I first met Stephen Carpenter of Deftones after a KISS
show here in Chicago. He was just hanging outside his tour bus while
Chino was on a tirade spouting out about what rock and roll really
is all about. Wedge, Deftones tour manager, was also hot and
vociferous about the treatment they received from KISS. There were
all these people standing around bitching and amid them all stood
Stef just chilling out with some bottled water and not saying much.
I struck up a short conversation with him and thought him to be the
shy and quiet type. I guess he was just tired then because when
Deftones came back through Chicago, about a month later, Stef had
lots to say…
December 4, 1996
|Stephen "Stef" Carpenter
S.G.: We're talking to Stephen from
the Deftones. Let's take a look at my notes here..
STEF: You don't have your notes
S.G.: No. I'm not that
STEF: Oh no.
S.G.: I know this is a cliché of
a question but I gotta ask it… Tell us about the name Deftones?
How did you guys come up with that?
STEF: It pretty much came out of
nowhere. I was just at work one day and thought of it and that it
was cool, that's about it really.
S.G.: So, it just came off the
top of your head?
STEF: Well…, like, its got a
story, but I mean it's not that big a deal.
S.G.: Nothing profound?
STEF: It all depends on how you
wanna look at it. Like one day, I was at work. I used to work at a
pizza place and I rolled the dough basically and so, I was all off
by myself all the time, right, and had my headphones on and I'd just
be rockin' out. But I listen to everything. I listen to a lot of
rap, rock, R&B, you know, rap, I said rap twice didn't I?
S.G.: Yeah you did.
STEF: I listened to a lot of rap at
the time, but, I always imagined being in a band but I could never
pick out a name. I was like, "how do bands just pick their
names?" You know, some bands, you got these metal bands that
try to make their name all ugly and whatever. I wanted to pick a
cool name, something that would just stand out but you know, not be
all cheese-ball at the same time… Well, I was really into old
classic music, like from the 50's and shit like that…. I was like,
"Tones," you know there's a lot of bands from that era
that has "The Tones" in it. And "Def," just cuz
I listen to a lot of LL COOL J, Public Enemy, you know, like Def Jam
and all that. Then I thought, "Deftones," that would be
kinda cool. Def would be mean "cool" and Tones would be
like… the sound of the old days but being vague… cuz we didn't
do just one kind of music. It was pretty heavy, but it has never
been focused on one particular style of music.
S.G.: Well, going along with that,
some people, I've read, have classified your music as kinda being
thrash and others just don't know how to describe it. What would you
say the Deftones are?
STEF: I just say - We're us. I mean,
the bottom line is it's metal, cuz it's heavy but, it's not. I can't
even say it's not typical metal cuz you know it's typical metal for
where we're at in our point in time. As far as I consider, when most
people are afraid of being metal cuz they don't wanna be compared to
all the so-called metal bands of the 80's, like Metallica, Anthrax
and Slayer…that's what metal is as far as I'm concerned. I mean,
there was hard rock and has progressed up into that - that's the way
I always viewed metal… It's so diverse now, it's not just solid
metal anymore. Not even Pantera is just metal. They're the heaviest
band on the planet but they're not straight metal, you know what I
S.G.: All right, going back to
the cliché questions, how did you guys get together as a band?
STEF: We all just knew each other
from growing up really, that's about it. We just all used to jam
together. It was never like, "Hey, let's make a band." We
all used to play and we became a band really. It just happened.
S.G.: The last time I saw you was
back in October. You were here in Chicago and were opening up for
KISS. Care to share any stories about that whole tour?
STEF: Yeah, it sucked.
S.G.: Why so?
STEF: I mean, we were playing for
people who weren't even in our own generation… there were fans of
ours that were out there and they were great cuz they knew what they
were coming for… but the majority, they had no idea who we were -
they had no reason to even care who we were. They came to see the
explosions and the lights and Gene spit blood and it wasn't like,
let's go check out the opening act, you know what I mean. They were
paying hundreds of dollars to see KISS, let's go see KISS.
