On June 20th, 2000, Deftones truly became DEFTONES as we now know them.
Sure, the Sacramento alternative-metal band had already released two studio albums by that point: 1995's Adrenaline and 1997's Around the Fur. But while both albums were certainly well-received, it was their third album, White Pony — released on the aforementioned date — which really elevated them above the nu-metal movement they'd been unwillingly lumped in with, and crystallized the complex sound and identity that would be their calling card from then on.
Produced (like the band's first two albums) by Terry Date, White Pony took the better part of a year to make — partly because the band's Ozzfest commitments ate up most of the summer of 1999, but also because Chino Moreno and Co. spent so much time trying to carve their own musical niche with a more mature, melodic and multi-textured sound.
"I've always loved to sing," Moreno told KNAC radio in the summer of 2000. "When we did our first record everybody was saying, 'Why are you screaming, radio's not going to play this, blah, blah, blah, why don't you sing more?' And I was like, 'Well, I just feel like screaming.' That's just the way I was, a lot of these songs [from the first two albums] were written when I was 16 years old, so I was an angry teenager who felt like the whole world was against them. That's the way I perceived it and that's what came out. Now radio is playing all kinds of heavy shit that they wouldn't even think of playing when our first record came out. Now our label and everybody wants us to fit back in with all this, but we feel like we've already grown past it."
White Pony would be the first (and definitely not the last) Deftones album to prominently feature elements of shoegaze, trip hop and post-rock in its music; not coincidentally, it was also the first Deftones album to feature Frank Delgado (turntables, keyboards) as a full-time band member, and the first to feature Moreno's guitar contributions. "If you take one song off White Pony and play it to somebody," Delgado said on the band's website around the time of the album's release, "You can't say, 'This is what the new album sounds like.' Because each fuckin' song is different, and how many albums can you say that about?"
But despite being spacier, weirder and more diverse than anything Deftones had previously released, White Pony was both a major artistic and commercial success for the band. The album was their first to break into the upper reaches of the Billboard 200 (it peaked at No. 3), and their first to sell over a million copies in the U.S.; "Change (In the House of Flies)," the album's first single, hit No. 3 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, while the album track "Elite" earned the band their first (and thus far only) Grammy Award, for Best Metal Performance. In addition to charting a new creative course for Deftones that they would continue to follow ever since, White Pony also cast a long shadow over the metal scene, influencing countless bands to come.
In celebration of the album's enduring greatness, here are 10 things you might not know about White Pony.
1. The album was titled before any of its songs had even been written
For most recording artists, the album title is often the last thing they come up with before sending their new record off to the pressing plant. But with White Pony, Deftones had the title ready to go before they'd even begun working on the album; they felt a subtle, mysterious title would be a handy way to differentiate themselves from the nu-metal scene.
"The name started out as the graphic itself, the picture of a pony," Moreno explained to Slamm magazine in 2000. "I thought we should use it as propaganda to represent our individuality, to say, 'We are the white pony amongst all these other bands,' and we stuck with it."
But "individuality" isn't the only meaning the album name. "There's a lot of different references for White Pony," Moreno admitted. "One of them is a cocaine reference and there's a lot of stuff ... Have you ever heard stuff like in dream books that if you dream about a white pony then you're having a sexual dream? There's a lot of stuff that kinda goes around it."
2. The band seriously considered using a different producer than Terry Date
Though the band was generally pleased with Terry Date's production work on their first two studio albums, they initially thought of bringing in someone else to produce White Pony. "The main reason was we obviously wanted to expand the sound, and figured if we had a different producer, maybe someone who hasn't done anything heavy at all, it could be an interesting combination of the songs that we and the producer choose," Moreno told Launch in 2000.
Ultimately, though, the band agreed that Date was the right man for the job. "We had gone through the cycle of [talking to] all of these different producers and we were like, the change is going to come from the band, not from Terry Date," added bassist Chi Cheng. "We feel comfortable with Terry. He's like family now, we just love him, and he's the only person that could have gotten us through this album, motivated us, and pushed us through this album."
