“Kerrang! – November 2006 // Chino Interviewed

‘I’ve spent Two Years doing Speed’ 

”Hey Man, You don’t mind if i do this while we talk do you?” 

Chino Moreno nods to a small heap of weed on the hotel room table in front of him. Deftones and drugs are, of course, no strangers. Their breakthrough ‘White Pony’ album, released in 2000, was named after the drug that fuelled it’s recording – cocaine. And this writer recalls a backstage pill-popping scene way back when they toured the UK in 1998 that was debauched by any band’s standards.

But Deftones were always primarily about the music, weren’t they? Apparently not. Somewhere between 2003’s self-titled album and new album ‘Saturday Night Wrist’ things for the vocalist Chino went awry. As he will explain over the course of the next hour, the 33-year-old has only recently come through a dark tunnel in which it looked like Deftones’ fifth album mightn ever happen.

He sparks up his stubby joint, exhales a plume of blue-grey smoke and starts talking. 

You recently told Kerrang! The new record nearly didn’t get made. What was the source of the problems in the band? 

”I didn’t want to make a record for the sake of it. A year into making it i thought everything was sounding really mediocre. So i did the [ambient side project] Team Sleep record and went on tour. I knew the rest of the band wouldn’t be happy about it, but mentally i had to step away from it for a while. At that point i had no idea when i would go back to the Deftones album. There was alot of uncertainty” 

Had you fallen out of love with the Deftones after your last album? 

”Not so much out of love, but there were a lot of preconceptions about how we should sound, which i was always fighting against. I didn’t want to stick to a formula” 

You’ve always seemed to be a band built on conflicts. Steph Carpenter is a metal guitarist, Whereas you’re into the more abstract end of things. 

”Yeah, Steph has always wanted to make a straight-up heavy, aggressive record, but i think that would tie our hands as a metal or ‘nu-metal’ band. Our old fans would probably like that, but i feel there’s much more scope for experimentation.” 

Did you ever think about leaving Deftones? 

”Hmmm, no. I wanted to be excited again and hear that excitement from the rest of the band too. Also, I’d been going through some personal issues. Making ‘Deftones’ was probably the darkest time of my life” 

What was making you so unhappy? 

”For one, i was going through a divorce from my wife, who i had been with since i was 19. I didn’t deal with it. I was always away, avoiding things. Music is a great way to escape from reality, but reality catches up. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically either. I wasn’t going out and became very anti-social.” 

When rock starts stop going out it usually means they’re sitting in darkened a room doing drugs. 

”Yeah, I went into a period where i tried to use drugs and alcohol for inspiration, because my home life was this…whirlwind. I just got more screwed up. I’ll smoke a little weed now and then, but drugs aren’t always great for creating. You just end up with lots of half-assed, incomplete shitty ideas” 

Were you doing loads of coke? 

”I was doing speed, which is like coke times 200. I could work insane hours when i was on it. I could be in the studio for days coming up with great ideas, but whe ni went back to it none of it made any sense” 

Plus, The comedown you get from speed is pretty nasty 

”Exactly. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep. And when you do sleep, you’re out. Then you wake up and star the cycle all over again. It’s ridiculous, the worst drug ever. I’ll never do it again and would never advise anyone else to. It’s dirty, really bad” 

So, As a multi million selling artist, why go for the cheapest, nastiest street drug out there? 

”I’d been through the coke thing making ‘White Pony’. That was really the drug of choice and at that time it still seemed like fun. I got over that, but then i got introduced to speed. You don’t have to take a lot of it. It’s really sad. It’s nothing i’m proud of. i was doing it to run away from the reality of what was going on in my life, Tet ultimately it made my life worse.”

What made you change? 

”I never needed any rehabilitation or anything, I just decided never to do it again. It’s been a year now and looking back at those times none of them were happy. That reflected on the band, because they all knew what was going on. I wasn’t hiding anything. I’m sure they could attest to the fact that i wasn’t the best person to deal with because of the extremes of my changing mood swings. I moved from Sacramento to LA too, So i don’t hang around with any of the people i was doing those drugs with.” 

Atleast it wasn’t heroin or crack. 

”Yeah, and i won’t ever do those. Speed and coke were about as far as my experiments went. I’m only just now realising how [bad] things were getting. Being on my own now gives me a whole different perspective.” 

How is life in LA for you? 

”It’s quiet. I live in Burbank, in the valley. There’s lots of things to do there, creatively, which is cool. Plus, our management is there so i feel a lot more involved now. I just moved house right before i came here, in fact.” 

What do you do for fun outside of music? 

”These days? Playing tennis. Yeah! i’m really into playing tennis in the mornings. Just living a normal life, being more active, generally going outside more, because before that i spent two years in the bathroom” 

Do you wear a pair of little white tennis shorts? 

”Yeah. And i look good in them too” 

Do you use Myspace? 

”I have an account and i don’t think anyone even knows that it’s me. I use it to hear new music – something i’m obsessive about. I’m a big fan of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor – so say if i search on them as an influence, I’ll end up finding some kid making great music in his bedrom. It’s music in it’s freest, rawest state. I really believe the best music in the world right now is being made in the underground. Zero restrictions.” 

What do you fear most in life? 

”The idea of not being able to be creative. That’s the reason why making ‘Saturday Night Wrist’ was so hard. I had the record company trying to get me to work with songwriters and apart from people like Serj Tankian (System of A Down) we’ve never done that as a band. Why would we? But it got me questioning myself, questioning my abilities. The drugs took away from the creativity. Even at my worst stages in life i’ve always created though – losing that is my biggest fear. I mean, I’d really hate to come across as just another rock ‘n’ roll cliché…”

– thanks to Sublminal from SL