Published on January 29th, 2014 | by Oliver Pelling
DEFTONES: A LIFE ON THE ROAD
Read time: a bit over 5 minutes
Deftones have seen more of the world than even the most well-travelled travellers. The Sacramento-based alternative band have been out there playing shows and piling up passport stamps since the mid’90s. And with the massive success of their 2012 album Koi No Yokan and dates locked in for Australia’s Big Day Out festival this month, they’re showing no signs of throwing in that proverbial towel.
The group’s turntablist, Frank Delgado, gave us a call and we asked him what a couple of decades’ worth of travelling as part of a Grammy-winning metal band has been like. As it turns out, it’s been pretty good. Who’d of thunk it?
Frank, you’ve been all over the place. But where was the first place you remember travelling with Deftones?
I was the new member of the band, but our first time touring together was hitting Europe in the ‘90s. Probably ’96 or ’97. We were a young band back then, we played everywhere we could, in every little venue, in as many countries as possible. I’ve always loved the touring and travelling. I love being able to be creative and travel with my best friends and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to appreciate it all more.
Were there any things you struggled with as a young band on tour in foreign countries?
It was exciting, travelling to new places to turn people on to what we do. It was exciting seeing people’s reactions to our music or seeing if people knew who we were. But some places weren’t as easy to become accustomed to – especially as a bunch of young guys. There were certain cultures and foods that threw us, but as you grow older you’re able to appreciate the differences more – and that can be said for accommodation, food, culture or anything else. It’s a blessing to still be able to experiences those differences in the first place.
“We played in Bandung, Indonesia, in May. We really didn’t expect much – but there were so many fans waiting for us, it was nuts.”
Did anywhere in particular take you by surprise?
I don’t want to badmouth anywhere because it’s all been amazing, but when you’re young and you basically survived on McDonalds, it was hard being somewhere like France or Germany, where you’re not accustomed to the food. There’s a thing among young bands when they travel outside of America that any McDonalds they come across is referred to as ‘The Embassy’ because it’s just what you’re used to. There’s no way in hell I’d touch that stuff now, but it’s different when you’re young.
Where’s the best place you’ve travelled to, either with Deftones or in your own time?
We recently did South Africa, and that was our first time there. I never thought I’d ever get to South Africa, either in my personal life or what we do for a living and it was amazing. To be so far away and have so many fans, then of course there was the culture, the people and the land. We had a really good time. We played one of their oldest festivals, Oppikoppi, out in the bush. There were like 30,000 people, so for our first time there it was pretty mind blowing.
Did you get to do much looking around?
We only had two shows, and we were there for a week and a half so we got to do some tourist stuff. We stayed at a reserve in Johannesburg and did the whole safari thing, we visited Cape Town, went to some wineries, we did as much as we could. We try and take advantage of that stuff as much as possible. We don’t get a lot of down time in a regular tour, so that time off in South Africa was appreciated.
What’s the most bizarre show you’ve played?
We played in Bandung, Indonesia, in May. We really didn’t expect much – but there were so many fans waiting for us, it was nuts. I think we were pulling off the freeway to Bandung after sitting in four hours of traffic, and under the freeway pass was a mural of our bassist [Chi Cheng], who had passed away the month before. To see a mural of him under that freeway, which they told us had been there for a year, was pretty amazing.
Is the novelty of visiting new places still there?
Oh yeah. Definitely for me, it really is. I mean, it’s hard being away from family for long periods of time, but I can’t wait to go to places I’ve never been to.
Is there anywhere that you’re always stoked to get back to?
Australia’s always been great. We always have a really good time there and the fans are so good to us. We’ve played the festivals and we usually head there when it’s really cold here, so we appreciate the warm weather. I’ve also always loved Japan. It’s like Bladerunner. We’ve never really been there for that long, and probably only had one day off, so it’s always been super intense, in-and-out-type touring. It was always such a sensual overload, but I loved that. Russia too – another place that’s so far away. It’s one of those places that you don’t quite know what to make of, and perhaps you fear it a little before you get there, but Russia’s been amazing for us to travel to and play in over the years.
“When you’re moving around lots – whether or planes or buses or other transport, you’ve got to do as much as possible to not stress yourself out”
What essentials do you make sure you take with you on any tour?
My laptop and my camera. That’s it. That’s how I do everything – making music, storing pictures – that’s it. I take a lot of pictures and I do most of our Instagram stuff. It’s just fun to give people a look from our perspective. We’re not very vocal or talkative when it comes to other social media, but we’re very visual. I think it gives people a better perspective of what we see and how we see it.
Have you picked up any tips during your years spent exploring the globe?
I used to be really stressed at airports, and now I kinda like them. So long as you give yourself enough time, you’re not so stressed. I’ve also learned to pack more efficiently. You’ve gotta lighten the load. I used to carry so much stuff, but you learn you really don’t need or use any of it. When you’re moving around lots – whether or planes or buses or other transport, you’ve got to do as much as possible to not stress yourself out. Just keep calm.