3. It took a while for the band to come up with material everyone was happy with, largely because of musical clashes between Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter
Going in to the writing for White Pony, Moreno already knew that he wanted to add a wider variety of musical flavors to Deftones' sonic palette, rather than stick to the predominantly heavy sounds that characterized the band's first two albums. This didn't go over too well at first with Carpenter, the band's lead guitarist, who wanted to make the record the heaviest thing they'd done to date.
"There were a lot of struggles," Moreno recalled to Metal Hammer in July 2000. "At one point Stephen put his foot down and said, 'I'm not going to write anything mellow, I just want to write heavy shit.' And I was like, 'Fine'. I didn't want him to do something he didn't want to. Eventually he started to enjoy playing the diverse, melodic, slower side of the songs I'd written, but before we found that meeting place, we were just battling — we were just arguing constantly. My argument wasn't so much about music. I wanted to do these songs my way, but I wanted it to be a more universal record rather than just straight and heavy ... I was like, 'Stephen, that's fine if you just want to listen Meshuggah, but that's not what we are about as a band.'"
4. "Change (in the House of Flies)" was the track that really set the direction for the rest of the album
Though it took some time for the writing sessions to really gel, the band finally found common ground on "Change (in the House of Flies)," the creepy, brooding song that would eventually become the album's first single. "When we wrote 'Change (In The House Of Flies),' that was one of those defining songs where we all wrote together," Moreno recalled to Alternative Press in August 2000. "It started out with Stephen and I playing guitar and Frank doing his keyboard thing over it. Right then, everybody joined in. Nobody told anybody else what to do, it all just came out freely. That's when it all started to come together."
5. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was an influence on the album
One of the things about White Pony that truly separated Deftones from the rest of the nu-metal pack was the atmospheric, multi-layered music of songs like "Change (in the House of Flies)," "Digital Bath" and "Knife Prty," which sounded even more intriguing and immersive once you listened to them on a pair of headphones. This, according to drummer Abe Cunningham, was absolutely intentional.
"The other day, someone told me that this record could be some kind of Dark Side of the Moon for the 2000s," Cunningham told Blitz around the time of the album's release. "Pink Floyd's influence pleases us so much. What we've done [is] to move back until the Seventies, when bands made that long records, almost like performances, then people put some headphones [on] and listened lots of strange noises and peculiar effects ... I think that this is a great record to listen with your headphones, you'll understand better the different textures involved on each track."
6. "Passenger" wasn't originally supposed to have Maynard James Keenan on vocals
Though White Pony features vocal cameos from actress/singer Rodleen Getsic (on "Knife Prty") and an uncredited Scott Weiland (on "RX Queen"), the guest appearance by Maynard James Keenan on "Passenger" was the biggest bonus for Deftones fans, who were thrilled to hear the Tool singer swapping vocals with Moreno. And yet, Moreno told Launch, "Having Maynard perform on the record wasn't something that we planned on doing. We didn't plan on having any guest on the record. But being a fan of Tool and A Perfect Circle, once Maynard was involved, it was just a magical thing for us."
"Everyone has their own account of what happened," added Cheng, "but Maynard and Chino were friends, and during the Ozzfest, Maynard asked us to come out to L.A. and just fool around with him. And we weren't going to pass up the opportunity to work with Maynard — he's an amazing artist ... Maynard's got a totally different work ethic than us — we're basically lazy drunks, and Maynard's a very stringent, tough cat. I think on the third day, we had already all the music written for 'Passenger,' but nothing vocally, and Maynard one day just grabbed the mic, and that was it. But we didn't want to have a guest star, we didn't want to have that token guest, like, 'Here's our celebrity, we're going to bring him in and he's going to give our album credibility.' Even when we went in to record the album, Chino tried to do different things, but the thing that kept coming up was Maynard's voice and his melodies. And so, I was like, 'Hey man, just call Maynard and ask him to be on the song.' He came in, was out in two days, and that was it."
