May 12, 2016 Interview – Abe Cunningham of Deftones
Change is a part of life. For better or worse, it is the unstoppable thrust forward we all most face, like it or not. Those who are open to such ideas have stuck around for the wild musical journey that Alternative Metal outfit Deftones has taken them on since the band’s 1995 debut, Adrenaline. Becoming one of the most widely respected bands around the Rock music world, selling an over ten million albums, Deftones have accomplished such feats, all while continuing to evolve with their music.
An evolution which has seen the band unite atmospherics elements with heavier textures, as heard on records such as 2000’s White Pony, the ever-morphing Deftones do so again with 2016’s Gore. A landmark for the band, Gore was considered one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, and since the April 8th release, it has failed to disappoint. Recently we sat down with Drummer Abe Cunningham to speak about the history of the band, their dedication to progression, being a family, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Deftones’ journey began nearly three decades ago, and in that time the band has established themselves as one of elite forces in Alternative Metal. Through the twists and turns, what has this incredible ride been like?
Abe Cunningham – That is a fantastic question. The fact that it has been almost 30 years is absolutely insane, it doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s been an amazing journey. As cliched as it sounds, you hop on a roller coaster and you hop on for the ride of your life. I am still hung up on the idea that it has been near 30 years, it blows my mind. Now we are getting ready to embark on another journey. I think we are very appreciative of where we are at. In this day in age, to have a grasp and to still able to do what we do, it is an absolutely dream. It is a pretty unique situation and we are appreciative of where we are at.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. It is great that you still put things into the right perspective. One of the most distinctive factors about Deftones is the band does not pigeonhole themselves into one style. Each record is different from the other and the band is constantly evolving. How important is it to the band to have that freedom to grow?
Abe Cunningham – I believe it is everything. I am sure that is why we are still here to this day. Even from our first album, Adrenaline, there were little hints of what we wanted to try. On the second record, Around the Fur, we spread a bit more and explored different things we wanted to present as well as incorporate into our music. By White Pony, I think that is the first time we really did it. In terms of incorporating all these textures and sounds. To me, it was pretty representation and well-balanced all the way through. The record still flowed but it had all these different things. It wasn’t contrived. That was our first example of actually doing it and mixing everything in.
After all these years, I know we have upset and pissed some off, but only a few. Of course, you can’t make everyone happy, but you can certainly try. We never wanted to piss anyone off intentionally, but we needed to keep it exciting for ourselves too. Thankfully, the majority of the people that were there with us from the beginning have grown with us and accepted that we didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I think that is why we are still here.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed. You can not please everyone. As an artist, you also have to follow your creative instincts. The band’s latest record, Gore, is further proof of the band’s growth. Many of the songs have an experimental quality to them that is quite refreshing. What was the writing and recording process like for the album?
Abe Cunningham – Once again, we tried something new. We appreciate each other and the time we spend together. All the way, we still have a really amazing time together, and that is a plus. This time we tried something different as far as writing. We broke it into chunks of time rather than here is your month or two months and go write a record. That can work sometimes, but it can also not work sometimes. This time around, we broke it up into a couple of weeks here and maybe book a week of shows after that. We played a little bit, kept the juices going side of things and also earning a living while we were doing this. Also, followed by a week at home and then back to writing.
That trio of chunks of time is something we tried this time around and it was new. It took longer to get everything done obviously because we were breaking the time up. It was just a nice way to go about things and something we had not tried. The quest is balance, it has been forever. I think in doing so this time, we were able to still be home and be normal, but also be creative. That was a nice way to go about things. Of course there is bickering and all that stuff, but that is brothers, that is family.
CrypticRock.com – Right. As you said, that is family. Seeing yourself, Chino, and Stephen have been the core of Deftones since the beginning, would you consider yourself family and what has been the key to the band’s chemistry?
Abe Cunningham – Obviously finding the right people from the get go. We had no idea, we were just brought together somehow. That is a tremendously powerful thing, to love who you are doing it with. I think having lived with all the BS and the per-verbal roller coaster ride I mentioned before, having been able to make it through, and come out on the other side of things. All that Rock-n-Roll cliched stuff, making it through to the other side, appreciating each other, and what we created, it is something to take pride in and respect. I think it is having a little more time on Earth has allowed us to mellow out, take a look at things, and really put them into perspective. I don’t think there is any recipe. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I think, it is the fact that we had this unified goal, and still doing it.
CrypticRock.com – As you get older you learn to look at things differently. That is just experience of life. You take a step back and put it all into perspective.
Abe Cunningham – Very much so. Hopefully your bandmates have the same trajectory. We have all had our moments. That being said, having lived through it all, and to have everyone back on the same page again, that is a beautiful thing.
CrypticRock.com – Atmosphere is so important when it comes to the effectiveness of music. That is something Deftones has excelled at over the years. The atmosphere of Gore is rather diverse, with many different moods explored. Was it as much of a rollercoaster ride for you emotionally, creating these tracks, as it is for listeners?
Abe Cunningham – Yes, sometimes. Much has been said about the tension in the band over the years. That, like I said, is part of being brothers and being a family. This was certainly a roller coaster ride, making this thing. As I was saying, the goal has always been the same. No matter what happens. We have five people with five very strong opinions and everyone’s opinion counts. It is not always easy and it is not always fun. I will say this though, the amount of joy, fun, and laughter we have far surpasses the tension that is there.
Sonically, it is definitely a roller coaster ride. We still try and make whole albums. Hopefully whoever is listening will put it on and not take it off until it is done. That is the goal. That is where we are coming from. We come from a generation that grew up on LPs and our parent’s collection. We try and make albums.
CrypticRock.com – That is important for the health of music, to make records. Deftones has been around a long time now. The band comes from the older generation where records were still purchased and valued highly. Nowadays, things are pieced a part, sadly. It is fantastic the band is still looking to make cohesive records like Gore.
Abe Cunningham – Yes, like you said, it is where we come from, it is the generation. It is important for Rock. It is also just a love of that format. Hopefully you will be able to listen to it on nice pair of speakers or a really nice pair of headphones.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. That is what a great music experience is all about. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Abe Cunningham – It is kind of funny, but one of my all-time favorite movies is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). Dead Alive (1992), The Toxic Avenger (1984), The classics of course, but I think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is my favorite. It is so campy too. It is just one of those where those quotes never get old.