Interview With Deftones

13 minute read

Just before performing in front of an excited Montreal crowd, we had the opportunity to chat with alternative metal veterans, Deftones. Touring in support of their seventh album, Koi No Yokan, the band is gearing up for what promises to be an exciting year.

I sat with fellow UpVenue Editor, Kemba, and Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and drummer Abe Cunningham. They spoke about Koi No Yokan; reminisced about their youth; told us about their upcoming Record Store Day release, last year's tour with System Of A Down, upcoming shows, and so much more. And you won't believe what some of the working titles of their songs were originally! Enjoy the full interview below.

UpVenue: Welcome to Montreal! Based on your Twitter and Instagram accounts, you guys have been enjoying your time here.

Chino: Yeah, we got here yesterday morning, so we were all roaming around individually and together just taking in the city. It's a nice place, even with the snow. I had a great time last night, actually, just walking listening to music in the snow. It's a nice city.

Abe: Our buddy Chuck, a chef, had us at his restaurant and we had some great, great food last night. It was his day off too as well, so...and then the lights. The festival of lights, man. It was pretty wild, we were right in the middle of it; our hotel was right in the middle of it all, so it was pretty crazy.

UpVenue: And right now you're touring in support of your latest album, Koi No Yokan. Where did the album title come from?

Chino: Japan.

UpVenue: And what made you decide to use that title?

Chino: I don't know; I liked it, it sounds nice, it rolls off the tongue pretty good. It's a little different from typical metal or hard rock album titles. I think a lot of people think that because the music is very aggressive at times that, I don't know, maybe the content of the music should be more dark and coming from a place of whatever, and I feel like, I don't know, I feel like we make music, we get together, we write songs, we don't have an idea before we go in to write songs. We kind of just live in the moment and we're very optimistic about what we're doing and the future of everything, so it's not like a reflection of what we do, it's more optimistic; it's more like us looking to the future, and that sentiment in itself roughly translates to love at first sight, or when you see somebody, you know that one day, you two will know, without having to know. I don't know, it's kind of like this uncertain, very positive, optimistic kind of notion I think, and not that our whole record is that exactly. I think it's a little cooler place to come from when you're making music to think that way as opposed to feeling like I have to exorcize all these demons, and music is a way to do it. You can do that in your music too, but I think music is just so much more than that.

UpVenue: How have the fans been receiving your album so far?

Chino: I hope they like it. We like it. Usually, that's the case. We make records and if we like 'em, then it's a good chance that the people that like us are going to like it too.

Abe: Over time it's been that way. It's been a good thing.

Chino: You know, you can't be lazy and be complacent; there's still work to be done and thought that goes into it. But we try not to overthink things and just kind of live in the moment and capture that.

Abe: Make it feel good.

UpVenue: And again on this record, you worked with Nick Raskulinecz; what does he bring to the table that makes you want to work with him over and over again?

Abe: He's a character.

Chino: He brings himself, really. He's a great dude. He's a very sensitive guy as I've noticed from watching that Dave Grohl movie the other day.

Abe: He made us guacamole.

Chino: He was the only guy to cry in the movie, which sort of caught me off guard...but he's very in tune with what's going on around him.

Abe: He wrangles us in though, too, but he's able to…there's so much going on; you know we're writing fast, and all these ideas and stuff [...] he knows everyone's ins and outs.

Chino: He's in tune with what's going on around him.

Abe: He's able to free us up to just be free, man, and feel good. And laugh.

UpVenue: That's always important.

Chino: He is important. He wasn't as big a part of making this record as he was with the Diamond Eyes record where he was with us pretty much every moment, but this time, we were left alone a lot to write the majority of the music. But we learned a lot from him by making Diamond Eyes. Our whole work ethic got changed and got a lot better, and we were able to not get stuck in places and just…it was sort of a free-for-all, but at the same time, it was organized chaos in a way and he kind of taught us that. So even though he wasn't there the majority of the making of this record, a lot of it, not all of it, I felt like we learned a lot from him the last record.

Abe: He showed us fundamentals that we were able to kind of bring back to this one, so it was a great thing.

UpVenue: Some people have been comparing this album with White Pony; how do you feel about that comparison? 

Chino: I don't know. I think that whatever we do is going to be reminiscent of something that we've done in the past. I know that's probably one of our most commercially successful records, so that's definitely not a bad thing; it's a good thing, you know, but at the same time, it's like, you know we didn't go in trying to make, recreate anything that we've done in the past. And I just felt like this record was made so much different than when we made that record, so it's hard for me to draw parallels with it. It's us. I felt like we made White Pony, as crazy as it was, like we were on to something; we actually really captured that moment in time on that record. We were just talking about it a minute ago; a lot of the times we were making that record, what was going on is what is what ended up on that record.

