“Micstand” – 2001 // Chi Interviewed

"Chi Cheng"
TITLE: Aesthetic Nuances
BY: Matt Peterson

©2001

---------------------
www.deftonesworld.com
---------------------

In Eastern thought, the duality of yin and yang expresses partial contradiction.  Yin is dark, 
while yang is bright.  Imbalance of the two is recipe for catastrophe, but the rotation of the 
two—yin becoming yang, yang becoming yin—represents synchronicity and unity in multiplicity.  
Chi Cheng, charismatic bass player for Sacramento, California’s Deftones, is a man who has based 
the philosophy of his creative career around such an exquisite coexistence of opposites.  
By braiding his interests and soldering an inseparable connectedness among them he has achieved 
a dynamic exchange and eliminated the potential of static.  His playing stresses the emotional 
and pours forth with a sincerity of feeling and action.  His fingers move across the strings 
organically--he never uses picks--and without fear of what the musical moment will deal him.  
Ultimately there’s no compulsion to control what is happening—he simply allows his mind, body, 
and soul to fall betwixt and between the notes that he makes. 

In 2000, soon after unleashing the stellar White Pony with the Deftones, Chi released his first 
spoken word album of poetry entitled The Bamboo Parachute.  Proceeds from his album were 
dispersed to various charities including WEAVE--a non-profit agency that specializes in domestic 
violence, sexual assault prevention and victim assistance--and WIND, a music program for 
homeless teens.  Chi spent last summer with the rest of the Deftones as they co-headlined an 
8-week stint with New England heroes Godsmack.  In the midst of the tour, I had the opportunity 
to catch up with Chi and learn the latest about his solo projects, as well as happenings with 
other members of the Deftones.  A true humanitarian and just an all-around good person, Chi is 
one-fifth of the reason why the Deftones seem forever destined to stay embedded within the 
evolving musical landscape they’ve single-handedly discovered. 

MICSTAND: How’s Chino doing now that he’s been cleared to sing again?  Was he in a lot of pain 
when it first happened?  (Chino Moreno—lead singer for the Deftones--was stricken ill in the 
midst of the tour with a vocal impediment and the band was forced to cancel some shows.  
These cancellations marked the first missed shows for the Deftones in over a 10-year touring 
career). 

CHI: He paralyzed one of his vocal chords and the other one was barely moving.  He was just a 
wreck.  We’re just happy that he’s able to sing again.  If that boy couldn’t sing that would 
really be a bad thing.  We’re just happy that he’s up and doing it again.  

MICSTAND: How did they treat it?  Was it just rest combined with not speaking? 

CHI: Yeah, they did that combined with some kind of shot in his throat and he’s on medicine 
everyday now too. 

MICSTAND: Wow—we’re sorry to hear that.  We wish him the best and a speedy recovery.  
The last time we spoke, Chi, was right around the release of The Bamboo Parachute.  
Based on how that was received, do you have any immediate plans to do another spoken word album? 

CHI: Yeah, actually I’ve recorded a live reading.  It’s kind of funny—you know, live readings 
are always a lot better.  I don’t know what to do with it yet.  I’ve got it recorded and I’ve 
got copies of it.  I did everything on The Parachute myself and I kind of want to give this 
one to a label, or something—just have somebody else take care of it.  

MICSTAND: Have you done any actual spoken word tours, or do the shows happen more spontaneously 
than that? 

CHI: I’ve been talking about maybe doing a tour—me and Serj from System Of A Down have talked 
about maybe doing a tour one of these days.  He’s really into it.  But right now it’s just 
shows in California, you know what I mean?  I’ve just been doing live readings in California, 
but I’d love to take it a little further. 

MICSTAND: Have you heard the new System album yet? 

CHI: Yeah, I have.  I think it’s really good, man.  I like the fact that they just seem to be 
getting crazier and weirder—more neurotic, or something, ya know.  

MICSTAND: Will we ever see a Deftones/System tour? 

CHI: I would love to, yeah. 

MICSTAND: How was the tour that happened a little while back with Incubus and Taproot? 

CHI: I thought it was really good.  Taproot was great and they’re young and energetic and cool.
Incubus is a group of really nice guys.  I thought the whole tour was really good—it was amazing.  

