White Pony Turns 20: Musicians, Actors Pay Tribute to Deftones’ Dream-Metal Classic

Deftones 2000
Deftones, group portrait, Rochester, New York, 2000. (Photo by Patrick Ford/Redferns)

Blame timing. Almost a year to the day after Korn’s self-titled debut landed on record store shelves, the Madonna-discovered Deftones issued their maiden studio set, Adrenaline, on the Material Girl’s Maverick Records label. Critics lumped the Sacramento-based avant-metal quartet in with the tracksuit-sporting boys from Bakersfield — which, in retrospect, was sort of like comparing the Spin Doctors to Radiohead.

While Korn’s music has always deservedly been tagged nü-metal, Deftones did what they could to distance themselves from it. It would soon become clear that Deftones were something else entirely: bold, experimental, often spellbinding, and rarely consistent with the trendy trappings of nü-metal.

On June 20, 2000, with their peers rapidly losing relevance, Deftones unleashed their third and most daring studio album, and finally distinguished themselves from the scratch-happy malcontents they had been affiliated with. The late Chi Cheng’s pulsing bass lines, Abe Cunningham’s complex, punchy drumming, Stephen Carpenter’s driving dissonance, and the subtle, indispensable contributions of keyboardist and turntablist Frank Delgado all contribute to the atmosphere that the alternately sultry and sinister Chino Moreno thrives in. Many believe that White Pony is one of the most important releases of the last 20 years, and it’s not hard to see why.

With an appearance from the late Scott Weiland on the dark, hypnotic ballad “℞ Queen,” a chills-inducing duet with Tool’s Maynard James Keenan in “Passenger,” and the haunting wails of actress Rodleen Getsic on “Knife Prty,” White Pony is a moody masterpiece that brought unexpected collaborators into the Deftones’ unique world, and more fans than ever before. Longtime admirers were stunned and delighted with risks like the ambient R&B of “Digital Bath” and the trip-hoppy “Teenager,” reflected that their fixation with, say, covering Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” was not a joke. This is the LP that would come to define them, cemented by their most recognizable radio hit, the downright creepy “Change (In the House of Flies).”

To commemorate White Pony’s 20th anniversary, SPIN reached out to several well-known Deftones devotees and friends of the band for their insight and perspective on how pivotal White Pony has been to the heavy music that would follow.

Mike Shinoda

Vocalist and guitarist (Linkin Park)

Mike Shinoda

I heard the first album, Adrenaline, from a friend when I was in high school; he bought the CD. I liked that album, but I liked Around the Fur even more. I think everyone who was following what the band was doing was really excited to see what would come next. Deftones just has such a unique sound and aesthetic, and White Pony was the album that took such a big step up in terms of communicating who the band was.

Chino’s sense of eerie and unconventional melody, the band’s technical chops, and the engineering and production all felt really innovative and fresh when it came together. Nobody was making anything that sounded like that, and when people did, you could tell they were inspired by Deftones.

We wouldn’t have written a song like “A Place for My Head” if not for them. There was a bounce to their music that reminded me of my favorite hip-hop songs. And even though the guitars were super heavy, oftentimes they felt smooth like a keyboard, as if the distortion had flattened it so much it was just a wash of chords.

White Pony was one of the few albums I was into where I barely knew any of the words. They felt like estimations of lyrics, to me — really abstract and intuitive. I probably still think some of the lyrics say things they don’t say. But isn’t that the beauty of music? A listener’s experience with it can be such an integral part of the song, that it takes over the song’s actual intention or meaning.

Colin Hanks

Actor/director (Orange County, Dexter)

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