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Members include Stephen Carpenter, guitar; Chi Cheng, bass; Abe Cunningham, drums; and Chino Moreno, vocals. Addresses: Record company-Maverick Records, 9348 Civic Center Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Publicist-Mitch Schneider Organization, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Suite 410, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. Fan Club-Maverick Records, attn: Deftones friends and family, 8000 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Website-www.deftones.com.
The Deftones' 1997 release, Around the Fur, on Maverick Records, clearly sets them apart from other heavy metal, grunge, and punk bands to which they have been compared in the past. Unlike some of the bands that have evoked comparisons, their main focus is projecting excitement through their intense energy and creativity. The band likes to be known for what it called its "abstract sonics and lyrics." After touring the United States almost non- stop for the past three years, the group has developed an intensely loyal following of metalheads, punkers, and skaters. The band is a multi-ethnic favorite among the mosh pit crowd; their fans love the combination of loud, metallic grunge. Frontman Chino Moreno's wide range of vocals exhibit bipolar emotions; one moment his voice projects hushed, barely heard whispers, the next moment he's uttering screams that sound, according to Tom Wictor of Bass Player, "as if he's being boiled alive."
The band first formed around 1988 in Sacramento, California. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter began playing while recovering from a near fatal accident; he'd been hit by a drunk driver while skateboarding. Carpenter was 15 years old at the time. With the money he received from the legal settlement after his accident, Carpenter purchased equipment for a band. Soon he and drummer, Abe Cunningham, were jamming and needed a singer. Although Moreno claimed he did not know how to sing, he told Sean O'Neill of BAM that his response was, "OK, I'll do it. It sounds like fun." With that the trio was formed and began jamming in Carpenter's garage. From the very beginning, the group played not with visions of becoming a big name group, but to have fun. Realizing they needed a bassist, they discovered Chi Cheng, who would complete the group. Although Cheng initially couldn't play the bass, he reminded guitarist Carpenter of a member of the band, Death Angel, and that was good enough for him.
During jam sessions in Carpenter's garage, the Deftones began writing original material and progressed to playing for parties. After about two years, they got a gig at a local club in the Sacramento, California, area. With the help of local promoter, Jerry Perry, they began playing at various clubs throughout the Bay Area and they toured with the band Psychefunkepus. After developing a following in the Sacramento area and throughout Northern California, they expanded their range to include Reno, Nevada, and Southern California. Closing for bigger name bands in Los Angeles would prove to be the forum where they got their big break.
After an associate of a Maverick Record executive appeared at one performance, a demo found its way to Maverick. The group was then contacted and a showcase performance was scheduled with Freddy DeMann and Guy Oseary. After hearing the group play three songs the record execs wanted the Deftones on their label. Although they received other offers, the group decided to sign with Maverick in 1994 because they thought Maverick was a label that really cared about their bands.
Shortly after signing, the group hit the tour circuit, stopping only long enough in 1995 to record their debut album, Adrenaline, which would sell over 220,000 copies by the end of 1997. Most of the cuts on Adrenaline were recorded live. Producer Terry Date used this approach to capture the incredible energy projected by the Deftones.
The throbbing heavy metal instrumentation behind Moreno's extreme vocals, including his shrieking and howling, deliver high intensity feelings of passion, frustration, and persistence. Adrenaline was described by Bob Hernandez of PLOW as "an explosive mix of extremes, musically showcasing a savage and abrasive blend of harmony and chaos." Hernandez noted that Moreno's vocalizations "enhanced the music," especially on the cuts "Minus Blindfold" and "Seven Words." Kim Kenneally of Guitar School, called the debut album, "a 40-minute primal scream, built on Carpenter's percussive riffing, judiciously applied bursts of dissonance, and delicate, if creepy, open chord patterns." Another reviewer, Katherine Turman, of Car Audio, noted: "If this is what heavy metal is evolving into, it's a ... good thing."
Following the production of their first album, the Deftones performed at the 1996 Warped Tour and continued touring with many bands across the United States including Korn, Ozzy Osbourne, Bad Brains, Pantera, White Zombie, L7, Quicksand, Kiss, and others. Also during 1996, the group was featured on the soundtracks Escape From L.A., with their cut "Can't Even Breath," and The Crow: City of Angels, with "Teething."
The individual band members claim a wide range of musical influences. This may partially explain the extremes they exhibit through their collective music. Vocalist Moreno claims that he was initially influenced by Bad Brains but lyrically inspired by Depeche Mode.
Guitarist Carpenter listens to a wide range of pop and heavy metal music, some of which include Pantera, Sepultura, Down, and Helmet. He also enjoys Morrissey, the Cure, and Depeche Mode, and told Jen Wiederhorn of Guitar World that the Deftones were working on cuts to be included on forthcoming Depeche Mode and Duran Duran tribute albums.
