The Sacramento-based band has spent most of its time on the road since signing with Maverick Records in 1994 and releasing its debut album, Adrenaline. The group is now seeing the fruit of that labor with sales of its sophomore release, Around The Fur. That record debuted on the SoundScan chart at No. 29 and has since sold nearly 90,000 copies.
That's not bad for a band that started as a group of kids just looking for some fun. Deftones singer Chino Moreno told POLLSTAR he was skateboard buddies with drummer Abe Cunningham and guitarist Stephen Carpenter when they were about 10 years old.
Carpenter's whole life revolved around skateboarding during those years but everything changed in an instant when at 16, he was hit by a drunk driver. He ended up trading in his skateboard for a guitar and with the settlement he got from the accident, he bought a roomful of band equipment. "He put it in his garage and we just all started basically teaching ourselves how to play," Moreno said. After going though a few bassists, Chi Cheng became a permanent member.
It was two years before the band had its first real gig in a local club. From there, the guys started to build a fan base in the Sacramento area -- but they took their time. "We didn't really try to play all the time and go out there and shove our music down people's throats," Moreno said. "It was more like we'd always try to just get better and write better songs and then go play them just to see what people thought."
When the band felt confident enough, it expanded its gigging-area to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was a seemingly dead-end gig in L.A. that got the Deftones their big break. "We were closing for some band," Moreno said, "and after that band played, everybody left. There was probably only five [or 10] people there. It was really grim. But we decided we'd just play our normal show." Someone in the audience who had a connection to Maverick Records was impressed. The next thing the guys knew, Maverick was asking to see a showcase.
In a small studio space, label prexy Freddy DeMann and A&R exec Guy Oseary came to see what the Deftones had to offer. "We played three songs and they just said, 'We want to sign you guys right now,'" Moreno said. The band was shocked.
Of course, about that time, other labels starting swarming. But Moreno said the others didn't have the absolute confidence that Maverick showed. "Maverick was just like, 'We just dig the vibe of your guys' band. You guys have good songs and we want to sign you,'" he said. "There was no beating around the bush. It was just straight forward and that's what we really liked about them."
As soon as the Deftones inked their deal with Maverick, they were sent out on the road. Though the band members have grown to believe in relentless touring, hitting the road so hard in the beginning wasn't what they expected. The way they saw the music industry, a band put out an album, got a hit single, and then toured behind it. The opposite turned out to be true for the Deftones. "We put out records to support our live show," Moreno said.
Without the rush the guys get from performing live, they couldn't be inspired to live life on the road, Moreno said. The band fires off a dose of its heavy metal energy and then "that energy doubles as the crowd gives it back to us and then we keep feeding off each other. It usually just keeps building into this big ball of intensity. By the end of the show, it's just psychotic," he said.
With the release of Around The Fur, there is an industry buzz surrounding the Deftones but the band is keeping its focus. "Sometimes the hype can scare you a little bit. It puts more pressure on you when you have more hype behind you," Moreno said. "I don't think anybody in our band thinks that we're the greatest thing in the world. I think we all realize that we have a lot of talent that we've tapped in to but we still have so much more to go. And if people start labeling you the next big thing, it almost sets you up next year to be last year's thing."
The Deftones are just finishing up a headline tour that took them across the country where they were selling out many clubs. After a holiday break, they'll do a couple of opening gigs with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus and then they're off to Europe for two months.