Despite Rumors, There’s “Nothing Different in the World of Deftones”

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Some of the best bands have gone through tumultuous times, and during those times, the best music is created. Of course, there could be a total implosion, wherein the perceived notion of “beautiful chaos” takes hold. But despite years of rumored conflict and infighting, Sacramento’s Deftones have not only continued to create groundbreaking music, they've persevered within the eye of the storm of their own success — and tragedy.

Deftones is the screaming croon of frontman Chino Moreno, the blistering riffs of guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and the tight rhythm section of bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Abe Cunningham. Having escaped the nu-metal stereotype, the band has continued to push the envelope album after album, infusing numerous musical styles and making each album its own unique experience.

Cunningham explains the process of the group's new album, Gore: “It took longer because we took longer to make it, especially the writing part of it. In the past, we always had our allotted time to be creative. This time around, we had the opportunity to break up the writing process, and it was a different approach.

“We still make records that, hopefully, people still listen to from start to finish, but it’s going to take a few listens and patience. But that is something that people who listen to us have always been — patient. And even on Adrenaline, there were things that we wanted to try, and it wasn’t until Around the Fur and White Pony, in my opinion, where we actually achieved our goal of mixing all of our musical ideas.”

Deftones’ debut album, Adrenaline, helped the band gain a faithful following, but while Cunningham recognizes the album as their breakthrough, he also acknowledges the group has grown up. “I love playing the songs on Adrenaline, but I can’t listen to that album. When I hear it, I cringe. It’s one of people’s favorite records, but I hear this young-ass band, unsure of themselves, excited, ready to prove a point.

Though Gore has received widespread acclaim, it hasn’t quelled speculation the band might be on the rocks. Cunningham explains it’s all been blown out of proportion. “We’re all right!... I’ve been in this band for nearly 30 years, and nothing has changed. We’re brothers, we’re five dudes in a band with five strong opinions, and there is bound to be bickering and fighting, but it’s part of being in a band, part of being in a relationship.”
Recently, rumors flared after guitarist Carpenter commented publicly about struggling with the new album. “Stephen has been on a media blackout since 2000,” Cunningham responds. “He doesn’t do press. Stephen is brutally honest, and I love him for that, and of course that’s clickbait and things go viral. But if you read the article, you’ll see that it says, ‘At first [emphasis Cunningham’s], I had a hard time getting into it...’ But it’s nothing different in the world of Deftones.”

Gore marks the first full-length release since the passing of longtime bassist Chi Cheng. Cheng was involved in a serious auto accident in 2008 in the middle of the album Eros, which was later released as Diamond Eyes. Even as the band gears up for another extended tour, including a stop this Friday at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, the feeling is bittersweet.

“Honestly, the most emotionally draining and cathartic album was the Diamond Eyes record, because that is when everything happened,” Cunningham remembers of the time surrounding Cheng’s accident. “His passing, for me, was a relief. For him, for his family, for us, when his accident happened, it wasn’t immediate. He was seriously injured and left in a minimally conscious state for five years. All the initial emotion was when the accident happened, and to have him pass was a relief after all those years... This is the first album with him not being here, but he’s still here. He had a tremendous spirit, and he’s here with us. I miss that dude more than anything.”

Whether you’re seeing Deftones for the first or tenth time, there’s no doubting the impact the band has had on hard-rock music, a genre quickly dissolving into heavy metal or nothing at all. And for bands trying to break into the biz, Cunningham has some parting words: “Try to sound like yourself, but enjoy the process and enjoy who you do it with. You never know where you’re going to go. This band was built out of friendship, trying to play the next town over.”

7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach. Tickets cost $34.50 to $49.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.

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