Abe: We were really wild too, it was just a time in our lives where we were.

Chino: A little too wild. But we captured a moment, and that's kind of why that record is what it is. And if we tried to say, "Let's get really wild now and let's make a new record and let's make it like White Pony..."

Abe: "Let's recreate wildness!"

Chino: It wouldn't, whatever. We don't look at it like that. But, I do think that this record is comparable is how I feel like we were in a good place, and an interesting place, and we captured that in these 11 songs. So it's a good thing.

chino deftones

UpVenue: I've read that when you guys are working on new albums, you guys have working titles for the tracks. Can you tell us some of the working titles?

Abe: They're usually pretty silly, usually just top of the head stuff.

Chino: Name a song, and I'll tell you what the working title was.

UpVenue: Entombed?

Chino: Entombed was called Color Ways. No...

Abe: Tempest was Color Ways.

Chino: What was Entombed? What the fuck was it? Ask Sergio.

What was the name for Entombed? The working title?

Sergio: Dazzle.

Abe: Dazzle!

Chino: Name another one.

UpVenue: Romantic Dreams.

Chino: [thinks for a few seconds and then yells outs to Sergio again]

Romantic Dreams?

Sergio: Yard Sale.

Chino: Yard Sale. *Someone was selling all his gear that day, so yeah, we wrote that song.

UpVenue: Do you guys still refer to the songs by those names?

Chino: No. We actually didn't come up with all the actual titles until we were mastering this record. It was a little confusing during that time, but once we started like rehearsing the songs…

Abe: [looks at Chino] I was calling them by their old names, and you're like, dude, it's called this now, and I'm like motherfucker what? But now I know.

Chino: It's been going on for years, since our records long time ago. It keeps you on your toes.

UpVenue: And as we were discussing before, you guys experiment with your sound while still continuing to have that Deftones feel to it. Is it an intentional progression, or a natural evolution?

Chino: I think it's both. I think we naturally evolve, but we definitely try to reach for different things. At the same time you know, I don't think we want to be contrived about it, like we don't have a preconceived idea of what we're trying to aim for, but we do try to aim for things that are sometimes uncomfortable, or things that are weird because sometimes it's good to be on your toes like I just said. To not just get comfortable and not feel like, "We're Deftones. What do we do? We do this." And then pretty soon we're just robotic.

Abe: Let's do it again, and again.

Chino: So it's, you know, it's fun to try to take a left turn here and there.

UpVenue: We're going to jump into lyrics for a bit. In the song, Romantic Dreams, there are the lyrics, "I wish this night would never end"; so could you take us back to maybe one night where you felt that way?

Chino: Umm...probably had a lot of nights like that. One night that I can think of like that, shoot, I was in seventh grade, and I went to my girlfriend's house at the time, and she lived on this lake. It was called Greenhaven Lake, but it was a man-made lake. It was a Saturday night, and it was springtime so it was warm outside, and…

Abe: Flowers blooming…

Chino: It was at night. But it was one of those youthful moments walking around the lake with some girl that you're crushing on and, you know. There's a certain song that reminds me of that; it's a song by The Cure called The Walk. The lyrics in the song sort of make you reflect on that. And I was listening to that song and I was doing that; I was walking around that lake with this girl, and I always think about those kind of things; they paint really big pictures in my head.

Abe: You remember that forever, you know.

Chino: Yeah. But I have a lot like that. Actually that was probably like eighth grade, I lied.

UpVenue: Abe, any moments like that for you?

Abe: Last night was fucking great. I have similar thoughts like that too. As you grow up, there are things you'll always hold on to. It could be anything at all. Your first this, your first that. Anything. Something you could always go back to. You remember smells, you remember things, it's just a part of living life. It's really really cool to have those moments. Hopefully, they're positive.

UpVenue: I've also read that you guys will be releasing a special record for Record Store Day; can you tell us a bit more about that?

Chino: We're doing a series of all of our records, live cuts from all of our records. We have seven, or eight…

Abe: We have eight, but seven that are out.

Chino: The first one will come out on Record Store Day and it's basically just four songs from the Adrenaline record.

Abe: But also recorded from the time that they were, that the record came out.

Chino: So it's basically a live record series, but instead of us recording a live show, every record, there are live songs from that recorded during that time. So I had to go through cassettes from like 1995-1996...

Abe: Some were good, some were bad.

