Tool’s Maynard James Keenan discusses role in creation of Deftones’ ‘White Pony’

Posted by on November 24, 2020



Deftones’ 2000 album White Pony turned 20 this year. In celebration, Revolver Magazine has digitally published their cover story detailing the oral history of the album, including the role Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan played in the process. 

According to the story, Keenan not only made a guest appearance on the track “Passenger,” he was also present for much of the early recording process. As Keenan and frontman Chino Moreno were friends, Keenan was hanging around the studio where they were recording, socializing and giving his input on song arrangements, riff structures and time signatures. Moreno even said during the interviews for the story that they “had this idea that he was going to executive-produce.” 

While the executive producer title never came to fruition, Keenan found himself instrumental in helping the band relax and break through their writer’s block. Drummer Abe Cunningham remembers Keenan “being down to help us work on the record” in whatever undefined capacity they needed him, but mostly coming around with champagne and Tibetan singing bowls, an instrument traditionally used during meditation for stress relief. 

“I was told the guys were having a bit of writer’s block or some turmoil within the band. Who knows? They certainly weren’t going to discuss that with me, an almost total stranger,” Keenan told Revolver. He found that his role was more to help them think differently. “Up to that point, they seemed to have been able to navigate through their differences in ideas and approaches. Great first efforts. The evidence is all there. I felt like they just needed a bit of new perspective.” 

He continued, “I had them each switch instruments, play on the bowls, take one loop and try some improvisation. The look on their faces was priceless. I might as well have been wearing hippie beads and bunny ears. I could just feel Stephen thinking, ‘What kind of acid-trip crap is this?’” 

After helping work on songwriting, especially a particular vocal melody for “Passenger,” Keenan took a step back and let the band work. “I stuck around long enough for them to start itching to not have me around. Eventually, it was time for me to let them be. The result of my interruption was for them to unconsciously remember or feel what connected them in the first place. By the time I saw them again, they had opened their own creative floodgates.”

When Keenan did return, it was to finish work on “Passenger” at Moreno’s request. Said producer Terry Date of the pairing, “I think he and Chino’s brains work very much the same. Maynard likes to do his vocals after the music is recorded, and Chino’s the same way.” 

White Pony was released on June 20, 2000. The album went platinum after two years and earned them their only Grammy nomination/win (2001, Best Metal Performance for “Elite”). 

Deftones will be reissuing White Pony on vinyl with a bonus remix album called Black Stallion on December 11. Revolver will also have their own exclusive versions of the 4xLP. Pre-orders can be found here and here.

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