Deftones Reveal How Car Accident & Drugs Almost Led To Break Up


Photo by photographer Dustin Halter

Vocalist Chino Moreno of Deftones has given an in-depth interview on “2 Hours with Matt Pinfield” discussing the band’s formation as well as memories of Chi Cheng and details on this year’s album Gore.

Chino starts the almost 40-minute interview with some memories of his sister giving him cassettes of Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, and Depeche Mode. Then he moves on to talking of guitarist Stephen Carpenter, whom Chino met when he was 10.

How An Auto Accident Started the Band

“When he was 16 years old he had gotten hit by a car on his skateboard by a drunk driver and it broke his leg and he was in the hospital for a long time, but he got a settlement. I don’t know exactly how much money it was, but it was enough money for a 16-year old kid, a lot of money for a 16-year old kid to have at that point so he just filled his garage up with a full on band rehearsal spot…He had like a Metallica setup.”

“I’d be hanging out over there all the time, and I really wanted to play the drums so I’d go over there and play with him…but what happened was one day I brought Abe over who was a friend from junior high school…he came with me afterschool one day, and he got behind the drum kit and Stephen heard him play, and Abe’s been playing drums since he was a little kid, so he would just like slay it on the kit.   At that point, I was pretty much out of a job as far as being the drummer in a band we were sort of nonchalantly starting.”

Into singing Morrissey songs, Chino was chosen as the band’s singer. After some Deftones talk, the conversation turned to Chi Cheng, the Deftones’ bassist who passed away in 2013, years after an auto accident.

Chino Remembering Chi Cheng:

“I listen to some of those old records, and musically even, I mean you know, the way he played bass, everything, very heavy soul. Personally obviously the dude was like very smart, very silly and fun to be around. You can be in the crappiest mood and the dude would come in and make you laugh about something.”

“When we were doing the self-titled album, those were sort of some dark times, like the beginning of the dark times like we called it like the dark days of being in this band. And most of that was just all of us living in excess. The music became secondary to the antics of our personal lives so the music sort of suffered a little bit at that point, but we held it together.”

“Then when it came time to record the Saturday Night Wrist record we were pretty dysfunctional. We all had our personal issues with drugs, or whatever, we all had relationship issues amongst ourselves in our personal lives and our communication at some point was pretty much not there. I think we were in this false pretense, where like I said earlier with White Pony we took our time and experimented but it worked. By Saturday Night Wrist, we weren’t communicating at all and the music suffered because of that.”

Touring helped reconnect them and they remained friendly during the fun “Eros” sessions.

Chi’s Auto Accident Almost Ended Deftones

“During those sessions is when Chi had his accident. We’d been through all this and we were just like, on the brink of doing something great with all these great vibes around it and it happened. We were just broken at that point.   We were like ‘what do we do’. There were no thoughts of ‘are we going to continue as a band’ we just thought ‘that’s it’. We took a good 6 months to a year where music wasn’t even spoken about. Obviously our thoughts were with Chi hoping he would come out of his situation-for those who don’t know he was in a coma and the doctors they couldn’t give us an answer if he was going to come out of it. We remained optimistic I don’t think we had thoughts on the music itself, what we’d be working on, or what was in the future.”

After finally getting together one day in a studio in Sacremento:

“We were sitting down and it was weird cause all our gear was set up like Chi’s bass, everything was set up in a circle. That room was exactly the way we left it when we were working last. We started talking, we spent probably about an hour or two just sitting there talking about Chi, telling stories from our first days meeting him to where we were at that moment. At that point instead of taking the conversation over to ‘so what do you want to do now’ everyone just sort of walked over to there gear like natural and we just started playing and that moment we started writing what would become Diamond Eyes.

“Obviously we thought about ‘what are we gonna do for bass’. Sergio’s name obviously came up, he filled in for Chi once before when Chi broke his foot, years ago we were touring with Black Sabbath and he had broke his foot, and we didn’t want to cancel the tour so we got our buddy Sergio from Quicksand to fill in and he did a great job. We called Sergio and if he can and wants to do it we’ll see where this goes, but if not, that’s pretty much it. We weren’t in the mindset to go look for a bass player. He came in and it felt right right away. Then we buried ourselves in the music.”

“It was one of those things in life where you really realize how precious things are, how lucky we are at that point in our career that we still had the opportunity, that enough people cared about us, our music that we should make some more and we did and went on from there.”

“He was in a hospital in New Jersey and we all went and visited him and it was a really hard thing because you’re sitting there staring at your friend-his eyes are open –he’s staring at all of us and we’re all talking to him and telling stories but he has no expression, he’s pretty much stuck in there. It was very therapeutic for us as well to just be there as a band and talk. We were listening to music, putting on some of his old favorite records. I’m glad we got a chance to do that because sadly, a couple of years after that he eventually passed away due to complications of being in a hospital bed for that long and getting infections. Basically his heart just gave out…I love talking about him he was an integral part of this band and friends with a person I shared pretty much every day of my life with since I was a kid, grew up basically, slept across from his on the bus every night. His memory is still a part of every day for us still.”

Hear the whole interview with Matt Pinfield to find out what Chino had to say about their most recent album Gore and other topics here: