Deftones bounce back after tragedy strikes

Following a car accident involving the band’s original bassist, Deftones are touring again and will release a new album in October.
Following a car accident involving the band’s original bassist, Deftones are touring again and will release a new album in October. –13th Witness

In October, Deftones will release a new album, trying to build on the creative rebirth sparked by the 2010 comeback “Diamond Eyes.’’ Founded in the late 1980s by singer Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham, and bassist Chi Cheng, the band blurred the lines between metal, hardcore, and art rock, eventually adding DJ and keyboard player Frank Delgado. But Deftones seemed spent after its 2006 album, “Saturday Night Wrist,’’ and then shattered in 2008 when Cheng was in a car crash from which he remains in a semi-conscious state.

Deftones regrouped with bassist Sergio Vega from the band Quicksand, which toured with Deftones in 1997, and the new lineup produced the stellar “Diamond Eyes.’’ Subsequent shows revealed a refocused, re-energized Deftones. The band is back after nearly a year off and playing a handful of shows this summer with System of a Down, including Thursday at the Comcast Center, before cranking up its own fall tour when the as-yet-unnamed album comes out. Moreno was reached by phone in Philadelphia on the summer tour’s opening day last week.


Q. “Diamond Eyes’’ had a long, cool flow. Is the new work similar to that or a turn away from that?

A. As far as flow, it fits in with “Diamond Eyes’’ and our earlier records. We didn’t overthink things on the first couple of records. [Our second record] “Around the Fur’’ we wrote after whirlwind touring, went in with a positive mindset, made it really fast. We reconnected with that mindset on “Diamond Eyes.’’ It was a work ethic that is better for us. “White Pony’’ was the first time we took a lot of time to make a record. It turned out great, but was very taxing on the band. We were second-guessing ourselves and it was becoming not fun.

Q. You recently played the Troubadour nightclub. Is it important for the band to get back to those kinds of small gigs?

A. We’re not big everywhere, so we play smaller places. But it is great to be on that little stage and everyone is in your face. It’s more intimate compared to an arena, but you can do other things in an arena, too. This band does all right in different sized venues. I was nervous at those shows because we hadn’t played in almost a year. We played some in the studio, but not a whole show. I was forgetting some words during the rehearsal. But once we started, it all just came back to me.


Q. This band started with you and three friends. What was it like having Sergio come into it, especially under the particular circumstances?

A. As difficult a time as it was, when Sergio came in, it woke something up in us. Chi’s accident actually woke us up in a lot of ways. Like you said, we’ve all know each other as friends, and little things build up. You just go on and work, and everything gets big. Chi had the accident and it woke us up. Life is fragile and we saw how precious our time is. We bonded really tight. Sergio added a new sound and an appreciation for what we have. He’s the kind of guy who is enthusiastic about everything. He got us together again. It’s not like he was somebody we hired. We knew him and he’s a great guy. If it wasn’t for him, we probably would have stopped.

Q. Deftones songs always seem to come from a personal place. Does the outside world influence your writing?

A. I suppose I see some things slipping in, but I make a conscious effort not to be influenced. I never felt that’s what this music is about. I can appreciate music like that. But it’s tough for me to write about any kind of topic in such a forward manner. I want to paint a picture, and capture overall emotion. I’m usually driven by the music to create a certain feeling. Words come and fill in the space. I’m intentionally vague with what I say.


Q. Teaming with System of a Down is pretty cool. That tour with Godsmack, not so much. What sorts of decisions go into putting together a tour?

A. We’ve turned down a lot of things because it’s usually a democracy deciding what we do. We’ve been friends with System of a Down for a long time and have wanted to tour together, but they haven’t been working a lot. They asked us to come out on this handful of shows and it seemed like a good warm-up before our record comes out.

Q. You’ve had Serj Tankian, Max Cavalera, and Maynard James Keenan on your records and collaborated with Tech 9. Any guests on the new record or people you’d like to collaborate with?

A. Nobody is on the record as of yet, but we still have some B-sides to record. We usually have some random things. We’d like to do something with Los Lobos. They’re from LA too and we listened to them a lot. And Willie Nelson is someone we’d like to work with.

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