The Deftones Surviving Tragic Career Altering Accident Three Years Later

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DeftonesDeftones are presently enjoying their most successful album this past decade with the release of their latest record Diamond Eyes, which debuted at number 6 on the Billboard Top 200 chart upon its release last year. The highly regarded album was listed as best album of 2010 by Kerrang!, #3 in Metal Hammer’s top 50 albums of the year and the record was also the named the top rock album of 2010 by iTunes.

Diamond Eyes is the band’s first album to feature Sergio Vega who replaced original bassist Chi Cheng in 2008 after a horrific accident placed him in a coma in which he is still trying to recover from. Vega, the former bassist for punk band Quicksand had previously filled in for Cheng 1998 during an injury and remained a close friend of the band since then, making him a natural fit for the replacement. The band notes that Vega had considerably aided in harnessing the positive outcome of the album and bringing a breath of fresh air during the difficult time.

Whitney Bragagnolo sat down with Deftones bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Abe Cunningham to get their thoughts about the making of and touring of Diamond Eyes on their recent  2 day back to back sold out stop in Vancouver.

How big of an effect do you think that working with producer Nick Raskulinecz and Sergio helped in really harnessing and inspiring that really positive energy that your new album has?
Abe Cunningham: It had a tremendous effect on that. Nick, Sergio… Obviously the circumstances were rather dire and quite extreme. With Chi’s accident, it really kicked us into gear on many, many levels. Quite frankly at that time, we were so ready to be positive and have things go smoothly, because the past few records we’ve made have been so difficult, ’til where the band almost broke up every time. It sounds corny to say, but we’re super close, we’re family. It’s kind of messed up when you can’t talk to your best friend and he’s right here, and you’re trying to be creative. It’s pretty bad.

How did Nick differ in the studio from Terry Date and Bob Ezrin? How did the dynamic change?
AC: It’s just a different person. Like I said I think it was us being ready to get down to it and stop wasting time.
Sergio Vega: He definitely brought a good structure. He gave us a nice template to work with. The creative aspect was really organic, but what he brought was, “We’ll do these days, from these hours…” and he was there capturing everything. So if we didn’t pick on something that was cool, he would be there to be like “This was cool, y’all did this” and “Work on that.”
AC: We also didn’t have any time. We had already made one record on this whole recording and we had used almost our entire budget to make Eros. And when it came time to say “Hey man, we want to do another record,” we were asking the label what they think, and there were like, “Are you serious? Well, if you can.” So we had no time and very little money to do it, and it just like, SNAP.  We just whipped it out, you know?

What was the shift that you needed to make artistically to make this new record the album that you wanted it to be compared to Eros, which hasn’t seen the light of day yet?
AC: I got to say it was pretty much Chi’s accident. I’m sure we could have made an album similar, we had good intentions, but that really just kicked things into perspective. How we treat each other, how we treat our business, which I hate to say it but this is what we do, this is our livelihood. Just how we treat everything. The fact that we were able to do it, to be walking around on two feet, healthy, still doing it after all of these years. That just put in into perspective, the fact that he’s down, the fact that he’s not able to do that, made us…
SV: More appreciative…
AC: Yeah, totally man.

You seem to change directions with every record, do you ever feel the pressure from older fans to revisit the older sound?
AC: Maybe a teeny bit, I think we have in the past. I know I’ve learned, I think we all have as a group that you can’t make everybody happy. You certainly don’t want to alienate people that were into you and dug what you’ve done for all these years. But of course we never wanted to make the same record twice, we always wanted to evolve, I think any band does. At the same time, what’s wrong with sounding like yourself? You know what I mean?  There’s nothing with that, either. It’s just a matter of wanting to be stimulated and be happy.

You guys have done some awesome collaborations, you’ve done stuff with Serj Tankian (SYSTEM OF A DOWN) and Scott Weiland (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS/ VELVET REVOLVER)… Who has been your favourite collaboration so far? Does anyone in the studio have particularly amazing chemistry with you guys?
AC: Hmm… Maybe the collaboration that have yet to have done…

Who do you want to work with in the future?
AC: A lot of the people I want to work with are passed away. I still want to work with Prince. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’m not even kidding, that would be awesome.
I dunno, there’s tons of people. What do you [Sergio] have to say on this matter?
SV: I don’t know. It seems like whoever we’re on tour with, you get excited about because you meet them and then you have those opportunities. You realize that there are a lot of great people who are very talented. I think it’s more about what happens in that situation where you’re actually recording. I’m not so much fixed on anyone in particular. The more bands we travel with, and how nice they are, and what they bring to music, you know, that’s inspiring. You know, It’s all good. I could work with any of these people.
AC: In a world when so many collaborations are smashed together and manufactured and placed…. Every time that we’ve ever done anything it’s been either a friend or someone happened to be in town, it just happened very naturally. I think that’s the best way. I’m always open. I think we’re always open to work with anyone.

Do you guys have a favourite festival that you’ve played? And who do you enjoy seeing play live?
AC: Festivals are just a blast. We’ve been playing for years over in Europe. We just did Lollapalooza the other day in Chile. We all grew up with that. I went to the very first Lollapalooza when I was a sprout. That was such a big part of our existence growing up. Festivals are always a blast because they’re so varied. Some are more genre-oriented, this is a harder rock one or whatever. It could be us, and Bob Dylan after us, and Sex Pistols and whoever… Motorhead and PJ Harvey. It’s just so cool. We love music and to be able to spend a day or a weekend watching bands…
SV: Checking bands out, especially ones you didn’t expect to see.

I remember seeing you guys in 2006 at [The Taste of] Chaos tour, you’ve also done Family Values, Rock in Rio, Do you have a favourite festival you’ve played? Who do you guys enjoy seeing live? Has anyone blown you away recently?
AC: Festivals are just a blast. We’ve been playing for years over in Europe. We just did Lollapalooza the other day in Chile. We all grew up with that. I went to the very first Lollapalooza when I was a sprout. That was such a big part of our , of everyone’s existence growing up. You know what I mean? Then it went away for a while, and came back as a two-day fest in Chicago and that was great…Festivals are always a blast because they’re so varied. Each line-up and bill, some are more genre-oriented, this is a harder rock one or whatever. It could be us, and Bob Dylan after us, and Sex Pistols and whoever… Motorhead and PJ Harvey. It’s just so cool. We love music and to be able to spend a day or a weekend checking bands out. Especially ones you didn’t expect to see.

Who has blown you away recently?
SV: We just played with Cypress Hill, that was fun. We saw The National the other day in Chile, that was good, they were good to see live. I didn’t expect to see them. I didn’t know they were playing that day.
AC: Someone was bad as, was bad as F the other day. Bad as F!! I can’t remember who it was, though.