Deftones is an American alternative metal band from Sacramento, California, founded in 1988. The band consists of Chino Moreno (lead vocals and guitar), Stephen Carpenter (guitar), Frank Delgado (keyboards and turntables), Abe Cunningham (drums and percussion) and Sergio Vega (bass). The group’s original bassist was Chi Cheng, who fell in a coma following a 2008 car accident and died in 2013. Deftones have released seven albums to date, with three Platinum (Adrenaline, Around the Fur, White Pony) and one Gold certification (for Deftones).
When Carpenter was 15 years old, he was hit by a car while skateboarding. Confined to a wheelchair for several months, he began teaching himself guitar by playing along to bands such as Anthrax, Stormtroopers of Death, and Metallica. Supposedly, the driver paid Carpenter a cash settlement that allowed the band to purchase equipment, but Cunningham commented in an interview that was all just “a myth about how our band was started.”
Carpenter, Moreno, and Cunningham were friends from their childhood. All three went to McClatchy High School in Sacramento and remained friends through the city’s skateboarding scene. When Moreno found out Carpenter played guitar, he set up a jam session with Cunningham, who played drums, and the three began playing regularly in Carpenter’s garage circa 1988. After playing with several bassists, the band acquired Chi Cheng and recorded a four track demo soon after. Within two years, the band began playing club shows and later expanded their playing territory to San Francisco and Los Angeles, where they played shows alongside bands such as Korn. While closing for another band in L.A., after the majority of the audience had left, the band impressed a Maverick Records representative. They were soon signed to the label after showcasing three of their songs for Freddy DeMann and Guy Oseary.
The name “Deftones” was created by Carpenter, who wanted to pick “something that would just stand out but you know, not be all cheese-ball at the same time.” Carpenter combined the hip hop slang term “def,” which was used by artists such as LL Cool J and Public Enemy, with the suffix “-tones,” which was popular among 1950s bands (e.g., Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, The Quin-Tones, The Monotones, The Cleftones, and The Harptones). Carpenter said the name is intentionally vague to reflect the band’s tendency to not focus on just one style of music.