Deftones Biography

Deftones. 13th Witness (promo photo)

Deftones are an alternative metal band from Sacramento, California, formed in 1988 by childhood friends Chino Moreno (vocals, guitar), Stephen Carpenter (lead guitar), and Abe Cunningham (drums). The band's name was coined by Carpenter who combine the hip hop slang term "def" with the suffix -tones (which was popular with 50's bands such as Dick Dale and his Del-Tones and The Cleftones). After some member shifts, bassist Che Ching joined in 1990 and Deftones recorded a four-track demo. After playing opening slots for Korn, the band caught the attention Madonna's Maverick Records and were signed by the label.

A Raw Debut Album

Deftones began work on their debut album, Adrenaline, in 1994 at Heart's Baby Animals studio in Seattle with producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera). Adrenaline was released October 3, 1995, and though the album not an initial success, the band built momentum and a loyal following with constant touring. The album, which was labeled nu-metal, was recorded very quickly and capture the band's raw live intensity. The album reached No. 23 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart which it remained on for 21 weeks. Although the album produced no hit singles, the songs "7 Seconds," "Bored" and "Engine No. 9" have become Deftone's live staples. "Engine No. 9" was later covered by Korn. Adrenaline was certified platinum in the U.S. with 1 million units sold on September 23, 2008.

Breaking Through to the Mainstream

For their second album, Around the Fur, Deftones recorded with Terry Date at Seattle's Studio Litho. Frank Delgado, who contributed sound effects to two songs on Adrenaline, guested on four Around the Fur tracks. The highly anticipated album was released October 28, 1997 and sold 43,000 copies in its first week. Many of the album's songs featured a soft verse/loud chorus dynamics and Chino Moreno's whisper to a scream vocals. The singles "My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" received strong radio and MTV airplay catapulting the band into the mainstream. Deftones toured extensively promoting the album including appearing on the Warped Tour and Ozzfest. Around the Fur debuted at No. 29 on the Billboard 200 album chart and stayed on the chart for 17 weeks. The album went on to reached platinum status in the U.S. on June 7, 2011.

Sonic Experimentation and Continued Success

Deftones third album, White Pony, was a breakthrough both sonically and commercially. The band incorporated new wave, trip-hop and shoegaze influences producing a more experimental sound. The album was again produced by Terry Date and released June 20, 2000 on Maverick Records. Turntablist/keyboardist Frank Delgado became a full member of the band in 1999. The album marks a turning point in Deftones' sound away from nu-metal. Three hit singles were released: "Change (In the House of Flies)," "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" and "Digital Bath." Tool singer Maynard James Keenan sings with Moreno on the song "Passenger." The song "Elite" won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. White Pony is also Deftones' fastest selling album to date attaining U.S. platinum certification on July 17, 2002.

Deftones Self-Titled Album and Breaking Away From Nu Metal

On May 20, 2003, Deftones self-titled fourth album was released. The album continued the bands experimental shift away from nu metal. First single "Minerva" shows the balance of influences with Chino Moreno's emotional vocals floating above heavy guitars. Much of the album relies on Deftone's soft verse/loud chorus song structure on songs like "Needles and Pins" and "Deathblow." The quiet songs "Lucky You" and "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event" explore Moreno's electronic Depeche Mode and trip-hop influences. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboa rd 200 chart, the band's highest debut ever, and reached gold status (500,000 units sold).

Going Further Into Unchartered Musical Territories:

For their fifth album, Saturday Night Wrist, Deftones parted with longtime producer Terry Date and worked with three different producers: Shaun Lopez, Aaron Sprinkle, and Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Kiss). The band began recording with Ezrin in Malibu, California, in November 2004 ending around Christmastime. Tensions with the band and between Ezrin and Moreno caused Moreno to leave the sessions prematurely to concentrate on his side project, Team Sleep, while the rest of the band continued recording. After a hiatus, Deftones regrouped in early 2006 at their Sacramento studio, The Spot, with Shaun Lopez producing. Moreno recorded all new vocals which dealt with subjects such as drugs, drinking and sex. System of a Down singer Serj Tankian sang guest vocals on the song "Mein." Saturday Night Wrist was released October 31, 2006. Although Deftones almost broke up during the tense recording sessions, the album was critically praised for its sonic diversity. It debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart and was the band's last album for Maverick Records. The album was Deftones last released album to feature bassist Chi Cheng – who was left in a semi-comatose state after a November 2008 car accident.

