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Stephen Carpenter
of Deftones

Questions & Answers

December 4, 1996
Chicago, IL

A Interview by
Stu Gotz
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…
Stephen 'Stef' Carpenter
Stephen "Stef" Carpenter

We're talking to Stephen from the Deftones. Let's take a look at my notes here..

STEF: You don't have your notes memorized?

S.G.: No. I'm not that professional.

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.

Photo 2
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 mean?

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, Shut-up."

S.G.: So how did that experience differ from your Pantera and your White Zombie experience?

STEF: I think the difference would be obvious.

S.G.: Let's have it in your words. How was that experience then? Tell me about Pantera and White Zombie.

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 experience.

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.

Stu Gotz and Stef
Stu Gotz and Stef
S.G.: A lot of musical artists have political causes. On what political soapbox do you stand on?

STEF: Fuckin' none. I got no time for politics.

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 music?

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 first car?

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 Juice.

S.G.: Can you finish the following line for me-Never leave home without.....?

STEF: Money.

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?

STEF: Yes.

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 innocent?

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 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.


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