Bass player Cheng talked about his approach to playing with Thomas Wictor of BASS Player in May 1997. Cheng has a taste for reggae, soul, blues, and jazz, and felt his heavy use of 16th-notes "comes from listening to Tower of Power. I'm such a fan of Rocco Prestia." Cheng plays the bass with his fingers rather than a pick and feels that this "more organic" technique allows him to be closer to the instrument.
Drummer Cunningham discussed his personal favorites in an interview with Randy Sanders of Drummer Dude, and said "I was raised on so much different music." A few artists and bands he mentioned include Queen, Neil Young, Prince, and Miles Davis. Other bands cited as influenceson the band's style include Smashing Pumpkins and Jane's Addiction.
The Deftones second release, Around the Fur, hit the music scene in October 1997, debuting at number 29 and overall receiving very good reviews. Many critics felt that this second effort was an improvement. Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted in an online interview that "they're about to come into their own." Around the Fur also features Max Cavalera on vocals and guitar on the cut, "Headup," and Annalyn Cunningham, wife of drummer, Abe Cunningham, also on vocals, in "MX." Around the Fur continues the band's tradition of extremes with both ends of Moreno's vocal styles, which when combined with the intense, heavy metal guitar, drums and bass, create a "firestorm" of music that explodes into hostility and aggression.
The consensus of reviews online is that the Deftones' second album is more powerful and fans of this genre would consider this album a "must-have." Sean Eric McGill of Consumable Online felt that Moreno's range of vocal extremes set the Deftones apart from other bands that they have previously been compared to. McGill stated that "they have created the best harder rock album of the year." Buzz Morison of Guitar complied, stating that "the quartet packs disturbingly heavy but fluidly thrashing riffs into dense, intense songs that Chino Moreno bellows with the feral force of a caged mongoose."
The band members discussed the album in an online interview with Aaron Parker. Carpenter called Around the Fur a "progression" in the band's musical evolution. Band members agreed that extensive touring and live performing have given them additional maturity and helped clarify communication among band members. Moreno explained that he has been influenced lately by female singers, like Polly Jean Harvey, who stress the passionate side of vocals. Moreno also discussed the theme of the newest release and called it his fascination with the darker, more seamy aspects of the fashion and glamour world and of prostitution.
As of early 1998, the Deftones have received limited exposure through radio and television; the only real media attention they received came after a concert in Tempe, Arizona, when a riot broke out while they were performing. Security had cut the band's power after four songs, and their fans went nuts. Reports of the riot were shown on Hard Copy, American Journal, and Real TV.
The band is continuing its tradition of live performances and simultaneously discovering that the Internet is a great avenue for promotion. After the band previewed their new album before a group of 300 fans with a concert at a rehearsal studio in Los Angeles, their performance was also broadcast live over the Internet through the LiveConcerts' website. That broadcast captured enough viewers to become the number five most watched broadcast of the 300 that LiveConcerts had hosted up until then. The preview concert was subsequently archived at the Deftones' own official website.
The end of 1997 found the band on the road again, on the "World Annihilation" tour, including performances across the United States. Although extensive touring has been the group's primary key to success, it can be a difficult life to maintain. They note redeeming moments like when they discovered they had fans in Copenhagen, Denmark while performing at the Roskilde Festival. Moreno enjoys knowing that the Deftones' style brings together all sorts of different kids including punk rockers and skateboarders. Hernandez of PLOW asked the group if they were still having fun. Moreno responded in the affirmative, "Hell, yeah, ... if I wasn't having fun anymore ... I would get me a job."
by Debra Reilly
Began with trio Moreno, Carpenter, and Cunningham in Sacramento, CA, late 1980s; added bassist, Chi Cheng, and began writing original material and playing gigs together in 1989; began touring, playing in such cities as Reno, NV, and Los Angeles, CA; signed to Maverick Records, 1994; released Adrenaline, 1995; performed "Can't Even Breathe," on Escape From L.A. (soundtrack), Atlantic, 1996, and "Teething," on the The Crow: City of Angels (soundtrack), PGD/Hollywood, 1996; released Around the Fur, 1997; toured Europe and the U.S., fall 1997.
- Selective Works
- Adrenaline (includes "Minus Blindfold," and "Seven Words"), Maverick Records, 1995.
- Around the Fur (includes "Headup," and "MX"), Maverick Records, 1997.
- With Others "Can't Even Breathe," Escape From L.A. (soundtrack), WEA/Atlantic, 1996.
- "Teething," The Crow: City of Angels (soundtrack), PGD/Hollywood, 1996.
- BAM, November 16, 1995.
- BASS Player, May 1997.
- Car Audio, January 1996.
- Drummer Dude, Issue #6.
- Guitar, December 1997.
- Guitar School, April 1996.
- Guitar World, October 1997.
- LiveWire, June/July 1996.
- PLOW: Snowboarding Magazine, March 1997.
- Additional information was provided by the Mitch Schneider Organization, publicist for the Deftones.
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