How Deftones Survived and Evolved Past Their Nu-Metal Brethren

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While other bands at the time may have had more fans, sold more albums, or spent more time on television, time has proven what many of us suspected at the time: Deftones were the best band to come out of the nu-metal scene of the late '90s.

They may not have played arenas like Korn, sold a million records in a week like Limp Bizkit, or once topped TRL like P.O.D., but they did do something more important: they wrote the best songs.

While many of the bands from that era have been reduced to trend-hopping (Korn going dubstep), tabloid fodder, or playing the Scout Bar circuit, Deftones roll into town Saturday night to play a sold-out show at Bayou Music Center. They may not be the last band standing, but they are the ones that have aged the best.

One could point to many reasons for why they've managed to remain popular into the '10s, but for the band it's actually very simple.

"It's the live show," says keyboardist/turntablist/sampler Frank Delgado. "We're a touring band. I think we put on a really good show."

The band is on the road in support of their most recent record, last year's Koi No Yokan, a record that finds the band continuing to evolve after what many said was a return to form with 2010's Diamond Eyes. The new songs are "dynamic," which is to say longer and more experimental, with new emphasis on intros and background textures.

According to Delgado, this kind of evolution isn't something the band talked about beforehand.

"We kind of just put ourselves in a room and gravitate to something that one person is doing that is cool and try and make it cooler," he says. "We're always trying to complement each other."

The new album brings new challenges when it comes to touring. Delgado, talking to us on the eve of tour rehearsal, concedes that putting together a set list isn't exactly what it used to be.

"It's not the easiest squeezing down seven records in to an hour and a half time frame," he says. "We've only played about four of the new songs live. It was good -- the feedback was amazing."

This new emphasis on layers and textures in the music finds Delgado in an interesting position when it comes to playing live. While many bands of the era had DJs as part of their group, very few of them did anything interesting with them. For most the DJ was there to lay down a few scratches when the guitar player couldn't think of anything to play or run a drum loop on the slower tracks.

For Delgado playing live means playing an instrument and being a full member of the group, even if he has to get creative about it.

"There's a kinetic energy that comes with playing live," he explains. "I've always tried to be in the band and be the person that played along. Even if I just spread the samples across a keyboard I'm still playing it, instead of just playing along to a click track with Pro Tools in the background."

Even with the sold-out shows and new album, Deftones are still a band that released its first album 18 years ago. For many fans who have spent more than a decade following them, there's a question of just how long the band will stay together.

When asked if the band talks about the future or if they just take things on day at a time, Delgado gives an answer that should be reassuring to fans.

"It's kind of one day at a time," he says. "We're all enjoying each other's company, so however long that can last it's gonna work for us."

Deftones play with Periphery Saturday at Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

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