Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter invite us to join them on stage at Wembley Arena, just hours before their headline set…
Backstage at Wembley, everything is as calm as can be. Forget whatever headlines you’ve read about Deftones being at each other’s throats or guitarists Stephen Carpenter and Chino Moreno waging war against each other over the direction of their band’s sound - today it’s smiles all round.
The Grammy-winning alt-metal quintet have recently started serving up fresh cuts from Gore, and naturally, as their sound evolves, so does the equipment they use to attain it.
We join Stephen and frontman Chino - who began incorporating his own layers of shoegazey guitar from 2000’s White Pony onwards - on stage at Wembley, just hours before 10,000 fans arrive, to take a guided tour around the gear behind the latest chapter in the Deftones story.
ESP STEF B-8
Stephen Carpenter: “This one is drop-tuned to E, so a full octave lower than your standard tuning. I believe it’s made out of mahogany or alder, I’m not sure.
“Never when I pick up a guitar do I consider what type of wood it’s made out of, other than the fretboard, because I love ebony. That’s literally the only wood I ask for. I’ve read up on comparing types of wood and all that, but I believe you should plug in, dial up and have fun.
“If you get caught up in all the technicalities of gear, you’ll just get beat up forever. You’ll never get anywhere, you’ll just sit there squashing numbers, doing stuff that don’t meaning nothing to even 1 per cent of that crowd. I can guarantee you there’s less than 0.1 per cent of tonight’s audience that give two fucks what kinda wood my instrument is made out of. Can you imagine someone stood there going, ‘Man, is that rosewood?'”
Stephen: “I got two of these in 2006, so they’re 10 years old but still in great shape. Actually, there’s nothing beat-up in my collection.
“I take care of my gear for simple reasons - firstly I like my stuff nice, and secondly, it’s really inconsiderate to bash shit up when it takes so long to make and I have to wait longer for more. Nah, that’s dumb! I used to use EMG pickups, now I have my own signature Fishman pickups fitted into all of my guitars.
“The Tele is a classic shape and classic design... to be honest, the only design I’ve never been interested in since picking up the instrument is a Les Paul. I have literally zero interest in them, none whatsoever. I couldn’t give two fucks if someone handed me one saying, ‘Enjoy this!’ I’d just give it away. You’ll never catch me playing a Les Paul, guaranteed!”
ESP STEF B-7
Stephen: “Louis Vuitton made that design, so we stuck the paintjob on it! I’m a metalhead and Louis Vuitton is meant to be posh...
“It’s being obnoxious and having fun is what that is. I also have one in yellow, which always looks beautiful on a guitar because of how it glows! When I was a teenager, I loved all that 80s Vai stuff with bright guitars. That was the scene I was into, and it’s what made me want to be a musician.
We got to do Rock In Rio in Vegas and Brazil, I believe Steve Vai came to both, but after Vegas I got to hang out and talk to him. He’s such an awesome human being, truly amazing even if you forget the fact he’s a genius on the instrument.”
Engl Power Amp
Stephen: “I was using the Jim Root Orange heads at one point before I got the Engl, but they didn’t have enough power for the punch I’m used to.
“And also nowadays, with Chino running a 100-watt head, blasting that motherfucker at full crush, I’m like, ‘What the fuck is going on?! No more of that, I’m running four cabs and 100-watts my end!’
“I like using Engl for the controls, it’s got depth, presence, individual volume controls, but most importantly… they’re available! I don’t have to scour the earth to find one, they’re still being produced! I can order one right now and have it in days if my current one dies.”
Fractal Axe-Fx II
Stephen: “I can’t carry a pile of heads around, they’re like boat anchors. They weigh too much and take way too much maintenance.
“The Axe-Fx is exactly the same every day, everywhere… there is no fail. In fact, the only thing that will fail is the Engl because it’s got some primitive-ass tubes in it, still. So the real amp is the only thing that’s fragile.
“Around Diamond Eyes, I started using actual heads in the studio just to tone match and hear it. Then I would dial it in, tone match it, put the amp away and record using the Axe-Fx.”
Stephen: “Tone-wise, my rig isn’t what it looks like from the crowd. You only see the Orange cabs from out front, which have Vintage 30s in them, same speakers in all four cabs.
“I use two Axe-Fx units, running one left and one right. We use two different signals to create different sounds, that’s pretty typical throughout our recordings, for more distinct, custom sound.
“The Axe-Fx can do that in a single unit but my issue is finding another sound, I run out of amp blocks and would have to go to what they refer to as the XY. Which for me has just enough delay so I can’t use it. I can’t perform with the thing cutting out while I’m still playing.
“There’s no dead space or anything, but I can hear it switch and that’s enough. I don’t wanna hear it switch. I want it all instant, I don’t to hear it morph or cross, I want the motherfucker to change at the button push.”
TC Electronic Ditto X2
Stef: “I can record whatever I want with the Ditto, then change my sound, then record more on top of it.
“On the new record, there’s two songs I do with looping… It’s impossible to keep it in time. I gave up on that. We don’t play to click, our tempos are dependent on our personalities, level of inebriation and sleep!”
Radial JDX 48
Stephen: “From the Axe-Fx, my signal goes into the Radial JX48s, which is where I get my actual signal from. The blend of the two is the sound that gets fed into my cabinets, we spent time getting everything right.
