For many Australians, our introduction to celebrated alt-metal act Deftones was watching a peroxide blonde-tipped Chino Moreno rip out a heartbreaking rendition of ‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)’ with his three very passionate and very jet-lagged bandmates on an early morning edition of the Recovery TV program.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the frosted tips, frantic headbanging and riffage was the maddened pounding of drummer Abe Cunningham; an image of pure aggression and dedication to performance.
“Midnight Oil played the other half of that – I remember it vividly!” he exclaims when it’s brought up to him ahead of the band’s upcoming Download Festival visit.
“What an amazing time that was! Midnight Oil was just amazing.”
Adoration of one of Australia’s most iconic pub rock bands might sound surprising from a musician that was in the centre of the late-90’s nu metal whirlwind. But even the casual observer can pick Deftones as the anomaly from the dreadlocked, 3-quarter-length short wearing bro squad of that era.
“It’s funny. All things come back around again”, reflects Cunningham. “We were right in the middle of it all – I mean we started in 1988, which is absolutely insane, but we really were at the genesis of it, and everything comes back if you wait long enough.”
“It’s human nature to want to categorise, drop something in a box and label it. But we’ve always been us. I don’t have a problem with being categorised like that, but we’re all about that stuff coming back too!”
The cyclical nature of trends certainly seems to have given the band a fresh chance to strut their stuff on some of the biggest stages in the world – and what better time to do that than with a new record in tow, something that was only officially announced recently by frontman Chino Moreno.
“The record – it’s got a White Pony and Around the Fur element, but you can’t help that, you know?” says Cunningham about the new offering. “No one comes in with complete songs. We just go at it, sometimes nothing happens…but we love it!”
With four years between drinks (their last record being 2016’s celebrated Gore), fans are understandably chomping at the bit to see what new ways the band can explore their corner of the sonic world. With a huge amount of side projects and composing happening outside of the band, there’s never a chance that the group will lose their knack for crafting quality music. However, as far as Deftones itself is concerned, the 20’s are kicking off more refreshed than ever.
“This time around we actually decided to take a year off. We made a real concentrated effort to just spend some time away from the band”, reveals Cunningham.
“There’s a chance that people can forget, lose interest, we’re older guys…”
“We’ve been in that cycle of writing, recording, touring…I didn’t even realise that our last record was four years ago!”
“Suddenly, one year turned into two years…we played a few shows here and there, to keep the juices going and have some income, but we had some great writing sessions over that time too.”
With the culture around the industry changing dramatically since the band’s inception, we put it to Cunningham if actually stepping back from duties was a frightening concept, given the hustle culture of the game.
“We’ve been at it for quite some time – in this day and age as well, people’s attention spans, getting it and keeping it, everything is so rapid. There’s a chance that people can forget, lose interest, we’re older guys…never count your chickens, you know?” he says.
“We’re really grateful to still be able to do this. Its a trip because there’s so much coming at you at all times. But it was so important for us just to take some time off, just to be human.”
“Sometimes I have to vacuum my house just to feel normal – but there’s definitely a rejuvenated sense of good times.”
You can never underestimate the power of just doing household chores it seems; especially if it’s what fires you up to get back on the circuit harder than ever before.
“I’m excited. It’s been awhile”, he says. Of course, Cunningham isn’t the only one.
Deftones will hit Australia next month for the Download Festival.
DEFTONES AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2020
Wednesday, 18th March
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane
Friday, 20th March
Download Festival at Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne
Saturday, 21st March
Download Festival at The Domain, Sydney
Monday, 23rd March
Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide