Carpenter says new metal bands like Animals as Leaders and Periphery are inspiring to him as a player. “Tosin [Abasi] told me they were into dropped-E tunings. He said, ‘Hey you should check that out.’ So I did.” Photo by Ken Settle
How have things evolved musically since Chino started playing guitar as well?
Well, it’s been a mix. On one hand there’s a part of me that loves it, because I love the sound of two guitars. On the other hand, I’ve been marginalized because of it—because everything we do is just based around what he does all the time. If he don’t like it, we don’t do it.
Do you write together or do you each show up with different parts and learn the other guy’s part?
We all jam it out together. If somebody’s got an idea—if everybody is interested in it—we work on it. This has been the toughest process I’ve gone through in making a record because I was coming out of the backend of fixing my rig while we were in writing sessions. I’m just getting myself dialed-in to where I’m excited to play on my rig again and the stuff everybody was coming up with at the time—I wasn’t very interested in. I pretty much battled everybody the whole time.
There are some killer riffs on there though.
Oh no, it’s great. It’s blood, sweat, and tears—that’s what it was for me. I wasn’t living the dream on this process [laughs].
What problems did you have with your rig and are they solved?
When I first switched over to the Axe-Fx from my old rig, I actually had no problems whatsoever. When I made that transition I was using the Axe-Fx Ultra—the II hadn’t come out yet. I went into it just like it was a preamp: I set it up, got on with the business of making my presets, built my tone in it, and made it sound great. That was, like, September or October of 2010. Later that year, we got our IIs. I spent about three months playing around with all the factory presets—we were just starting to write for the Koi No Yukon record—so I wasn’t too worried about tone because we were going to make it up from scratch anyway. We wrote the songs, had a great time, went in the studio, and went through the whole process of tracking. When it was my turn to do guitars we mic’d up the cabs with the sounds we were using—I was barely using cabs at the time—and we came to the conclusion that the tone we were running with, the whole time we were writing, pretty much sucked. We were like, “Oh great, now what? I’m about to start guitar tracks and I’ve got no tone [laughs].”
[Fractal] shot us over the quick beta of [their new Tone Match] before it came out. We loaded it in, matched my tone from the Diamond Eyes record, and we were like, “Damn, there it is.” We had all these amps in the studio and we started tone matching every amp. We did the whole session through tone matching of all the amps we had there.
I was fucking stoked on that. I was like, “Alright man, I’m going to go back through the whole catalog and get my sounds and this is going to be awesome.” I got all my presets built with all these tone matches and my mentality at that time was that I didn’t want to use cabinets—I wanted to go purely DI off the units. We go into rehearsals, get ready to go on tour, and immediately it was like my guitars vanished. They didn’t even exist. It was missing all of the frequencies of being a guitar amp [laughs]. I had it set up for all of the recordings—when recording you are losing everything below 80 Hz. So all of the feeling—all the body of a guitar tone—was nonexistent.
What had complicated that situation more for me was that my tone-matched block was set up as a stereo cab sim. My rig had forever been left and right, but it’s always been mono-mono until I’ve thrown any type of stereo effects onto it. But when we were building the presets, we didn’t want to consider that it was always going to be mono-mono and I only set up the stereo cab sim. We didn’t even audition it that way to find out, you know what I mean? I went that whole period of time—a little over a year—just being completely frustrated. The absolute obvious was just completely oblivious to me. I was over saturating my gain and my bass to try to fill in the hole that didn’t exist because of the signal I’ve got spread real wide because of the stereo sim. One day I was just sitting there in frustration, just staring at my rack like, “This is not rocket science. Why the hell am I so damn destroyed by what seems to be apparently so simple?” I thought, “It’s got to be something easy. Let me throw it down to mono and see what happens.” Bam. Instantly, I had my guitar signal. Problem solved. What had plagued me for nearly a year-and-a-half had been banished in the turn of a simple knob [laughs].
Watch the Deftones full set at Rock in Rio 2015 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Skip to around the 14-minute mark to see Chino break out his white SG on the track “Tempest” from 2012’s Koi No Yokan, while Stephen holds down the melodic lead guitar swells and drones on one of his signature ESPs.
How is it set up now?
I said, “Look. I live in the real world, still, as a musician. I need a cabinet. We need to dial that cabinet in and have my DIs as close as possible.” I decided that my DIs would become secondary to the actual tone that was coming out of the cabinet. I went back to setting it up like an actual amp. I also run through my Engl power amps and I’m running those out into my Orange cabs—but I’m also going through a Radial JDX 48 for the DIs off of them. My signal is the left and right out of the Axe-Fx, it’s left and right off of my two cabinets, and it’s also each cabinet mic’d up. Every cab I’ve ever heard plugged into these Radial boxes has sounded like you’ve mic’d your cabinets up perfectly. We matched the DIs and the mics until we had what we had coming out of the Radials.
The older version of your signature ESPs used to have a single-coil in the neck position. You don’t use that anymore?
No. I just have the bridge and the middle pickup.
What do you get out of the middle pickup?
The middle pickup is pretty much a toy. I don’t have it for anything other than when I want to take the edge off, less attack, a more rounded tone.
You don’t solo much. Is sitting on a groove more your thing?
I’m about the groove. But like I said, I’ve been really inspired by all these new bands man—everyone’s just killing it. I would personally like to just manage for a bit and go work on my skills and try to get my game up. I don’t need to do it to fit in; I just want to do it because personally, man, it’s just so inspiring. Everybody makes it seem so easy.