7. The band's recording progress was often impeded by their addiction to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game
Along with the various creative challenges faced by the band during the making of White Pony, several Deftones members also had to grapple with a crippling addiction to playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game, a pastime which often cut into their studio time. "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, that shit held us up like a motherfucker," Moreno recalled to AP. "I swear to God, we would come into the studio in the daytime and play that thing until three in the morning. Terry had to come out of the studio every few hours to try to get us in there."
8. The band stayed at a haunted house while recording the album
The recording of White Pony was split between the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, and Larrabee Sound Studios in West Hollywood. While working at the latter studio, the band rented a house in the Hollywood Hills that was popular with visiting bands — and also, apparently, featured a supernatural resident or two.
"It was haunted and scary as hell," Moreno told Rocksound. "One morning I woke up and I saw something floating in the left-hand corner of the room. I was like 'Nah! That shit ain't fuckin' there,' so I shut my eyes. But when I looked again, I saw the same thing but it had moved a little bit. I couldn't tell what it was, but I could tell it was looking at me. I had this uncomfortable feeling, so I fuckin' stood and walked out of the room. I didn't really tell anyone about it until Abe told me a story about the same kinda shit. The guys from Orgy were staying at the house before us, and when they heard we'd stayed there, they were like, 'Did any crazy shit happened to you?' and they started telling us what they'd experienced." Thoroughly freaked, Moreno spent the rest of the recording sessions living at a hotel.
9. The band regretted letting their label include "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" on a reissued version of the album
White Pony's original 11-song track listing (which began with "Feiticeira" and ended with "Pink Maggit") flowed beautifully from start to finish, but the folks at Maverick Records, the band's label, made the unusual decision to reissue the record just a few months later with the rap-rockish "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" tacked on to the beginning of a new twelve-song version. According to the band, folks at the label saw dollar signs when they heard "Back to School," and insisted on adding the track to White Pony, even though it didn't really sound like anything else on the album.
"I remember the record had already been out for a while and had some radio play, but they wanted a second single and they didn't think there were any more on the record," Moreno recalled to Rocksound in 2010. "I said, 'Well, how do you know, because you haven't tried with any others?' I remember them sitting me down and pointing me out Papa Roach and Linkin Park had sold 6 million albums while we hadn't sold a 10th of that. To me, they were saying they wanted some rap-rock, and at the time I was already way over making music like that. But my response was 'no way' at first, and then they pointed out the chorus of 'Pink Maggit' was so great, so they asked me to rewrite it as a three-minute song. They kept hounding me about so I was like, 'Watch this.' Because formulaic songs are so easy to write."
Despite the artistic and commercial triumph of White Pony, Moreno told Revolver in 2012 that Maverick's decision to chase a hit with "Back to School" negatively colored the band's subsequent dealings with their label, and seriously messed with his mind. "I would always say to [Maverick], 'Do you guys remember that you signed us with a record called Adrenaline? That wasn't a pop record,'" Moreno recalled. "But after White Pony, the label became obsessed with the idea that we had to have at least two or three radio songs on our albums. And if they didn't hear it, they'd try to get us to work with outside writers. Now, that sucks for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it totally broke my confidence. It was bad enough that I was a drug addict and had a low self-esteem already. But now I kind of believed that I wasn't even good at making music anymore. It was a lame situation altogether."
10. "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" wasn't the only track to exclusively appear on a separate edition of the album
You can credit major-label marketing ploys for White Pony appearing in not one, not two, not three but four different cash-grabbing editions. These include the original non-limited-edition gray-cover version of the album without "Back to School" (widely considered to be the pure and definitive incarnation of the record), the white-cover version with "Back to School," as well as two limited-edition numbered copies, one with solid red and black jewel cases, and different booklet inserts. Both of these included a bonus cut, "The Boy's Republic," that many fans have never even heard. It remains one of the band's great, largely overlooked songs, and one rarely played live — though the group did once break it acoustically atop volcanic crags in Hawaii. Enjoy that performance below.