Deftone's Return to Form with a New Bass Player

Deftone's slated sixth album, Eros, was shelved after Chi Cheng's tragic car accident. The band began work on a new album in June 2009 with former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega. The resulting album, Diamond Eyes, produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo FightersVelvet RevolverAlice in Chains) was mostly recorded by the band playing together in one room without relying on digital recording programs like ProTools. After shelving their dark, angry Eros album – the band decided to record a positive, optimistic album. Diamond Eyes was released May 18, 2009, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart and garnered highly positive reviews. The songs alternate between heavy guitar screamed songs and more melodic compositions. First single "Rocket Skates" and most of the album is a return to Deftones' raw early sound, with comparisons to their Around the Fur album, and less electronic experimentation than previous albums. Although Deftones' self-titled album was the band's last gold certified album the band remained a potent live act and embarked on a 2010 tour of the U.S. and Canada with Alice in Chains and Mastodon.

Remaining on Course with Their Seventh Album

For their seventh album, Koi No Yokan, Deftones continued working with producer Nick Raskulinecz and released their second album on Reprise Records on November 12, 2012. Bassist Sergio Vega made a greater contribution to the songwriting process than on Diamond Eyes. The album debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and featured lead single "Leathers" which alternates between screamed verses and more melodic choruses. Deftones continued to mix brutally heavy songs with melodic, quiet melodic songs and more electronics than Diamond Eyes. Koi No Yokan was one of the best reviewed rock albums of 2012 and in May 2013, the album was named Revolver's "Album of the Year." On April 13, 2013, original bassist Chi Cheng died in a Sacramento hospital of heart failure.

Deftones Return with Their Latest Album 'Gore':

In March 2014, Deftones began work on their eight album while singer Chino Moreno was on tour with his side project Crosses. On January 22, 2016, during a NAMM Show interview, guitarist Stephen Carpenter revealed the album's April 8, 2016 release date. On January 23, Chino Moreno post a picture of Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore on his Twitter account with "Deftones" and "4/8/16" superimposed on the photo. On January 27, the band confirmed the album title, Gore, in a video posted on their website. First single "Prayers/Triangles" was released February 4th with music combining Deftone's trademark quiet verse/loud chorus dynamics and electronic elements. In a February 20, 2016 interview with, Deftones' heavy metal purist Stephen Carpenter revealed that he "didn't want to play on the record to begin with." Of the Gore album material Carpenter said, "It wasn't the style or the sound I was hoping we would take. It wasn't what I was expecting or wanting." What that means for the album musically remains to be heard. Alice in Chains' guitarist Jerry Cantrell made a guest appearance on the album with the guitar solo for the song "Phantom Bride."

Deftones Lineup

Chino Moreno – vocals, guitar
Stephen Carpenter – guitar
Abe Cunningham – drums
Frank Delgado – turntables, keyboards
Sergio Vega – bass

Key Deftones Songs

"Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" 
“Change (In the House of Flies)” 
“Hole in the Earth” 
"Diamond Eyes" 

Deftones Discography

Adrenaline (1995) 
Around the Fur (1997) 
White Pony (2000) 
Deftones (2003) 
B-Sides & Rarities (outtakes collection) (2005) 
Saturday Night Wrist (2006) 
Diamond Eyes (2010) 
Koi No Yokan (2012) 
Gore (2016)

Deftones Quotes

Chino Moreno on opening for Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit on Metallica's Summer Sanitarium tour:

"A big problem for me was opening for Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, two bands that wouldn't exist if it weren't for me, straight up!" (Revolver Magazine, August 2003 issue)

Chino Moreno on Depeche Mode:

"Lucky enough for me, my first concert was probably my favorite band to this day, Depeche Mode, on the Violator tour... I liked early hip-hop, but to me, this was so much more – the instrumentation, the dark lyrics – and all those things still make Depeche Mode my favorite band, even today." (Noisecreep, September 4, 2012)

Chino Moreno on Dubstep:

"I love some electronic music. I'm not a big fan of dubstep but there is so much good electronic music out there. I grew up in the eighties, that’s probably why I like some of the earlier electronic from Kraftwerk to all throughout New Wave and things like that." (KROQ, October 3, 2012)

Deftones Trivia

  • Chino Moreno's real full name is Camillo Wong Moreno.
  • The rhythm loop in Deftones' cover of The Cars' "Drive" is sampled from the British trip-hop group Massive Attack's song "Protection."
  • Moreno's side-project groups have included Team Sleep, Palms and Crosses.
  • For Revolver Moreno chose five non-metal records that influenced him: The Cure's Pornography, Helium's No Guitars, Mogwai's EP+2, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and The Smashing PumpkinsSiamese Dream.