Deftones’ Chino Moreno Talks ‘Gore’ Album, Influences, Chi Cheng + More
Deftones recently scored a No. 2 album on the Billboard 200 chart with their eighth studio effort, Gore. The band bridged a four-year gap between albums and are ready to hit the road and play new material for their fans. Before their run starts on May 8, frontman Chino Moreno took the time to talk with ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Toni Gonzalez about the new disc, his musical influences from childhood, the flamingos that grace the cover of Gore and how the spirit of late bassist Chi Cheng lives on within the band. Check out the chat below:
Deftones formed when you were a teenager. Did you know early on that you had a gift for music?
I still don’t know [laughs]. I still think about that, I don’t know. I’ve always felt like I have things to learn and ways to better things, not to sound too corny, but yeah. Sometimes I still don’t know. Honestly, when we started as a band, besides Abe [Cunningham, drums] because he was the most talented, none of us knew what the hell we were doing musically. So, it was a lot of years of us just kinda figuring it out.
In retrospect, I feel like that’s probably one of the best things we could have ever done and maybe a big reason why we’re still able to put out records and to make records is because we never really have a formula of what we’re doing and how to do it. Me vocally, it’s the same way. I don’t have any patterns that I follow to get what I like. It’s very reactionary, it has to be — this music is presented to me and I just react to it. Sometimes it comes out really good, sometimes not so good. But, a lot of times it does. Especially with working with these guys, they’ve been my friends since we were kids.
Deftones are a rare band that attracts both the metal audience and an alternative crowd. What is it about the band’s music that has brought those two factions of fans together? It does not happen very often.
It’s just natural influences. We grew up listening to a lot of different stuff. Growing up in the ’80s where MTV was pretty big at the time, we had this thing called Friday Night Videos that used to come on. I never really looked at genres, especially when I was younger, I never really figured out a genre of music and completely followed it. I picked and chose from whatever genres that I liked. That could be anything from, I don’t know. As a kid, a lot of the kids in my neighborhood were listening to rap music. So Too Short, Easy E kind of stuff and then I’d listen to new wave records, Culture Club was my favorite band when I was a little kid. I went to school in 5th grade dressed like Boy George.
I’ve always found things that I like and just like them. I don’t make excuses for it. You can’t help to like what you like. All of us in the band are that way, some of us are into some things more than others, but pretty much we all have a pretty open mind to this – we’re all music fans and we like what we like — regurgitating all of that and it coming out with what you hear.
Flamingos are everywhere on Gore‘s cover art. What was your inspiration?
I’ve had the flamingo idea for quite some time. Actually, the Koi No Yokan record, some of the initial art I had turned in was this super awesome photo of this flamingo that we couldn’t get cleared and after we couldn’t get the photo cleared we went on and just decided to just go in another direction.
So I’ve had the idea for a while now, but yeah, I had mocked up a fake cover of it and even titled it Gore. This was back when we probably just started writing the songs. I sent it to the band asking what they thought about art and no one responded to me [laughs]. I thought they must not like it, so, fast forward a year where we were actually done with the record and then we were talking about art. I asked, ‘Anyone see that album cover idea that I sent over?’ Everyone was like, ‘Yeah! That was awesome!’ I was like, ‘Oh s–t. Well no one said anything, so I wasn’t sure how everyone felt.’ So we ended up doing something very closely based on that and ended up doing it a little more professional. I don’t know, the imagery to me itself, it’s very – I don’t know. To me it’s elegant in a way, the colors, especially — the whole color pallet. But the title [of the album] is a big juxtaposition of the photo itself and I feel like our music represents that in some weird way.
It’s hard to pick a favorite but just going to throw it out — “Geometric Headdress.” Point being, what are you most excited to play live off Gore once you hit the road?
I’m excited to play “Hearts/Wires.” We played that the other day at soundcheck and it sounded so massive. It’s one of the more mid tempo songs on the record, but it just sounds huge to me. A lot of the songs where — it’s hard because when the people haven’t heard the record and they ask to generalize what this record sounds like. I have to take my time because I want to say heavy, but I’ve learned to not say that because when you say heavy people expect to put it on and hear Slayer or something. It’s not heavy in that way. There are parts that may be close, but more or less sonically to me, I don’t know. It’s just like, feels weighted. Some of these songs and riffs, I don’t know, it’s like a different kind of thing. I’m looking forward to hearing all of this stuff super loud and playing it super loud and live. I think it’s going to be great.