You know, Chicago stands out because it was our last show and at
no show did we ever got booed and we did that night. We got fuckin
booed! I was like - these people are so hard. I couldn't even
believe it. I think they were doin' it just to see if they could
rile us up and we were crackin' up. I remember Chino was talking a
hell of a lot of shit and called them all "Sorries" and it
was beautiful because we'd go up there and he'd be like telling the
audience "Hey, were KISS' favorite band, you better fuckin' act
like you like us so they don't get mad." And people would be
like, "YEAH!" - they'd be trippin'… shows like that we'd
always do like, REO Speedwagon, you know what I mean. It's the only
thing these mother fuckin' people even know. I mean, they're not
going to recognize us. Yeah, let's play something new…, they'd be
"YEAH!" They're all happy and I'm like, "Yeah,
S.G.: So how did that experience
differ from your Pantera and your White Zombie experience?
STEF: I think the difference would
S.G.: Let's have it in your
words. How was that experience then? Tell me about Pantera and White
STEF: That's my best experience
ever. I love Pantera, not just as a band musically. You know what I
mean, but just as people. They're all just great people and fun to
be around -full of life and not like - "Oh, I hate this shit…,"
they're having a good time and livin it up, you can't go wrong
there. It was a blast. We had a blast every day.
S.G.: Well, definitely a better
STEF: It was just more exciting.
Musically, it was more fun to hear them play than it was to hear
KISS. I loved KISS, that was my favorite band when I was a kid. I
don't think anybody didn't like KISS when they were kids. But, I
mean, I don't listen to KISS now, ever… I watched them every night
on that tour, except for Chicago because I was hangin' out with
everybody... But like, I only had a few highlights from that whole
show that I wanted to see and that was like, "Black
Diamond," cuz that was like, my all time favorite KISS song and
it was just, every night, that song was sweet. And then it was great
watching Ace and Gene do their solos.
S.G.: A lot of musical artists have
political causes. On what political soapbox do you stand on?
|Stu Gotz and Stef
STEF: Fuckin' none. I got no time
S.G.: How about the members of
the band? Anybody?
STEF: Nah, we don't got no political
views that we need to even convey across in our music. That's for
clowns. Let people fuckin' have a good time - they get pummeled
enough by TV and the news - they don't need some band that they
fuckin' like, or their music telling them how to live their fuckin'
lives. You know what I mean. I'm not saying people can't do that cuz
obviously people have their right to do what they want, but I think
that shit should be left at home. …but when you write music it
should be about fun, you know, things that are fun, things you like,
happiness, sadness, but you don't have to be like, pound your
opinion on other people because the reality is kids hear their shit
from their favorite bands and they're like, "Oh, I better go
out and do this,"…just cuz the band is doing it. If anything…
it should be people teaching people how to be their own individual
selves, how to make choices for their own and I'm sure in a
round-about way, that's what they're trying to say, but when it
comes to politics, you know bands do it - I don't need to name
names. But, they're out there and it's not interesting for me. It
ruins the music for me. I don't like it.
S.G.: Now, as far as the politics
of music, not necessarily the government politics but as an
industry, I understand that the music industry is getting very
political these days. Did you have to do a lot of ass kissing to get
where you're at today?
STEF: No. I think it's not so much
ass kissing. I know what you're saying. There is definitely people
out there who kiss some ass. Like, as far as, you do favors for
people if you want something, you could help somebody out, but its
gonna come around and you don't even have to do things to get people
to do it. If you just do cool stuff, people come back and it comes
back around later on, you know, you're just nice and it always come
back around basically.
S.G.: OK, going back to record
labels, I have a little scenario here for you. Lets say a record
label or whoever is having a big party just for you guys - The
Deftones. You're there, just hanging, when some big stuffed shirt
walks up to you out of the crowd, doesn't recognize you and he
starts asking you questions like: "Oh yeah, those crazy
Deftones, what do you think about them?" How would you respond
to a question like that?
STEF: I'd say "They rule man,
go buy their records" Ha-Ha. (laughs)
S.G.: I've read through some of
your press releases. You guys did a couple of songs that showed up
on movie soundtracks. One was "Crow II-City of Angels,"
and another from "Escape From LA." Did you get a chance to
see those movies, and were they the right kind of movies for your
STEF: "The Crow" music, I
saw that movie and that was definitely right for the song. I mean
the song was good in the movie. "The Crow" is really based
around music… the soundtrack made the movie just that much better,
you know. "Escape from LA"… I never even seen
"Escape from New York" all the way through myself…. I've
seen commercials for "Escape from LA" and it seemed down
right cheesy. I didn't even want to go see that movie.
S.G.: I know I grew up idolizing
rock stars and wanted to be a rock star myself. What are some down
sides of being in the music scene that people wouldn't think about?
STEF: Without making it sound like a
complaint, cuz it's not, I mean, the only down side that I can say
is that the more popular you get, as far as the public knows, the
less respect they have for you as a human, as a person. … You know
what I mean. If you start making things happen in your own life
without being in a band, nobody would say anything. But if you're in
a band and you start making things happen, you know, people start
thinking you're a rock star and they forget that you're a person.
And you get that label. Once people say that you're a rock star,
even if you ask for just a little thing here and there, it's like,
"OK rock star, blah blah blah." I personally listen to it
and laugh at them and say "whatever."
But, the biggest misconception with the whole thing is that
people tend to forget that people out here are real people doing
this. People can't really understand unless you live it. It's not
like you go to your job every day, you come in, you work and you
hang out with everybody. You're all employees and stuff like that
and you're all friends but you're at a job so you don't think much
of it. Out here, everybody thinks it's a big party and for the most
part, a lot of it is a good time - you should be having good times
and partying as much as you can, but, every day is still a job and
there are things that have to get done every day. You know, there's
deadlines to meet, there's all kinds of things that people don't
see. They just see the band on stage, they just see the band on TV,
or they hear them on the radio. They don't know about everything
else that goes on behind it, you know. That's the biggest downside
for me, I mean I have no complaints at all other than I wish that
people would understand that, and I know they can't, and for the
most part, most won't ever understand that, so it's not like it's a
complaint, it's just an observation of it all. I can deal with it.
If anyone wants to call me a rock star cuz I want or do whatever I
want, you know, I'm totally fine with that because I would do it
even if I wasn't in a band and I don't care what people say about me
in that way. I'm sure there's people that think that, and anyone
that knows me, knows I'm not, so it's people that don't know you
that would give you those kind of labels, and I don't really worry
about that too much. I love the whole thing, everything about this,
the traveling, the playing, the getting up, I love doin' all the
interviews, I love doin' everything about it - I've got no
complaints. The only time I complain is when I gotta go home, It's
like "NOOOO!." But I mean it's great - it just gives you
time to get something else done. Years ago I would never have been
focused. This has helped me be focused on a lot of stuff, see things
that I would have never saw, like different opportunities for
everything. Things you can take and do with your life.
S.G.: How has this whole
experience changed? I mean how long have you been on the road first
of all, and prior to that, compare yourself to now and then, what
are the big changes in your life, do you think?
STEF: Well, like I said, the big
changes in my life are just my mental outlook on everything. I've
become a more positive person than when I was younger, years ago.
It's made me realize that,… when you don't deal with your bad
stuff when it happens, it just gets worse so it makes you handle
problems and I just got more control of myself. You know what I
mean. I can see where I want to go - I know all the different
avenues I want to explore and that's why I said I hate going home
cuz I love doing this, but when I go home, going home gives me the
time and space to explore the other avenues that I want to do. It's
good. There's just so many things that I wanna do. It's like I could
start forty things at once but I'm gonna be creeping along at every
one of them so I'm just trying to focus on one or two things here
and get those things going so I could have that stuff going and
maybe branch off to do another thing. It's not so much even music,
more or less, it's just, like, musically, I love doin' what I'm doin'
in this band. I love to jam with other people…, but I just want to
get into art and stuff like that. Not like paintings. Like graphic
arts, stuff like that.
