The most innovative group to emerge from the late-'90s crop of nu-metal or
rap-rock bands, Sacramento's Deftones have created an enduring sound out of
guitarist Stephen Carpenter's mix of metal riffing and My Bloody
Valentine-like sonic swirl, DJ Frank Delgado's Public Enemy-like sonics,
vocalist Chino Moreno's fondness for the atmospheric mope-rock of the Cure
and Depeche Mode and the rolling rhythms of Abe Cunningham and Chi Heng.
Released last Fall, "Saturday Night Wrist" found the group once again
expanding the parameters of its sound, working with producer Bob Ezrin
(Alice Cooper, KISS, Pink Floyd) and creating one of the most listenable,
creative and uncompromising hard-rock albums since the debut of Rage Against
the Machine. I spoke with Carpenter about the album and the tour that brings
the band to Chicago tonight.
Q. The new album is another really impressive disc from the
Deftones, Stephen. Tell me about making this one and working with Bob Ezrin
-- I mean, this is the guy who made "The Wall" with Pink Floyd!
A. I didn't even relate to him in that sense; he was just Bob to
me. I honestly didn't even know anything of what he had done, except for
Pink Floyd and KISS. Chino and Abe wanted to work with him; I'm not sure how
his name got into the pool, but I guess when our manager found out he was
interested in working with us, the opportunity came up. We were actually
starting to work with Dan "the Automator" Nakamura [Beastie Boys], and then
it went to Ezrin. I didn't really have half the issues that anyone had with
him. I think a lot of stuff was said in the press long ago before the record
came out, and it's been misinterpreted.
Q. How did you approach the songwriting this time?
A. Generally as we always have. The difference is, working with
Bob, he was really focused on trying to condense things, and melodically, he
would switch things up on us. I certainly know that what I've learned
through this process is that I'm very adamant about what I like to do. It's
not like I'm not interested in what somebody else is saying, but their idea
is no greater or less than my own. It's like, "Look, I'd rather take the
risk on my own, and if I make some crap, so be it. But it's the crap I made,
and I'm still going to like it.'"
Q. Well, the band has always had that attitude, and it's led
you to consistently pushing the envelope to go somewhere new.
A. That's generally our band's attitude. Working with Bob, we were
hoping for someone to give us a change, but what we realized throughout the
thing is that we are who we are. No one is going to make us be a band that
we aren't. We're really focused on making music we enjoy, and it has made an
impact on people's lives. Lots of bands have done that for lots of people,
and I think that's what's great about music.
Q. But it seems as if the Deftones have a particularly
indulgent audience, in that they're willing to let you take chances,
experiment and twist the sound. You say, "We are who we are," but every
record has introduced a different version of the band's sound.
A. That's been our approach from the start: to not do the same
thing. I think from talking to our fans throughout the years, they
ultimately feel the same way. They like change; change is good. It's never
so dramatic that you're disorientating them, but you have to mix it up
I think there is a metal edge to our band that's really at the core. As a
guitar player, I like to play metal; I enjoy playing other stuff, but my
riffs will always be metal-based. That sound always remains consistent, but
that's largely because of me.
Q. It's a hard sound to fake; you either deliver or you don't.
A. You know, that will cross over to any topic in life: Faking it
is faking it. People that know see right through it, and the others that are
gullible will eventually open their eyes and be like, "Oh, man! We've been
Ezrin adds to stellar list
Much of the advance press for the Deftones' sixth album focused on the
difficulties the group had with producer Bob Ezrin. ("We brought Bob in
because we'd gotten so familiar and comfortable with [previous producer]
Terry Date," singer Chino Moreno told the Nashville City Paper. "But he had
a heavy schedule and he wasn't in the mood for anyone not being prepared.")
But the musicians have downplayed the tensions since the disc's release, and
it stands as one of the strongest recordings of their career.
By all accounts, Ezrin, as much of a "rock star" as many of the musicians
he works with, is not shy about expressing his opinions for how a recording
can be improved. But then he's earned the right, as a quick look at his
resume indicates. Here are my choices for the best albums he's helmed, all
of them wonderfully complex efforts that stand with the artists' best:
• Pink Floyd, "The Wall" (1979)
• Lou Reed, "Berlin" (1973)
• Peter Gabriel, "Peter Gabriel (I)" (1977)
• KISS, "Destroyer" (1976)
• Alice Cooper, "School's Out" (1972)
DEFTONES; DIR EN GRAY; THE FALL OF TROY
• 7 tonight
• Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine
• Tickets, $31
• (312) 559-1212