DEFTONES Frontman: 'We're Never Gonna Be A Huge Band And I Don't Care'

Sweden's Close-Up magazine (web site) recently conducted an interview with DEFTONES frontman Chino Moreno. A few excerpts from the chat follow:

Close-Up: Why did you first opt to work with producer Bob Ezrin?

Chino: "Well, we didn't have a producer for a while. We were in Malibu writing songs. We rented this house and all lived there. It was in the summer time and right on the beach. We'd wake up and start writing music. We were writing all this music, but we weren't recording it professionally, just recording it so that we could remember the songs. We wanted a producer and we talked to a couple of people. [Former THE CARS frontman] Ric Ocasek was one person we were possibly thinking about working with. Bob Ezrin had called and said he was interested in doing it, so he came down to see us practice and perform. We started playing one of our songs and he stopped us right in the middle. He said 'Stop!' and nobody's ever really told us to stop playing. I could tell he was very militant. He said 'Try this! Try this!' He was very hands-on, wanting to take control right off the top. I thought that might be good for us, because we've never had anyone discipline us in the studio. We just write and do whatever we do, which I think is good for a certain reason. But I thought it would be good to have someone outside of the band give their point of point. It worked up to a certain amount of time. We ended up going to Connecticut and recording all the stuff we had written in Malibu up to that point. We got to vocals and it just didn't work when I started working with him on vocals. We didn't vibe."

Close-Up: I read what Bob Ezrin had to say about it. He pretty much said that you walked out on your band in Connecticut and you ragged on him in the press as well. What was the reason behind the two of you not being able to see eye-to-eye on things?

Chino: "I think he wasn't focused on our record. He didn't really know what was going on. He had too many things going on. We were in Connecticut and he was getting up at eight or sex o' clock in the morning to drive to New York to produce another band he was doing in New York in the day. By the time he got to the studio where we were working, at two or three o' clock in the afternoon, he'd just come in and throw around a couple of opinions. He helped build [PINK FLOYD's] 'The Wall' and make that album. In interviews of his that I read, he said that he actually took the songs and was building an album. That's what I wanted to do, I wanted to build a record together with him, with his help. I thought that's why you hire a producer. You pay them a lot of money to do something other than to sit around and give an opinion. Anyone could do that. It just didn't work. I noticed that from Terry Date to him, it's a completely different person. Terry Date is one of the best engineers in the world. You sit with him and I'll say 'I really want this to sound like this' and I'll play him a DEPECHE MODE song or something 'See this, where his vocals are?" and in two minutes he'll make it sound like that. That's how Terry Date works and that's what I like about him. I think, with the creative part of the band, it wasn't working with Bob. Some of the music we wrote that we recorded was good, but I don't think we were ready to put out a record yet. The songs that we had, the excitement wasn't there. It felt like we were just making a record to make a record. It wasn't fun at all and I kinda went 'I'm done with it'. At the time, with TEAM SLEEP it was so creative and I didn't have to worry about making… At the time, nobody [in DEFTONES] really cared that much, so I didn't really cared that much. We weren't really talking that much and I thought 'Why am I sitting here working on this record that nobody really fucking cares about?' So I went and did TEAM SLEEP shit and it calmed a lot of the tension in the band. I mean, I didn't know if there was gonna be a DEFTONES anymore. I don't think they knew and I honestly didn't care.

Close-Up: If you take Bob's version, it was him and the band on one side and you on the other.

Chino: "No, Bob didn't get along with Abe and Abe didn't get along with Bob. He's just really bossy. He's an asshole, that's the only way I can explain it!"

Close-Up: Another way to put it is that he's an old-school producer from an era when the producer was the star.

Chino: "I guess so, but he wasn't shining like a star. He wasn't bringing anything to the table. If he would've had one idea where I'd say 'Oh, that's great!'… But it wasn't like that. To me it seemed like there was no fire behind him and that's usually not what I expect. From Terry Date, I expect him to come fire us up. We are our own fire, but I figured 'We're paying a producer a lot of money and it isn't working, so I'll do this shit on my own.'"

Close-Up: Is Bob getting points on the album?

Chino: "He'll still paid, yeah, and get points on the album. He'll be happy cause we took the record and made it better, so he's only gonna get more money. A year and a half ago, if we'd put that record out, the stuff we were recording with him, we'd be done by now. I honestly think we'd be done, because it was just another DEFTONES record. There was nothing special to it yet. There were some good songs, that's it. It wasn't an album. What we have now, hopefully people ten years from now will still listen to it and appreciate that this is a piece of work. He'll benefit from that."

Close-Up: Honestly, it's kind of ridiculous that every single time I interview DEFTONES you've been through some kind of dysfunctional band situation. Is there an underlying current that keeps surfacing every now and then?

