Deftones’ Chino Moreno On Their Spacey, Morrissey-Inspired New Album

It’s a few days after the second anniversary of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng’s death, and singer Chino Moreno is feeling “emotionally very heavy” having just laid down the vocals for the group’s first album since Cheng’s passing. Critically injured in a car wreck in Santa Clara, California in November 2008, Cheng never regained consciousness, staying comatose before eventually passing away on April 13, 2013. “For five years I watched someone I’d grown up with and known my whole life – living in each other’s pockets doing this band, a guy so full of expression and life – in this in-between state, just staring into nothing,” says Moreno sadly. “In the end it was kind of a relief. At least I know he’s not suffering any more. There isn’t a day I don’t think about his vibe and his contribution to this band and my life.”

As on 2010’s ‘Diamond Eyes’ and 2012’s ‘Koi No Yokan’ – with Sergio Vega standing in for Cheng on bass – the Sacramento experimentalists have declined to deal with their loss in song on their as-yet-untitled eighth studio album, due out in October. “I think some of the feeling of missing him seeps into the music,” says Moreno. “I’ve never gone into writing a song thinking, ‘This is about this special person,’ or anything like that. But naturally the feeling feeds through. We’ve all been affected.”

Moreno describes the record as “out of the box” and full of “keyboards and a lot of cool, spacey low frequencies”. Recording began in Los Angeles, where Moreno and his bandmates, for the first time, came to writing sessions with no ideas or parts. Instead, they let the songs spill out of “these organic jams… it was exactly how we had to do it, a clean slate. I’ve been on this crazy Morrissey tip recently – totally obsessing over his solo records – so I brought a lot of that to the table. On those early solo records, he uses this awesome, Elvis-y delay on his vocal that I’ve been ripping off a ton.” He laughs. “He’s always been a favourite lyricist of mine – the beautiful, poetic melancholy of it all.”

Don’t expect guitarist Stephen Carpenter to switch up his usual low-slung riffs for Smithsy jangles, though. “There are definitely heavy elements to the album,” add the frontman. “But, as usual for us, the jagged and coarse bits only make the sweeter parts even sweeter.”

Produced by British engineer Matt Hyde – best known for his work with Slipknot – the album is still coming together. “I wish I had more for you,” says Moreno. “But no album title, no track titles. The music’s there, but the rest is still coming together. I’ve got nothing. Sorry!” Its planned October release coincides with the 20th anniversary of Deftones’ first album, 1995’s ‘Adrenaline’. Are there any throwbacks to that album’s leaner, more straight-up metal sound to mark the occasion? “No. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome thing to think about, but to look back and try to recapture who we were then for nostalgia’s sake? That’d just be awkward.”

For the same reason, there’ll be no anniversary tour, and no recreating the album in full. “We’re happy looking forward,” confirms Moreno. “I’m really excited for people to hear the new record. It’s another chapter.”