t’s sobering to think how time and fate can shift everything at any moment.

It was twenty years ago that a group of high-school kids first got together to jam in a garage in Sacramento, California. Six years later, that same group of boys, Deftones, recorded their first studio album and got signed to Maverick Records. Last year, the respected, platinum-selling five-piece went into the studio to create their sixth opus, an amalgamation of everything they’d be through during the span of their impressive and sometimes turbulent career.

It was supposed to be business as usual for the alt-metal icons: A highly anticipated album release, yet another sold-out world trek, and a new notch on the band’s bedpost of rock supremacy. After a quick press tour, there would be a slew of secret shows and then a jaunt through large venues. But in November 2008, three months after they’d wrapped up the recording of Eros (Warner Bros., 2009)—and 24 hours after we interviewed keyboardist/turntablist Frank Delgado—Deftones bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident that left him in a coma.

As you’ll see, the band was very excited about Eros. Recording—something that has never been a cakewalk for Deftones—was quicker and smoother than it had been in a long time; producer Terry Date was back in the fold; and the boys recorded at their own rehearsal space in their hometown. Like all Deftones fans, we look forward to digesting the next slab of their magic, and our prayers are with Chi Cheng’s family and band mates.

So how does it feel to have the new album finished?

It’s done, man. I can’t believe it! We finished up a month and a half ago, and it’s great to have all the work behind us. It was a long process, though—we started writing in September 2007, so we really took our time on this one.

You recorded this one in on your home turf of Sacramento. How was that?

It was great. We converted our rehearsal space into a studio, so it felt like we were truly at home on this one. It took a little time to soundproof everything because we have a big warehouse, but it was totally worth it.

Your last record, Saturday Night Wrist (Maverick, 2006), was your first without Terry Date. How was it working with him again?

It was pretty essential to have Terry on board for this one; he’s like family at this point. He definitely feels like a permanent band member after all this time. We really wanted recording this album to be mellow and comfortable, so having Terry on board and working from Sacramento had a big role in the feel of this album.

What was the writing process like?

Pretty similar to the process for the other albums—we took off four weeks after touring and just wrote everyday. A few of us brought in different ideas, but everybody contributed ideas and arrangements. As always, we hit some snags in the road, but we continued through them and they naturally resolved.

Do you guys change arrangements and parts pretty frequently before a song is officially “finished”?

Definitely. A song can start with just a bass riff or a drum part, and when the blanks are filled in, it usually changes every part of the idea. The songs are always morphing a ton before they are finalized. There’s a bit of jamming involved, but once a song gets serious we really just hold it under a magnifying glass. Sometimes it’s hard to make all five band members happy, but we usually all come to an agreement in the end.

Can we expect anything different with Chino Moreno’s vocals?

Chino actually focused most of his attention on the vocals on this one. Even through the early stages of the writing process, he would be working out melodies and lyrics instead of guitar riffs. I think it definitely benefited the album and the quality of the vocals.

How do you feel about the record now that’s it’s all said and done?

Oh, I feel great about it. See, we’re selfish and we really write for ourselves first. I know that sounds shitty, but I think all bands should [write for themselves] because it keeps the music their own. When people work to please everyone else, the music usually gets watered down.  I think we all feel great about this one, but again, we’re five different guys with five different opinions, so I’m sure we all love it in a different way.

What was the most difficult part of this recording process?

Recording is always difficult for us (laughing). This one was actually a lot smoother than any album we’ve done before this. The other ones always took like, three years from start to finish—this one was pretty quick. It had a lot to do with our motivation and our frame of mind. We’ve really grown as men, friends, and band mates. And it’s always tough to overcome our laziness—we can be very lazy guys.

How is this album different than Saturday Night Wrist?

I don’t know so much about different… it just falls onto what headspace we’re in. I guess it’s heavier and softer at the same time. There’s a lot more attention to the details and the overall themes. We’re not a band that writes 30 songs and then slims it down to 12; we work out the whole album as we go, so maybe this album’s more cohesive than the last one.

And how have you changed as a musician since Saturday Night Wrist?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. I guess I step out of the box a lot more now. I do a lot more soundscaping and a lot of melody building. I really get to float in-between the rhythm section and the melodic components. I love that freedom. And I’ve been trying to use new instruments, too—I’ve been toying a lot with synths like the Korg Micro X, Micro Control, and MicroKorg. I’ve been using Ableton Live for the last two records. Coming from the DJ realm, I try to keep a pretty rudimentary sound.

What moods and themes would you associate with this new album?

Musically, it’s very uplifting. It’s something that you’ll be able to put on your iPod or in your car and just move through. It’s hard to explain. It’s like one big cohesive movement. There are three songs in particular that I just absolutely love. They might be my favorite Deftones songs we’ve ever written.

What outside music did you listen to while you recorded this album?

I really try to stay away from listening to other music when we record, but since we’ve finished, I’ve been listening to a lot of TV on the Radio. I really listen to everything, from pop to metal, as long as it’s original and “out there.”  Any band that really pushes their limits and takes it further will grab my attention. But I’m usually most inspired by the guys in this band.

Does everybody have pretty similar taste in music?

We all like pretty different music, but we can all agree on what’s good. Certain bands we all love, and certain bands we just can’t see eye-to-eye on. Stephen [Carpenter, guitarist] is definitely a metalhead, though. He’s the one who has kept the Deftones sound heavy all these years.

What would you want someone to say after hearing this album?

That we take chances and don’t give a fuck. We really don’t have to rely on the tried-and-true methods because of our longevity as a band. There’s a vast group of people who listen to us, so it’s not like we’re relying on what we think people will like or what they define as “good.”

What is your band dynamic like outside the studio and offstage?

It’s the same as it’s always been—a lot of bullshit and a lot of shit talking. It’s not always the easiest thing keeping us all on the same page, but we make music, so that keeps us together and happy.

What are you greatest vices as a band?

Everyone’s got their own vices, but as a collective, we’re definitely lazy. We can be really content just chilling out and bumming around. We do make it work to our advantage, though, and it usually just translates into chill vibes. Over time, you learn to trust your psyche and your inner voice, so we stay on point and don’t let our vices get the best of us.

What do you do with your time away from music?

I’m usually just at home with my friends and family. I DJ a lot on the side and I always stay really active with music. I always have to be creating, you know—I can’t let that fire die down. But we hang out as a band a lot. We’re definitely a big family and we love being around each other.

What keeps the Deftones inspired?  

Everything in life. We all need to be creative at all times. We’re all extremely creative creatures and I think we’d go crazy if we had to stop and do normal bullshit. This is the reason we’re here, and we are very grateful for that. We have amazing fans, and we always want to be feeding them and creating for them.

What do you attribute your massive fan base to?

It has a lot to do with the touring we did early on in our career. A lot of bands never establish a global fan base, and we’ve always had one. We’ve been touring nonstop since the beginning, and that laid a huge foundation for us.

And finally, what’s next after this album is released?

Tour, tour, tour! When we got off the last tour, we just wanted to write, and now that the album is done we just want to tour. We love them both equally, but you get itchy for one when you spend too much time in the other. We’ll definitely celebrate the release of the album and then circle the globe until we’ve been to every venue in every city. And I guess after that, it will be back in the studio. The cycle continues…


Deftones– “Digital Bath” (live)

Deftones– “Hexagram” (live)

Deftones– Stephen Carpenter (Guitar), Frank Delgado (Turntables), Chino Moreno (Vox/Guitar), Abe Cunningham (Drums), Chi Cheng (Bass)

Bassist Chi Cheng performing live in 2008

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