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Stephen Carpenter


“I do believe it’s the simplicity of what I do that is the inspiration. I believe that when people actually pick up a guitar for the first time, the feeling and that attraction they have - I think is what I had originally with the power chord. When I discovered the power chord, I already knew at that moment, I could write the music I like.”

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I do believe it's the simplicity of what I do that is the inspiration. I believe that when people actually pick up a guitar for the first time, that feeling and that attraction they have, I think is what I had originally with the power cord. When I discovered the chord, to me, I already knew at that moment I could write the music I like.

You know, what got me into music was my mom actually bought me three records. She got me Kiss Alive II, Queen News for the World, and Saturday Night Fever. So I feel like I had the entire scope of music in three records. And there wasn't any part of any of those that I didn't like. I loved all three of them. I really gravitated mostly to the Kiss records because the way they, their appearance, that was amazing to me. Like the flames and then you opened up that double live record, you know? It's like everybody's on a riser and there's fire everywhere. I was like "This is incredible looking," you know?

Well I'm 51 now and I started playing when I was 16. Around that time Ratt was on. They did a video for Round and Round and there was just a scene in there, for whatever reason, that video was in a dream of mine. And I had the visual memory of them doing a power chord. I didn't know what I was doing, but I did remember the power chord, and I remember doing that and going, "Damn, that sounds good." You know like... And then once I realized I could play that same chord, just all over, right? It's like, "I can do this. Now I can play the rhythm that I loved," because that's what it all was to me. That was the start of me playing guitar.

Literally two weeks after I started playing guitar, because of the confidence I got playing the power cord, I was immediately ready to play songs. It was with a few friends in my garage. I don't remember the exact timeframe it was, but at some point I got my first tuner. My first Boss TU-12, I think is what it was. Needless to say, once I tuned my guitar up and we all tuned up, we didn't recognize our songs because we never tuned to each other. We only just made sure we were in tune individually. Like I tuned my guitar, I was like, "Yep. Yep. Yep. Okay. It works." Right? You know? I'm in tune. But I wasn't in tune, and none of us were. So when we actually tuned up on a tuner and we started playing, we're like "What the...?" It was, again, like I said, it was just showing the naivete, and because everything happened really fast for me.

Started playing with my friends. We weren't like in a formal band, but we were a band in the jam state of of that. And other friends would come and we would just have jams in the garage and we would just mess around on cover songs. And never whole songs, just the parts we knew. After I had met our drummer, we had decided, "Hey, if we get a couple more guys, we got ourselves a band." Our bass player at the time was somebody I had met who was actually a drummer when I met them. And that's when I brought up to them, I was like, "Our other homie...", You know Chino, our singer. I told them, I said, "You know, Chino always comes over to the house whenever we're jamming and he can sing any of the Danzig or Misfits songs and be dead on Glen, you know? And he can sing just like Morrissey and everything like that. I was like "If we get him as a singer, then we'll be a full group." Once we had the sound of a vocalist over us playing, it's like, "All right, we got a band now," you know? And then Deftones was formed.

I always felt like from the very beginning, this was what I was going to do. And it wasn't until I actually got fired from my last job, which I actually used to work with Abe. We used to work at this taco place and he was my boss. And I've always been late for everything. Not tremendously late, just a little bit late, but late is late when you're describing late.

All the times he wrote me up was used against me in that moment. That was how I got let go. And I was like, "You motherfucker." But at that moment, actually, when I was getting my last check and I was leaving the job, I had told my boss thank you, because I knew that this was the moment where I will no longer work a job. And that was three years before our first record. The commitment was already there. There was no turning back. I was like "Failure is not an option."

I started with Ernie Ball in the very beginning. I was a Ernie Ball player all the way up until Around the Fur. In the very first three records, I was still a six string player, and when I became a seven string player in 2000, only thing that changed was I added a 59. On my eight strings, I have a 69 on this, which is the standard F sharp, B, E, A, D, G, B, E. On my other eight strings, my top string is a 76 and I used the 76 for the drop E tuning.

I had an opportunity to start using the Ernie Ball strings again, and when that happened, I was like, "It's fine by me because that's what I've always liked. That's what I used to begin." I don't know why wasn't using them the whole time, other than the fact I wasn't getting them. So getting Ernie Ball strings now to me is a blessing like the others, only now it's the strings that I was always with and enjoyed in the beginning. Only there was no Paradigms then, so in the very beginning I was using the Slinkys.

As a guitar player, I consider myself a rhythm guitar player. All the bands that I've ever liked, since the 80s, when I really started thinking about playing music, I've always been rhythm oriented. Of the big four, Anthrax was my favorite. I really did love Metallica of course, too, but Anthrax was my favorite and I really specifically love Scott Ian as a rhythm player. Like I had zero desire to play a solo. I just, like, "Just want to crunch it up."

