When Deftones recorded its third studio record, “White Pony,” it was a time when it experimented, believed in each other and lived in the moment.
Vocalist Chino Moreno, drummer Abe Cunningham and keyboardist Frank Delgado reflected on the collection’s 20th anniversary during an international teleconference with journalists.
Back to ‘White Pony’s’ beginnings
Moreno says around the end of the 1990s, popular music echoed complaints of life’s dreariness. With “White Pony,” he wanted to escape everyday life in music and not stick to an agenda.
“I think it’s a little liberating to be able to write stuff that is not necessarily attached to (your) personal life,” Moreno says.
He says he was inspired by the band’s sounds and was painting pictures around it with his words. The vibe truly encapsulates that time in their lives. When Moreno listens to the tracks, he returns to being 26 and wild.
“We spent half the time working in Sausalito, living on houseboats out there. Every day was pretty much an adventure,” Moreno says.
During one of these “adventures,” Moreno says he was pulled over for speeding while driving Tool’s Maynard James Keenan to San Francisco for a show they had the next day. Keenan would later be featured on the track “Passenger.”
Another time, Deftones’ rental Jeep rental broke down and was replaced with a yellow Mustang 5.0 convertible.
“It was hideous, but we would drive down Sunset Boulevard to get home every night, and I remember playing ‘Digital Bath’ specifically, bumping it loud in the Mustang with the top down,” Moreno says.
With “White Pony,” Deftones was going for an expansive, drum-forward-sounding record. The band already had the album’s logo, Delgado says, and toured with the “White Pony” backdrop before it wrote anything.
“This record was just embedded in our brains before we even put it down to tape,” Delgado says.
An album of firsts
Delgado wasn’t a full-time member of Deftones when “White Pony” was being written. But by being forthcoming about song ideas, he worked his way in.
“For me, honestly, it was always a learning process trying to find where I fit, especially within songs that were already done,” Delgado says.
The album’s creative process was also a learning process. Deftones got used to leaving spaces in songs instead of having everyone play at once. This allowed “a little hole and space” for him within their sound.
Moreno says he was learning the guitar while one of the first musical pieces was coming to fruition, “Change (In the House of Flies).” He was unsure if he could contribute to the record until guitarist Stephen Carpenter told Moreno if he was going to play at practice, then he was going to play on the record.
Deftones knew they were onto something with “White Pony,” but they weren’t sure until the drums were laid down for “Digital Bath.” Cunningham had custom equipment for when he recorded.
“I had these cans—these headphones—made that were gun silencers. You can actually buy them now, but they were totally isolated,” Cunningham says. “The way it was recorded, it was really sonically bombastic and spacious. … (It was) the first time I remember hearing the way that I wanted us to sound.”
Another first for Deftones happened three weeks before the release of “White Pony.” The album was leaked. Cunningham says they were unfamiliar with the term “leak” back then, but security picked up after to prevent it from happening again.
Re-releasing ‘White Pony’
Moreno confirms Deftones will reissue the record later this year.
“We’re going to do a flipside of the record as well, a remix version of it, entitled ‘Black Stallion,’” he says.
The remixers are those who inspired the record, making it come full circle. The band had this idea 20 years ago, before it started recording. Delgado recalls when he and Moreno cornered DJ Shadow at the Cattle Club, asking him to remix one of their tracks.
“(Shadow asked) ‘Deftones? You guys ska?’” Delgado says. “He’s like, ‘Alright, well send it to me.’ I mean, he was just trying to get rid of us.”
It was kind of crazy of us, Delgado says, considering the band had not written or recorded anything yet. But now, DJ Shadow’s involvement in “Black Stallion” is special.
The release dates for the reissue and remix have not yet been confirmed. Deftones were scheduled to play Arizona Federal Theatre this summer but have postponed its shows due to COVID-19.