“People probably think that we listen to just metal,” says Frank Delgado, whose black beanie, black coat, black goatee and black Chuck Taylors with black laces readily support such an assumption. “But we're all over the map. We listen to pop, current dance and, like, Perry Como.”
Quite the admission for a member of a hardcore band known for its hardcore following. But it doesn't faze the Deftones DJ, keyboardist and sample-smith. “We're not ashamed, and we're not snobs,” Delgado says. “We're not ashamed to say that we love Prince. He's been a big influence on us.”
Consequently, a few minutes later, as Delgado is flipping with professional speed through vinyl at Portland, Ore.'s Music Millennium, he comes across Prince's brightly decorated purple-and-red LP sleeve for the classic 1999. “Here we go,” he says, throwing it down face-up. “I already have a copy, but I could always use another.”
Delgado, 35, has the art of record shopping down. He began delving into vinyl as a kid growing up in Los Angeles, snatching up 99-cent records at the now-defunct Music Plus and expanding his musical palette at L.A.'s World of Music (another victim of the MP3). “Digital music cannot replace record shopping; it's a real experience,” he says. “It's social, it's ritual and it's healthy for young kids to go out and search for stuff instead of being told by the radio what they should listen to.
“They'll find stuff they never thought they would,” he adds, “and the next day, all of a sudden they're a jazz-soul-funk kid — that's the beauty of it.”
Drawn early on to discovering new artists and unleashing the beginnings of an insatiable thirst for found sound, Delgado DJ'd all the high-school parties. “But I never thought about being in a band,” he said. “I just liked to play records.”
Joining a band may have been an unexpected turn of events for Delgado, but — as it turns out — it was a smart move. Since its inception in the late '80s, Deftones have built a massive following, inked a major-label deal with Madonna's Maverick Records in 1995 and went multiplatinum with the Grammy Award-winning White Pony (Maverick) in 2000. Along the way, they basically helped invent the hugely successful — although limply misinterpreted — rap-rock genre.
Delgado wasn't around when vocalist/guitarist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abraham Cunningham — longtime friends who attended the same Sacramento, Calif. high school — formed Deftones in 1988 (augmented soon after by bassist Chi Ling Dai Cheng). He didn't meet Moreno and company until the mid-'90s, shortly after moving to Sacramento. Moreno invited Delgado to lace the band's hardcore songs with samples and synthesized sounds. And adding a new, welcomed sonic dimension to their rock/metal mix, Delgado was asked to stick around. “We hit it off right away,” Delgado says of first meeting Moreno. “We were really into the same kind of music.”
Deftones made Delgado an official member during the recording of 1997's sophomore hit Around the Fur (Maverick). Incorporating obscure electronics, old-school hip-hop, bizarre soundtracklike moments and everything in between, Delgado didn't want to simply sample — “and have to worry about lawsuits,” he said — but rather create his own unique sounds through the combinations of others'. “I hadn't been playing an instrument, so I had to get used to incorporating my records into the music without just DJing,” he says. “So I started creating my own samples, which led to playing with keyboards and synthesizers.”
As a member of a major touring band, Delgado has managed to hit practically every record store in every major U.S. city over the years. He's narrowed down his favorites to a few: K Street Records in Sacramento, and Turntable Lab (for new records) and Sound Library (for older ones) in New York. After joining Deftones, he found himself spending most of his record-shopping time submersed in the new age, electronic and prog sections. “I'd find strange stuff and then started creating my own sounds from it,” he explains.
On this particular drizzly November evening in Portland, Deftones are about a quarter way through their U.S. tour in support of the recently released album Saturday Night Wrist (Maverick, 2006), for which they spent an unexpectedly lengthy amount of time recording. Working with producer Bob Ezrin (best known for producing Pink Floyd's The Wall), the band laid down tracks — part evil, part brainy, part sentimental — at Ezrin's home studio in Connecticut and, later, at studios in Malibu and Sacramento. Moreno clashed with Ezrin and went on hiatus from the recording process to clear his head. “It took so long 'cause we had to wait for our fucking vocalist,” Delgado says, laughing.
“We went in there prematurely — we weren't ready,” he adds, turning serious. “But it worked out. Bob's a workhorse; he pushed us to try different sounds. I'm very happy with how the album came out.”
And — obvious from his shrugs and sighs — he's happy to be done with the album, too. Now Deftones can get back to what they do best: playing live. “That's how we make a living — touring,” he says. “To survive, you have to go on the road. That's how we built a fan base early on.”
And they will. Hundreds will cram inside Portland's Roseland Ballroom tonight to bang their heads to Deftones. But, until then, with a couple of hours to spare, Delgado knows just what to do. “As I was looking through records,” he said, scanning his final picks, “I came across the idea of buying what I would play before the show tonight — these will do.”
Rare 12-Inch Versions (white label)
I couldn't pass up the 12-inch versions. You'll drop these, and people get nostalgic right away.
I'm buying this one because my other copy is worn out. I really do actually like this; there's some good soundscape stuff on here. So I use it as segues in between songs, kind of like a backup right there.
Trans-Europe Express (Capitol/EMI)
This was a big influence for me as a youngster growing up listening to hip-hop and stuff, and then I found out [Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's] Planet Rock was actually Kraftwerk. They basically invented hip-hop — what more can you say?
1999 (Warner Bros.)
I mean, you can't fight it — amazing record, amazing artist. Come on.
Bâtards Sensibles (Big Dada)
I have just recently been introduced to the French hip-hop scene. There's always something going on out there. There's a lot of exciting stuff, for me personally, and TTC is part of that, along with [Parisian electronic-focused] Ed Banger Records and all those French cats doing their thing.
TV ON THE RADIO
Young Liars (Touch & Go)
Big fan of TV on the Radio, so enthralled with the new record, but I don't have this particular EP, and I thought it would be great to buy.
King Yellowman (Sony)
Aside from maybe Bob Marley being my first introduction to reggae as a young kid, Yellowman went along with that, and then those guys ended up turning me on to dub and everything else like ['70s/'80s Jamaican dub whiz] Scientist and Lee “Scratch” Perry. So, Yellowman, very good music, why not? Sounds good.