Ernie Ball String Theory is a web series that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative guitar players. In this episode, we speak with Stephen Carpenter about his relationship with the power chord and simplicity that helped influence the diverse sound of Deftones. Find out the top six things we learned below…

1. Simplicity in the power chord. (0:04)

SC: I do believe it’s the simplicity of what I do that is the inspiration. I believe that when people actually pick up a guitar for the first time, the feeling and that attraction they have – I think is what I had originally with the power chord. When I discovered the power chord, I already knew at that moment, I could write the music I like.

2. Confidence in motion. (2:12)

SC: Literally two weeks after I started playing guitar, because of the confidence I got playing the power chord, I was immediately ready to play songs. It was with a few friends in my garage – I don’t remember the exact time frame that it was, but at some point, I got my first tuner. My first BOSS TU-12 I think is what it was. Needless to say, once I tuned my guitar up and we all tuned up, we didn’t recognize our songs because we never tuned to each other. We only just made sure we were in tune individually like I tuned my guitar… it works… But I wasn’t in tune and none of us were. So when we actually tuned up on a tuner we started playing and we’re like ‘What the…’

3. The formation of Deftones. (3:47)

SC: I told them Chino always comes over to the house whenever we’re jamming and he can sing any of the Danzig or you know Misfits songs and be dead on… Just like Morrissey… If we get him as a singer then we’ll be a full group. Once we had you know the sound of a vocalist over us playing music it’s alright we got a band now… and then Deftones was formed.

4. Failure was not an option. (4:19)

SC: I always felt like from the very beginning this was what I was going to do… and it wasn’t until I actually got fired from my last job… but at that moment… I had told my boss “thank you” because I knew that this was the moment when I will no longer work a job and that was three years before our first record. The commitment was already there – there was no turning back… failure is not an option.

5. True to self. (10:40)

SC: How we as a band got to where we are musically, the things we’ve always done have always been, in simplest terms just been selfish to ourselves. We individually all have many styles of music in common, but we’re also polar opposites of each other in some things…

6. Indifference makes Deftones. (11:25)

SC: It is ultimately the indifferences we have that gives us our advantage overall musically because we’re not compliant with each other on certain things.


Stephen Carpenter gets his signature sound using Ernie Ball custom Paradigm Slinky electric guitar strings.

String Theory

Check out similar String Theory films from Ernie Ball featuring artists like Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance, Daron Malakian from System of a Down, Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, and Justin Chancellor of TOOL.

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