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Stephen Carpenter Looks Back on Deftones' Breakthrough Album, 'Around the Fur'

Stephen Carpenter Looks Back on Deftones' Breakthrough Album, 'Around the Fur' Deftones' Stephen Carpenter (left) and Chino Moreno perform in 1996

There’s a hidden track after the final song, “MX,” that is essentially nothing more than what sounds like a huge bong hit on an answering machine.
Yeah. That’s what I was doing back then. The big Zong bong. It wasn’t really big, probably a foot long. A nice little good-sized bong. But, yeah, I was doing bong rips all the time. That was the best.

Was that your actual answering machine message?
That was the answering machine we had at the apartment where we lived when we were making the record. If you would’ve rung our bell on the panel you would’ve gotten that message. [laughs]

So you guys were all living together at that time?
Yeah. We were all living together and Chi was living with his wife.

What was the Deftones’ apartment like?
Three bedrooms. Actually, it wasn’t even three bedrooms. Abe and Chino shared a room and I had a room.

How’d you manage to get your own room?
Don’t know. [laughs] First dibs, I guess!

You worked with Terry Date on Around the Fur—he produced your first four albums. What did he bring to the Deftones sound?
The obvious thing is his engineering ability and talent. And you know, our relationship, the way we all worked with each other, Terry really left us to our own. He didn’t ignore us or anything like that but he allowed us to make our own decisions and decide for ourselves what we wanted to do musically. But if he had something he wanted to say or something he felt strongly about he definitely spoke up. But Terry was rad and he still is rad. I was just saying this the other day—I would work with Terry forever. I didn’t have no problem with him whatsoever. He’s fucking rad.

What gear did you use on Around the Fur?
I had my ESP signature model, and back then I was using Seymour Duncan pickups. I had JBs installed in my guitars. My amps, I was using the ADA MP-1 preamp and a Marshall 9200 power amp. That was the first time I switched to a power amp; previously I was using two separate Marshall heads—two 100-watt JCM 800s.

Was this right around the time your ESP signature model came out?
Yup. I don’t know if it was actually official at that point. I believe it was. But the model was the same before I had the signature and after.

What effects were you using in the studio?
I had a Rocktron Intellifex, and I also had some pedals on a shelf in my rack—a Boss octave pedal, a reverb pedal and the Hyper Fuzz pedal. I still use that Hyper Fuzz sound to this day. And that was it. Then I got the rest of the effects, all the delays and stuff like that, out of the Rocktron unit.

When Adrenaline first came out Def-tones were lumped into the nu-metal scene. But with Around the Fur you started to separate yourselves from those bands. Was that intentional?
Well, we definitely always wanted to be identified for ourselves and not for being part of some type of scene. Mostly when it came to the whole nu-metal tag I think we all just kind of laughed at that. Like, “Nu-metal, what the hell is that?” You know, before all that, in the very beginning, we got all the comparisons to Rage Against the Machine and Korn. And it was, like, “Oh, man, I love both those bands but we don’t sound like them.”

Other than the fact that, you know, Chino had dreads and that’s kind of related to both bands. If anything, I would say he had a rap style but he never really rapped. So I didn’t make the comparisons that everyone else was making. I just felt, you know, if that makes you feel good, go for it.

At that time, you talked a lot about listening to decidedly non-metal bands like Depeche Mode.
I’ve always loved Depeche Mode, but at that time, that was when the Ultra record came out and I had that thing on 24-hour repeat. I just put it on at the house and it never shut off. So specifically at that moment in time I was definitely engulfed in Depeche Mode. It would have been impossible for me to not talk about them. But I think metalheads always want to be identified as metalheads. So if you talk about anything else you’re, like, scratching their metal armor or something like that. But human beings love all kinds of music. To get stuck in one kind and one kind only, that’s insane to me.

Did it feel like you guys were pushing the boundaries of metal at that time?
No, because I think the dynamics of that sound, we always had that. It was just that our equipment was getting better, we had been doing it longer and we were getting more creative. But it wasn’t anything conscious. If anything, it was just that everyone was pumped. Everyone was excited. A.K.A. livin’ the dream! [laughs]

In past interviews Chino has talked about a certain amount of drug use and partying coming into the picture after your next album, White Pony. Was that element there at all in the Around the Fur days?
I don’t know about the drugs. I was just smoking pot and at the time I was still drinking. I felt like all that was pretty much the bulk of everything that was going on then. But, yeah, I mean, it was wild times. You could get liquored up and act a straight-up fool. You don’t need drugs to be a fool. [laughs]

You can do that all on your own.
Yeah. The story of “dumb” is so long it would just be a whole other conversation! The story of dumb is literally the only global pandemic that has happened that no one talks about.

It’s a story that needs to be told.
Oh, it’ll be told! It’s just a question of if the people who are being talked about in the story will understand. [laughs]

The photo on the cover of Around the Fur was taken at a party, correct?
Yeah. It was just all of us hanging out one night in the pool of the apartment building where we lived. My thing about each one of our albums is that they’re simply snapshots in time. And that cover is a representation of that time—that period making that record. You go to a party and everyone’s snapping pictures and you just get those moments. And that photo takes you back to that period in time. There’s no fancy reason for why it was used or anything like that. It just stood out for whatever reason.

Once Around the Fur was released, the video for “My Own Summer” was all over MTV and the band really started to take o. . Did it feel like things got big for you guys?
Well, I don’t know if I felt like we got tons of MTV play but we definitely got out there. Where we felt the difference was by going out and building these audiences from the ground up in these clubs. We’d done shows where there was nobody there, and each time we’d come back, another group of people would show up. We just kept building it up and building it up. It was constant touring and meeting people everywhere and seeing them come back again and again. That’s what we noticed.

You have a summer tour with Rise Against and Thrice coming up, and your most recent album, Gore, came out only a little more than a year ago. That said, has there been any talk of work on a new Deftones album?
There’s no official timeframe, but I’ve already started working on ideas. And Sergio [current bassist Sergio Vega] has been working on stuff, and I imagine Chino’s been working on stuff. We’ve been exchanging little bits here and there. So at the earliest, if we somehow managed to pull off some crazy miracle, there could be something that happens at the end of this year. But I definitely wouldn’t hold my breath for that. [laughs] You might not make it to next year!

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