1997)
Chino Moreno, on his early influences.
"I grew up listening to new wave music, man. I still do, it's probably my favorite music of all time. I like a lot of synthetic music, but really good synthetic music. Depeche Mode was probably my favorite, still my favorite band of all time. But, I grew up on a lot of the Cure and the Smiths, things like that. Somewhat kind of Goth, depressing kind of music." (Yo Beat Magazine, September 1998)
Abe Cunningham, on the behind-the-scenes problems during the making of Deftones.
"During that time, there were two divorces. We were real burnt-out, not communicating that much. Things were just really f***ed up." (Rolling Stone, January 2005)
Chino Moreno, on his reluctance to be a typical rock star.
"I prefer to be behind the guitar and singing. Sometimes I enjoy being a frontman too, but being in everybody's face is not really in my character. I don't have all these opinions and stories about myself that I wanna go tell people." (drDrew.com, 2000)
- Chino Moreno's real first name is Camillo.
- Moreno has a side band called Team Sleep.
- Before they formed Deftones, the band members bonded over a mutual love of skateboarding.
- Serj Tankian, frontman for System of a Down, sings on "Mein" off Saturday Night Wrist.
- Maynard James Keenan, frontman for Tool, sings on "Passenger" off White Pony.