The Deftones formed in 1988 in Sacramento, CA, and in the 25 years that they’ve been together since then, they’ve hit some high highs—three platinum albums—and some crushing lows—the near-death-experience of one of their own. The band’s commercial success crested in 2000 with the release of “Change (In The House Of Flies)”, a song off of the third Deftones album, White Pony. The album debuted in the middle of the massive tide of nu metal in the late 1990s and early 2000s that also brought with it bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, but the Deftones have always stood out for their willingness to experiment, their uneasy relationship with genre labels and their startling consistency.
The Deftones have released seven albums, and their latest, 2012’s Koi No Yokan, builds on the band’s eccentric, idiosyncratic and very heavy legacy. During rehearsals for their upcoming tour, drummer Abe Cunningham sat down for a quick conversation about the new record, crossing over into the mainstream and why modern commercial rock music is so horrendous.
The Deftones are going on a pretty extensive tour soon to support Koi No Yokan. Do you enjoy the touring aspect of being a musician?
I love it. I am going absolutely batty with energy right now. It’s my normal thing, but it’s a balance.
You guys rose up originally at a time when rap metal and nu metal were gaining mainstream attention. Are those tags something the band tries to stray away from now?
I don’t think we were rap metal to begin with. It was a style at one point. We have always done our own thing. Things have changed. Styles have come and gone, and we are still here.
Your album White Pony broke the Deftones to a much larger audience. Would you call that your most successful release?
Certainly. It was our biggest-selling album, and it started getting us some radio airplay. I think our core sound was our metal base sound. We never really had any parameters. I think the album from start to finish and how everything came together became our core sound. It was beauty versus aggression. We never wanted to be tied down to a certain genre, and there were times that suggestions were made that we go with a certain sound. We have been here for 25 years. It’s a learning process.
Do you think Koi No Yokan is the band’s heaviest album?
I think it’s pretty damn heavy. It’s a push and pull of aggression—so yes, I do think it’s pretty heavy. We don’t have a big master plan. We recorded what exactly was going on in our lives.
Your bassist, Chi Cheng, was involved in a horrific car crash in 2008. What’s his current status?
It’s been a long four years now. He is home now with his family. Anything could happen at any time, and miracles do happen. Chi is and always will be my brother.
Do you see any new rock bands that will make an impact in the coming year?
It’s such a strange question because it’s such a different time for rock music. Commercial rock music is horrendous, but maybe I’m not the right person to ask. There are so many rock bands that come out all the time.
What advice would you give any new rock acts on the scene right now?
Play wherever you can, and enjoy each other and the process.