Deftones roared out of Sacramento, California in 1995 with their debut album Adrenaline. It was a fitting title for the bands confrontational, metallic grind a style theyd been developing since 1989 in relative obscurity. Tracks in the movies The Crow: City of Angels and Escape From L.A. earned the group widespread exposure and set them up to reach a larger audience with their 1997 disc, Around the Fur.
The musical growth between Adrenaline and Around the Fur was substantial, but it paled in comparison to the development thats taken place over the past two years. Deftones' latest, White Pony (which immediately shot to number three on the Billboard album chart), is more textural, experimental and visceral that anything in the band's back-catalog. But while it's mainstream accessible, it's hardly run-of-the-mill, proving that Deftones are a band that places more emphasis on enjoying their musicianship than in actual stardom.
Guitar.com caught up with guitarist Stephen Carpenter backstage at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago to talk about his band's sudden success, the state of the pop charts, and of course, guitar playing. Carpenter also shared some playing tips with us in the two accompanying video lessons.
Guitar.com: Your new album debuted pretty high on the charts.
Stephen Carpenter: Yeah it did. I expected higher cause I know our shit's worth it. I don't really pay attention to the charts, so I don't know who was occupying it or not. I don't know if there was competition or not, but obviously there was. Had the two people in front of us not put out records recently, we would have been number one. Number three is number one to us. If you put us in perspective to number two and number one, we're pretty much number one in what we're doing. So it's pretty cool. It's Britney and Eminem. Hey man, you guys need to step down.
Guitar.com: How do you feel about the current state of music?
Carpenter: It's weird. What's really going on, we don't relate to at all, other than the fact that there's some loud guitars. There's not even that much screaming going on anymore. If everyone was talking about us, let's just say that it was the talk, and was on everybody's mind - it doesn't effect what we're doing. If there were suddenly 10 million people there, it would be the same thing for us, just more people. It's not, "Oh, now we're rock stars and let's try to be cool." Its like, "OK, what songs do you want to play? "
Guitar.com: You helped pioneer much of the heavy tone and guitar stylings that are currently very popular. How do you feel about that?
Carpenter: I don't really think about it. I don't think that we pioneered anything that hasn't been done. Before us it was Rage, before Rage was Faith No More. It's not like we really pioneered it. I mean we've been around longer than Rage. We ain't been around on the worldwide circuit as long as Rage - we've been together 12 years. That's awhile. But it's not our goal to be famous, just to be successful doing what we like to do.
Guitar.com: Were Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More influences for you?
Carpenter: Well, Faith No More for sure was an influence, not so much Rage because by the time Rage came around, we were already doing that same shit. We've never been a one style of music kind of band. If you listen to our records, each song is different from the last song and each record is different from the last. But the attitude and emotion that goes into writing our songs is the same all the way through. Our sound - our core sound - is always there.
Guitar.com: How do you write your music?
Carpenter: For me it's not like trying to be a player more than I'm trying to hear sounds and songs, not some bugged out piece no one can figure out. We try to tweak music to where it isn't so perfectly regular. We all know each other so well that before anyone tries to play, I know what they're gonna play. So I change what I'm doing, to throw them off because I want them to change. I mean, I love bands like AC/DC but every song is the same. I don't know how they remember what song is what.
Guitar.com: Have you changed your guitar style much since Deftones started recording?
Carpenter: No. The different thing now to even five years ago is tunings. Other than it's my same physical approach to my instrument. If I find something good, will the rest of my band like it? If I come to the table with a thousand ideas, I could walk away with maybe three that everyone likes. As a player, by myself, I think everything I'm doing is great. I'm no virtuoso. I don't know theory, can't play a solo to save my life. I don't worry about it. To me music comes out from a sincere point in your person. Even if it's the most simplistic part. If there's sincerity you'll know.
Guitar.com: But critics and even the general public are always asking for something different.
Carpenter: That's whats so dope about our fans. Our audience is a reflection of our taste. As a whole, our audience is one audience, but it's comprised up of so many different kinds of kids that like different kinds of music. Someone will come up and tell you, "Oh I love this song, it's your best song ever," and somebody else will be like, "What?" That's what's so cool.