Deftones bandleader Chino Moreno can't pinpoint exactly what he was listening to, album-wise, that influenced the eclectic, experimental sound of Gore. The Sacramento band's eighth studio album at times borders on prog-rock, especially on heady songs like "Prayers/Triangles," "Acid Hologram" and "Phantom Bride" (which features a squealing guitar cameo from Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell). Moreno only knows that he's always trying to push himself further, stylistically, with every new release.
"I'm not trying to reinvent the band, but at the same time, we're trying to expand on what we've done in the past," he says of the album, which was released in April and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 200. "Any time something sounds a little too formulaic, my general instinct is to turn either to the left or to the right, and try a different direction."
Moreno has taken that approach since starting the band back in 1993 when he was working in a Tower Records warehouse. "Some of the best music of my life I was listening to there at Tower," he says, "like P.J. Harvey's first record. And Nirvana. I was working there when Kurt Cobain died."
Even today, the Deftones frontman takes in as much music as possible. He steadfastly refuses to align himself with any one genre, even though the Deftones were initially pigeonholed as nu-metal. He's also maintained musically diverse side projects like Palms, Crosses and Team Sleep.
Back in high school, Moreno says he was never aligned with any single clique — he'd go clubbing with Goth kids on the weekends, hang with skate-punks during the week, and even crash catered preppie parties ("because there were girls there").
Moreno recalls how his influences grew to include decidedly non-metal acts like Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, Helmet, The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins, all of which would find their way, however obliquely, into Deftones albums like 1997's Around the Fur and the 2003 breakthrough White Pony. It was an open-minded approach that, in retrospect, assured the Deftones' enduring relevance, even after they were blindsided by the tragic death of bassist Chi Cheng due to a debilitating car accident.
Today, Moreno and his bandmates know each other so instinctively well that the Matt Hyde-co-produced Gore came together almost organically. "We've been friends for so long that we call each other out, as well," Moreno adds. "People in the band aren't afraid to speak up and say, 'Hey, that sounds boring' or 'I don't like that' or whatever. And the fact that we have that kind of relationship is sort of what keeps us on our toes."
Which doesn't mean individual members have to adhere to a group consensus. When Stephen Carpenter heard the unfinished verses of Gore's opening track "Prayers/Triangles," he quickly came up with the chiming guitar part that gave rise to the song's anthemic chorus. His bandmates thought it sounded like U2. But they still went with it.
"We didn't talk about it — it was just something that happened," Moreno says. "And it came from Stephen, and he's the most metal dude I know. And he's writing something that's not metal. But I didn't even second-guess it. It was like, 'Well, this doesn't really sound like us but, to me, this is exactly who we are in this moment. And those kinds of moments are what we strive for."