With Terry, I can come in and work my way through something. We get together, and someone makes some noise and then the person next to them reacts to that noise and makes some more noise and then after a minute, all that noise sort of turns into a song that didn’t exist an hour before. It’s been a busy year for Deftones fans. I get it. When I go back, I have to live in a hotel room and basically clock in to the studio from noon to six, which is usually the hours we would work. Don’t try to be holier than thou. Starting this band, did you ever imagine it would be a 30-year journey?Hell, no. It’s stupid. Sometimes we get together and we talk shit for hours and not come up with anything. He’s one of the artists that’s on the Black Stallion album. I know your band didn’t necessarily fit the label at the time, but how do you feel about people who look down on that era?I think they probably always did look down. We can’t congregate in the spaces where we used to meet to fraternize and blow off steam. But yes, the song is acknowledging that. Did social distancing throw a wrench into things?I finished most all of the vocals right before the holiday, toward the end of [last] year. Who cares? I love remixes like that, where it’s a whole new take. That works for some people. They’re done. I like any kind of music. That’s a good feeling. You have a turntablist-programmer in Frank Delgado, and you have Sergio Vega, a bassist who played in the punk band Quicksand. I think that feeling of just wanting to just finish something in a timely manner is why that record turned out in that way, where it was like maybe we weren’t there yet. I’ve been listening to a lot of remixers, DJs, and a lot of Boiler Room shit. It’s catchy. Especially after the first couple records, I was like, “Wow. So him, DJ Shadow, Clams Casino, people whose music I liked and I like working with. Your bandmates all have different specialties in metal, hardcore, and hip-hop. Maybe we hadn’t actually explored and allowed what would happen naturally to happen. Get your fix. I’m a work-in-progress. At this point in our career, we shouldn’t be in a rush to put out music for the sake of putting out music. The Deftones’ summer tour was sidelined on the day the band was due to depart for a string of dates that would have carried it through Europe and the States (along with the French environmental prog-metal outfit Gojira and the ascendant pop star and YouTube sensation Poppy). Did this take off some of the pressure that seemed to be there last time?With the last album, we had a deadline, and we don’t all live in the same city. We recorded [Gore] in Los Angeles, and I’d moved out of there maybe seven years ago or so. But, lucky enough, we have, and we still seem to enjoy it. I like shit that’s good. I just watched DJ Shadow’s Boiler Room set last night. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been collecting vinyl for years. Pick it out just because you like the cover of it, blah, blah, blah, whatever.” So the other day, she came in, and she picked out this band Tortoise, a six-piece with two drummers, all instrumental. Everybody’s barking at each other through the fence, and it drives me fucking mad. I was so stoked on it. It’s kind of crazy. How far into this year were you still working on the album? But this is not my element. Let’s go.” I think we learned from that process. I think we all listen to so much different music that we’d be walling ourselves in, in a way, if we just decided one day that we had to just fit into one sort of niche. It was probably the only time I ever heard N.W.A, Toro y Moi, Brian Eno, and Blut Aus Nord songs so close together. I want balance. But it’s also about being frustrated with the times and how everybody, not to be so literal, because it’s not political or whatever — but it’s like everybody’s right. I’m trying to keep that spirit alive, I guess, within myself and trying to pass it on to the youngsters. We talked about the process of creating the new album (out this Friday), Moreno’s frustrations about how 2016’s (critically acclaimed) Gore turned out, his joy in putting his 15-year-old daughter onto the classics, and the band’s upcoming White Pony remix album, Black Stallion. As the anniversaries of certain rock albums from the year 2000 come around, a lot of music fans and writers have been talking about nu metal like it’s a guilty pleasure, something everyone is embarrassed about now. Right before all this stuff started, we had a really good rehearsal where we played through a bunch of our old songs that we hadn’t played in years, and it was really awesome. I spoke to Moreno over the phone in August, when Ohms’ lead single and title track landed. We have enough songs. Our music doesn’t have to be any one thing ever. I have moments where I feel that. If you liked it then, don’t be embarrassed, because it wasn’t any smarter back then. It doesn’t always happen that way. We literally write ten songs
The new album reunites you with Terry Date, who produced your first four albums. I don’t want to have to pick a side. I don’t think it’s us so much but definitely Limp Bizkit and shit like that. I mean, listen to the words. What does he bring to the table that other producers don’t?He’s an awesome person that we have a strong, long history with. It was super-structured, which I didn’t mind, but at the end of the day, it was like, I’m away from home. No one should be embarrassed by shit they like that’s dumb. I would just drive up to his house, and it was just me and him in the studio. We were well rehearsed and ready to go, and it was just like, boom! Can you give any details about who might be involved with Black Stallion?Trevor Jackson did an awesome remix. And we don’t write many songs. Some days I’m miles away from it. I’ll be completely honest: I haven’t actually achieved complete balance. I’m in the studio every day. I can go down a crazy path trying something that maybe shouldn’t work, and probably might not work, and he’ll let me go down that path until I stop and say, “Okay, now I’m going to look at this from a whole other thing.” He makes a very comfortable working environment for me to do that, allowing me the due diligence to fail or not. You know what I mean? I’ve really been engulfed in working on this Black Stallion album, which is —
