Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Apr 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Saturday Night Fever

Deftones’ Abe Cunningham on the art of stayin’ alive

When you’ve been playing music with the same band for almost 20 years, conflict is inevitable. No one knows this better than Abe Cunningham, drummer for the platinum-selling Sacramento alternative hard rock outfit known as Deftones. Severe internal turmoil recently brought this group perilously close to flatlining—which probably explains why Cunningham sounds so fired up to be on the road with his longtime bandmates, killing some time before a gig in Chicago by telling GT about an especially inventive method the Deftones have found for settling their differences.

“We shoot each other,” the 33-year-old musician deadpans. “Whoever has the biggest gun wins. I have a tank now. [Vocalist] Chino’s [Moreno] got a pellet gun, so he’s not gonna do so well. [Guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] has a rubber band gun, and [bassist] Chi’s [Cheng] got a slingshot, so I guess I’ll win ’em all.”

It’s a good sign that Cunningham can joke about such things, given that there were moments during the recording of Deftones’ most recent disc, Saturday Night Wrist, when shooting his bandmates probably didn’t sound like too shabby a plan. Much of the dissonance stemmed from some all-around flakiness from Moreno, who was nearly axed from the group when he decided to tour with his side band Team Sleep rather than work on the vocals for Wrist. Compounding such frustrations was the interference of the Deftones’ label, Maverick Records. “They were waiting to see if we were writing hits before they gave us our recording budget, even though it’s already our money—sort of dangling this carrot, which makes for just a terrible time,” Cunningham explains. “You’re trying to be creative, and you’re waiting for someone to OK it. That’s just the way things are these days, and hopefully we’ll be out of our deal soon.”

Yet another obstacle to Wrist’s completion was the Deftones’ ill-fated partnership with legendary producer Bob Ezrin, whose credits include some of Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel and KISS’ defining works. In spite of his glowing track record, Ezrin’s vision quickly proved to be at odds with that of the band, creating a rift that led him and the Deftones to part ways midway through the project.

“We just didn’t get along that well, man,” Cunningham says. “It was a very unpleasant experience. He’s not a people person, which you would kind of expect a producer to be. He’s not a bad person—we just didn’t click. We really looked up to him and respected what he had done, and we thought we’d be able to draw some of that juice, but [working with him] wasn’t that great. But the record, I think, turned out pretty well, so it’s all good.”

That record finally hit the shelves on Halloween of 2006—a full two years after the band first set foot in the studio to record the disc. Universally applauded as the Deftones’ best work yet, Wrist is the quintessential statement of the band’s style, which could somewhat paradoxically be described as “ambient hard rock.” It’s the former half of this equation—the group’s floaty, Radiohead/U2/Cocteau Twins-ish side—that has always set the Deftones apart from other heavy rock acts, particularly their Adidas-touting, nookie-endorsing peers from the mid-’90s nu-metal movement.

Cunningham says he has no particular reaction to the widespread tendency to define the Deftones as a nu-metal band. “It’s human nature to want to lump things into a category for easy storage and recall,” he observes. “We were around way before the term [nu metal] popped into many people’s minds, and we’re still around now after it’s dead.”

Indeed, having formed in 1988, the Deftones can hardly be deemed “nu” anything. It’s a rare band that stays together this long without becoming a parody of itself, let alone without sounding dated. Short of settling arguments with weapons, does Cunningham have any tips for cultivating band longevity?

“Enjoy what you’re doing, but also, first and foremost, enjoy who you do it with,” the musician replies after a short pause. “I know that’s not always easy, of course—people do change and whatever, but it’s pretty neat to be able to be in a band and go around the world and play.”

So, everything’s peachy now, and all the Deftones’ problems are behind them? Well …

“There’s still some lumps and rocks, but everyone’s been playing well and having good shows, and that’s really what it’s all about,” Cunningham says. “I must say that it feels nice to still be around and have things work out. We’ve been having the best time we’ve had in a long time.”

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Dark Magic

40 years on the movie beat in Santa Cruz
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

If you could live in Santa Cruz in any era besides now, which would you choose?

Probably the ’70s, because Santa Cruz is such a fly-your-freak-flag place. That was when free love and hippiness was in vogue. Shane Reber, Santa Cruz, Caretaker

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise