The strength of human resilience in the face of tragedy is a remarkable thing, and is no where more readily apparent than among the boys of Deftones. Having to put the nearly completed sixth studio album, Eros, on the back burner after a horrific accident involving bassist Chi Cheng, you would think the band would be in a less than cheery mood to start up touring again much less make a record. And really, who could blame them? However, instead of floundering in misery, Deftones have harnessed their grief into the making and releasing of a tour de force new album, Diamond Eyes.
Flanked by a panel of reporters on the right and recording devices to the left, drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Sergio Vega appear content and in high spirits, and chat freely on the band’s ever-evolving sound, dream collaborations, and being appreciative of each other.
On the creative process for Diamond Eyes:
Sergio: I think what was cool about it was how quickly and organically everything came together. Certain things may have taken longer than others, but it was all in the span of two months so everything came together really fast. That to me is what really stands out about this body of work. It’s hard for me to dissect it as individual songs when these things came together so quickly. Even though all the songs don’t sound the same, they all have a pulse to them and an energy to them.
On switching gears after Eros:
Abe: Obviously the circumstances were rather dire and quite extreme with Chi’s accident. It really kicked us into gear on many levels, but quite frankly at that time, we were so ready to be positive and have things go smoothly because the past few records that we made was so difficult. The band almost broke up every time and it sounds corny to say, but it really is true and it didn’t need to be that way. We’re super close. We’re family.
On working with producer Nick Raskulinecz:
Sergio: We had a good structure. He gave us a nice template to work with.
Abe: It was just us being ready and get down to it and stop wasting time being fools… We had to use almost our entire budget to make Eros and when it came time, we wanted to make another record. We asked the label what they thought and they said, ‘Well, if you can.’ So we had no time and very little money to do it.
On touring the new record:
Abe: I still am loving it. It’s so much fun to play. It’s the first record which we were able to play as a band and had everything written and dialled before going into the studio. That alone felt great. We were able to reaffirm that this is a band and we can go play our own music and we can go bust it out. Probably the three or four records prior to that we had the songs written, but we relied on studio time to write and finish the songs and that can work great, but for us its proven that when it isn’t working out, it can be the most taxing physically, mentally, financially.
On satisfying the fans:
Abe: Over the years I’ve learned, I think we all have as a group, that you can’t make everybody happy. You certainly don’t want to alienate people that were into you and dug what you’ve done for all these years, but of course we never want to make the same record twice. We always want to evolve like any band does. At the same time, what’s wrong with sounding like yourself too? There’s nothing wrong with that I don’t think either.
On dream collaborations:
Abe: I still want to work with Prince. I’ve said it a thousand times.
Sergio: It usually seems like whoever we are on tour with we get excited about …The more bands that we travel with and see how nice they are, what they bring to music, that’s inspiring. I’d like to work with any of them.
Abe: In a world where so many collaborations are smashed together and manufactured, every time we’ve ever done anything is with a friend we met or someone who happen to be in town while we were recording. It’s just one of those things that happen very naturally.
On personal playlists:
Abe: I hate music [pause, then laughter].
Sergio: Chris Castle, Sleigh Bells, School of Seven Bells.
On the 3 million Youtube views for “Diamond Eyes”:
Abe: I definitely think [social media] is a great thing. We’ve sort of embraced it as it comes along. There’re so many new avenues coming out every second. Even this Instagram thing the other day, we started linking up, just having fun with it you know…It’s a trip. Gaga probably has five hundred million trillion views and we only have three million, what? It’s a great thing, but for me personally, I belong to a simpler time. If I can be back in for forties or thirties that would be cool.
On not busting out records constantly:
Abe: We sort of just do it for ourselves. If it makes us happy, that’s great and not to say [the material] is good and that people will love it, but if it makes us happy that’s certainly a start. We do a lot of our editing as we go. We’re not the most prolific. We don’t bust records out constantly. It takes us a long time generally to make a record…I guess a lot of people take parts and if it doesn’t fit, they’ll put it into a pile and then later on maybe go, “that part might fit in there”. It sounds sort of pompous, but we do it initially for ourselves.
Sergio: It just gets to the point where everyone gets really excited about the song and feels good about it. You pretty much figure it’ll just be exciting to play and you get it to that perspective where you can’t wait to share it. Not so much like this one will get this reaction or this one’s for these kids and this one’s for the kids in the pit or this one’s for the kids with hair like this [Abe imitates with a sweeping motion in front of his face].
On band values:
Abe: I’ve spent all my life with these dudes so it’s a pretty special thing. I’m just pretty pleased to be doing it and I think we’re doing okay now. We’re having a wonderful time and enjoying ourselves. It’s not always easy. It’s the greatest job in the world. It’s a blessing so I’m stoked. Love you guys!