The Weekly Interview: Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno

Chino Moreno, center, and the rest of Deftones open for Avenged Sevenfold this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Photo: 13th Witness
Chris Bitonti

Deftones opening for Avenged Sevenfold, with Ghost B.C. October 26, 7:30 p.m., $24-$70. Mandalay Bay Events Center, 632-7580.

You’re supporting Avenged Sevenfold on this tour. How did that come about?

When they first came to us, we had to think about how we’d fit in on the bill, but after some thought it made sense to us. Avenged are doing great—they’re one of the only heavy rock bands right now that are able to do arenas. And their crowd is a little different from ours, so it’s us going out and showing people that may have heard of us but may have never seen us what we’re all about.

It’s an interesting approach for a band as big as Deftones.

We have a pretty core audience that has been with us throughout the years, and I have noticed over the last record cycles that we do actually generate new fans. [But] I think Avenged has a slightly younger crowd than us … [and] I think we’re never really comfortable just thinking, We had success, so keep playing to the converted. For us it’s interesting to go out there and try to win people over or show people what we’re all about. And, it seems to have worked in the past so we’re still on a mission to expand our audience.

Where did the title for the new album, Koi No Yokan, come from?

It’s a Japanese term. The roughest translation is close to love at first sight, seeing somebody for the first time and knowing that some time in the future you will have a relationship with them. I took the sentiment as very optimistic. A lot of heavy metal music seems to come from a darker place, and although our records are aggressive and dark at times, they’re very optimistic.

Everything that’s happened to us the last few years with our bass player Chi [Cheng, who died in April after spending several years in a coma] put us in a situation where we could have taken it as the end. [But] we chose the opposite. It’s a hard thing that we still deal with to this day, but the optimism we have as friends, as a band, to stretch forward and get through this together, that vibe had to carry on through.

You have an ability to combine that hard, heavy sound with an ambient, almost experimental tone and a lot of that, I would say, is through your vocal melodies. Is that something you do consciously?

Yeah, some of it is definitely the melodies I choose to sing over the music that’s made, and that probably comes from growing up listening to a lot of different types of music. Heavy metal or heavy rock music in general was never something I really cut my teeth on—I didn’t know much about it growing up. I come from more like a new wave background in music and early rap music and things like that. I always enjoy rhythms and melodies, but I always use my voice as more of an instrument and less of a soapbox for me to say or to preach. I don’t look at it like we’re trying to sell something or we have stuff to say but more as an artistic expression of what’s put in front of us. So, the music that the band has always made has always been kind of rhythmic, aggressive at times, and I feel like my job as a vocalist is to sort of balance that out. It’s sort of conscious, but at the same time it happens kind of naturally.

But also, with my guitar playing, too, I taught myself, so I don’t know how to play really heavy stuff. I learned how to play guitar by playing along to Jane’s Addiction records and Smashing Pumpkins records, things you can totally hear if you listen to my guitar. So that mixed with what [guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] does, which is more of the crunchy, abrasive, metallic kind of thing, I think when those two things work good it creates the sound that we have.

Where did the idea for your new video for “Romantic Dreams” come from?

We’re all just big fans of skateboarding—that’s actually how a lot of us came together as friends; we skateboarded together before we started doing this.

[But] our initial idea for this record was that we didn’t really want to make any videos. It’s an expensive thing for one, and it’s us pretty much lip-syncing and pretend-playing, and there’s a very good chance they’re gonna come out corny. I’m not really a fan of any of our music videos to be honest; there’s a couple of them that are okay. So when we went to make this record, we just thought to ourselves, Let’s just let this music stand on its own. When people hear it, they’ll get their own visuals in their head, and we’ll leave it at that. But sadly, the record label and our management are very content hungry. They feel like we need content to push the record, to get radio and to do this and that. So we had a compromise: If we had to make a video, we didn’t want to be in the video or we didn’t want to have a performance video. So the skateboarding idea just felt natural. I like the fact that it feels more like a skate video than it does a music video. There’s a song in it, but you still actually hear the skateboarding and you feel the connection with the skateboarder. For us, it was a slightly selfish thing, but going along with the dialogue of the lyrics and the song, to me it works.

  • As the singer approaches 50, his vocals remain a high point, his mix of throaty growls and raspy screams sounding near-perfect.

  • He’s done acid in Las Vegas, which he calls “a bad life decision.”

  • "There’s no way we could cover everything we have. It would have to be a three-and-a-half-hour show."

  • Get More Music Stories
Top of Story