Chino: "I think the main thing, when we finally sat down after all this went down, was that I didn't think anybody cared about the band as much as I did. I felt like I was the person who was living it and breathing it every single day, worrying about every little fucking thing, whereas everybody else would come in and just leave. To me, that wasn't being in a band and that's what I was upset about. 'Why am I the only person that cares?' Pretty soon I stopped caring about it. I think that happened individually with Stephen [Carpenter, guitarist] and everybody else too. We had to sit down and talk about it and ask each other 'Do you want to be in this band?' They asked me 'Do you wanna do this?' and to myself I said 'Yeah, fuck yeah!' But I had to really go through all this shit to really think about it. I said 'Yeah, I wanna do it, but the only way I wanna do it is if I know you guys wanna do it more than anything.' There were some questions we had to ask each other out loud. 'Do you wanna do this?' and look at their face and hear them say 'Yes, more than anything.'

Close-Up: Your drummer Abe Cunningham has said that "If [there] was a VH1 'Behind the Music' special on us, it would be the perfect episode with divorces and all kinds of crap." Did it go as far as the "fuck scene" in METALLICA's "Some Kind Of Monster" movie?

Chino: "Yeah, but we don't really fight like that. We've known each other since we were kids. The way that we get to each other is we won't talk to each other or be unreachable. I'm sure they were really mad when I went off and I said 'I wanna go make music. I tired of doing this.' I left to go do TEAM SLEEP and I knew they weren't happy. I know it was kind of a dick thing to do, but I thought to myself at the time 'Why am I unhappy in my life? I should be enjoying making music.' That's why I started doing it in the first place, but it was becoming more of a headache than anything else. I went and completely just had fun with it."

Close-Up: The TEAM SLEEP album was supposed to be released years before it eventually was, so it couldn't have come as a big surprise to them.

Chino: "Well, they would never let me put it out. Maverick owns pretty much anything I sing on, so they took control of it. They're gonna make more money off DEFTONES, so they never wanted me to release that record. I'd give them a record and they'd say 'whatever.' That's like the third something record that I gave them, something that I wanna put out. 'No, you gotta focus on DEFTONES', which is understandable cause that's how everybody feeds their families. But I didn't get into this thing to feed my family. I'm glad I can feed my family, but that's not why I'm making music. That's the thing about our shit. We're not a big band, we're never gonna be a huge band and I don't care. I think it's fine, the shows we get to play. As long as we have fun while we're playing, we're gonna do it. If shit ain't good, I'll get a job, but I'll still play music."

Close-Up: On the album, what remains from the Bob Ezrin sessions?

Chino: "Probably seven of the twelve songs. There was good shit there, but we needed to take it and change it and do other shit to it. It felt like the dynamics we have in our songs, you couldn't even hear them cause it sounded like something constant. In our music, we like it to go from extreme to whatever and I seemed like it didn't have that to it."

Close-Up: Are there any vocals left from those sessions?

Chino: "No. Right before I left for TEAM SLEEP I cut vocals over every song. I didn't listen to none of it until six months later. I listened to some of it and it was okay but uninspiring. Some of the guys liked some of the parts on there, but when I came back and we restarted the record, I took a few songs from that stuff and started from scratch with vocals. It was great. On some songs I tried six or seven different studio ideas. I want to try that, I can't settle with my first idea. I wanted to experiment and make something a little bit weird."

Close-Up: Abe has likened this album to "White Pony".

Chino: "That's because it's a really diverse album, just like "White Pony" was. The musical parts on it are really good. It's not just riffs and parts where people can jump up and down and shit. We took our time making it."

Close-Up: Looking back, "White Pony" is the DEFTONES album that has stood the test of time best. It's not as set in a certain time period as some of the other albums.

Chino: "Yeah and that's something that is hard to live up to. When you make a record, you don't wanna do something less than what you did. With our last record, I honest think we got out of it what we put into it, which wasn't as much as we could've put into it. I didn't wanna fight. Especially me and Stephen fought all the time on 'White Pony' about how we wanted it to be, how he wanted it to be. I was taking my ideas and his ideas, so it built up to a great album cause we were both so adamant on our part. The excitement was there. With the self-titled 'Deftones' album I pretty much didn't wanna fight with him anymore, so it was like 'I'm not gonna say anything'. We put it together really easily, kind of simple. It still took about a year to make, but it was pretty easy. We thought it would be as successful as 'White Pony'. At the end of it, I realized that when we're going in to make the next record we really need to take our time and not just fucking fuck around. That's a lot of questioning yourself all the time, but I think you have to go through it. You have to try a bunch of crap before you get one good thing out of it. That's something I haven't really experimented with before."

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