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
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
"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
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."
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
COLOR="#003163">Fred Durst or
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
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."