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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

When Guitar World catches up with Stephen Carpenter, the Deftones guitarist is gearing up for a busy few months.

The following day, he and the band leave for a few weeks of headline shows across Europe, after which they’ll be back on these shores for a much-anticipated summer package jaunt with Rise Against and Thrice. Those shows in particular are ones that Carpenter is excited for.

“It’s gonna be great, you know?” he says. “We’ve played lots of shows with Rise throughout the years but it’s the first time we’ve actually toured together, so that’ll be fun. And Thrice, my best friend loves those guys. So it’s a nice mix.

As for what people can expect from the Deftones at the shows, he continues, “We don’t ever really have anything particular in mind when it comes to our set lists. The only thing we do really think about and work on is practicing through our old catalog and getting everything back into shape, because there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t played in a long time. So we’ll do some of that along with the new stuff.”

The new stuff, of course, is Deftones’ eighth and most recent album, Gore, which was released last year and has continued the band’s reign as one of metal’s most enticing and enigmatic acts, with Carpenter’s crushing riffs juxtaposed against elements of new wave, post-punk, space-rock and atmospheric sounds.

It’s a stylistic combination that has been there since the Sacramento, California–based band’s beginnings, but that truly came to the fore on their second album, 1997’s Around the Fur. That effort also signaled their mainstream breakthrough, spawning hits in the piledriving opening track, “My Own Summer (Shove It)” and the swirling, shoegaze-tinged “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).”

The diverse record was rounded out by solid alt-metal workouts (“Lhabia,” “Around the Fur”), dark, moody tracks (“Dai the Flu,” “Mascara”) and all-out ragers (“Rickets,” “Headup”), and helped to solidify Deftones’ standing as one of the most creative, adventurous and ferocious new bands on the scene, at the same time laying the groundwork for the even more experimental and critically lauded follow-up, 2000’s White Pony.

And yet, says Carpenter, when Deftones—which at the time also included singer Chino Moreno, drummer Abe Cunningham and now-deceased bassist Chi Cheng (Frank Delgado, who handles keyboards and samples, contributed to the album but was not yet a full-time member of the band)—convened to write and record the songs for Around the Fur, there was no grand plan at work.

Rather, he says, “For us, we were just excited because we were making our sophomore release. Like, ‘We got past the trial phase of the first one and we didn’t get the boot!’ People were still backing us. We weren’t by any means selling records at the level where our label, Maverick, was like, ‘Ah, man, we’re making money on this.’ It wasn’t anything like that. But they were behind us and they helped us to develop by just letting us do our thing.”

On the 20th anniversary of the release of Around the Fur, Carpenter sat down to chat with Guitar World about how, exactly, the Deftones did their thing.

When you look back on that time period for Around the Fur, what most sticks out to you?
That we were just really excited to make it. It was going to be our second record, you know? As a band we were just stoked on the fact that we had made one.

Being that you did have one record [1995’s Adrenaline] under your belt, did you go into the writing sessions for Around the Fur feeling more confident?
I feel like I’m always confident about stuff, so I don’t relate to that. But mostly we were just really pumped. Back then it was like, “Ah, it’s our sophomore record! Wow, man, fuckin’ a!” We went into it more with a feeling of accomplishment than confidence, I think.

You toured a long time on Adrenaline. Did you write the songs for Around the Fur on the road?
Nah. We toured for Adrenaline for about a year, maybe a year and a half. And then around the end of ’96 we got ourselves a warehouse to rehearse in. And we could only rehearse in the evenings because of the other businesses around it. So we finished our touring cycle and then we went in there. We built ourselves a little mini-ramp to skate on and stuff like that. It was like our little playground. And we went in there and jammed out. And it was really just me, Abe and Chino. We ended up doing the song “Dai the Flu” with our friend Dan on bass. He was jamming with us because at the time Chi was living in San Diego. And we had our little beefs with him because of that. He was like, “Ah, I’ll just be an English teacher. I don’t need this rock and roll shit.”

Chi was thinking about becoming a teacher?
Yeah, he was gonna be an English teacher at that time. That was one of the things he was throwing around. But we were just, like, “Get up here!” And he finally did. And we put together about six or seven songs. And then the rest of them we did when we were up in Seattle [at Studio Litho], doing the record with Terry Date. Like “My Own Summer,” for instance, we didn’t have that before we went into the studio. That was born in Seattle. We had actually recorded most of the record at that point in time and Terry was like, “Time to start writing!” And so “Around the Fur” and “My Own Summer” came out of that, and also another song that’s on the b-sides record [2005’s B-Sides & Rarities], “Crenshaw Punch.” “Headup” was another one we did at that point. Max Cavalera came out and we put that one together from his ideas. That was later on in the process.

How did Max come to collaborate with you guys on “Headup”?
It was just our mutual love and adoration for each other and each other’s music. We were huge fans of Sepultura and they were fans of us and we were fortunate to become friends early on. So when that opportunity came up, we took it.

In the chorus of that song Max screams the words soul _ y. Which supposedly led to him naming his post-Sepultura band Soulfly.
Yeah. And unfortunately all that was born out of tragedy [the song was written as a tribute to Cavalera’s stepson, Dana Wells, who was also a friend of Moreno’s and who had been killed in a car accident]. That song was like all of us trying to live through that whole tragedy and make something great.

Muse sometimes play the main riff from “Headup” onstage at their shows.
Yeah. That’s awesome. I’ve heard them do covers of “Bored” [from Adrenaline], too. Way back when we were first starting out and first starting to play in Europe we got to do some festivals with them. Those dudes are fucking rad.

It’s interesting that “My Own Summer” came toward the end of the Around the Fur sessions, given that in many ways it has come to be the defining song on the record—it leads off the album and it was also the first single. How did it come together?
That was just one great, sunny day in Seattle. We had already tracked the bulk of everything that we had, and Terry was like, “All right, you’ve gotta get out there.” And, you know, in true form I’m just procrastinating, smoking bong load after bong load. I thought, I’m just gonna go to a place mentally where I’m not thinking… And that song just popped out.

That’s a good way to do it.
It’s funny because I’ve told people for years it is a good way to do it. You know, marijuana comes with so many dumb fucking stereotypes it’s ridiculous. But they’re just that—stereotypes that actually aren’t actual. I feel that since I’ve been enjoying the marijuana my thought processes and everything have improved. Sometimes I’ll stutter, of course, but that’s my own speech problem. [laughs]


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