“Metal Hammer” – July,2000 // Chino Interviewed

Chino Moreno interviewed by “Metal Hammer”
July, 2000


After ten years together, musical differences put a strain on the band –
specially between Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter. According to Chino,
the White Pony process took a different slant than on previous Deftones records.

Chino: There were a lot of struggles. At one point Stephen put his foot
down and said “I’m not going to write anything mellow, I just want to
write heavy shit.” And I was like, “fine”. I didn’t want him to do
something he didn’t want to. Eventually he started to enjoy playing the
diverse, melodic, slower side of the songs I’d written, but before we
found that meeting place, we were just battling – we were just arguing
constantly. My argument wasn’t so much about music. I wanted to do these
songs my way, but I wanted it to be a more universal record rather than
just straight and heavy. I get bored of that; if you’re constantly
screaming, it’s going to give you a headache – especially as I have a short
attention span! Of course there was a strain on our friendship, yeah. But
we’ve been friends since we were really young, so we’ve been through a lot
– we knew we could work it out. There was never a point where any of us
thought of leaving the band.In the studio, I knew in the end he would
totally agree with what I was saying, not just because I was right, but
because it was right for what we are, and what we’ve always done. At the
time, he was stuck in this mode where he hadn’t heard heavy music for a
while, and he loves that. He wasn’t getting to do that properly, so it was
frustrating for him. But it was frustrating for me, too, because I know he’s
really good at writing heavy music, but we’re also good at writing dynamic
music. So it was like; “Look, think of an older song, and think about the
way you wrote”, and that showed him you don’t have to be balls – to all
the time. I was trying to explain all this to him but it wasn’t working –
it took a while to come together.
I was like; “Stephen, that’s fine if you just want to listen Meshuggah,
but that’s not what we are about as a band. so we need to have the dynamics
we have on all our records.” So what happened was, he was writing all this
stuff, and then I came in, and Abe wrote half the songs, and half are
Stephen’s songs, which was kinda weird as it’s never been that way.
Thankfully it came out really interestingly, and I think it gives the
album a really diverse sound as opposed to the last record.

Is Chino getting old to rock?

Chino: Maybe. I’m starting to get into a lot of stuff. I’m not thinking
about doing it any time soon… Like the first step to it is to be able
to write stories and make people visualize, as opposed to just telling
bland boring stories. But as far as mellowing out goes, I think I have.
It’s not so much that I can’t be aggressive any more – or angry – but I
see a lot of bands create a sound, and that becomes their whole identity.
More than anything, I don’t want this band to be identified just by
aggression. I don’t mind to listen heavy music, but I figured there would
be a lot more depth in our music if we didn’t get too involved in any one
sense of thinking. I’ve already given that young, angry, youth vibe on the
first record; a lot of these songs were written when l was 16 or 17 years
old. At that time of your life you are angry; you feel like the world is
out to get you, and that’s the way the record was. But as you get older
there’s other ways that you can express yourself without being So angry.
You can understand and work out there’s certain phrasing and ways to
distinguish anger that can push the listener’s buttons, without screaming
every single word that comes into my mouth. That’s actually something I’m
dealing with right now, l still feel no matter what predicament you put me
or my band in, generally, l think we can always handle it and you can always
find the headspace so that you can get into that place. That’s one good
thing about us: we don’t write set lists out. When were on tour we don’t
say “These are the songs we’ve got to play” we just go out and it depends
on the mood on the certain day. We just start our set off, and it can weave
in and out of a lot of different areas. But were never stuck in one way of
thinking. Maybe if l don’t feel like singing a song off the first record,
we won’t. We’re not stuck; we don’t have to play it. A lot of that has to
do with the fact that we’re not a band who write albums with singles in mind,
so we don’t have to play those singles for people at every show. Plus, our
records are pretty diverse, so were able to move in and out of different songs
and different moods, and still feel we can walk off stage pretty much emotionally
drained – hopefully the crowd feel the same.

Moreno is adamant that such ideals will never create conflicts between what
the band want to do, and what fans may have come to expect.

Chino: l don’t think fans of ours are one-sided, and are into the Deftones
just for one reason. l think all our records have always had a lot of dynamics
in them, even the first record, which is on the whole a little heavier than
everything else. But it still has a lot of quieter moments and a lot of breakdown
stuff, and it’s not always full throttle. l think however much you like that
music style, with anything it’s going to get old, and l think that’s why our
records have had that staying power. They’re not always right in your face the
whole time, they’re laid back and give you a melodic standpoint at times, so
you’re able to take a break between all the chaos

Whether or not the Deftones 2000 have still got enough adrenaline in them to
relate to a young audience?

Chino: l don’t know, and in all honesty l don’t really care too much. l mean,
l really don’t try to relate to anyone, l just hope people can relate to
something that I’m saving. lf l make an issue to try and relate to any one type
of person – be it young, old, black, white, whatever – I’m basically setting
myself up to fade away pretty quick, because you’re tied to just one point and
one perspective. l think all our records, including the new one, should appeal
to everyone, no matter what age you are. Even my parents like songs on this new
record, that’s the way you make records; from a bunch of different feelings from
all types of emotions. It’s not like this one straightforward thing, and no
matter what l think, there would be something on part of this record that
everyone can identify with, whether it be the heavy songs, the slow songs,
or the weirder songs on this record.

