“Bass Guitar” – Summer 2003 // Chi Interviewed

Bass Guitar, Summer 2003. Page 26
typed by Liz

Deftonemakers: Chi Cheng’s Raw Deal

“I’m not a tech head,” Chi Cheng says with a shrug, explaining why he uses
the same setup in the studio as he does onstage with Deftones. And indeed,
his sonic arsenal is pretty simple- two 300-watt, all-tube Ampeg SVT 2 Pro heads,
two Ampeg 8×10 cabinets and a rack-mounted Tech 21 SansAmp PSA-1 for extra
distortion. When it comes to basses, Cheng says, “I only use Fenders.
There’s a great guy over there, Alex Perez, who I’ve been working with for who
knows how long. I’m fairly monogamous to endorsers that I get along with.
I’d rather have a great relationship with one of them than have a shitload of
crappy basses.”

Cheng has about 20 Fender P-Basses of recent vintage (“They’re beasts!” he says),
each of them which has a rosewood fretboard and stock double-humbucker pickups.
“They’re passive,” he explains. “When we play live, I beat my basses so hard that,
if I used active pickups, they’d just sound like clanky destruction.” Several of
his Custom Shop basses have a volume knob but no tone. “I already get great tone
from the pickups and the SVTs, so why mess with it?”

Cheng uses heavy-gauge (.065-.120) Fender strings on his instruments.
Although he generally perfers to stick to four strings, Cheng acknowledges that
he pulled out a couple of Fender five-strings during the making of Deftones.
“Even when Stephen went to a seven-string guitar, I still did half of the new songs on
a four-string. I was like, ‘ fuck you, I’m not going to a five-string!’ But I had to
go to a five-string on some parts so I could lock up with him and make it really heavy .”
If you catch Cheng on tour this summer, don’t bother asking him for a souvenir pick;
he’s strictly a fingers-and-thumb man, minus the thumb. “I’m not good enough to use
my thumb,” he says, and laughs. “I don’t slap at all. Mostly, I’ll do a lot of strumming
with my three middle fingers. I avoid the thumb and pinkie at all costs!”