Interview: Chi Cheng of Deftones

September 06, 2006 11:56 AM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng is frank about the brutal and tumultuous nature of the recording process for his band's forthcoming album, "Saturday Night Wrist," due out Halloween. It lived up to nearly every rock cliché: the singer "disappeared," producer and singer clashed, songs were written at the last minute.

But, as the clock wound down, the Sacramento, CA-bred band managed to pull it together, Cheng said.

"We're in a better place than we have been in a long time," Cheng said.

There is even a dose of humor on "Saturday Night Wrist." The album title refers to an "affliction" people get when they drink too much, then they fall asleep with their hand pinned funny. When they wake up, their hand is semi-paralyzed.

Currently the Deftones--which also includes vocalist/guitarist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and turntablist/keyboardist Frank Delgado--are touring with Korn, Flyleaf, 10 Years, Dir En Grey and others on the Family Values Tour. After a European jaunt, the Deftones will return to the United States to begin a headlining run.

Cheng spoke to LiveDaily about the rough recording period, working with Bob Ezrin of Pink Floyd fame, and the joy of alt-country.

LiveDaily: How's the Family Values Tour going?

Chi Cheng: It's going really, really good. It's cool to be playing with Korn again.

When was the last time you two played together?

S---, it must have been at least 10 years ago. It was a really long time ago. But it's just like old times. It's really, really, really cool.

Is this the first time you played Family Values? How does this tour compare to other package/festival tours you have done?

This is our first time with Family Values. This is similar to other festivals we've done. But it's also really cool because I think a lot of people have been waiting to see Deftones and Korn play together, so the excitement of the crowd is very cool.

"Saturday Night Wrist" is heading to stores Oct. 31. Tell me about the production of it. I understand it was a little tumultuous.

I think everybody and their brother produced a little bit of it. Bob Ezrin produced it musically, which was a great honor. I wouldn't say he and Chino got along so hot. So Chino finished his vocals with Shawn Lopez, who used to play guitar for Far. We recorded all over. Every Deftones album seems to be long and onerous.

Why is that?

I have no clue. We always go in with the right intentions, "All right we're going to get it done really quick." Never happens.

Where is the hold up? During the songwriting process? The performances? Or are you perfectionists?

We're pretty meticulous. This time, a lot of things got in the way. I don't know. Chino disappeared with his side project [Team Sleep] for awhile. I think he was unsure whether or not his heart was into it. He got into it, so everything's OK.

At the Family Values Tour's Phoenix show, I could tell there was some new-found energy up there on the stage.

Yeah, yeah, this is the best we've been in a long time.

Has this new-found attitude brought forth any new musical collaborations for the next album?

Oh, hell no. No. No we're still the Deftones. We all kind of write individually so I don't know--we'll see. It's amazing. I think ["Saturday Night Wrist"] some of the best stuff we've ever done.

How does it sit within your catalog?

It's definitely a progression, as all the Deftones albums are. I would say it's more, more like a "White Pony" because it's got a lot of ups and downs. The last album was kind of dark and heavy and straight forward. This album's a lot more melodic.

How long ago did you start writing "Saturday Night Wrist"?

Oh, I don't know. It feels like 10 years ago. It was about two years ago. It took a really long time. We are definitely going to learn from our mistakes and not even enter the studio until an album has been written.

It seems awfully stressful to do work on deadline when there's money involved--for example, studio costs, producer costs.

It is. It's terrible. It's not so hot when there's money involved.

Your band did a cover of "Fly on the Windscreen" for a Depeche Mode tribute album. Are you guys big fans of the band?

Definitely. We're all Depeche Mode fans. That's one of the bands we all agree on.

What do you listen to?

[Hesitates] I don't listen to anything anyone considers is cool. I listen to a lot of alternative country, like the Old 97's. All I listen to is Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo and classical music.

The Old 97's are a great band, especially live.

I've never had the chance to see them. I'm hoping I get the chance. I have a live album of theirs that I listen to a lot.

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