Jerry Cantrell plays on “Phantom Bride.” What is it about his playing that made the band want to work with him?
Oh man, he’s Jerry. His sound and his voice, too, although he didn’t sing on the record but just what he brings is very much him. When he starts playing guitar, you know it’s him. We had that song and there was a little section of the song where it could have been the third verse or sort of a guitar break and if you listen to any old Deftones records, you pretty much realize that we don’t usually have guitar breaks or solos on our records. That’s mostly because I can’t play a solo. Stephen [Carpenter] probably can, but he doesn’t. We’ve never really had that sort of vibe on any of our records.
We just wrote this song and there was this little hole in the song and we asked, ‘Who should we get to do this?’ Jerry was one of the first names that popped up. I called him up and asked if he was interested and he said sure! I sent him the song and the next day he sent me a demo back of him playing pretty much exactly what he played on the record back to me and it was instantly, it’s like hearing a Deftones song and all of a sudden Alice in Chains sneaks its way in there for a good 30 seconds. For us as fans, it was a neat experience. He’s just a great dude in general and a good friend. It’s nice to be able to collaborate with people who you admire in that way. When it works, it’s even better.
We’ve been playing the heck out of “Prayers/Triangles” on Loudwire Nights. What can you tell us about the song lyrically and musically? How did it come together?
That was one of the last songs we wrote for the record. That came together really fast. Stephen was at this – there’s this conference that happens, music conference. It’s called NAMM, they have it in Southern California every year where it’s like, all these companies that make guitars, amps, they all have this big convention thing. Stephen was there, and we were in the studio waiting for him to show up and he was running a few hours behind and we just started jamming on the initial riff of that thing and Stephen walked in the door while we were right in the middle of it and he picked up his guitar and started playing right along and wrote the chorus riff and then we all wrote the bridge riff.
We did it in like, like an hour. Usually when those songs come together quickly like that, it’s hard not to feel like those aren’t special moments because it’s like, there was no talking about it. It was just very instinctual. I always feel like those are our best moments with these guys. Musically it came together really good. I like the fact that it’s, it has a little bit of a different vibe than we’re going for. It’s less riff orientated and I guess more‚ I don’t know how to explain it. It felt a little left of center from what we’ve done on our last couple of records. I dug it, and lyrically everything kind of came together. The lyrics themselves are talking about that dichotomy that lives not only in the music but inside each of us, of just like — I guess good and bad, dark and light. That’s something that we’ve sort of musically brought to the table. I felt like it was pretty straightforward as well, it was a good introduction to Deftones in general, even if you’ve never heard us.
This April sadly marks three years since Chi Cheng’s passing. Can you reflect a bit on what his legacy means to the band?
Yeah, I think his legacy is still unfolding. This band would not exist without him and we still exist today because of him. He’s very much present in a spiritual way when we’re making music or even when we’re not, even when we’re together with the other four guys. When we’re together, it’s something that will always be a part of us. He’s in so many ways creatively and just in general. His personality was something that really tied us together and sort let us get to a place where, as different as we all are as individuals, we all have this in common when we get together and make music. He was a very big part of that. He’s always greatly missed on a daily basis, but it’s one of those things where he lives on through the music still. It’s always going to be difficult. I don’t think there’ll ever be one day where it will just be easy, but just knowing that spiritually he’s still very much a part of this, it keeps you going.
Vocally, you can be as soothing as a bubblebath and next thing you know, we’re on this crazy musical roller coaster. Where does your personality lie within that?
I think I’m more roller coaster, but I don’t know. I feel like I’m like anybody, musician or not. I go through an array of emotions in a day and most people do. I’m glad that I feel like I never have to be somebody that I’m not. When I’m reacting to the music that is just, very aggressive it makes me very aggressive. At the same time, I don’t walk around in a bad mood or aggressive every day. I’m pretty easy going for the most part. For me, I feel great because I feel like I’m not boxed into some person that I’m supposed to be. I feel like this is pretty much me. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m bipolar but I definitely have extreme emotions in all directions. Musically I’m freed up to live these emotions through the tunes.
Thanks to Chino Moreno for the interview. Fans who haven’t snagged their copy of ‘Gore’ can purchase their copy through Amazon or iTunes. For a list of all upcoming Deftones tour dates, click here. Don’t forget to catch Toni Gonzalez on ‘Loudwire Nights,’ airing Monday through Friday from 7PM to midnight. To see a listing of stations that air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.
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