“I used to hate my tone, at one point it was operational purely so I could get to work and clock in! I did a few interviews on the last cycle where I was really hating on my shit. Something was totally phasing out my signal and I was wondering what the fuck I was doing wrong. Then I had a simple revelation one day - I switched from stereo to mono cabinets and the middle instantly filled in. Suddenly I had a guitar again!”
1996 Gibson SG Standard
Chino Moreno: “This guitar I use for pretty much everything, with the Eazy-E sticker. I fuckin’ love it, to me it just feels so perfect and comfortable.
“When I started playing guitar, I actually started out on one of Stef’s six-string Jacksons… I still have it! I started playing pretty late, we were already a band, and it’s what I used to write Change, Digital Bath, RX Queen, et cetera.
“After that ESP sent me their Viper model, which is their version of the SG, and as much as I liked it, I always wanted a real SG. As soon as I got this, I loved it - the weight distribution and how light it felt. I would play Les Pauls loving how they sounded and felt, but they felt so heavy and awkward to me.
“This SG is the most comfortable guitar for me, and I’ve broken this one many times - my tech has kept it breathing and in great working order. Compared to my backup, it feels better, maybe it’s a mental thing because it’s an older, more original piece of work.”
Gibson SG Standard
Chino: “This one is slightly different, though very similar in feel. The body on this one is a little thinner. I bought it from Guitar Center. It’s a great guitar, though not quite my number one.
“I’m working with Epiphone right now, and they’re hopefully going to make me a version to the exact specs of my main one. I also have a couple of Yamaha guitars, though I haven’t started using them properly yet.”
Orange Dual Terror
Chino: “My main rig in the States is actually a Rivera Tre Reverb with EL34s and Rivera backup. I wanted a Rivera out here and to use an Orange Dual Terror backup, because I couldn’t afford to have loads out with me, but it was too late.
“So right now, I’m running the Dual Terror set as close as it can to a Rivera - who are a small boutique company. I have this other project called Palms, and our other guitar player Cliff was using Rivera. One day I just plugged in and thought, ‘Holy shit!’
“They’re based in Burbank, right where I used to live so I called them to see if I could try some stuff out. I bought it right there and then! It was pretty pricey, because they’re a small company, but it was so good and so loud.
“I bought the 100-watt and I’ve got a 50-watt now. So when I came back to Deftones, I walked into rehearsal and Stef wasn’t using any cabs at that stage. I was 10 times louder than him and he got so pissed! ‘C’mon man, what the fuck are you doing?’ And I said, ‘But listen to how awesome it sounds!’”
Chino: “This DI thing creates most of my tone and is actually what you hear from out front. The cabinet on stage is just for stage volume.
“I like a thicker sound, less mid-rangey, more of a stoner rock kinda thing with fuzz as opposed to just straight gain, so we keep the warm setting on, take the edge setting off and run it through an eight-ohm cabinet. It lowers the signal and makes it sound much darker.
“Getting it to the right tone and volume wasn’t easy, so we got the Rockcrusher to use as an attenuator, but now I use it for more. I used to turn my cabinet around and face it down, just so I could get my tone without making our stage volume too deafening.
“Now Stef has cabinets on stage, there’s a better balance of our guitars. I would never denounce digital gear, for some people it’s awesome. But I like to know how to work what I’m using.
“I’ve never even considered any sort of Axe-Fx because it’s just too over my head. I like to see something tangible in front of me, that I can stamp to turn on and off or a dial to twist with my hand or a button to push. I’m not that tech-savvy…”
MXR Carbon Copy x2
Chino: “The reason that I have two of these Carbon Copy pedals is because I’ll use one for most of the set, but there’s a couple of songs off the new record that have different settings - I don’t know why, I must have kicked it and moved the dial or something.
“It’s the same type of delay; repeating patterns, one of them’s just a little faster and having the extra one saves me bending down to change. I tried a lot of analog delays, but this is the one I feel sounds good, plus it’s only got the three knobs and looks real basic.”
Electro-Harmonix Memory Toy
“I use the Memory Toy for modulation. It has delay in it, but there’s this warp setting where it bends your notes out of tune.
“For a song like Rosemary, during the chorus I play this My Bloody Valentine-sounding, washy guitar line and this is how I get that sound. It’s almost like having a Floyd Rose or Bigsby, it pulls everything out a bit and sounds really neat. You can’t use it for everything, but it’s one of my favourite pedals.”
Boss DC-2 Dimension C
“The chorus pedal is rare. My buddy Aaron gave it to me, and out of all the chorus pedals I’ve tried, this one’s the most soothing and has the loveliest sound.
“It’s straight-up 80s, like Cocteau Twins and all that stuff. I’ve done a lot of research on what all those bands used, like Robert Smith used to get that out of his Roland Jazz Chorus amp, mostly. This just has four buttons on it, and is very hard to find and pricey. I take it everywhere I go and I only have one of them, so really I need to get another!”
“This is the newest pedal on my 'board and I used it on the new album, so we’re slowly but surely integrating that into our set.
“To program it, you have to use your iOS device to manipulate the settings. And it’s rare I’ll get my iPad out, so right now it’s just set to the intro for Hearts/Wires. It’s like having all the super-cool Eventide pedals in one, you could make a whole album of creepy soundtracks in one night with all the sounds within it!”