“Short Bus” – 2001 // Chi Interviewed

Chi Cheng of the Deftones
By: John Farmer from www.shortbusmag.com

The omens weren’t good ones. My tape recorder was on the fritz, my bank account was
over drawn $200 and I was late about a half hour. I would have to take down all the
quotes by hand, throwing a wrench in the hope of capturing every bit of spontaneous

The interview was set up through mutual friends and after a month or so of schedule
rearranging, the day was upon us.

The background was Del Paso blvd., during a weekday, as early as possible. I had been
wanting to interview someone in the bowels of the dive bars that pop up along the boulevard.
For those that aren’t familiar, Del Paso Heights is part of the prestigious area known
as North Sacramento. The once gathering grounds for the Hells Angels motorcycle club,
now the Heights or DPH as it has become known as. It is home of check cashing stores,
thrift shops, and fancy ass art galleries that poke out like hernias. For the last few
years there has been a tedious task to try and gussy up the boulevard. Make it the
center of Sacramento’s art community and every second Saturday, the homeless seem to
disappear, the hustlers pushing gold spray painted jewelry or power tools are gone and
the upitty ups go from gallery to gallery. Enough about the history of DPH and on to Chi.

Drank and drank as I went, my notes looked like they were thrown up against the wall and
shattered. They now lie in a dustpan with no order. So I categorized them under Music,
Writing and Drinking and I put the appropriate notes under appropriate headings. Sorry
about all the explanation but here at Short Bus, we wouldn’t want you to get confused
or anything. You with me?

First our Short Bus South bureau chief, Jenn, e-mailed me some questions and while I
scribbled away amongst the carpal tunnel, Chi answered them..

SB: What was it like playing at Rock in Rio? To play for that many people.

Chi: It’s always intimidating, but I quit lookin’ at the folks 10 years ago. We did do the
rock star thing by taking a helicopter over the crowd then back to the hotel.

SB: This goes back to the European Tour with Linkin Park. On the last night of the tour
did they really replace all your water bottles with Vodka?

Chi: Yup. That bit’s pretty old. It’s not that funny to switch an alcoholics water with
Vodka. I was like “OK”

SB: From the video “Music in High Places,” how was Hawaii?

Chi: It was an island, I think.

SB: What type of alcohol do you prefer? Is it different from what you take on the

Chi: All alcohol. Nope Coors and occasionally beaner beer.

SB: How long have you been playing music?

Chi: 18 years.

SB: What were the some of the names of your first bands?

Chi: That’s confidential. It drives the other guys nuts.

SB: What were some of the bands that made you want to play music?

Chi: Steve Harris of Iron Maiden and not so much for the other guys but for me,
Rancid (Operation Ivy)

SB: Besides you guys and Steel Breeze, what is the best band to come out of the big Sac?

Chi: Night Ranger. I heard that some of the guys were from here. Sister Christian,
that was my favorite part of Boogie Nights.

SB: Have you ever played with any of your influences?

Chi: Bad Brains and Mike Patton of Faith No More. Lars from Rancid was the only time I
ever asked for an autograph, for my wife she was heavy into Op Ivy.

SB: What do you think of the phrase “Rage Against the Korn-Tones” when used in describing
the genre of music you guys end up in?

Chi: I sure as hell like that a lot better than “New Metal”.

SB: (Somewhere the conversation turned to local musician Mark Curry. After hitting the bars
the question is buried under gallons of yellow beer)

Chi: Mark Curry is the best singer-songwriter on the planet.

SB: (Without the benefit of recorded word I can’t tell you the question that spawned this
answer. I think it had to do with something about MTV and the Deftones’s video play)

Chi: To this day, I think we’re the biggest underground band on the planet. That’s the truth.

SB: (Back to one of Jenn’s questions) To pass the melodic life of the road, do you often
play drinking games with some of the bands you’re playing with?

Chi: I had this one with Larry, from Primus, where we could see who could get fucked up the
most on stage. But Les came over to me and said (imitating Les Claypool’s nasal voice)
“Yea this is fun and all but could you knock it off, Larry’s gettin’ too fucked up”.

SB: Any final thoughts on the music world?

Chi: Most bands find a commercial success and instead of using that as a springboard to
artistically jump off of the deep end, they stay with the commercial style. That’s why all
music, art, movies, writing everything is so complacent nowadays.

SB: Whose your influence in the writing world?

Chi: Bukowski, Henry Miller, Hunter Thompson, Kerouac. It’s too hard to pick one.

SB: There’s not one that influences you more than another?

Chi: You heard the CD. (His poetry and spoken word) What do you think?

SB: I think that Miller and Bukowski are definitely there. What do you think of Kesey?

Chi: I saw that he died, that’s too bad.

SB: Are you on the side of the hard core Beat fans that claim Kesey killed Neal Cassady?

Chi: Naw, Cassady was going to do whatever he wanted. You can try to stop those types but
in the end they just have to do what they want. I just buried a friend who was like that.

SB: Any final words on writing?

Chi: I don’t like to read other writers. I don’t like to talk about other writers. I don’t
like to hang out with other writers

SB: What is you favorite $5 12 pack?

Chi: Lucky Lager. With the puzzles on the caps.

SB: Your job takes you guys around the world. Are there countries that cater to drinking
more than others?

