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Deftones Frontman Excited For Tour, ‘Covers’ Album, New Side Project

Warner Bros.

The latest Deftones album, ‘Diamond Eyes,’ has been out for almost a year now and the band continues to support the album with one tour after another. More significantly, they’re having a good time doing it. Any past drama involving personal issues, heavy drinking, or musical differences seems to be a thing of the past. Vocalist Chino Moreno in particular is busier and happier than he has been in years. Not only is he stoked about the upcoming ‘Covers’ album the band is releasing on Record Store Day (April 16th), but he’s greatly enjoying Crosses, the side project he’s working on with Far guitarist Shaun Lopez.

Moreno says he’s looking forward to his next U.S. tour with Deftones, Dillinger Escape Plan, and The Butcherettes, which begins April 14th in Seattle. “This will be our first headline run for this tour. We’ve been going pretty non-stop since before ‘Diamond Eyes’ came out, and we’ve been having a blast,” Moreno told Noisecreep. “We just got back from Southeast Asia, which we’d never been to. That was really exciting. Then, we had a little tiny break before we headed to South America and Mexico for a couple weeks, and we go straight from that into the U.S. tour. We’re all getting along better than ever, and things are going great.”

Noisecreep: What was it like to play shows in places like Jakarta?

Chino Moreno: I was just amazed that we have a fanbase out there. One of the most awesome shows we played in a while was in Manila. It was insane. The crowd was massive and the energy level was wild. It was one of the biggest shows we’d played in a long time and we had never been there before. So the excitement level was high and the show was great. Basically, all the Southeast Asia shows were good and we were like, ‘Man, why haven’t we been here before?’

The U.S. headlining tour features an eclectic bill.

I think it’s pretty cool. The Butcherettes are led by a female singer and they’re sort of wild. There’s blood involved and they’re really theatrical. Musically, it’s slightly PJ Harvey-ish and it presents a nice contrast for the show. You have us and Dillinger, which is pretty heavy and relentless.

Will there be more singles or videos from ‘Diamond Eyes?’

We’ve done ‘Rocket Skates’ followed with ‘Diamond Eyes’ and then ‘You’ve Seen the Butcher.’ We’re gonna do another track, but we don’t know which one we’re gonna do yet. I think we’re gonna decide that in the next couple months. I don’t think we view it as another single that will help the album from a marketing perspective. For us it’s just fun, and it puts another artistic twist on the record.

You also have a new album called ‘Covers’ you’re getting set to release on Record Store Day.

Yeah, it’s a collection of pretty much all the covers we’ve done since we released ‘Adrenaline’ [in 1995]. With every record , at the end of the session, we do a couple cover songs. And this is a compilation of all that stuff. Some of it was recorded pre-’Adrenaline.’ A lot of it has been floating around on the Internet, so we’re just gonna put it out for Record Store Day. And to us, the idea of playing a certain record in certain cities is kind of fun, so we’ve been talking about that. We’re gonna get into some of those songs and see what happens but right now I can’t say what record it might be.

What is your favorite stuff on the covers record?

We did a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover, ‘Simple Man’ before ‘Adrenaline came out’ and when we did it I hated it. I grew up not liking Southern rock at all. And when the band approached me with it, I was like, ‘Are you serious? Alright.’ I think I was 17 years old when we recorded it. It’s one of the oldest songs on the compilation. But it wasn’t until 2004 when we had that hiatus in the band and I went out and did Team Sleep that the guys were talking about putting out some b-sides. I hadn’t talked to them in a while. But I got sent some tracks. I hadn’t even heard it since we recorded it. Abe [Cunningham], our drummer, sent it to me and I remember thinking, ‘Wow.’ I vaguely remember recording the song because I remember I didn’t like it. But after listening to it, I realized it was actually really good for something that totally didn’t seem like something the Deftones would do. And I didn’t even realize it then, but it’s sort of a touching song lyrically. Now that I’m a father and I have teenage sons, it’s has a deeper meaning to me. So, it’s kind of cool to listen to now and think, ‘Wow, that’s something we did so long ago.’

You cover ‘Savory’ by Jawbox, one of the most criminally under-appreciated bands of the ’90s.

Man, I remember when that record ‘For Your Own Special Sweetheart’ came out [in 1994] everyone in our little clique were just stoked on that band. And there was another band called Far that was from Sacramento, who we grew up with. They actually wanted to cover the song, but in order to do it they enlisted me and [Deftones guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter] to come in and play with them on it. So that song is actually us and Far together. And Abe plays drums on half the song. So it’s Abe on the second half of the song, Stephen’s playing bass and me and [Far frontman] Jonah [Matranga] are both singing on it. So it was a fun thing to do with friends.

You’ve always had an interesting approach towards doing covers. It’s almost like you’re raiding the lost treasures of your record collections.