Chino could be forgiven for viewing the Deftones as nothing more than a merely
a day job, but…

Chino: When I’m not doing the band, when I’m at home, l have a bunch of different
responsible things l have to do, and that to me is more of a day job. The band
takes me away from all that. l mean that’s kinda weird, and there’s a lot of
stuff that pisses me off about the Deftones – but it’s something we love to do:
we love to play music. Sometimes you don’t wanna go over a set list three times
in a row for three hours when rehearsing, but once you’re in, after the first
hour-and-a-half you’re just engulfed in it, and you don’t look at it like a job
any more. l think waking up in the morning and having to do these daily errands
and pay bills, those seem more like a job to me in the long run than just
playing music.

Fronting one of America’s coolest, biggest bands then, is a comfortable role
for Chino, it would appear.

Chino: It’s weird because we are perceived as being a big band, but l don’t really
look at us as being that big. People do see us that way, though; it’s kind of a trip,
and yet it’s weird because l can t go to the mall any more, l can t go anything like
that. Well, l can if l want to be stuck signing autographs for a while, but things
have changed for us, and it is strange to be perceived like that. Everyone has their
way of dealing with things like that, and if you look at it, it’s not a bad thing
at all…

Still trying to take the whole success trip in his stride, Chino deals
with it in his own inimitable style.

Chino: I’m usually pretty friendly, and l don’t look at it as a task like,
“Man l have to do this”. It’s like I’m lucky to have to do this, but so
there are times when you can be completely in a different mind frame, and
you want to go out and do something. You’re caught up in a predicament of,
“This is not the situation l want to be in right now”. But that’s part of
this whole thing, you can’t just be in a band whenever you want to be in a
band – you’re in this band full time and you live this band. You can’t just
pick and choose when you want – and don’t want – to be seen.”

Surprisingly, though, Chino isn’t overly comfortable with being singled out
from the rest of the Deftones, and would rather leave the ‘rock icon’ tag to
other, more suitably equipped men.

Chino: It’s not part of my persona. People like Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock are a
little bit more flashy, always in the camera and always right in the front
having an opinion and having something to say, whereas l try to be a bit more
humble, and just try to be a part of my band as opposed to being the lead singer
and having to create that persona. l don’t eat it up like l think other people
want to do, not that there’s anything wrong with that. l just try to be a band
member and enjoy it. l didn’t have any expectations to become a star or to be a
front man, l was just happy to make music alongside people l can make music with.
Surely though, the further up the success ladder you climb, the harder it must
be to keep a grip on reality.
Looking back in the rock history books, different bands have coped in different
ways. Kurt Cobain blew his brains out as a way of dealing with success (or not),
and on another level Pearl Jam have stuck the proverbial two fingers up to
the whole industry be largely declining to do interviews or have their
photos taken. There’s obviously a happy medium where you don’t have to be Fred
Durst, always in the camera, always saving shit, but you don’t have to go and
do an Eddie Vedder and completely distance yourself from the people who are
buying your records. lf anything, l think the latter is a little bit more cocky
than being in the camera so much, thinking that you’re so special that you
don’t even want to be in pictures, it’s almost like the reverse of always
being in the camera. l think there is somewhere in-between where you have
to do some things… Like, a couple of weeks ago we were in New York doing
press nonstop for 12 hours from 9am. We were doing photos all day, and you
start to think, What the fuck? I’m wearing the same thing in all of these photos.
Photographers get you posed in the same way; they put me in the middle and put
everyone around me, and they tell us to look at the camera and it’s the same
thing. You can say, “No I’m not going to do this” but at the same time you’re
not allowing them to do their job. You be like a cocky asshole at times and
put your foot down, but in the long run l really don’t think it pays off if
you just go with the flow You don’t have to do everything; there are a lot of
things that l don’t do and won’t do – you won’t see me as a judge on a fashion
show or shit like that. That’s not in my personality to be on there being a
judge on a karaoke show, or a lip-synching show. So there are things l won’t
do, but at the same time l can’t always say no to MTV. l bend a little bit to
do certain things just so l don’t look like an asshole.

Mention the phrase ‘role model’ despite Chino’s status as a father, and he’s
certainly not at ease with the idea.

