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Monday, July 9, 2007

An Interview With Deftones’ Abe Cunningham

posted by on July 9 at 15:26 PM


I met up with Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham in their tour van before their show at WaMu Theater last night. He was good natured, courteous, and totally stoned.

How’s the tour going so far?
Ugh… It’s been 18 months, it’ll be 19 when we’re finished. It’s been good, bouncing around the world.

Your press release mentioned that the last record almost didn’t get made because of a break-up. This isn’t the last time we’re going to see you in Seattle, is it?
No, we’re getting along probably the best we ever have, we’re actually going to go home from this and start writing the new record.

Do you do much writing on the road?
It’s really tough. We play a couple hours a night, and we spend the next day waiting to get to the next place. A lot of time gets wasted. On this run we did a couple nights in some cities so we had everything set up, so we got to do a little jamming, but it never really seems to work out that well. Stephen, our guitarist, is trying to become a pro golfer. He golfs like every morning. He’s getting pretty good. He’s out with Terry Date, our producer, golfing right now. It’s very difficult for us to write on the road, but we’re gonna do that as soon as we get home.

Did you choose Fall of Troy to come with you? Was that a label thing?
Our manager is sort of managing them. It turned out to be great. We’ve been around for almost 20 years, and these dudes are like 21, talking about how when they were in middle school they used to come see us. Our band has been around almost as long as they’ve been alive. They remind me of us a lot when we first started touring. They get their case of beer and it’s gone in five minutes. They’re a good time.


Was there ever a period of touring that was crazier than the others?
You have your whole life to make your first record. When it came time to make our second record we were so excited. The first record, with a label and a producer, it was all so frightening. But the second record, we recorded it over in Fremont at Litho. Seattle’s kind of our home away from home. We recorded the first album in Seattle, and part of the fourth one…

Did you ever meet a man named Matt Bayles?
Yeah, totally. It’s kind of funny, when we did our second record he was in charge of the studio. I haven’t seen him in a long time, he’s coming out tonight. It’s crazy, a lot of stuff has happened for him since then. Many, many great records. One time when we were making that second record, he was in charge of keeping the studio tight, and Stephen our guitarist dropped a stink bomb outside in the staircase that went into the main living room and Matt fucking flipped out. It became this big thing and he almost pushed Stephen down the stairs. It’s funny now, but it became this story about how, “Matt tried to kill Stephen.” Matt’s pretty mellow too. That was a good era. You were talking about good times, Around the Fur was great, but it got crazy when White Pony came out, there were mysterious white powders, that was the most excess of everything. But that was a long time ago, things are a lot more chill now.

That was when you were touring with a lot of bands that have burnt themselves out now.
Yes. And we were lumped into this… this thing that we had nothing to do with. White Pony was our stance on all of that at the time. All these bands were getting huge, all that screamy metal shit, and then imagine White Pony was like this beautiful horse running free on the plains. That was our (raises fist into the air). But that was the craziest shit ever got.

You said you got lumped into a certain classification. You guys were never a nü-metal band.
We were a metal-based band.

The tour pairings with the other bands, was that a label thing?
(His face sours) What do you want to know?

It seemed like you guys were always putting out better records than Korn or the bands you got lumped in with. Now you guys are still touring and putting out good records and most of those guys are history. It always seemed like you guys were out of place in how you were mashed with those other bands.
I’m glad that we just always did our thing. We were always just four dudes from Sacramento, excited to play the next show. We just wanted to fucking play music, we’d play anywhere. But now that that’s all gone, we’re still just trying to do our thing. It was never really our goal… I mean we sold a certain number of records at a point, nothing compared to what those other bands sold, but that was never our thing. We just wanted to play and make what we thought was good music. All those bands got so successful so quick; we had already been a band for many, many years. We were really figuring out how to be a band while these guys were thrust into making videos on top of huge skyscrapers. That was their whole thing - Korn and Limp Bizkit - that was what they wanted. We didn’t want any of that.

What’s your favorite record that you’ve put out?
Around the Fur was cool because it was just a fucking great time. I like White Pony a lot as a record, and I like the new one too, because it’s new. The first one is really hard for me to listen to. We were all very young, a lot of nervous energy on that record.

As far as the progression of your records, it’s not necessarily softening, but there’s a lot more reverb, and an instrumental track. Do you see that trend continuing onto the next album?
Well, there’s this butting of heads between Stephen and Chino that has been there for a long time, but they’re getting along great. It could really be anything.

Butting heads friend-wise or musically?
Musically. By now we’re far beyond friends, we’re brothers, But it would be unnatural if there wasn’t some confrontation between brothers.

So Chino wants to space it out more and Stephen wants to keep it heavier?
Yeah, but at the same time it’s bullshit because we all love the same music. For Stephen to say he’s the metal dude… he’s so much more than that, and he forgets that too. He wants to keep it hard, but he likes the most limp-wristed stuff in the world.

How much thinking goes into appeasing a certain base of your audience when you start writing a record?
None. At this point, fuck it. Fuck the label, the record business is nothing anymore, we need to make shit that we’re happy with and that’s it. We’ve been in that game for a bit, especially with this last album. Our label wouldn’t give us the money. As soon as the sales started to decline, they were hanging our money, our recording budget in front of our face until they deemed “a hit.” And we’re like, “Fuck you, that’s disgusting.” You know, our first three records we basically wrote, recorded, mixed, mastered and handed them the fucking reels and they never had anything to say, they were like, “Cool.” There was no interference. Which was awesome, especially on a major label… that’s unheard of. And then with the [music industry’s] decline of the last few years, with the last two records we made they were telling us we needed a fucking hit and trying to get us to work with a fucking hit-maker. It’ fucking disgusting. So, fuck them, we’re just going to make a record, and if we have to fund it ourselves, that’s fine.

So where’s the after party?
Pssh. The party’s at the Fall of Troy’s bus.

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The set list for this show rocked. The sound was horrible. Tons of echo, and it was loud as shit. Chino's mic kept going out, and they were charging $8 for a bud-light. I hope they play at the Paramount next time they come though, or maybe the showbox.


Posted by Original Monique | July 9, 2007 7:56 PM

Thanks for this and, thanks for interviewing a drummer (even if it wasn't your choice)!? Tho I don't listen to them that much anymore, I was always annoyed that they were lumped in with all the other crappy nu/rap metal acts.

Posted by Jedd! | July 9, 2007 7:58 PM

I'm glad these guys are still around. I still throw on their records every now and again. But also like #1 said, I hope next time they come back they play at a place with good sound.... WaMu Theatre was the reason I didn't go see them this time. Last time I saw them at the Paramount the sound was great.

Posted by bunnypuncher | July 10, 2007 2:04 AM

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