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Korn Shuckers

The Deftones' headphone records elevate them out of the nü-metal pack

We pause now for this breaking news.

With more than a million copies of the Deftones' White Pony now sold in the United States, and half as many copies already sold of the band's complex new CD, Deftones, experts say the resulting economic spin-off to other segments of the retail sector offers a glimmer of hope to brighten the country's economic malaise. Department stores across the nation have reported unusually brisk sales of black light fixtures, candles and incense sticks. Head shops from Maine to Montana report a rush on bongs and other "tobacco accessories."

One local pot dealer says he can't keep up with the demand. "Maybe it's the war or something, but something's making these skateboard kids want to get high and stay there," he says. "You won't use my name, right?" Meanwhile, music stores are reporting a run on their stocks of headphones that hasn't been seen since Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out on CD back in the '80s.

Kings of Sacramento: The Deftones representing Sacto.
Kings of Sacramento: The Deftones representing Sacto.

Details

Saturday, August 2; for more information, call 713-629-3700
Reliant Park, One Reliant Drive

And those do come in handy with the Deftones. "That's it, man, you got it exactly right. They're headphones albums," says Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham in reference to the multilayered production his band is famous for. "Get that black light going, the candles lit, lay back on that bed and crank it up."

Cunningham says the band developed its stoner-friendly complexity as a reaction against being branded. "It was our way of saying we were pissed at being lumped in with all these kids and their nü-metal bands," says Cunningham. "We were getting put in with that shit even though we'd been around a lot longer than these other groups. White Pony was our way of saying, 'Fuck it, we're going to do what we want,' so we chiseled that fucker in granite and went to the left rather than go right with everyone else. And with the new record, it was more of the same; I mean not to make White Pony II but to make a record we liked."

And in that sense, at least, the band members have maintained the same sense of singularity that they had growing up together in Northern California, where Cunningham and singer Chino Moreno sat through middle school at adjacent desks, listening to thrash metal on a Walkman with split headphones.

The result is a record that arguably leaves the Deftones as the most relevant band on this year's Summer Sanitation Tour, which plunks the Sacramento quintet in the midst of a lineup that includes Mudvayne, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Metallica. From Moreno's full-throated roar on "Hexagram" and "Needles and Pins" to the looped samples, scratches and beats accompanying "Lucky You," the record is a rewarding listening experience.

Just don't go looking for political messages or subtle social commentary, because they've never been the group's guiding light, though that doesn't mean the Deftones are for made-for-MTV darlings either. Case in point: They're constantly dealing with the notion that Moreno is a loose cannon. In a recent issue of Revolver, Moreno dissed Korn front man Jonathan Davis, a former buddy, saying, "It's the same things -- bad childhoods and mean moms. It gets old after a while. How old is Jonathan? Thirty years old? How long has it been since he lived with his parents? Try to go somewhere else." Davis fired back in the latest Kerrang!, where he described Moreno's pronouncement as "straight fucked up shit" and suggested Moreno was bitter about Korn being more successful.

"I could give a rat's ass," says Cunningham of the spat. "If they want to vent in the press, that's fine with me. I didn't read what they said. Besides, a lot of what you read has been misconstrued by journalists using the cut and paste."

Moreno and Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter frequently butted heads too, especially during the White Pony sessions. Cunningham says that while the warfare was something of a drag on the band, it nonetheless resulted in a record they could all live with. The band's Mick and Keith patched things up for the latest release -- aided no doubt by time spent on separate side projects -- but the recording and mixing dragged on for almost a year. Cunningham says the delay was caused by recording in their own studio for the first time and increased experimentation with layers and textures.

Carpenter spent more time in preproduction working separately with group DJ Frank Delgado. For Deftones, Delgado used a CD turntable to sample Carpenter's guitar riffs and add them back into the final mix. The sound is slightly more aggressive than that of White Pony, and according to Cunningham, it translates better into the live show.

Now that Metallica is said to have lost its edge and Limp Bizkit is a flaccid reincarnation of its former self -- not to mention the fact that so much of today's "metal" is nothing but pop with tattoos and shaved heads -- Cunningham says fans have to dig deeper to find the bands that matter. (Clutch is his personal favorite.) Cunningham believes that musicians should forge new molds using the same fires kindled by the old-school bands.

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