For a band that has been in business since 1988, it doesn’t seem fair that Deftones got lumped in with the now-deteriorating wave of nu-metal. Perhaps it was the price the group paid for being one of the trailblazers of the innovative (for the time) hybrid of metal riffs and hip-hop beats. But there was something else going on, as well, because Deftones’ sophisticated heaviness (often called “the thinking man’s metal”) led various musical cliques—skate rock, emo, screamo, and others—to claim the band as their own. Recently, the Sacramento, California natives released their long-awaited fifth album, Saturday Night Wrist [Maverick/ Reprise], which further debunks the one-dimensional, nu-metal rap by moving into surprising and experimental directions. There’s no doubt this is a Deftones record—the duplicity of calm and visceral angst remains a hallmark—but now guitarists Stephen Carpenter and Chino Moreno never leave listeners with a single mood long enough to allow anyone to get comfo

How did the Deftones sound develop?

Carpenter: I was really into Anthrax and Slayer when I started to play, and metal was just combining with rap. When Anthrax teamed up with Public Enemy, it was totally new. But that rock and rap hybrid sound had really evolved before we even touched it. It’s inevitable for all types of music to blend, because there are too many people enjoying all those different styles. We’re not afraid to mold things together to create something new. We don’t have a magical recipe for writing songs, and our approach never forces anything on anyone. If you force a topic, it will sound forced. If one of us has an idea, the band will try to play along. Sometimes, the idea will trigger something that leads to a song, and, sometimes, the idea will get scrapped.

Moreno: For us, mixing up all the different camps of music is natural. For example, I grew up listening to Depeche Mode and the Cure, and those bands tuned me in to how beats and synthesized sounds could be blended with melodies to attain dreaminess against a brooding background. But I also listen to a lot of music from the 1940s, because I love how atmospheric it sounds.

What gear did you use to track Saturday Night Wrist?

Carpenter: All the old stuff up to White Pony was played on a 6-string, but now I always play my signature ESP 7-string. The difference is only one string, but I just can’t go back to six strings. It seems too small. I have it strung up with an extra high E string that I usually tune to G#. However, I dropped it down to F# for Saturday Night Wrist to get a more ominous sound—that is, with the exception of the beginning of “Beware,” where it’s back to G#. It’s chimey without losing the super-heavy lows. I’ve been using a Marshall JMP-1 preamp and EL 34 power amp with Marshall 1969 cabinets forever. I’d love to have 4x12s loaded with 100-watt Celestions, so the sound is punchy—and also produces the low end better without breaking up too much—but I can’t seem to get them. I’ll pay anything if I find one! I really like effects, but I don’t record with them.

Moreno: Stephen is the wall of sound, so I need a guitar that cuts through. Fender Strats and Teles are perfect for a sharp contrast. I also have a fairly unusual Fender Jaguar baritone with a long-scale neck. I use Green amps and cabs, which are great because they break up just enough to give the boost I need. They also have a natural fuzz that’s very stoner rock, and the clean channel is really clear, so they’re versatile. My strings are Fender, gauged .010 to .052, and both Stef and I use Dunlop Tortex 1.0mm triangle picks.

Stephen, how does it feel to be such an influential guitarist?

Carpenter: I don’t see myself in the guitar god category at all. That’s where players such as Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix belong. Guys like Tony Iommi created the formula we’ve followed for decades. I still see myself as a garage player. I wish I had more skill, because there are a lot of things I’d still like to do. I feel like I play the same all the time. However, if I say I practice an hour a day, I’m being generous. I know that if you’re willing to give the time you need to get there, the guitar is going to be good to you. I’m just happy to be able to make music for a living. If I can score a few golfing trophies while I’m at it, I won’t ask for anything more in life.