Deftones 'Change' Sound Again On White Pony

Hard rockers strive to stay ahead of trends by going soft on new album.

The Deftones' White

Pony, which hits stores Tuesday (June 20), didn't come

together with the ease of the five-man Sacramento, Calif.,

metal machine's previous albums — 1995's

Adrenaline and 1997's Around the Fur.

Ferocious lead singer Chino

Moreno said his band entered the studio a year ago

in disarray, unsure of what musical direction to pursue.

Their last record, which they thought was going to be their

breakthrough, was close to a commercial failure, barely

selling a half-million copies. Rock radio was just picking up

on the rap-rock hybrid the Deftones had helped define years

earlier. Moreno and guitarist

COLOR="#003163">Stephen Carpenter, the heart and

soul of the band, weren't even writing songs together

anymore.

And then came "Change."

"It was the first song [the band] actually wrote together,"

Moreno said of the melodic "Change (In the House Of Flies)"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Deftones/Change.ram">RealAudio excerpt), the first single from White

Pony. "Nobody sat around thinking about it too much; it

just flowed out. It was the most honest song that came out of

us. I look at that song as the epitome of Deftones and what

we do."

"Change," which slowly builds from an angelic rock ballad to

a guitar-heavy anthem with multiple vocal tracks, is poised

to become the band's most successful single to date. MTV has

been playing the video for the single, while at least one

radio station was so eager to get its hands on the song that

it downloaded early MP3 versions to play on the airwaves. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, owns MTV.)

The song finds Moreno bellowing, "I've watched a change in

you/ It's like you never had wings/ Now you feel so alive."

It's also a microcosm of White Pony, an album that

kicks down the doors of heavy-metal machismo and shoves a

handful of human insecurities in your face.

"Even though it's not the most upbeat song on the record,

that song just touches emotions in me that warm me up in a

way," Moreno said. "I've always enjoyed music that's heavy,

but at the same time, instead of being just abrasive and

aggressive, it's soothing."

One Step Ahead Of The Hard-Rock Pack

While recording White Pony, Moreno, Carpenter and

their bandmates — drummer Abe

Cunningham, bassist Chi

Cheng and turntablist

COLOR="#003163">Frank Delgado — were

concerned about evolving musically and staying one step ahead

of the hard-rock pack, Moreno said.

"A band like the Deftones is a very rare thing," said

Terry Date, the rock

producer (Soundgarden,

Pantera) who collaborated

on all three Deftones records. "They're always trying to push

the envelope a little bit and do things that are different

than what's the most popular, current thing going on. That's

where Deftones fill a really important niche. They mix it up.

They challenge people. That helps music grow."

From their earliest sessions, the Deftones were ahead of

their time. Four years before Limp

Bizkit's 1999 breakthrough rap-rock album,

Significant Other, Moreno was rapping and screaming

like he couldn't decide if he was in

COLOR="#003163">N.W.A or Slayer, Carpenter was tuning his

guitar way down, and Cunningham and Cheng were discovering

hardcore beats that made their fans' feet bounce. Songs such

as "7 Words" and "Bored," from the band's debut,

Adrenaline, were freaking out the few who heard them.

Two years later, on Around the Fur, the band moved on

to abstract change-ups and howling choruses, manifested on

the singles "My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Be Quiet and

Drive (Far Away)."

"I thought we made a beautiful record," Moreno said of

Around the Fur. "I thought it was our year. I thought

people would pick up on that record right away. But, to this

day, people are still just getting into it.

"I remember having to do remixes of ["My Own Summer (Shove

It)"] because they said they can't play screams on the

radio," Moreno added. "I hear music on the radio now that's

heavier than that sh--. And now that we're getting a lot of

radio play, you hear radio programmers say, 'Oh, I get it

now.' Whatever. It's hard for me not to have a little

animosity. I'd like to say, 'F--- everybody,' but I guess

it's not really good to walk around pissed off — just be

excited about what we got."

Good Instincts

The Deftones continued to stay ahead of hard-rock trends by

doing what fans least expected. Instead of collaborating with

old friends who have since become stadium superstars, such as

Limp Bizkit's

COLOR="#003163">Fred Durst or

COLOR="#003163">Korn's

COLOR="#003163">Jonathan Davis, Moreno tag-teamed

on a song with Tool's

Maynard James Keenan

("Passenger"). Instead of getting angrier, they got warmer.

"I wanted to come from the other side of the spectrum,

especially with the first single," Moreno said. "I think it

was something a little different than what people are

listening to on the radio right now. Everyone was expecting

us to come out and just try to bite everyone's head off right

away with all this anger."

Instead, Moreno dreams of a future where "we'll stop to rest

on the moon and we'll make a fire" on the hip-hop flavored

"RX Queen." And on the tender "Teenager," he yearns for the

days when life had few worries.

As hard as the Deftones worked to forge ahead, Date said it

was their instincts that made White Pony "a very, very

good representation of what they were trying to achieve."

"They're not doing it consciously," Date said of the band's

innovation. "They don't really have a choice at what they do,

it's just what makes them feel good. Rap was an influence

in Chino's music upbringing, but so were other things: the

Smiths, the

COLOR="#003163">Cure, the melodic stuff. Deftones

were doing the rap thing before it was popular, now Chino is

experimenting with some other things. He's not a one-trick

pony, to make a bad pun."