Together for over twenty years, Deftones have weathered many storms and have shown themselves to be innovators on the turbulent seas of a constantly changing music industry. The band found themselves releasing their sixth studio album, Diamond Eyes, in early 2010 The dynamic album was their first since the terrible car accident that left bassist Chi Cheng severely injured in November, 2008. The band was in the process of creating what would have been their sixth studio album, ‘Eros,’ when bassist Chi Cheng was severely injured in an automobile accident in November, 2008. In what was an extremely emotional time for the band, they decided to put that album on hold. Never ones to let tragedy overcome them, the band members decided to push on and recruited former Quicksand member Sergio Vega to take over on bass. With Vega as a contributing member, the seeds were planted for the band to create and record a whole new record. Under the watchful eye of super producer Nick Raskulinecz, the result of those sessions was the band’s beautifully crafted and most dynamic album to date, ‘Diamond Eyes,’ on which they have been touring heavily on since it’s release. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Frank Delgado of the Deftones to discuss the making of ‘Diamond Eyes,’ the health status and fan support of Chi Chueng, the longevity of the band and much more!
I wanted to give a little bit of background on you and I was curious about how music first came into your life?
You know, it happened when I was fairly young. I was one of those kids who always dug through my godsister’s record collection and started listening to a lot of those bands from there. From then on, I just started buying music and always had a little radio with me or a cassette player or 8-track player with me growing up. I think I bought my first records when I was about six years old. Music has just always been there for me, if you know what I mean. I didn’t start being creative or working with other people until later in my life, early adulthood.
What made you pursue your music as a career as opposed to going a different route?
To be honest, I don’t think that I pursued it much! [laughs] For the most part, it was hanging around with friends and being creative and doing what we loved. I don’t think that anyone thought that it would grow to be some sort of career. There was no dream that I was chasing. It was just having fun with some friends and we are still doing that to this day, so it has really worked out!
Who or what are some of the influences that helped fuel you creatively early on?
All music had an impact on me but growing up I really got into DJing, so a lot of the early pioneering DJs and stuff like that, along with some old keyboard players. In all actuality, I can say that most of my inspiration comes from the four other guys in the band. I think that we always try to push each other and make some tunes that we all dig. I think that if something is good enough for everyone else in the band, we are going to be alright.
You guys have been together for ages now. To what do you attribute the band’s longevity?
A few different factors, ya know. I think that a lot of it has to do with where the band started, which is Sacramento, California. It wasn’t necessarily a big city like Los Angeles or New York. I think that played a big role, along with the comradely and age that the age that these guys have known one another since. I think Abe (Cunningham) and Stephen (Carpenter) have known one another since they were eleven or something. They used to skateboard together and ended up buying instruments and trying to make music together at a really young age. I think that has a lot to do with it. Growing over the years and coping skills, I think a lot of situations that bands can get themselves into that which can be tough. You just have to learn how to cope instead of being mad at one another or breaking up, I think this band has great coping skills when it comes to handling these situations that present themselves. It is really a little bit of all those things that have kept it going.
Can you tell us a little about the writing process for ‘Diamond Eyes’? Was it a difficult process?
No, it wasn’t. It was actually a fairly easy process. It was a fast process and there was a lot happening at the same time, especially coming off of Chi’s accident. It was just a really weird situation that we ended up in and that we couldn’t have seen coming. We threw ourselves into it and it just so happened that ‘Diamond Eyes’ is what came out of it. The whole album happened within a handful of months, where previous records had taken us years. We had a new bass player, Sergio Vega, who was our friend. All of these different scenarios and situations lead to something that could have turned out to be the complete opposite of what had happened, ya know. I think it all came together well, the stars aligned!
You obviously had some rather big shoes to fill when looking for someone to fill in for Chi Chueng. What do you think Sergio has added to the mix?
Ya know what, he is a very creative person. He is most definitely like one of us, probably the only difference being that he is from the East Coast. He is from the same generation with a lot of the same likes, growing up in the same generation gives us a lot of the same interests. Plus, he came from a really cool band, Quicksand, which we are all fans of. We had befriended him many years earlier and he had filled in for Chi on an earlier tour, so we already had this comradery and brotherhood established. It made everything very easy and organic when we got together as opposed to us bringing in a stranger, letting them into our band and trying to figure out how they work. He is a great dude and like I said, very creative. He wrote this record, ‘Diamond Eyes,’ with us from scratch. He offers a lot!
One of the greatest things about the Deftones, their friends, fans and family is their continuing dedication to their brother Chi. I want to give you a chance to tell us about www.oneloveforchi.com, what it is all about and give us any update on his condition.
