Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham credits Stephen Carpenter with creating his cranked snare drum sound

Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Deftones first found fame swept-up in the nu-metal era of the mid-90s, and while the scene was littered with scores of bands featuring big trousers, DJs and table-top-tight snare drums, Sacramento’s finest were not only one of the most credible bands to emerge from the genre, but they’ve stood the test of time, too.

For drummers, Abe Cunningham’s inventive playing is a huge part of the appeal, but it’s the sound of his kit in combination with what he’s playing that pulls us in. Not least the cranked snare sound. 

While bolting-down the top head can often result in choked, thin-sounding drums, done right, it can be an ear-splitting powerhouse, as proved time and again by Abe, and making him a frequent topper of peoples’ all-time best recorded drum sound lists.

But speaking recently on the Sarah Hagan Backstage Podcast, Abe Cunningham revealed that while he took inspiration from fellow-crankers Tim 'Herb' Alexander, Clyde Stubblefield and Stewart Copeland, his signature snare sound came to fruition via Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter - who would jump on the kit and tweak the snare tuning.   

"We went to mix our first record with Terry Date and we were all trying to get in there like 'Yo, man, push my shit up!'. But even Stephen, our guitar player was like 'You've gotta bring that snare up [in the mix], crank it up!'.

“He loves playing drums. He’s, you know…not a drummer. Well, he plays drums…we’re all drummers, come on! But he would always sit, and I’d turn around and see him, he’d always be cranking my snare up. But it would sound great! I was like “I hate that you’re doing that, so much. Get off my shit! But god it sounds good.”

Elsewhere in the podcast, Abe talks about his beginnings as a drummer, early influences, his signature snare drum with Tama and more.

Meanwhile, Deftones recently announced that Dia De Los Deftones - the band-curated all-dayer - will return after a two-year, pandemic-enforced break. It takes place on Nov 5th with Deftones headlining and also featuring Turnstile, Phantogram, Freddie Gibbs, Audrey Nuna, Destroy Boys Provoker and Cold Gawd. 

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.