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MADONNA's Secret Role In DEFTONES' Success: How The Pop Icon Signed The Band

"Hey, Madonna wants to see you guys play."

WTR-2023-D03_50

In the obscure corners of music history lies a fascinating chapter that probably only die-hard Deftones fans might be aware of — the unexpected connection between the iconic pop star and actress Madonna and the rise of the alt-metal legends. Yup, you read that right.

In a recent interview that surfaced two decades after the groundbreaking event for the band, Chino Moreno recalled the unconventional signing process and the band's intriguing encounter with the pop queen herself. It turns out; Madonna was not just a figurehead at Maverick Records — she was actively involved in seeking out and signing promising talents.

Back in the mid-'90s, when Deftones were just a group of teenagers making waves in Sacramento, California, Madonna's influence reached them through a serendipitous connection. As Moreno reminisced: "We honestly weren't looking for a record deal. We were very lucky that we played a show — it was our first time playing in Los Angeles. We got a show closing for a band that was showcasing for a record deal. But somebody was there that knew somebody who knew Madonna. And basically, she got our demo tape — we had like a two-song demo tape."

What followed was a whirlwind experience that Moreno described as "surreal": "We were at work the next day — I used to work at Tower Records — and I was at work, and I got a call from Maverick Records, which was Madonna's record label at the time. It was a brand new record label — she had only signed Alanis Morissette and Candlebox. … They called us at work and said, 'Hey, Madonna wants to see you guys play.' … So, they flew us back to Los Angeles."

The audition, set in a rented rehearsal spot in Los Angeles, was a brief but a very successful one. After playing just two songs, Maverick Records co-founder Freddy DeMann was so impressed that he immediately offered the band a deal.

"We go to LA, and we're in a little rehearsal spot. They rented gear for us. And we went in there it was Madonna's manager, Guy Oseary, who's Madonna's manager now." Moreno recalled. "And they sit on a chair and they say, 'OK, play.' And we played like two songs, and then in the middle, Maverick Records co-founder Freddy DeMann stands up, and he goes, "OK, I heard enough — where do I sign?'"

"We went to the offices right after it. I sat down on the couch. … The door opens, and Madonna walks in. So this was like, one of the first famous people that I met is Madonna. Like, as a 10-year-old boy, all my fantasies are coming true." Moreno added.

The unexpected alliance bore fruit with Deftones releasing their debut album, Adrenaline, in 1995 under Maverick Records, laying the foundation for their enduring legacy. Reflecting on the improbable turn of events, Moreno mused: "That is absolutely surreal that Madonna would be so into a nu-metal band that she would push to get them signed. Go figure."

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"He was kind of on to something on that because it kind of started to take a downturn after that."