Chi: Yea, there’s Russia, where it’s legal to buy on the street and drink on the street
but you can’t be drunk on the street. I was walking sideways across the Red Square one night.
We had some fans with us, and these KGB type guys were getting ready to take me in but the fans
talked them out of it. I didn’t even notice them. Australia’s good for drinking. Holland is pro
Babylon. Pro everything. I don’t smoke pot but it’s my obligatory duty to smoke weed for all
those Americans who can’t go into a coffee shop and get a menu of weed. England is good for
drinking. In Ireland I made the mistake of asking this guy what was up with the IRA. Turned
out he was an IRA storyteller and he broke it down for me. I was sorry I asked. I was lucky
he didn’t car bomb my ass.

SB: (Somewhere we started on Harleys and the Hells Angels) Do you have a hog?

Chi: My old lady won’t let me get a bike. I’m Asian and an alcoholic.

SB: You’re a Buddhist. Where does drinking come into play with the Buddhist religion?

Chi: Buddhists have no duality. Allow yourself to have desires. If you want to be a drunkard
then be a drunkard.

SB: Has drinking ever got you into trouble?

Chi: Well c’mon. I mean. There have been some rumors started.

SB: What’s the best rumor you’ve heard about yourself?

Chi: I heard I was dead. Best rumor I’ve heard so far.

SB: What do you drink?

Chi: Everything.

SB: There’s not one thing you have more of a hankerin’ for than another?

Chi: I guess it would be wine (he proceeds to name off some wines. An Australian somethin’
a rather and others. I must’ve been drinking at the time).

SB: A standard question we ask everyone is “If you were in Star Wars (any movie) who would
you be?”

Chi: The Death Star. I’ve been turning into a salty old bastard lately.

SB: Thanks for the interview.

Chi: No problem. This is an anomaly, I don’t go outside any more. We went to every bar that
jumped out at us between highway 16 and El Camino blvd. (A detailed bar review with Chi’s one
word summaries is on the facing page) Hitting the entire span of the bar spectrum. The low
down, dark Nite Hawk to the upscale wine Café Entoria where it was an almost Blues Brother’s
type incident. Me in my tattered Pabst shirt and holes in my Dickies, Chi in his flannel and
jeans amongst the business smoozers closing their deals. Chi ordered a wine, once again he
might as well have been speaking Swahili when he ordered it. The waiter knew though, as he
should, and returned with glasses of red wine. After I bought the first round at the first
bar, I was pretty much tapped out so in true Short Bus fashion, I take someone out to
interview them and they end up buying everything. Thanks again Chi.

The Bars on the Boulevard
Bar review by John Farmer and Chi Cheng

Since I was already there, I decided to go ahead and knock out another story I’ve been
sitting on for a while. The review of the bars on Del Paso Boulevard. Dives, beer and
wine joints, high class art bars we hit them all in wonder of how Del Paso holds drinking
establishments for every walk of life in the matter of a few blocks. I had Chi assist me
on this one, giving his one word summary of each bar we poked our head in.

First up was the Stoney Inn. I used to work here. I cooked in the kitchen in the back, right
where they stored all of the beer. Needless to say not much work got done. That was under
older management. I saw that the place was closed down for a while but when we drove by,
it was open so we started our journey there. This place has so much potential, the layout
is pretty sick. An indoor patio where shows are held, the main bar and a separate pool room
are the basics, more like a drinking compound. The new kitchen seems to be really trying to
get away from burgers and fries and into a more “distinguished” menu. They were watching 90210
on this Friday afternoon, they quickly switched to that epic episode of the A-Team with guest
stars Rick James and Isaac Hayes. The prices were a little much, but while we were there they
changed from $3.50 for a Bud to $2.50.

Chi’s word: Meatloaf

Next, the Nite Hawk. Now this was more what I pictured when I wanted to go drinkin’ on the
Boulevard. Dark, no windows, 5 hard core old timers at the bar. The TV was playing an old
western and until we walked in everyone was engrossed. The prices were right down the Short
Bus alley. $1 Olympia’s in the can, nothing on tap. A shuffle board table and a pool table in
the back, a book shelf full of army, western and romance paperbacks. Any bar with a community
bookshelf is where it’s at. That’s where you go to DRINK. After a few rounds the bartender
bought us one and probably just enjoyed not staring at the same 5 faces.

Chi’s word: Home

On to the Cozy Club. It looked like they just opened. Not very divey. Very bright, the front
wall is just about all windows. We were the only ones in the place and the “Flo” like bartender
in her ruffled denim mini dress, dyed blonde hair and all of her mascara, seemed upset that we
requested beer from her. The décor looked like all the stuff you despise at Michael’s as you make
your way to the paints. “I don’t do unicorns” Chi summed it up. We drank our one beer and left,

Chi’s word: Unicorn

It was “Simply Sue Time”. That’s the name of the bar. Definitely the busiest bar we visited. Not
busiest in the number of people but in decoration. Everything from an old racist sugar ad to the
entire collection of “Lil’ Homies” figurines. He had a couple of pinball games and a juke box. Chi
put in a few songs including Air Supply’s “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All.” They had Pabst on
tap, but it was one of those taps that’s ran from a keg and out of an ice chest. The lines tasted
really dirty, almost as dirty as the Pine Cove’s used to taste.

Chi’s word: Trough

Café Entoria. It still blows me away that this place is even on Del Paso Boulevard. A very high
class place, wine is the thing. There’s even bottles of wine painted outside. We got a few looks
when we walked in but not many. The cars out front were Lexus, Mercedes and a 300 ZX. There was
live Jazz, which was nice. In fact everything was nice. Though we drank wine I noticed that a
Budweiser was $4. There was a lot of hob nobbing going on.

Chi’s word: Bowtie