Definitely! The website is www.oneloveforchi.com. You can always go there to get the latest information that the family is putting up. It is also where you can go to donate. The donations really help. The biggest news that has happened recently is that they have moved him from the West Coast to the East Coast where is doctors are and they have him in their full care, 24/7. That took a lot of time and money to be raised to get him over there. We just saw him the other day when we were in New York. We went to visit him. We all hung out with him and shot the shit with him. It was really great to see him but I think that it is going to take time and positivity to come out of this. I think that if people want to be a part of that help, the best place to go is www.oneloveforchi.com.
You released ‘Diamond Eyes’ last year and have been touring fairly heavily on the album since then. The live performance is as tight and powerful as it has ever been. What do you guys do to keep the performances exciting for yourself as well as the fans? Is there any secret to your success in regard to the live show?
There is definitely no formula! [laughs] I think that we are really just enjoying our time now. We have made a really good record and we are having a lot of fun playing it. The energy really translates back and forth between us and the fans. I think that if we weren’t having fun, it would be obvious. I wish there was some sort of formula though, as we would have bottled it by now! [laughs] We just really enjoy what we do, ya know? Even to this day we are having fun, more than ever and I think that it shows.
Technology has changed so much in the years that you have been part of Deftones, coupled with the fact that you have logged countless hours on stage, touring and so on. What has your time in the Deftones taught you on a musical level?
The experience has a whole has brought me to whom I am now. Joining this band and being creative with them, I had no musicality whatsoever, other than a “DJ-sense.” As I have learned, it has helped me a lot along the way. As technology has gotten better and the money has come along, especially for me, I was able to take advantage of that technology that was happening, the hardware, the software, etcetera. We are all pretty engulfed in that. We keep adding to our skill sets and use that to our advantage. When I started out, I didn’t even know how to play an instrument but I have come along way. It all comes from growing and learning.
Any plans for another video from any of the tracks on ‘Diamond Eyes’?
It is a possibility. We have been talking about that. It isn’t something I can talk about to much right now but I can say that the idea is being tossed around. We will see.
How are thing progressing in regard to new music? Are you working on new material while you are on the road?
No we haven’t. I think that we are going to take some time in between tours and possible write but we haven’t started anything new yet. We will tackle that after we come off of the road.
As I fan, it goes without saying that we are always hungry for new music. I have to ask you about plans for the ‘Eros’ album. Can you give us any info on that and knowing that it is such an emotional record for the band, what is your fondest memory of your time working on it?
Well, the status of it is that it is just on hold. There has been talk of what we should do but we haven’t come to any concrete conclusion. I think that we would all really like to get it out at some point but it is a matter of doing it properly and doing it right. How to do that is something that we haven’t even attempted to figure out yet. We are in ‘Diamond Eyes’ mode right now. We will see. As far as making the record, we were all just having a really good time. We were in Sacramento at our studio with Terry Date. We always had a lot of fun, just the comradery at our spot, at home, was amazing. It is hard to put my finger on just one thing that was great about that time, I would just say that the whole project in general is a fond memory.
With such a rich history at this point. Is there something that jumps out at you in your mind as the defining moment with Deftones?
That is a hard one man! I guess continuing on after Chi’s accident. We took some time to ourselves and believed instead of just giving up. I think creating a new record in the midst of that turmoil speaks for itself.
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Deftones? — no plans on packing it in any time soon I hope!
No. I don’t think that any of us think that way. “Make some more music!” that is pretty much all that we have ever had as far as planning ahead. Make music and tour, as long as we can do that, for however long, I think it would be cool.
With all that struggles you faced and obstacles that you have overcome, has there ever been talk of doing a documentary of the band’s history?
Not specifically. There was some sort of behind-the-scenes documentary that we filmed during the ‘White Pony’ years that got filmed but we never put it out. I don’t think we would be opposed to something like that but it isn’t on the agenda right now. We aren’t opposed to anything, ya know?
With all that you have learned in your time with Deftones, what is the best piece of advice that you would give to someone looking to make music their livelihood?
I think that if you are trying to make music your livelihood, just play, play, play, play! Be a solo artist or get into a band because that is where you learn to hone your skills and carve your niche, while getting better at what you do! Also, build relationships with the people around you as you discover your path. It is one thing to sit and write a song and chase a dream as far as a record deal and it is another to get out there and build some sort of fan base with your skills. I think that is what holds the key. It is at least half the battle and if you are putting in the work, people are going to notice anyway.
Thanks for your time! We really appreciate all the hard work that you guys have put in through the years. Best of luck in all your endeavors!
Right on! Thanks, man!
Be sure to get all the latest news, updates and tour dates at the band’s official website, www.deftones.com!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.