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Deftones: ‘I Don’t Think ‘Gore’ is a Record People are Going to Expect From the Band’

Alt metal band Deftones’ Chino Moreno, one of the greatest frontmen in metal, on their next album, crazy stage antics and collaborations

Anurag Tagat Mar 16, 2016
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(From left) Sergio Vega (bass), Abe Cunningham (drums), Chino Moreno (vocals), Frank Delgado (keyboards), Stephen Carpenter (lead guitar). Photo by Frank Maddock.

(From left) Sergio Vega (bass), Stephen Carpenter (lead guitar), Chino Moreno (vocals), Abe Cunningham (drums), Frank Delgado (keyboards). Photo: Frank Maddocks

After spending a considerable number of years [maybe a decade, even] doing back flips into the front row of hungry audiences across the world, Chino Moreno, 42, says his stage diving days are long past. Moreno, the frontman of alternative metal band Deftones, says over the phone from his Bend, Oregon home, “A lot of that stuff, I don’t really remember doing. It was all this stuff I did when I was kind of caught up in the moment. If I watch some of that stuff, I think to myself, ”˜Wow. Why would I do that?’”

Those old, wild days of Deftones was backed up by the most distinct music that set them apart from nu-metal when they released the seminal White Pony in 2000. We might have unpredictable djent metal now, but Deftones’ power lay in creating unpredictable sonic moods ”“ that went from the brooding to the all-out blazing [“Passenger,” one of their most popular tracks, features prog rock band Tool’s frontman Maynard James Keenan]. They followed it up with a self-titled album in 2003, which was a study in extremities ”“ from “Hexagram,” which Moreno says is the most emotional song to perform live, to the slow-riff explosion that’s “Minerva.”

Each Deftones record since White Pony has remained consistently acclaimed, gaining Deftones a reputation that even drew in fans who generally didn’t like metal. Deftones still remain angry, seething and pained, but their last two albums ”“ Diamond Eyes [2010] and Koi No Yokan [2012] ”“ have been “happier,” according to Moreno. He adds, “I think our last couple of records were very similar in certain ways. They carried a bit of an optimistic vibe in them. To me, they were like brother and sister records.”

“For all the stuff I’ve done, I’ve never broken a bone in my body so”¦ but the craziest thing I do now is snowboard.”

Diamond Eyes was delivered after a gap of four years, the longest the Sacramento band had gone without a release. This was caused by a car accident in 2008 that left bassist Chi Cheng in a coma. Cheng died in 2013 after a long battle. They shelved their existing album Eros [yet to be released, the only song released is a tribute to Cheng called “Smile”] and toured Diamond Eyes with new bassist Sergio Vega.

Their upcoming eighth studio album, Gore, set to release on April 8th with a single out in February, also comes after a four-year gap. But now, with major festival performances lined up everywhere, from UK’s Download Festival to Germany’s Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, Deftones are ready to hit the road again. In an exclusive interview with ROLLING STONE India, Moreno talks about new material, raising his kids in a musical household and future collaborations.

Deftones performing at KROQ Almost Acoustic Xmas Xl in Los Angeles in 2000. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty images

Deftones performing at KROQ Almost Acoustic Xmas Xl in Los Angeles in 2000. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty images

What was your favorite moment of 2015? 

The year was pretty much a year off for the band, other than recording. It was pretty mellow. I enjoyed being home and kinda recording this album. It’s important for us at this time, because the last couple of records we made, we did it pretty fast and sort of worked ourselves away. On this record, we were a lot more leisurely. I kinda enjoyed that approach because you’re able to expand on a lot of things doing it that way.

What can you tell us about the new record? 

The record itself is a slight departure, not from the stuff we’ve done as a band, but from the last couple of records. It’s still very much like Deftones, but I think we just tried to expand on things. I don’t think it’s a record people are going to expect from the band. We always try to not fall into any formula and expand on what we’ve done. This record is like an expansion from the last two records, I’ll say that for sure.

It was originally due in September, right? 

We took our time with pretty much”¦ we had the record done quite some time ago. But we wanted to take our time mixing. We had a few different mixes come in and do it. We thought we’d wait until next year, until we started touring again. This year, now. The official release date will be April 8th.

You mentioned in an interview that you’re more into writing the romantic kind of stuff than angry stuff ”“ has this record still got some heavy stuff in it? [Alice in Chains guitarist] Jerry Cantrell is on it. 

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Yes, most definitely. One of the strongest points about the music that we make is it’s kind of between the abrasive sound and the soothing sound. Those dynamics are very much part of this record, but it’s just a different way of doing things, you know? That’s what we expand on.

“I’m not very creative on my own. I like working with other people.”

But obviously, my experience over the years, even before I became part of the band, I was really into more melodic music than just aggressive music. I didn’t get into the aggressive stuff until early on, when we started the band. I think I’ve kinda dealt better with a wide range of combing those influences, mixing them into what we do and in doing it so it’s very organic. It’s not something that’s forced; it just naturally comes out of me when I hear the music that’s being made. It’s definitely got that yin and yang of what we do.

You were in Paris when the terrorist attacks took place last year. Do you have dates confirmed to go back to the city? What do you think it’s going to be like? 

I’m sure it’ll definitely be a moving experience. We’ve been to Paris and France so many times and we’ve had so many great shows, a lot of great times there. Obviously, it was a terrible event, but I think the great times we’ve had there completely outweigh this one experience. We’re hoping to go back and make some more memories. I think sometime in the summer, maybe in June, is when we plan on going back to France.

There’s a string of festivals you guys are top billing on this spring and summer ”“ when you look out into a sea of people, is it difficult to sometimes tell where you are in the world? 

