There’s an entire generation of nu metal kids that know where they were the minute that they heard Deftones’ “Back to School” for the first time.
Even though songs like “Be Quiet and Drive” may have been heavy for the time back in the ‘90s, it looked like these guys were finally going to be entering into the nu metal crowd properly, writing a song that would fit right in with the Limp Bizkit’s of the world. It was the perfect storm for the time, but Chino Moreno originally wanted nothing to do with it.
When the band first handed in White Pony, “Back to School” didn’t even exist, until their label called them and said that they wanted something that was more radio friendly than the more atmospheric stuff on the record.
Equally frustrated and tired, Chino’s original sketch for this song was actually written as a joke to show his higher ups how easy it was to write by-the-numbers nu metal, only for the label to then take it seriously and put it out as their next single, even including it as the first track off every other edition of White Pony.
Chino was even mortified talking about it later, saying, “I remember someone calling me and saying, ‘This chorus on the last song (“Pink Maggit”) … that’s a hit chorus. All you gotta do is write something a little more upbeat on it. Why don’t you rap on it, man?’ I was like, ‘Hell no. We just made a statement record, and you guys all loved it when we put it out a few months back.’
Going to record [“Back to School”], I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to show [Guy] how easy it is to make a simple, formatted, verse-chorus-rap-bridge song.’ I sent it to them as quickly as possible so they could be like, ‘Wow, they did this that quick?’ They got it, and they loved it. I thought it was so-so.”
Elaborating on how methodical the song’s middle finger creation was later on to Germany’s Vision Magazine, Moreno said:
“‘Back to School’ was a mistake. A calculated song, that had been built up with only one aim in mind: It should be a single. … ‘Back to School’ was released because I was an idiot. I wanted to prove something [to the record company]. Months later, after White Pony was released, they wanted us to do a new version of “Pink Maggit”.
They said we lost our heaviness, and there were no more singles on the album. First, I wanted to stick this idea up my ass, but then I thought: ‘I’m gonna show those fuckers how easy it is to create a hit-single.’ And so I rapped a hip hop part on that song, we shortened it and half an hour later, the hit-single was ready to roll on.”
Even though most of the modern editions of White Pony still hold together as a solid album with “Back to School” kicking everything off, Chino was already having his doubts only a few years after, telling Kerrang “I liked the sequence [of the album] we had when we first turned it in.
When this version came out, a little part inside all of us felt like, ‘Fuck! We just totally compromised,’ and I know that a lot of our fans felt bad about it too.”
Regardless of which songs actually made the cut though, White Pony is the landmark record that took Deftones from the underground nu metal act to one of the most important metal bands in the world.