Deftones Hard As New Metal On Sophomore LP

Nine-year-old foursome back with album of heavy rockin' tunes with oddball titles.

Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno never thought he'd be so happy to be stuck in a recording studio again.

But compared to a year spent on the road, it was nothing, he said.

"It was a quick period of recording," Moreno said of the sessions during which Deftones put down tracks for their sophomore album, Around The Fur. "It wasn't stressful at all. We'd been touring nonstop, writing a lot of new songs, so we were antsy to record."

Riding a wave of critical acclaim and consistently climbing album sales, the Sacramento, Calif.-based alternative metal band has seen more success and video and radio airplay these days than bandmembers may be used to. Having enjoyed 250,000-plus sales of its debut album, 1995's Adrenaline (Maverick), the 9-year-old foursome has spent the past 12 months touring in support of the debut and its follow-up, which hit record stores in October.

Apparently thrilled at the chance to get back into the studio with a year's worth of ideas that piled up during the band's touring, 24-year-old Moreno is riding high on Deftones' current success.

Moreno wrote the lyrics on the latest LP, but says the other bandmembers -- Stephen Carpenter (guitar), 27; Chi Cheng (bass), 27; and Abe Cunningham (drums), 24 -- all contributed to the music. Audio-effects man Frank Delgado, who is on some tracks on the new album, has also been touring with the band as "the DJ."

"We were excited to come together for the album. It was really simple 'cause everybody adds his part to it. It becomes a process of adding what we like and taking out what one or all of us decide against," Moreno said. This collaborative process has been intact since the band first came together as Sacramento schoolmates at the end of the 1980s. They persevered and stuck to their musical guns, gathering fans despite lack of support from music television and most radio stations.

Fur's first radio track and video, "My Own Summer (Shove It)" (RealAudio excerpt), was snubbed by MTV despite the album's "The Billboard 200" albm chart debut at #29. And radio programmers inclined to venture deeper into the album will find odd and risqué titles such as "Dai The Flu" and "Lhabia," about, well you guessed it -- tracks obviously not designed for top 40 or mainstream stations.

But Moreno isn't worried. "Things keep getting better for us," he said.

The next track expected to get attention is "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)." While sticking to the band's metal roots, it is nevertheless more accessible and is already on New York new-rock station WXRK-FM's rotation. Deftones have just begun their first major European tour. The band spent a few weeks overseas recently to test the waters and said they were happy with what they found.

"The music underground is better in Europe," Moreno said. "Our word-of-mouth over there was strong. We sold out every 500- and 2,000-seater we played and we're excited about spending the next two months abroad." Deftones will be back to re-tour the States in March, and Moreno said he thinks their penchant for

post-show partying with fans will continue. "Our road manager is like a dad to us and that [family] feeling carries over to our audience," he added.

"We're building gradually and we're looking for longevity," added Moreno, who said he believes a breakthrough album such as U2's War or Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream may not be far off. "That may be a couple of records down the line," he said. "People have to open their minds to us a little more. We'll always be heavy-rooted."

Moreno is also optimistic because of the level of support the band has received from its record label, pop diva Madonna's Maverick Records. "We have great A&R guys and Madonna liked the vibe of the first album and pretty much let us be ourselves since."

Despite Around The Fur's lyrical fascination with the "dirty" side of life, such as prostitution and the greediness of the fashion world, Moreno calls himself a family man and has two young children. The cover of Adrenaline even sports, of all things, a baby dropper used to clear children's sinuses, although it's likely some fans have imagined other uses for it.

"My kids are into the Spice Girls," Moreno said. "But they rock to our music and come to our shows." [Sat., Feb. 7, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]