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Alt-metal, experimental rock, nu-metal, post-grunge — whatever you call the Deftones, it won't be right. They set the bar for intertwining different styles more than two decades before the trend blew up: the name alone derives from the hip-hop term "def," and the popular "tones" suffix used by 1950s and '60s bands.
Since 1989, the Deftones have written six albums, with two going platinum (Adrenaline, White Pony) and two going gold (Around the Fur, Deftones). Their newest album, 2010's Diamond Eyes, was dubbed Rock Album of the Year by iTunes. And they'll be playing a variety of favorites from their catalog at their show in Mesa this week.
"I don't want to give anything away about the Phoenix show," bassist Sergio Vega says, "but we're really excited to play all the favorites — not just the newest album. The tour has been fun. We've seen so much territory in a short amount of time. People are more alike than different, really. It's great seeing their commonalities in differing regions, having a good time at our shows."
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Despite Deftones' long history, a new era of younger fans is arriving, pulled in by Diamond Eyes. They will learn soon enough that the band has always been known for absorbing dreamy atmospherics into spine-tingling metal, seamlessly stitching together pockets of shadows and light. Singer Chino Moreno's shifts from whispers to screams, Vega's rumbling bass lines, Stephen Carpenter's electrifying guitar textures, and keyboardist/turntablist Frank Delgado's haunting, crackling melodies have kept the band's music consistent over the years.
For the band, Diamond Eyes is one of those triumphs, and one of the more natural and organic albums they've written. It was also the first album recorded without bassist Chi Cheng, who remains in a semi-conscious state from a 2008 car accident. Influenced by the New York hardcore scene and British punk bands, Sergio Vega, former bassist of Quicksand who became friends with the band on the 1997 Warped Tour, was the Deftones' pick to fill in for Cheng the past two years.
Diamond Eyes was released around the time SB 1070 caused an uproar. Bands from all over boycotted Arizona venues, much to thousands of fans' dismay. With Deftones members being of Mexican-American and Puerto Rican heritage, what was their take on the whole situation?
"You know, we did consider it . . . but then felt like this project wasn't the platform for that, considering all the complexities of the situation," Vega says. "At the end of the day, it's really about going out there and playing, addressing the issue at a personal level. I understand the need to act, but we felt in no way playing in Arizona would display us backing that policy."
While the June 9 show is sure to be a powerful production (the equally ferocious Dillinger Escape Plan are also on the bill), the Deftones aren't slowing down anytime soon. The band doesn't write music conceptually; it runs off a spark set from a drumbeat or a jam session, where members pick up on the same fiery charge.
"I think that's the thing that really unites the Deftones albums. They are sonically different and all unique. But there's this commonality in the songs that gets the band excited; they came together with such an energy that allowed the songs to develop," Vega says. "When people are feeling the music at shows . . . it keeps this kineticism, and you wanna apply it to something else. And you know, that will be another body of material at some point. We'll transfer the energy and start jamming."