Chino: A lot of them were bad, a couple of them were ok, and the ones that were ok made it. So sonically, it is what it is, but there is some truth to it because it's kind of a nostalgic trip and so that one will come out, and then I think a month later, Around The Fur will come out with four or five songs recorded all like in '98 or '97...whenever that record came out. And then White Pony, and so on and so on every month after. And at the end, it'll be like a collection. So it's limited; it's for people like dweebs like us that like to collect things that are into nostalgia, I guess.

UpVenue: And if we were to take a look at your record collections…

Chino: I've got tons of records, what'd you like to know about?

UpVenue: What would be the most priceless ones for you?

Chino: Oh man, I've got a lot of good records. Shoot man, I've got Purple Rain on vinyl, I've got a Kraftwerk on vinyl. Shoot, I've got a lot of great records. I've got a PJ Harvey record that she signed for me. I've got records I like to just listen to; I've got Interpol's first record, which is great. Umm...I've got a lot of break beat records; just a lot of different stuff. Sometimes, we have little DJ parties in my garage; just me and my wife, and a couple of friends and some wine. We just go back there and start playing records. It's a fun night 'cause my dad gave me all of his old records.

Abe: I have my mom's, too.

Chino: My wife gave hers, too. We've got old records, too.

Abe: First pressing, too. These things are worth a million, thousand, trillion dollars, but they're worth way more than that. These are the same grooves that my mom and dad had on and you know, they're still there. So you know, it's real cool.

abe deftones

UpVenue: Last year, fans were really excited to see you guys tour with System Of A Down; can you tell us a bit about the tour?

Chino: It was pretty short. It was fun. We've talked about touring with those guys for years and years, but we never really got to. And they broke up or, not broke up, they went away for a while, and so we didn't think it was going to happen. And then, they decided they were going to do some shows, and right away, they called us and said, "What are you guys doing? Want to do some shows?" And we were like, "Fuck yeah!"

Abe: We've known them for a really long time, and I think we're actually going to do some more over in Europe soon this summer. I'm hearing about this now, so yeah. It was a great time, though.

UpVenue: Awesome! So, you guys have been around for over 20 years; what are some of the biggest lessons you've learned on your journey so far?

Chino: Umm…I learned to drink a lot of water.

Abe: Yeah, definitely. Sleep. Water.

Chino: Those two things are the essence of life.

Abe: It's very true. Water. Key to life. It's funny, we've been through quite a bit and there's been so many great times and there's been a lot of bad. It's all been good; it sounds corny to say, but to live through things and to be able to come through the other side, it makes you stronger obviously, but it gives you time to reflect and to think about things.

Chino: We've learned every life's lesson becoming an adult when we were kids. We became adults while we were doing this so, it's pretty normal.

Abe: We're all adults, you know we're fathers, and it's a great thing, but [...] our profession allows us to be a child at times to this day, which is a great thing. It keeps things light and fun, but it's serious, though, too. You gotta keep healthy, you gotta keep rocking. But we're allowed to be youthful. It's kept us youthful.

UpVenue: In the music business, word of mouth is very important, so are there any up-and-coming bands that you'd like to draw attention to?

Chino: We had this band Three Striped Tigers that was on tour with us in Europe.

Abe: Yeah, they were rad.

Chino: And they're an instrumental band mostly; there are some vocals, but it's mostly a three-piece and they're great. They only toured with us for like a week and a half in the UK, and I want to bring them to the States, or North America, or here, and everywhere 'cause they're great dudes.

Abe: [in a lovely faux British accent] Three English blokes.

Chino: They're great musicians all around, so I don't know, it's good to me that there are young kids that are not just trying to fit into a scene and are actually just very musical. You know, they grew up listening to a lot of fusion, jazz, and stuff like that, and have incorporated it into their music, but have made it new, or made it sound current without trying. It just like happens if you grew up with that wide range of influences.

UpVenue: You've got a couple of more months of touring ahead; after that, what are the plans? Taking a break?

Chino: Not too many breaks. We've been on a brea. The record came out in November, right before Thanksgiving, at the end of November, we were done. So we went off since then, all throughout Christmas and New Year's, so we just started up again; we're just going to be going on for a while.

Abe: Breaks are important too, though. At this point, we definitely look forward to nice breaks. So we have some definite touring to go, but we try to plan it out properly to feel good.

UpVenue: Aside from touring is there anything else in the works for you guys in 2013?

Chino: Aside from touring? Not really. Just hanging out, making music, and doing what we do. I don't like to think about it too much because then you just get tired thinking about it, but I know we'll be busy.

Abe: Take it day by day, maybe check out a week in advance. Drink water.

*Upon playback of the interview, we were unable to discern the name mentioned.

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