I personally have always liked modern music. I can't help but bring in those elements. I'm still bound by my foundation. That core of me as a guitar player, that core of me just loving that power chord, and then trying to try... I mean, I have to force myself out of a power chord sound into any of the intervals and stuff like that to create something dissonant or even melodic. The rest of my friends in the band, they have more classic influence. They always like some old rock stuff, like straight 70s rock. Which I love. Don't want to be. Not my interest. But for them, that's their interest. So somewhere between their interest and my interest is where we are. I think I'm the odd man out in the group when it comes to music.

All the years with Chi. Like Chi was amazing in the sense that as much as I hated it, like I wanted to be precision and I wanted him to play more stuff like me, he would intentionally always play something different just on principle, you know? So he wouldn't play what I'm playing. I hated it. But what he did, it's what makes it work. Again, we have many commonalities amongst us. It is ultimately the indifferences we have that gives us our advantage overall musically, because we're not complying with each other on certain things. There'll be a part they heard and they'll might want me to do again. Like, no, I got another way I lie. I'm doing it this way. That's kind of how we all are with each other

So much great music is simple and easy. And in fact, I've told people there's a scale. If you can identify what you want as a musician, say you want to have large audiences, play big shows, right? On the scale of music from simple to difficult, the more you go that scale all the way to difficult, the smaller your crowd's going to be. The more you get back over here to easy, the larger your crowd can be because of the ability to identify physically.

You might make the most intense, complicated music. You're not going to have a huge fan base. Don't get me wrong. Those people that love you, these people are your disciples. They're going to do whatever you want. You tell them to go do any crazy shit, these motherfuckers are going to do that shit. Over here, they don't give a fuck about what you said. They're just having a good time. They come to the show, they want to get their drink on, get their smoke on party, blah, blah, blah. You know, get their dance on. That's what it's all about, the dance. All you need for your simple music, to be a hit, is that drum beat that's going to make them asses shake. When the asses are shaking, you are in. Period. You will have all the blessings of the lifestyle you want to live.But you come over here and you get too complicated, it's not many, or if any, asses shaking at all.

How we, as a band, got to where we are, musically, the things we've always done have always been in simplest terms, just been selfish to ourselves. We individually all have many styles of music in common, but we're also polar opposites of each other in some things. There's just things that some of us like, some of us don't, and collectively the songs end up becoming something that, once it passes through the filter of all of us. Having the incredible palette of things to choose from has always been a blessing for us. We can draw from so many types of influences and we do our best to not be the influences that we like, but I'm not afraid to make something sound like the way I like either. Like, nah, I respect that, listen, this is my version of it, right?

That's been my perspective with music within Deftones, that I'm not trying to create a tag or a label or a genre. I just want to make music that I think sounds great, and if it sounds great to all of us, we can all agree on what we're playing together for our fan base and potential fans is something that'll be exciting. If we don't like it, then what's the point? It's got to start with us. I don't want to make stuff because fits the criteria for a fan base. I want to make the music I enjoy and the fan base will enjoy it because they can hear the sincerity in it. It's genuine to them because it's genuine to us.

As a guitar player specifically again, like I said, I've always gravitated and been focused on rhythms, specifically the power cord, because that was my immediate connection, that's what actually impacted me the most. Of course lead guitar playing is exciting to me. I love to listen to it. I love to watch players do what they do. That has an impact on me, but physically I've always just enjoyed that sound of a power chord either in motion or just a sustained chord of it. Just... The power. I mean they call it a power chord for a reason. That's always been the ingredient that I have put in the band, regardless of what everyone else is doing, I try to fit into the scope of it with the power chord.

The drive ultimately has always been as a group of friends, we enjoy playing and making music together. This is what our friendship is about. We love hanging out and just talking just as well. In fact, we probably spend more time hanging out, just rambling about what-the-fuck-ever's going on in the life than we do playing music. We come to our rehearsal right now. Yeah, we're going to jam out a set of maybe 10 songs, take a break for like two hours, maybe do a few more songs. It's very casual for us, but that unifying thing is that we love to make music and play music together, and that still drives us.

Doing shows, everybody's got their own different perspective on shows. I love playing shows because I love to play. I'll never get to play my guitar that loud at home. So going to play a concert, I get to hear my shit through loud-ass monitors, hearing the backside of the PA just blowing it. If there's an end of the venue, then you can hear it kick back at you, otherwise it's an outdoor festival the sound goes away from me. But I'll never get to play guitar that loud in real life at home. I love that. Coupled with the fact that you to see people and all their excitement, the different expressions of everybody and how they're reacting to the music that you are playing.

As far as having the job goes, we're blessed. We have a privileged life. We get to play music for a living. I'm grateful to our audience because these people have supported us and they've given me the ability to do whatever I've wanted as an adult, have taken care me financially where I can call this a job. I've long since exceeded whatever I imagined a band would be doing, or I don't liken us to the Rolling Stones or anything like that as far as like stardom, because I don't care about that. That part's kind of crazy. But I recognize that the amount of time we have put into this and our fan base has to a point to where we're an established group. We can go do events and draw an audience.