We never thought of making covers as any kind of single or something to forward our career. They’re more just fun things to do, being that we’re fans of all types of music. The record is a little New Wave heavy, I will say that, which a lot of people would think is my influence on the band. But it was Stephen’s idea to do a Japan cover and the song he picked, ‘Ghosts,’ is so off the wall. I’m sure people assume that was my choice, but it wasn’t. And if you’ve ever heard the original version, it’s a very ambient electronic song. Stephen came in and said, ‘Yo, check this out. I learned this song.’ And he came in playing it all on an eight string guitar. And that’s what’s kind of fun about doing covers. You can do your own take on them and just have fun with it.

Anything lined up with Team Sleep or anyone else?

I’m doing a couple things now. The guitarist from Far, Shaun [Lopez], he’s been a good friend of mine since we were kids. He’s my neighbor and we’ve done stuff together before. But just recently, during these little breaks that we’ve had, we’ve been recording this real minimal project where it’s just me and him and another buddy of mine, Scott Chuck, and we’re just writing these little pieces of music, whether it starts with piano or some down tempo beats. It’s really minimal and soothing and it’s sort of like the stuff I like listening to when I’m not screaming my head off. The tentative name for the project is Crosses and we have 16 tracks that are almost done. We’ll usually work four or five hours a day. I’ll go over to Shaun’s and sing a bunch of stuff and we’ll edit some stuff together. I’ll just write lyrics really quickly and it’ll be done.

That sounds like an interesting departure from Deftones. Do you have any releases planned or gigs scheduled?

We don’t have any plans to play live, but we might release a series of EPs on our own on the Net. I don’t want to talk about it at all — which I’m doing right now. The main thing about it is, I don’t want to hype it up and give people all these expectations. To me, that’s what made Team Sleep so hard to do. It was supposed to be this underground thing that would happen whenever, and it developed so much hype around it that it kind of ruined the whole thing for me. Our idea for this is to just put it out there and whoever likes it, cool. I talked to the guitar player of Team Sleep, Todd [Wilkinson] the other day and we want to do the same thing – record music when we can and not have it be such a structured thing where you have to meet deadlines and tour. We just want to make music because we like to do it, just doing it ourselves and utilizing the Internet. That’s the plan for those two things within the next year.

It must be refreshing to be able to write music quickly and without deadlines.

It really is. To write lyrics and sing stuff used to be a real chore for me, especially before this ‘Diamond Eyes’ record. I was spending years making records. And I just felt like I’ve gotten into a groove. We have 14 tracks with Crosses, and we’ve done it on and off, but probably in total in a month’s worth of work.

Did ‘Diamond Eyes’ set a new standard or work ethic for you since, the band wrote the whole album in less than six months?

I feel like it did. I feel like something clicked. I used to second guess myself all the time. I can sit there and work in circles when I’m nervous about what I’m doing. And I think that was what was happening in the Deftones. And a lot of that probably has to do with what was happening in my life, mentally. I think it’s been pretty well-documented that I was kind of out of my brain for a while. And then a lot of it has to do with pressure from the record company. We always used to make all our stuff until ‘White Pony’ without any input from the label at all. We’d finish a record, give it to them, and they’d put it out. And after that album, things started to become very singles-oriented. And then over my shoulder the label would say, ‘Well, this is good, but try this chorus a different way,’ or ‘It will be more radio-worthy if you do this.’ And I started to lose my sense of confidence and the fun got sucked out of it because I was trying to do things for the wrong reasons. Once I realized I’m gonna just do what comes naturally and make things as good as possible, but not over-think it – I mean, that’s what we did the whole beginning of Deftones career and those records seem to stand pretty strong on their own. So I’m just gonna be confident with what I feel and just roll with it and that’s what seems to be working for me.

Any plans to release a live DVD?

No, we’ve never talked about it but we should because we’ve never released a live DVD. So we’ll see. It’s always something we could do, especially on this headlining run. It might be a good time to look into something like that.

Any progress with Chi Cheng?

We’re happy with what’s going on with him finally. Last week they moved him to New Jersey from California so he can be under this main neurosurgeon guy who can be with him 24-7 to try to speed up his recovery. For the last year he’s been stagnant staying at home with his family taking care of him. Sadly, his insurance doesn’t cover his situation because it’s more of an experimental thing. But he’s there now and we’re stoked that he’s going to progress significantly in his healing process. He’s still in a semi-conscious state. He’ll open his eyes and look around. He acknowledges that you’re there, but he doesn’t speak actually. That’s the tough part. And a lot of times he just stares. But where he’s at now, we’re hoping to see some significant changes.

Track list for ‘Covers’:

‘Drive’ (The Cars)
‘Caress’ (Drive Like Jehu)
‘Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ (The Smiths)
‘No Ordinary Love’ (Sade)
‘Savory’ (Jawbox)
‘Do You Believe’ (The Cardigans)
‘Simple Man’ (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
‘Ghosts’ (Japan)
‘The Chauffeur’ (Duran Duran)
‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep’ (The Cure)
‘Sleep Walk’ (Santo & Johnny)

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