“SacBee” – May 2006 // Chino Interviewed

Article by: Chris Macia
Online at: http://www.sacticket.com/music/story/14254745p-15070237c.html

Chino Moreno’s heart is with his mom

Chino Moreno, spoon in hand, settles into a chair at his mom’s kitchen table. He’s just returned to Sacramento this morning from the Deftones’ two-month Taste of Chaos tour, and the tattooed singer is hungry for a taste of home.

“Yeah, she’s hooking it up right now,” says Moreno, as his mother’s macaroni soup simmers on the stove. “I’ll take that over any restaurant.”

It’s a simple dish, not much more than boiled macaroni in tomato sauce and a little garlic salt. But the main ingredient is a mother’s love, the kind of cooking that’s like a hug.

“It’s a poor man’s meal, an end-of-the-month kind of thing,” says Moreno’s mom, Debbie Ramirez, as she serves the sopa in an Oriental bowl.

“Is it good today, Chino?”

“Yeah,” he answers, in between slurps. “It’s good.”

Moreno’s mom sometimes will browse the Tower Books newsstand and see her son on a magazine cover. Whether it’s Spin, or Metal Hammer or Alternative Press, she’ll buy the magazine, take it home and place it in a wooden trunk.

Moreno bought his mom this antique trunk now stuffed with Deftones mementos: a key to the city of Sacramento (she’s especially proud of this), backstage passes, a bathrobe with “Deftones” stitched on the back, stacks of magazine and newspaper clippings.

She also saved the Thrasher T-shirt that Moreno wore at the Deftones’ first big gig, a show at the Cattle Club on Folsom Boulevard. That was the first time Ramirez saw her son as a rock ‘n’ roll front man, jumping around the stage and into the crowd while guitar riffs jackhammered behind him.

Mom felt like she was getting slapped upside the head with sound.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, what the heck is he doing?'” remembers Ramirez. “That’s not really singing. It’s screaming. But I never really gave him an opinion, like I didn’t like it. I just wanted to be behind him 100 percent.”

But there was something that Ramirez couldn’t support at the show: Hearing her son cuss. Her face reddened when Moreno dropped the “f bombs” that pretty much make up the chorus of “7 Words,” one of the Deftones’ most aggressive tunes. Filthy language was not tolerated in the household.

“Usually we’d save (‘7 Words’) for the end because I’d be done being nervous and I’d be able to cuss and tell her ‘I’m sorry’ later,” says Moreno. “If I would think about it, I’d get really nervous about the cussing and stuff. I’d get in trouble for saying something that sounded like a bad word. For real.”

Ramirez was strict when it came to raising her kids. And when Moreno got to McClatchy High School and decided that he liked singing and skateboarding more than studying, his mom knew just how to punish him.

“I used to get grounded from the band,” says Moreno. “(My) mom and dad got called into the office one day and we had to have a meeting. (We’re) walking out of school and my mom goes, ‘All right, you know what this means: No Deftones.’ (So) I had to call (guitarist Stephen Carpenter) and tell him, ‘Dude I can’t come to practice for like a month.'”

His mom laughs.

“But how about that time Stephen was jumping out of my window because you guys were practicing at my house,” says Ramirez. “(They) knew they weren’t supposed to be there. He was trying to get out of the house and broke my windowsill.”

The Deftones sold 1 million copies of their “White Pony” album in 2002, and for that, the band received commemorative platinum records. A song from the album, “Elite,” also won a Grammy Award for metal performance.

Moreno wanted to pay his mom back somehow, for those early days when she’d drive the young Deftones to gigs in the family van, or let him vent to her on the phone when he was feeling lonely or stressed on the road.

So he presented one of those “White Pony” platinum discs to his mom, and had her name inscribed on it.

“I’m proud of (the platinum record), obviously, but I wanted to show her what I’ve done with all this,” says Moreno. “She doesn’t really get to see too much. (She) knows what I do, but when you get something like that, or a Grammy, it’s like, ‘Look it’s real.’ It’s exciting to get to be able to do that (for her).”

Because his mom remembers when the Deftones were just young homeboys with big dreams. And she still refers to the band members as “her kids,” and here they are, 15 years later with platinum records, headlining tours and black SUVs in the driveway.

“See mom, I told you!” Moreno says with a laugh.

“I’m glad I never discouraged them,” says Ramirez. “(I) think he’s going to learn that as a parent, that as long as you just stay behind your kids, whatever they do, stay close to them and guide them in certain ways. But at the same time, let them be who they are.”

And now, recharged by the macaroni, Moreno has to pick up one of his two kids from school. Moreno’s only in town for a couple of days before he heads to Los Angeles, where he’ll record vocals for the Deftones’ upcoming album and rehearse for a European tour.

But his heart will be right here, waiting for a meal with mom by his side.

“I love her more than anybody in the whole world,” says Moreno, in a booming front man voice.

Then, he softens.

“I’ve been with her since preschool, you know what I mean?” Moreno says, remembering when his mom was his preschool teacher at Fruitridge Elementary. “It’s hard to detach myself from her. I guess I’m what you’d call a ‘mama’s boy,’ to the fullest. After all the music and everything, family will always be there for you to come home to.”

Chino Moreno’s favorite macaroni

Prep time: 5 min. * Cook time: 10 min. * Serves 4 or more


1 package Lady Lee macaroni
2 cans tomato sauce
Vegetable oil
Garlic salt to taste
Crystal Hot Sauce to taste


“It’s so simple,” says Debbie Ramirez, Chino Moreno’s mother. “I put the macaronis in a pot with a little oil, and I stir them until the macaronis get a little toasted. Add water, about an inch over the macaronis, then add the tomato sauce. I add some seasoning, usually garlic salt. Boil the macaroni until it’s al dente, or soft, about 10 minutes. Chino loves to eat it with his favorite hot sauce (Crystal Hot Sauce).”