Chino: l don’t know. l never really set out to be one. Every human, every parent
has a role and a certain amount of responsibility to be some sort of role model
for anyone who looks up to them. As a parent, l have to be at certain times, and
act a certain way or be a certain way in order to mould my children. My boys are
at an age where they are learning and mocking ideas and activities that l do, so
l have to push them in the right directions. Being a singer, younger fans might
look up to you or whatever, so l have a small part of responsibility where l
have not just to act the fool. It’s sad, but a lot of people mimic the people
they look up to, yet at the same time l don’t think it’s completely all my
responsibility. It’s up to the kids’ parents to teach them from right and wrong.
Like there’s a lot of lyrical content on this album that, if it’s taken in the
literal sense, and you were brought up the wrong way, you could take it wrong.
l guess it’s really up to the individual. This record kinda promotes individuality
as opposed to a lot of the music you’ve been hearing over the last couple of
years from bands like Korn, who are telling to all the kids in the world who’ve
been picked on that it’s okay to be different. But l don’t like that. It’s like,
“Don’t be so fucking lazy, become what you are”. Confidence is one of the best
things in life. Confidence will get you further in life than anything, really.
This is more a record to promote confidence in everybody and not like, “‘l feel
sorry for you, l feel for you, l was picked on when l was younger, too”. It’s not
just about relying on the singer of the band you’re listening to, telling you how
to live your life. Basically just go do what you’ve gotta do and don’t be a
fucking pussy.

The counter argument however would be that, by getting kids to identify with
these rock stars, it boosts confidence.

Chino: l don’t think that’s helping, because l don’t think it’s okay to be
picked on; to say, “it’s okay, l was picked on too” pushes these kids deeper
into a hole of depression really. Just because Jonathan is depressed, so it’s
okay for me to sit around and be depressed? Fuck that! Stand up and grow up;
become strong and become confident. No matter what, if you want you can fucking
accomplish anything, it’s basically something your parents tell you when you’re
little, “You can accomplish anything you want as long as you put your mind to it”
and that’s the best advice you can give anyone, as opposed to comforting them and
hugging them and saving, “Oh it’s okay”. It’s not okay to be picked on and feel
sorry for yourself. You have to get over it, you have to overcome all this shit
and be able to hold your head high in the air and feel like you are something.

Wasn’t Chino ever influenced by people when he was growing up?

Chino: l looked up to a lot of people, but they were people who impressed
me with the way they lived their lives. l was a huge Morrissey fan [The Smiths],
but I’m not into the, “Oh, I’m so depressed” thing. l liked the way he works
and what he says. You can look up to someone, and don’t have to mock yourself
and be like them. It’s the same with Robert Smith [The Cure]. It was more of
a writing thing. It’s a difference between being infatuated by someone you
like and the things they do, or being infatuated with someone for their whole
person. Morrissey’s a bit more; he’s a very hard individual to figure out,
and that’s what intrigued me. To this day, l don’t know the person he is.
It’s interesting, he’ll throw you through a loop, he’ll let you into his weird
perceptions, then all of a sudden he’ll shock you with one blunt thing that
comes out in one sentence and you think, “What the fuck, that’s the introvert
in me that l like”

So where exactly does Chino stand when it comes to loyality to his fans?

Chino: l don’t have to do everything, but as l said, l can’t do an Eddie Vedder
and completely run away from it. lf you don’t have to do press, or photos or
whatever and just make music, that’s a pretty fucking east job, but as
far as doing all this other stuff goes, it does make it harder and less fun
to do. It’s not like I’m doing it for the fans, I’m doing it for myself as
much as anything, because l want people to listen to the records and get the
idea from that – you have to give people a reason to wanna listen to your
records; you have to give them some personality and it’s a lot of thinking.
With a band like us, perception is a lot, whether that sounds lame or not,
it sure is true. The way that you’re perceived has a lot to do with your
longevity, and l think we need to be perceived as the people we are; just
friendly people, who like to have fun and play music. We don’t want that to
become our complete persona, where we’re in the camera acting goofy, and at
the same time, l don’t want to be seen in the corner crouching afraid of the
world. There’s something in-between; everyone has different moods.
Right now l don’t think there’s much difference between who we are and the way
we’re perceived, but there are times when l think of a person like Trent Reznor
who’s perceived as this dark person who doesn’t talk much. Yet, if you look at
documentaries, you’ll see Trent joke around and be goofy, so it’s not trying
to be one or the other, but being yourself – try to portray your actual self.
Sometimes the camera is on and you’re doing an interview, and you may not be
in a good mood, or sometimes you may be drunk and act like a complete idiot.
Then people are quick to make judgments on your character and it makes it a
little hard when you want to be yourself. But you don’t have time to be
yourself in the viewer’s eyes. Yeah, it sucks, but it goes with the job.

Chino admits that he’s not overly proud of his introverted nature, so,
will the real Chino Moreno please stand up…?

Chino: l don’t know! I’m goofy l think I’m very goofy, but at the same
time that’s not my whole thing. l can joke a lot, l can act like the
idiot with the rest of them. But I’m also a thinker; I’m constantly
thinking. l analyze a lot – both everything that’s around me and also
where my music is; it’s rarely political or trying to spread my view of
the world, it’s just me writing about things that interest me.
On this record in particular, a lot of the things that interest me are
like a lot of storytelling; made up stories, the things l would like to
read. The way a lot of people may read my lyrics, they’ll think that I’m
some weird intellect or something. l do have a part of that in me, where
l come from a more cerebral stand point than just being this goofy lead
singer. But at the same time I’m not going to say I’m not a goofy lead
singer, because l am! Chino is not this one person who says, This is what
l am. elm’s very moody; l go through a lot of different stages in the day,
and that makes the music the way it is – the music goes through those stages,
even in just one song. So there. Now you know!

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