Deftones’ Abe Cunningham and Frank Delgado Share Thoughts on New Album + Band’s Longevity
It’s hard to believe Deftones have been together for 27 years. The alt-metal veterans are set to release their eighth studio album this fall, the follow-up to 2012’s Koi No Yokan. Diffuser recently caught up with drummer Abe Cunningham and keyboardist/DJ Frank Delgado in Detroit last week to discuss the new record, their co-headlining tour with Incubus, the band’s longevity and more. Check out our exclusive interview below:
We’ve been hearing bits and pieces about the album, including a fall release date. Is there a title for the record yet?
Frank Delgado: Not yet. That’s our next thing to tackle.
Abe Cunningham: They’re finishing the mixing right now. We’re actually getting mixes sent to us while we’re here.
Is it harder on you when you’re not at the studio while the mixing is going on and you have to do things remotely?
Cunningham: I prefer to be there but you can do almost anything remotely. You can put it on a funky box, you can put it on your phone, maybe your car. You always do that kind of stuff so we can do all these different things we can reference off of too. It’s pretty quick. You can go back and forth if you need any changes.
In a previous interview, you said the band had about 20 songs for the new album, which was the most for a single project. Were you feeling more creative while recording the follow-up to Koi No Yokan?
Delgado: This one was different. This one was a lot of starting and stopping which I think is something we would’ve been scared of before. For the last couple of records, we went in and we started writing and we didn’t stop until we finished the record. This one we took our time and it was a good pace. Everyone needed that break to breathe, to go home to family. Now we’re ready to be able to work like this. It allowed us to think about things longer as opposed to get something done by a deadline.
So there’s no risk of losing inspiration while you take these breaks from writing and recording?
Delgado: We’re actually really good when we get together and find something that’s cool. It’s just a matter of hanging out long enough and waiting for it to happen. You can’t really force it, know what I mean? You can make your environment as comfortable as possible. Sometimes a lot of things come fast and sometimes it doesn’t.
Cunningham: As long as the goal is there with everyone to complete something. Before, it’s kind of typical with any band where you have your allotted time — here’s a month or a month and a half — to be creative even if you’re not. This was a nice way to just have breathers with family and just be normal.
Delgado: And actually we would do shows, go in and write for a coupe of weeks, and then go do a couple of one-offs. We’d go home for a couple of weeks and then go back to the studio for a couple of weeks, a month or whatever.
How does this record represent the evolution of Deftones, or does it call back to previous albums?
Cunningham: I don’t think you can help sounding like yourself and there’s nothing wrong with sounding like yourself. We love sonics and we love the whole spectrum of it. From the very get go our first album had little bits and these things became more prevalent later on in our records, you know? It’s a heavy guitar-based band but with so much more.
Delgado: If the songs come out heavy or if they come out softer, there’s never been any set precedence of what we need to do or what we think is lacking, or what we think people want. It’s literally just trying to make stuff that we like. It’s selfish but that’s kind of what’s been happening.
Diamond Eyes is one of our favorite Deftones album, especially how the tone can go from the title track to a song like “Sextape.” Is it hard to find that balance between the heavy stuff and the more melodic tracks?
Delgado: I think that’s a perfect example. It’s hard for us to pinpoint who you would call a real fan. Just because someone likes “Sextape” more than anything else doesn’t mean they’re not a true fan of what we do. There are different demographics involved with this band, which is really cool. Now there are different age groups which is even cooler. So now we have this spectrum where we can do almost anything. It allows us to be creative and not have to be this rock and roll band that has to play this radio circuit and never be able to try things.
Is it weird when people point out that you’ve been a band for over 25 years?
Cunningham: It’s pretty damn cool to still be in the position that we’re in. We were just talking earlier that we’re still on same record label that we’ve been all these years and that’s pretty unheard of. Warner Bros. is a big thing and they’ve backed us all these years, despite some big changes in the business in that time. They’re still stoked and here we are putting out another record with them.
Chino’s son is in a band now. Would you want your kids experiencing the same lifestyle being on the road?
Cunningham: If they wanted it. They’re more into sports. They love it all — but it’s soccer, soccer, soccer. There was always musical gear around and all the guys in the band are uncles. If they gravitated toward it I would totally back it. They see how it’s taken me away from them. I just want them to be happy. They know it’s a grueling lifestyle.
With the Incubus tour in full swing, is life on the road easier for you guys after all these years, whether it’s because of the experience or new technology?
Delgado: I would say it’s easier, but it’s more comfortable for us now. It’s much easier with your tablets, laptops, your internet with FaceTime and Skyping. But there’s something to be said when we were younger when we didn’t even have phones and we’re halfway around the country. That seemed easy too. I think it’s as easy as you want to make it or as hard as you want it to be. Even when we were having what some would call our “dark days,” when a lot of us were screwed up and a lot of drugs were going around, that’s because we were doing it to ourselves. This is not a hard gig. We’re not digging ditches by any means. We’re enjoying each other and having a good time being creative.
How do you still stay hungry after all the years of success?
Delgado: I haven’t been jaded yet and there’s nothing that I don’t want to be doing out here. It’s a really good time to be in a band right now. The way things are changing it’s an exciting time right now, and it’s also scary. That keeps you hungry, and you want to keep making records, man. You want to make songs, you want to have fun and you want to travel. It does suck being pulled away from family but I think over the years you learn to figure that out.