MICSTAND: I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the Deftones in a few radically different 
sized venues.  I caught you guys at The Palladium in Worcester, which seats around 2-3,000 or 
so, I’ve witnessed your work at Great Woods for a sold-out Ozzfest date, which was about 
20,000 people or so, and then you’ve played 9-10,000 seat arenas.  What size crowds do Deftones 
prefer to play to? 

CHI: You know, honestly I think we prefer places where we can get in a little closer to the 
audience.  This tour has been a lot of sheds, which is sometimes a drag for us because seating 
is not really what we jive on, but we can have a good time anyways.  But we prefer to get close 
to the kids, maybe three to five thousand, or something like that. 

MICSTAND: I wanted to ask you about this current tour.  Obviously Deftones have a very 
different flavor & vibe than Godsmack—how did this pairing come to be? 

CHI: They had approached us about it and we were thinking about doing our own thing, but we’ve 
done so many headlining tours already in the States.  And they were like, “Look, what would you 
think about doing a co-headliner?”  They were just really, really nice guys and really cool 
about everything.  It’s a lot different—both our bands—and so hopefully people have an open 
mind.  Hopefully you can see something different and just enjoy it, ya know.  

MICSTAND: How have the crowds been? 

CHI: They’ve been pretty good.  I think that we’ve been able to win over a couple of Godsmack 
fans and I think vice-versa. 

MICSTAND: In an interview that Abe did a little while ago he said that, in the beginning, 
some members of Deftones had some reservations about touring with Godsmack.  Was that true for 
you? 

CHI: I don’t think it’s that we ever had any real reservations, so much as it was that we were 
just like, ‘What if we did Outkast, At The Drive-In, Queens of the Stone Age,” ya know what I 
mean--some crazy package of our own.  But that just didn’t happen, ya know. 

MICSTAND: The At The Drive-In record, which was obviously huge last year—was that one of your 
personal favorites? 

CHI: Yeah, I’ll be honest, I love that record.  I listen to it all the time.  I just saw one of 
the At The Drive-In guys and I couldn’t even talk to him because I was just like, “You fucking 
jerk!  You going to break up again?”  (Laughs jokingly). 

MICSTAND: What else were you listening to last year that you felt was strong? 

CHI: Not anything in the contemporary music scene really, except for like Aimee Mann—I love 
her.  Any time Willie Nelson puts something out, I listen to it.  Nothing new—I’m not really 
into new music. 

MICSTAND: What did you think of the new Tool album? 

CHI: I thought it was good—I thought that was a good album. 

MICSTAND: Last week I caught the episode of Music In High Places that you guys did for MTV.  
How was that experience? 

CHI: It was all right—it was pretty cool.  We had some reservations about that too.  At first 
they just wanted us to sing totally acoustic and we were like, ‘There’s some songs that we can 
translate into acoustic songs, and there’s some that just don’t—they can’t ever be done 
acoustically.’  But it was a good experience—anytime we can play our music is fine. 

MICSTAND: Have you guys ever entertained the idea of an acoustic album—is there much of an 
interest in acoustics within the Deftones? 

CHI: I don’t think so, not really. 

MICSTAND: On a recent episode of MTV’s Cribs I actually saw Steph at the home of Chester 
from Linkin Park.  Are all of you guys friends with Linkin Park? 

CHI: Yeah, we’re all friends with Linkin Park.  I mean, Stephen lives in LA and the rest of us 
live in Sacramento, so he’s a little closer on the scene than the rest of us.  
How was Chester’s house—was it cool? 

MICSTAND: Yeah, it was cool, but on the same episode they featured the construction of the 
Osbourne’s new home and obviously nothing can hold a candle to that—it was just sic. 

CHI: I’m sure that was totally off the hook. 

MICSTAND: I’m sure you’ve heard some of Chino’s Team Sleep material—tell me a little about that. 

CHI: It’s good, man.  You know the (Deftones’) song “Teenager,” it’s kind of in that vein.  
Real moody, but each song has a different flavor to it.  He’s not really done with it vocally, 
but musically it’s a really strong album—it sounds good.  

MICSTAND: When’s he hoping to get that out there? 

CHI: Early 2002, or something like that. 

MICSTAND: Is there a musical moment thus far—either a particular song or album—that you are 
most proud of? 

CHI: I don’t know--I can’t really think of anything.  I’ve never heard our albums—I’ve never 
put our album on ever.  None of them, I’ve never listened to any of our albums.  I come in, 
just do my part, write whatever I can, play on it and then close the book on it and don’t 
really listen to it.  

MICSTAND: What about the spoken word album, did you listen to that? 

CHI: No, never heard it.  Recorded it, made sure it was edited OK, and haven’t really ever 
listened to it.  I just can’t stand to listen to my own shit.  It’s just too weird for me, 
or something.  Well you know—you write.  It seems kind of ridiculous—the idea of making 
money on something that I would do anyway.  So it’s all kind of surreal.  

MICSTAND: Have you formulated any further ideas about maybe releasing something in print? 

CHI: Yeah, absolutely.  Hopefully when I get back home I’ll do a reading in San Francisco 
and invite down Black Sparrow Press and City Lights Books and see if I can get a deal going 
with one of those guys.  Because obviously it’s a lot different in print.  So yeah, I’d love 
to put out a book. 

MICSTAND: Now, Deftones represent a lot of different things to a lot of different people—what 
does the idea of Deftones represent to you? 

CHI: I think it’s mainly a unity-type vibe.  We’re such different people and we all have 
these goofy side-projects that we’re always doing and it’s not because we’re dissatisfied 
with the band, but because we’re all such creative people.  We don’t like to sit on our 
asses when we get home and so we have all these side-projects, but I think that the 
side-projects are never really quite as strong as the Deftones and it’s because we all put 
something into it.  And it needs to be that way. 

MICSTAND: What do you think it says about our musical consumption as a society, the fact that 
White Pony was at the top of so many artists’ and critics’ lists last year, yet the sales of 
the album fell shy of matching that praise?  It’s impossible to deny that White Pony is as 
good as they come, so why isn’t it selling 2.5 million copies in a week like N’Sync?  As a 
society are we just fucked? 

CHI: You know, I really have no idea and I don’t worry about it.  I can’t be disappointed 
because we wrote a good album.  I feel like we did write a good album, so I don’t really care.  
I never set out to be the biggest artist in the whole world anyhow.  And if we had sold a lot 
more, I suppose it would have been fine—maybe we would have had a little more freedom to get a 
little crazier with our production when we tour, or something.  It’s just weird to think of 
music as product and I think that’s a bad fucking way of doing it.  We never set out to do it 
that way, so if it didn’t sell 10 million albums, or 7 million albums like a lot of our peers, 
I just don’t really care. 

MICSTAND: Why is it that you make music—what drives you? 

CHI: I don’t know at this point.  (Laughs) I think we just like it.  I think it’s a gift and 
I think being able to play it is a really cool thing, let alone going into a studio.  
It’s still exciting for us to make music. 

MICSTAND: I hate to use the word ‘best,’ but what makes the “best” art? 

CHI: I have no clue—I think it would be something different for everyone.  Passion, I suppose 
would be the best thing—as long as your passionate about it.  If you have love for it.  I 
think it’s just a good thing to do it—that’s the best form of it. 

MICSTAND: Do you remember what first made you pick up an instrument? 

CHI: My brother—he bought me my first bass.  He had a guitar and he didn’t have anyone to 
play with so he was like, ‘Look, we’re going to be in band together and I’m going to buy you a 
bass.’  And it sounded good to me.  I think I was 14, or something like that—it was a long, 
long time ago.  

MICSTAND: This obviously doesn’t have anything to do with the music, but tell me about your 
recent decision to cut your hair. 

CHI: It was a lot of personal reasons.  Kind-of a change, I suppose. 

MICSTAND: You’d been growing your locks for what—16 years? 

CHI: Yeah, it was right around there—16, 17 years.  

MICSTAND: In his episode of Behind The Music, Lenny Kravitz said a lot of weight is held in 
one’s locks, do you agree with that? 

CHI: Yeah, it’s definitely a piece of you and it becomes a spiritual thing.  I buried them in 
my backyard—my son and I buried them together.  

MICSTAND: Have you been reading anything lately? 

CHI: I’ve been reading a lot of Henry Miller. 

MICSTAND: Did you ever receive the Miller book that I gave to Heidi to pass onto you? 

CHI: Yes, thank you so much, man.  That fucking book is dope.  Stand Still Like the 
Hummingbird—that book is rad.  Yeah, I’d read Miller’s stuff before but I had never read that 
book and I think that one’s amazing.  I think that anyone in the entertainment business should 
also read The Smile At the Foot of the Ladder.  I think it affirms why you do anything in 
entertainment—you should be doing it for the sake of doing it, rather than creating it to be 
consumed.
Page 1 of 11