S.G.: Pardon me while I grab a
list I here… Some people E-mailed questions, just in general, and
some of the people from our staff came up with these goofy
questions, so forgive me if they're a little stupid. I didn't
necessarily write them. (pause) What do you remember most about your
STEF: I never had a car, ever. I
ride a bike when I get home. I ride the bus, get a ride from
friends, or ride my bike or skate. I never owned my own car, never
even thought about having my own car. I still don't to this day. I
have no need for one. Maybe one day I'll get one.
S.G.: Are you more of a club, pub
or bar person?
STEF: I'd rather hang out, like, in
a small bar and shoot some pool.
S.G.: So, when you're hangin'
out, what's your drink of choice?
STEF: Captain Morgan and Orange
S.G.: Can you finish the
following line for me-Never leave home without.....?
S.G.: Here's a question that was
E-mailed to our advice column. We had two people answer this on
staff but lets get your answer to this. Is it OK to lie to someone
that you love, in order to avoid hurting their feelings?
S.G.: Wanna expand on that?
STEF: There's a lot of people in
life that can't handle the truth. You know? It doesn't mean they
might not be able to ever, but sometimes you don't need to tell the
truth all the time. I mean, it's great, telling the truth is a great
thing, and maybe you should tell the truth. Maybe a person who
couldn't handle the truth, maybe they should get it, that way so
they can learn to deal with it. I don't know. Everybody lies and for
anyone to think that they don't is insane. To live in a truthful
world is a big wish. I myself am too honest. I tell the truth almost
all the time - so much, it drives me crazy. It drives me crazy
because I know so many people around me don't and it's like, it
kinda gets in the way of communications as far as I'm concerned, you
know, cuz sometimes I don't wanna deal with people because I don't
wanna have to deal with lies and when I do deal with lies… it bums
me out. But I mean, I'll lie. I've lied before. I think why it bums
me out is because when I was younger, a child, not like a kid but a
teenager, I went through a phase where I lied about everything I did
so I wouldn't get in trouble all the time. I learned how to lie so I
would never get in trouble, and no matter how much I lied I always
got in trouble. I kept getting in trouble then I was like,
"Fuck, I need to just start busting loose and giving out the
truth cuz I mean, I've got nothing to lose." I'm fuckin'
getting everything taken away so I just changed. I eventually got
rid of most of my bad habits of lying. I have, on occasion, slipped
out and got a good lie in there, but it's for more entertainment
value than like anything that has to do with my life.
S.G.: All right. O.J., guilty or
STEF: I used to think he's innocent,
but I don't really know. I really think both, I think he coulda did
it, but don't think he really did cuz, well you know, we could
debate about that forever too.
S.G.: All right, fair enough.
Your last question here… Tonight is your (the Deftones were the
headliner) show, do you have anything special planned now that
you're headlining, making any changes to your set, doing anything
special just for yourselves?
STEF: You know, I don't think we
have anything special just for the fact that in the past two years
we've never had time to sit and practice - we've never had time to
create anything. Pretty much were going to go play our set, have a
good time with people and just get everybody juiced up with us, you
know. That's about it. We got a lot of stuff we want to do but we
need to actually sit down and try it all out. When we come back out
next year, it's gonna be just so much more fun - we'll have so many
things that we'll try and we could add to the set and just make it
more entertaining. I think it's entertaining enough now but, I just
want to take it up another level.
S.G.: Great, thank you very much
for your time.
STEF: You know, if you want, you can
print our E-mail address for people if they ever want to ask us that
too. They can ask me that direct cuz I answer all of our E-mail.
S.G.: What's your address?
STEF: It's firstname.lastname@example.org and I
get all the E-mail. On the road I'm kinda slow getting back to
people cuz I don't get a chance to plug in very often but when I'm
at home, I'm on and answer all the time.
S.G.: You have a page set up or
is that just for E-mail?
STEF: Just for E-mail. Anything
people want to know or just say comments, questions suggestions,
whatever. You know, someone will want to call in, write in, talk
some shit. I love it, I'll talk some shit right back.
S.G.: Thanks for your time.