Stephen “Stef” Carpenter is an American musician, known as the co-founder and lead guitarist of the rock band Deftones.
His guitar technique makes use of both ringing open strings and dissonant chord voicings, as well as stock power chords in poly-rhythms. Carpenter began his musical career with Deftones playing the traditional 6 string guitar. After becoming influenced by such bands as Fear Factory and Meshuggah, he began playing a seven-string guitar in the late 90’s. After Deftones’ third album White Pony, subsequent releases would be written with seven strings; up until 2010’s Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan, which were written with an eight-string guitar. He was ranked 60th in Guitar World‘s The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists poll.
Stephen Carpenter was born on August 3, 1970 in Sacramento, California, to an American father and a Mexican mother. He has a sister named Marci. He grew up in the Sacramento area and pursued many hobbies, including skateboarding.
When Carpenter was 15 years old, he was hit by a car while skateboarding. He used a wheelchair for several months. It was at this point that he began teaching himself guitar by playing along with bands such as Anthrax, Stormtroopers of Death and Metallica. It has been reported that the driver paid Carpenter a cash settlement that allowed the band to purchase equipment, but drummer Abe Cunningham commented in an interview that this was “a myth about how our band was started.”
Carpenter attended McClatchy High School with future band mates Chino Moreno and Abe Cunningham. They were childhood friends and remained friends through the skateboarding scene in Sacramento. When Moreno found out Carpenter played guitar, he set up a jam session with Cunningham and the three began playing regularly in Carpenter’s garage circa 1989. After playing with several bassists, the band settled on Chi Cheng and within two years the band began playing club shows and later expanded their playing territory to San Francisco and Los Angeles where they played shows alongside bands such as Korn.
His relationship with Deftones lead singer and band mate Chino Moreno has been recorded as being fraught at times. Apparently, recording of Saturday Night Wrist was protracted due to their “warfare”. With regards to musical tastes, Saturday Night Wrist being described as “more aggressive” equated to it being “more aggressive for him [Chino]”; Carpenter said he’d “definitely be glad to take it to the next level, but that’s asking too much right now.” He is Testament singer, Chuck Billy’s, first cousin.
Carpenter has stated that he mostly listens to hip hop, but outside of hip hop, Meshuggah, Fear Factory, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Faith No Moreare some of his influences. He has also stated that his favorite album of all time is Chaosphere by Meshuggah, saying: “The most brutal record I’ve heard, from second one to second last. It left me wondering where the hell I’d been the whole time.”While recording Deftones’ Diamond Eyes, he claimed that the only artist he listened to was American rapper Tech N9ne.
Stephen Carpenter is the guitarist in California alt-metal gurus Deftones. From 6- to 7- to 8-string guitars, Stephen has never been afraid to push the limits of what a guitar is meant to sound like. With an unmistakable style, he has turned to ESP since the 90,s to build guitars that meet his every need. Stephen;s guitars were built to handle the heaviest of breakdowns, the richest clean tones, and everything in between.