Deftones | Hold It Together

“We’ve never been reliant on that, we’re not the type of band with flames and pyro, but the good sound that we bring hopefully is enough.”



The Deftones are one of the few remaining early- to mid-’90s bands that stay relevant today. Without naming names, too many of the bands from the era remaining carry on with few of their original members, or the clout among their hardcore fan base that The Deftones—Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter, Abe Cunningham, and Chi Cheng—maintain to this day. 

A trip to St. Louis for the band means a sold-out crowd at the Pageant, or in the event of their appearance at the Scottrade Center with Alice in Chains, a rabid fanbase nearly overshadowing the headliners. This April the band returns, still without bassist Cheng, who is recovering from an automobile accident suffered over two years ago that sent him into a coma, and now, a semi-conscious state.

With that in mind I spoke with drummer Abe Cunningham about the band’s upcoming tour, as well as an update on Cheng and the band’s future with Sergio Vega. 

First and most importantly, what is the current update on Chi?

Good news! They’ve been trying to raise the money because he needs constant care, and they’ve finally moved him to New Jersey this week. Now he’s all settled in and these doctors handle more experimental stuff dealing with soldiers coming back from various wars, dealing with IED victims and brain damage. These doctors have a very high success rate of giving people back some sort of life. He just keeps making a slow progress.

Any future releases/benefits?

We are actually working on the end of this run, after we start up this summer time thing. We are doing two benefit shows at the end of this run, one at home in Sacramento and one in So-Cal somewhere.

What went into the decision of giving a larger focus on stage production for the Blackdiamondskye tour, and is that focus on lighting here to stay?
That was kinda just the arena thing and we brought out some lights. We’ve never been reliant on that—we’re not the type of band with flames and pyro—but the good sound that we bring hopefully is enough. That was just one of those things; its not like we aren’t bringing lights, but we just really rely on the synergy between the band and the crowd.

On that tour it seemed like Sergio was really fitting in well. What is his future with the band?
He’s there for, in his words, “as long as he needs to be.” Of course we would love to have Chi back in some form at all. I want to see him being a dad, being with his son. Of course, who knows if he will be able to play with us again. Sergio’s filled in in the past, and we will probably start making a new record and have him be a part of it. He’s been a great friend in so many ways, but Chi is tough as a bull, so it’s impossible to say he can’t do something.

There have always been Deftones remixes as B-sides or on extended versions of albums. What is the chance of either putting all those together on one release, or creating a new CD of remixes? 
It’s a pretty neat idea. We haven’t really discussed it much, and we had the B-sides album a few years back just because we had so many covers and B-sides. There’s so many people doing things these days, and so many avenues of doing these things that anything is possible.

What is the process for putting a setlist together on this tour?
In the past we would generally do a setlist minutes before we went on, and it was a pain in the ass for the guitar techs, the sound guys, us. So after many many years, especially recently, we stumbled on some really great setlists that work really well. We will always talk about switching it up, but we don’t want to run anything into the ground so if something just feels right we might do that for a few nights. There are certain ways to do it, and we certainly have plenty of material to change it up every night, but you cant make everyone happy—some people love the hard, or the mellow, or everything, but you just can’t make everyone happy.

What holds things together mentally and physically over the duration of a three-month tour?  
I don’t know, honestly. We’ve done it in the past many times, and we are on a break right now before we get into rehearsing for this run. I think we are a lot better shape than we’ve been in a long time, physically and mentally. We’ve been out about eight months on this record so far; a lot of it’s mental, and when you have the dates booked and on paper, you can kind of internalize how long you have to hold it together. We are also so excited to be on tour with Dillinger Escape Plan, and after being around those guys in the past we are such great friends. They are just crazy musically, as well as the stage antics. We are having more fun out on stage than we’ve had in a long time as a band.

What is coming up after this long tour? 
We have this three-month thing, then we come back from that, take a month off, and probably start writing. Well, actually Stephen has informed us he will be playing a poker tournament and be a poker master, then when he gets back we will start probably writing, and playing a few more festival shows in Europe. 

You’re playing the first Lollapalooza in Chile shortly. What history do you have with Perry Ferrell?
I remember going to the very first Lolla in 1991 and being a huge fan of Jane’s Addiction. We played shows with them when their last record, Strays, came out, and we played Big Day Out with them in Australia. We become buddies. I’ve known Stephen Perkins for a long time from different drummer things, and Perry is just a character. We were all hanging out—Foo Fighters, PJ Harvey, Queens of the Stone Age—everyone would come around and hang and play ping pong. That was a great festival!

How do you feel about festivals in general versus playing your own shows? 
We’ve played so many over the years. I love the European ones that have been going on for decades and the crowd goes on three-day packages and camp and everything, but they’ve been going on forever over there. Now there are a few in America. When you’re doing a festival run you just dive in, but they’re really fun. It’s great getting to walk around and watch other bands. 

Being on the road so much you guys probably don’t get to go to many shows, so I could see that being a definite bonus.
Actually, I personally do go to quite a few shows when we are on the road, on our off nights, but that’s not everyone.
As a drummer who gets to watch everything happen in front of you, what do you really love out of a crowd, or your bandmates, that lets you know they are really into it?
In spite of the fact I’ve been looking at Chino’s ass for 23 years, sometimes I’m blinded by the lights, or avoiding seizures from strobes. I really do have the best view. I love seeing people smile, and seeing people enjoy themselves. Being on stage for two hours and doing nothing the rest of the day—that two hours or so is really just beautiful. I like taking it all in.

How do you feel about the new VIP tour service?
It’s a new thing that a lot of people are doing, and it’s a new revenue stream and I hate that term, but people have to make money in new ways because of low record sales. We are all really approachable dudes, and we’re always hanging so I don’t know that I’m cool about it to charge people. But I’m one of five, and we will always be there hanging out around The Pageant, for those non-VIPs! | Bruce Matlock 
Deftones will be at The Pageant April 26. Though the show has been sold out for weeks, the above-mentioned VIP tickets remain for $75 a ticket, including sound-check access, laminate, poster, and guitar pick tin. 

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