DEFTONES Drummer Talks About Making Of ‘Koi No Yokan’


Icon Vs. Icon recently conducted an interview with DEFTONES drummer Abe Cunningham. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Icon Vs. Icon: You have been at it for a long time and have been very successful. To what do you attribute your longevity in the music industry?

Abe: Maybe never really having a plan! [laughs] Honestly, when we were starting out, we were just friends, just four guys, now five, who made songs. We weren’t even writing songs, we were just putting stuff together in the garage. It is a pretty simple story. It all sprung from a childish urge to rock, if you know what I mean. It is still that way today and I think that is a great way to start anything up. For better or worse, we have definitely taken 10 steps forward and 19 steps back on several occasions, but that is life. In the band, there are five personalities who are living five very different lives — trying to be as one isn’t always easy. I am thrilled that we have worked out so much of the crap through the years and are able to work together. It puts us in a really good spot as friends and as dudes in the band. Hopefully, the best is still yet to come.

Icon Vs. Icon: The new album is “Koi No Yokan”. How did you guys arrive at choosing that title and what does it mean to you?

Abe: It is definitely an interesting title. It is a sense that two people will fall in love, without having to mate, falling in love upon first glance, and it is a special feeling that doesn’t always happen. I think that many people go through life trying to find “the one.” It is a really special feeling, but it is not to be confused with love at first sight, because it is not that, it is a sense. There is a bit more to it. It is a Japanese term that does not translate into English, so it gives it a little more mystique. It is a kind of a cool thing that people get to interpret. Everyone is looking for that love — maybe not everyone, but most everyone is looking for something special in life. For those that can find it, it’s a great thing.

Icon Vs. Icon: When you were first starting out to make this record, what were your expectations?

Abe: Like I said, for better or worse, we rarely have a plan! [laughs] When we completed writing the “Diamond Eyes” record a few years back, we were working with [producer] Nick Raskulinecz. At some point, he said, “OK, guys, that’s it. I think we are done. We have the record.” We were like, “What? We still want to go! We just want to write music!” Really, from that point on, the end of the last record, we were really ready and couldn’t wait to do another record. We ended up doing a year and a half or so of touring on that record. The whole time we were on the road, we were really anxious to get back into the studio and do a new record. We are in a really juicy, creative spot right now, and we are definitely firing on all cylinders. This is the second record in a row that we have been able to pop out pretty quickly. That’s not to say that we are rushing it for the sake of rushing it, because it is not that at all. It was just really important for us as a band to figure out how to do that once again. We needed to figure out how to be productive, together and on time. There is definitely a confidence that comes from knowing we can do that again because there were a lot of years that we couldn’t do that. We are definitely in a good spot.

Icon Vs. Icon: Can you tell us a little about the writing process for “Koi No Yokan”? Are you doing anything differently these days when you approach a new album?

Abe: I wouldn’t say that we are taking it more seriously, because I think we always have. What we did do is set a start time and a stop time for writing daily. We had never done that in the past. We used to go in and start at 7, but people would start rolling in at 8 or 9. Then we would start jamming at 11 or 12 and go until 3 in the morning and you’re wrecked! We did that for so many years, man. It was definitely not productive or conducive for getting things done. We just figured if we put in a six-to-seven-hour workday, six days a week, we would be able to come in and have fun, bounce around, then still be able to go to meetings in the morning and still be human. We adopted that approach last time for “Diamond Eyes” and did it again this time around. It is working great! It is funny — well, not funny, but it is too bad that it took us that long to figure it out! [laughs] I am glad that we did!

Icon Vs. Icon: Was that the biggest challenge in making “Koi No Yokan”? Did anything come up along the way you didn’t expect?

Abe: Ya know what? To be totally honest, not really. It was actually pretty damn cool on a lot of levels. We took time in the middle of writing the album to go to Hawaii for a week. We had little breaks in the middle to break up the writing process, so that was really cool. It was so loose and really fun.

Icon Vs. Icon: You guys seem to be in a terrific place in the creative sense. Is that a fair statement to make?

Abe: It is. Stephen [Carpenter, guitar] and I, every time we make a record, he and I, well, he always tries to pick a fight with me and we almost break up. [laughs] Once that is out of the way, then we are great! It’s kinda silly but it has to happen. At this point I am, like, “Dude, when are you going to fight with me, so we can get it over with and then get down to it!” [laughs] This time around, like clockwork, he tried to talk shit to me, we had our fight, and then we were back on it! Like clockwork! [laughs]

Read the entire interview from Icon Vs. Icon.