The White Pony remix album, right?Yeah. He lives in Seattle, and I live in Portland so it’s about a three-hour drive to his house. We don’t get together to make a record and write 30 songs, then whittle it down into ten songs. And it shouldn’t, I don’t think. Everybody has an opinion. We should go through different things, go down different roads, and then come to a conclusion that suits us the best. At my new house, I set up a record player in the media room, which has forced me and my family to listen to records and start them from the beginning and listen to the whole thing, through the experience. I’m away from home. It’s the same music it was 20 years ago. Luckily, we’re at a point in our career where we can take our time, especially these days, where we’re all in a holding pattern. We don’t agree anymore. May was the tenth anniversary of Diamond Eyes; in August, it was White Pony turning 20 and the announcement of the new album, Ohms; then Adrenaline turns 25 in October. I was like, “Why’d you pick that out?” She’s like, “I just liked the cover.” Then we put it on and listened to it. Talk about blending five unique artistic visions into one.I think the only sort of preconceived notion when we’re going in to make a record is to see if we can get each one of us individually and collectively inspired. [There’s] this false narrative that [guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] is the metal guy and then he pulls us toward that. We all love heavy music. That song actually also speaks to that, I guess, whatever. Moreno’s a rock star, not a politician, but the divisive climate of the year is hard to shake. No matter who you are or what you do, I think most people deal with that dichotomy in life, having days of feeling like you’re your better self than others. Tags: Just like what you like. We literally write ten songs. I would go to the record store, I would look at [the records], and if it looked cool, I would get it. Moreno hasn’t been in the same room as his bandmates in several months; work on Ohms wrapped in seclusion with producer Terry Date, who assisted with the band’s first four albums — an inimitable string of metal and hard-rock highlights that includes the 1995 nu-metal gem Adrenaline and the 2000 opus White Pony, on which shoegaze, synth pop, and progressive rock dissolve into an enticing soufflé. Everything stopped. So I felt pretty safe with just me and him. I don’t want to have to pick a side. I’m living like I’m on tour. We start an idea, and if any one of us loses steam within the writing of it, it’s kind of a telltale that “Okay, let’s start over.” That’s how we work. Between the pandemic and the coming election, it’s hard to sit back and decompress. I’m trying to get my daughter, who’s 15, into that mindset of listening to records. When this year started, I had to go back to Terry’s house. From the beginning, from the first days of us making music, I’ve always taken it day by day and been happy that we were able to make another record, then make another record anytime we get the opportunity to. I’ll have my daughter come into my room and go through my records, and I’ll say, “Just pick out a record, even if you don’t know what it is. When we get together to work, we literally have to fly into a certain city. They always felt guilty about listening to certain things. I love live manipulating, especially vinyl. In a recent interview, [drummer] Abe Cunningham said the band took more time to make this album than the last one. Everything is so polarized. I can’t cook my own food. Everybody right now is spoon-fed singles, but listening to records is an experience. We’re open-minded, I guess. I want to be able to make a decision that doesn’t have to go along with any one side of any argument. We gotta get this done. I think motherfuckers were embarrassed for that shit back then, too. It must be extra frustrating to be in a band that had a whole tour planned for the summer.Yeah, it sucks. So it’s not like in retrospect they’re like, “I can’t believe I listened to that.” It’s like, “No, when you listened to it then, you knew it was dumb, but you liked it.” And that’s okay. We’ve found, after all these years, that those are the moments that really count. I like a lot of electronic music, a lot of experimental and shit, and there’s always the classics. But I’m trying to stay optimistic, and I think at some point we’ll be able to go out and do what we do. But I’m curious if it was about how you’ve been embracing therapy lately.That [lyric] was a pretty literal statement. And you know what? You can’t deny it. He’s very much there to allow you to do that. We can make another one? That’s the way we used to pick out music. We were set to leave to go on tour, starting in Australia, which was in March. It’s fucking stupidly good, some of it, but they knew back then that it was stupid. That’s another thing. It’s almost hard to figure out what song it is. “Our music doesn’t have to be any one thing ever,” says Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno. I want balance. Everybody right now is spoon-fed singles, but listening to records is an experience. I don’t care what genre it is as long as there’s good songs. What are you listening to this summer?Just random shit. For me, personally, he’s very patient, but he also allows me the space to try different shit. Or we do, but nothing sticks. I like that. In April, you streamed a DJ set on Twitch and played a lot of music people might not expect you to be into. Other than that, I haven’t even seen my other bandmates in almost half a year now. It’s best when it happens organically like that. It’s an unusual circumstance. That’s incredible. I know I sound like an old man saying this, because this is a speech I’m sure a lot of older people give youngsters, but it’s something that means a lot to me so I do it. He doesn’t go anywhere; I don’t go anywhere. We were able to finish the songs [this time] and explore all the avenues. And then because you spent your hard-earned money on it, you kind of made yourself like it. We don’t get together to make a record and write 30 songs, then whittle it down into ten songs. Your band adds depth and unusual textures to heavy music. “And it shouldn’t, I don’t think.”
Photo: Tamar Levine
Ohms, the upcoming ninth album from Sacramento alternative-metal veterans the Deftones, opens with some timely words, as vocalist Chino Moreno cuts into a wall of guitar and synth noise with a piercing shriek: “I reject both sides of what I’m being told!”
He spends the rest of the song wishing we could all just stop pecking at one another, that we could start all over again. If you want to listen to Cannibal Corpse, you listen to Cannibal Corpse. Is that something you work toward, or is that just a mix of very different tastes bleeding through?I think it’s everybody’s tastes bleeding through. In “Genesis,” the opening track of the new album, you say, “I finally achieve balance.” I know you’re not necessarily a literalist when it comes to lyrics, and they can be up for interpretation. Maybe if you’re working with someone you don’t have that comfortable feeling with, it’s like you get into the studio, and it’s go time and you have to commit and do something, and that’s the way it is. I can’t say I’m just a huge heavy-metal fan. It was like, “We have to finish this. Okay, cool.” But yeah, no way could I expect that this many years later, we’d still be making records. I’m not sleeping in my own bed. Some days I’m closer to it than others. Literally the day before we left for tour, everything got shut down.