Not necessarily. We have very intimate relationships, we have it different in each place we go and it’s always good to go back there and experience that again. That’s all over the world and we’ll be glad if we get to come to India ”“ we always wanted to go there. And hopefully we will be able to do that this cycle. We are really planning on that.

There are also massive crowds out there ”“ in almost all your shows until a certain point, you used to flip dive into the crowd, even on the stage ”“ it looked real hurtful. What’s the craziest thing 42-year-old Chino has done on stage? 

[Laughs] Now I’m not in my early 20s. Now I’m in my early 40s. It’s a good few years ago. For me, when I watch some of that stuff back ”“ a lot of that stuff, I don’t really remember doing.

I remember one time we were playing a show in Sacramento, which is actually our hometown, and I climbed on top of this barricade, on to the speaker stack on the side and then I didn’t realize how high I was. It was one of those things where I was up there and thought, ”˜Wow, this is too high to jump off of’. But I felt so in-the-moment that ”˜I’m up here now, I have to do it’. I remember just free-falling off there and that was probably one of the scariest things, because I was unconscious. But I ended up doing it and it was probably one of the more memorable falls from our early days. It was pretty great.

The band at the 2013 edition of Leeds Festival, England

The band at the 2013 edition of Leeds Festival, England. Photo by Gary Wolstenholme/Getty Images.

I’m guessing you never broke any bones. 

Ah, definitely not. But I’ve been lucky, because since I was a kid, I used to skateboard all the time. For all the stuff I’ve done, I’ve never broken a bone in my body so”¦ but the craziest thing I do now is snowboard. The stage, I still jump around, but it’s nowhere near what I used to do in the Nineties.

You’ve personally done so many collaborations with so many different bands ”“ from [post-hardcore band] Norma Jean to [metal band] Lamb Of God ”“ what do you look for in a collaboration? How do you pick? 

Well, a lot of those collaborations were people who asked me to do a song with them. They had my voice in mind for something they had written. A lot of times, I don’t mind. For me, it’s fun to work with people ”“ you see how they work differently and you learn things, especially the lead singer. I never had any formal training in singing, so I only learned by my experience and worked with other singers and see how they do things.

I’ve actually been asked a lot more by people to do guest appearances and things like that, but I really don’t have the time to do it. But from the ones I’ve done, the ones you’ve mentioned, it’s always a fun time and a good experience to work with other people and see how it turns out.

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Have there ever been any collaborations on your wishlist? Somebody like Depeche Mode? 

Yeah. Well, of course, I would love to work with anybody from Depeche Mode ”“ new or old ”“ that’s always been my favorite band. Anything from my childhood ”“ stuff I grew up listening to ”“ so there’s just some nostalgia there, to connect on that level with somebody who influenced you. It will always be something special.

I like it better when people approach me to do music as opposed to me approaching people, because if they approach me, I feel like they specifically are influenced by me or what I do. I can then just be myself and I don’t have to try and see how I fit into that. Just collaborating in general is fun, though. I have a studio in my house but I hardly ever record anything because I don’t like working by myself. I get down people and that’s the fun way to be creative. I’m not very creative on my own. I like working with other people.

Speaking of those collaborations ”“ is there going to be Team Sleep, Palms or Crosses material out in the future? 

Yeah, I think all three of them. That’s in the works for all three of those projects, so I think whatever one gets finished first. It all depends on the guys who are making the music for it. I like those projects as well, because I don’t have anything to do with the music part. It’s kind of like where they just make music and I just react to the songs that are already there. Not like Deftones, where I’m part of writing the songs from their inception. It’s usually rewarding. Hopefully I’ll get to do some of that this year as well.

Both your sons Kristian and Jakobe are musicians ”“ what was it like bringing them up and did you think they’d get into music? 

I think they both grew up in a very musical household. Not just me, but even their mother is very into music ”“ a lot of old punk rock and great music that I was into when growing up. They heard a lot of different music in our household as kids and I always wanted them to find their own thing. I never pushed them to make music or what to listen to. They were always very curious, since they were little ”“ ”˜What is this album?’ and stuff. Now that’s exactly the way I listen to music ”“ I still haven’t changed that”¦ the first thing I do in the morning is to grab my computer and listen to music. I’m listening to all kinds of music and that’s my biggest hobby. My boys are the same exact way. They’ve come into their own and the younger son has a really thrash punk band and my other son is an electronic DJ ”“ he does a lot of French and European old-school weird electronic shit ”“ it’s really great to see them completely be their own people.

Was there a stage where they didn’t get Deftones at all and now they like it? 

They’ve always liked it, I think. Even when they were kids, they’d come to shows and enjoy it, but now I think”¦ if they wanted to, they would try and make music like Deftones, but they don’t and do nothing like that. They do exactly their own thing and I don’t think it’s because they don’t like Deftones or anything, but they just have their own tastes and I really appreciate who they are.

Deftones’ music has an emotional touch to it. Which songs are emotional for you to play? 

Some of the harder ones, like the song “Hexagram,” off the self-titled record. That song is still insane to me. It really makes me lose my mind for a second. That’s one of the songs where I really feel that passion. Some of the other songs, too, like we still play “Digital Bath” ”“ that song always gives me this haunting, hollow feeling while playing it. But it’s very delicate and that’s the opposite of something like “Hexagram.” There’s a gamut of emotions that we’re lucky enough we get to go through during a typical set of ours. I like the extremes of playing different things during an hour-and-a-half-long set.

You guys have a lot of fans in India. Have you had any offers to play here? 

Not that I’ve ever been aware of. But hopefully, this interview will help. We’d love to be down there. We as a band have talked about it a few times and we always wanted to experience that part of the world.


Listen to Deftones’ second single “Doomed User” here.

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