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Ozzfest oddballs

The Deftones and Incubus connect by standing apart from the heavy-rock pack

Limp Bizkit. Kid Rock. Korn. Incubus. The Deftones. Any band with a DJ and penchant to drop a stilted vocal is rapcore/rockrap, right? Wrong. Two of these bands are not like the other.
With the current rap/rock glut and impending implosion, the Deftones and Incubus will simply do what they've always done: watch, listen to the hype and move on.
Currently hooked up on an eight-week jaunt with openers Taproot, Incubus and the Deftones have critical similarities. They each feature a DJ, have hot CDs, and have little to do with the heavy and rock/rap categories to which they're linked.
"I can't speak for everyone else," says Incubus drummer Jose Pasillas before a gig in Reno, Nev., "but personally, it doesn't bother me. People need to categorize us with different bands because people need to say we sound like this or we sound like that. If that's what they need to do, then so be it. I know where I stand and it doesn't affect me."
Speaking from his home in Sacramento, Calif., just prior to heading out on tour, Deftones bassist Chi Cheng says the current state of musical affairs should be a warning that things may be about to change. "I think that people should be careful not to do too much of the same thing," he says. "The industry has a terrible tendency of seeing one thing do real well and signing a thousand things like that. And then it tends to bastardize the whole thing. Whereas you have a core of just some really amazing bands, take that and move on with it."
Of course, there are differences as well. The Deftones' newly gold-crowned White Pony lurches and gurgles their trademark tuned-down heavy flow around a more focused, sickly soft ambiance. Incubus, meanwhile, splices high-energy guitar work to help support the soaring crystal vocals of Brandon Boyd into a melodic melange of planned schizophrenia.
But one additional factor that links the bands is their experience as oddballs on each of the past two Ozzfest tours. The 1999 invitation to Ozzfest was so enticing to the Deftones at first, they decided to halt recording of White Pony to hit the metalfest trail. But Cheng says the Ozzfest experience sent the band in an entirely different, discordant direction.
"To be honest, I think it kind of steered us away from doing anything kind of in that vein," Cheng says. "It's all really good quality, but a lot of it is very similar. For us, it made us want to either go heavier or go softer... We did both. [Guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] definitely wanted to go heavier. He wanted an album of all heavy stuff. For one thing, we've never done that. We'll do a song like that, but we're not going to do a whole album like, that's shooting ourselves in the foot. One of our strongest qualities is that we're able to fuse all these different styles, moods and emotions. To go from such a broad spectrum to one focal point, I thought it was really a bad idea."
Incubus' move from the psychotic bungee mode of 1997's S.C.I.E.N.C.E. to the melodic, emotional mainline of their platinum-selling follow-up, Make Yourself, may also owe something to their own Ozzfest experience — especially the strangely tepid reaction they received in 1999. "We never had a bad response, but most of those people who are spending $50 and up are there to see Godsmack, Pantera and Ozzy, so everything before that is just an act," Pasillas says. "That's the kind of reaction that you get. We kind of got used to it."
Since most Ozzfest bands usually wind up later scattering in packs of mini-bills, it's appropriate that two bands that seemed to least fit wound up together. In fact, Incubus was the overwhelming fan favorite on the Deftones' website as the group with whom to tour.
"That music as a whole," Pasillas says of the Ozzfest lineup, "I really don't listen to that sort of music. There was maybe only a handful bands I enjoyed. I haven't really toured with bands that I respect as musicians for a really long time. And with the Deftones, knowing about them for so long and knowing that they've always done sort of the underground, stick-to-your-guns type of thing throughout their careers, that's very admirable."
While hard rock fans and musicians deal with preconceptions of being misogynist dimwits only out for volume, sex and substances, the introspective honesty of heavy music also tends to attract an interesting mix of intelligent, expressive adherents. The personal intensity of both bands separates them from the stereotypes and brings them together. And ultimately, it will probably be what allows them to flourish long after the current heavy rock fad mutates into something else.
"A lot of the people in this style of music are very intelligent and very creative," Cheng says. "A lot of it comes from maybe some introspection and people going, 'You know what, this is what I'm feeling and this is the basest emotion that I have right now that I can put across musically.' And you know, it's heavy and it's dark sometimes. That's the purest form of art and honesty."
The Deftones and Incubus perform at the International Ballroom, Mon., Nov. 6, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28.50, available through Ticketmaster.