Formed by a group of childhood friends in the late 80’s, The Deftones would go on to earn nu-metal status in a post-grunge 90’s; further evolving on every album throughout the new millennium. Their style of music has been labeled everything from alternative to rap-rock, and that ambiguity seems to suit the band members just fine. The Deftones grew up with all the wonderful, eclectic musical offerings the 1980’s set forth upon the world, so why not embrace it and develop upon it further in their own special way? Well, they did and still do compose some of the most intricate, odd, mysterious and hard-to-compartmentalize jams available to willing ears today.
May 3rd marked the release of brand new Deftones album, again carrying their unmistakable framework that is constantly built upon injecting subtle new flavor. COED spoke with the group’s newest addition – bassist Sergio Vega – about what the album Diamond Eyes has to offer both the loyal followers and potential newcomers, what it’s like to be an East Coast native rocking in a West Coast born band, his addictive pastime, and why the Deftones have pressed on after tragedy strikes.
COED: How did you become involved with the Deftones?
Sergio: It initially happened while on the Warped Tour when I was in the band Quicksand. Someone told me to go check them out. So I did and they were awesome. A couple years later they gave me a call to fill in for Chi Cheng because he had hurt his toe. I got to do sort of an extended set and we hit it off good then. That laid the foundation for a friendship, and we kept in touch, and they would come check me out when I’d deejay parties in New York. Basically, when they were in need of help, they’d give me a call.
COED: Bassist Chi Cheng had a terrible auto accident a few years ago, and still remains in a tough medical situation. Is this a case of you having to fill big shoes, or doing a favor for friends?
Sergio: The context in which I’m entering is different. It’s not as if I’m filling in for someone like that, but I see it as more a friend thing. I play the bass, and that’s what was needed. It’s a friend situation where I can help them get on and keep creating. It’s been a blessing that I was able to be available in a position to help.
COED: So it was more of an honorable thing to do?
Sergio: Yes, that they let me into the fold and felt that I could help contribute.
COED: Is this the first time you’ve actually recorded with the band?
Sergio: Yeah. The last time I was involved was for a tour. It was before White Pony came out, so it was basically learning a lot of material in a short amount of time. This was the first time recording together.
COED: You recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel with Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and John Dolmayan (System of a Down), playing with Cypress Hill. How did that gig come about?
Sergio: Basically through the Deftones. They have a long friendship and have collaborated. In fact, when we did the benefit for Chi, they came and we did “Rock Superstar” and jammed as Deftones featuring Cypress Hill. So, then it was cool to represent the Deftones in Cypress Hill.
COED: How would you describe the new Deftones album?
Sergio: There’s a couple songs floating around now and I think they’re cool indicators. They both have similar qualities, heavy elements and nice melodies. From my perspective, the Deftones bring different looks with each album. They are really good at filtering in the elements of where they are at that moment. They write more of experiences then just three or four tricks. I think that with this one you can really feel the circumstances in the context of which it was created. It’s very alive and feels very urgent. It really developed with attention to detail and the arrangements. I think it really shows another step in their refinement as a band. It’s very organized, clean and presentable.
COED: It certainly sounds as though the band dotted every I and crossed every T.
Sergio: I feel like all the riffs and parts in the music and components of individual pieces really are put in a position to be heard well. I feel like everything is in place, like the equivalent to when you have a nice painting and frame it the right way … it really brings things out. I feel like we managed to achieve that with this body of work.
COED: What does the band have in mind for tours or festivals in support of Diamond Eyes?
Sergio: What we would like to do is sets with a lot of different type bands. I think the band has a very diverse set of influences and with such a large catalog of music – you can really play with a lot of people. Coming from this record, with all the discipline and work ethic coming out of it, we’re really excited about sharing that. We have a such a big arsenal of songs to choose from, and what I like is the ease, not pretentious, just going with the flow.
COED: Did a lot of planning go into recording songs that would translate well in a live environment?
Sergio: There was no preexisting music. It was all banged out. These songs were played and played, built for playing live. We were playing the songs so much, it just all came out organically. We were built as a live band, and so are the songs, so there isn’t much over-dubbing or things that would require another voice or another player.
COED: Strong work ethic, so how do you guys relax? Better yet, do you relax?
Sergio: I come from New York, and they’re all California. They have a different rhythm than like from New York where it’s a lot of hustle and bustle and anxiety. These guys really don’t have that. They have lives and everything, but the music is just what they really love playing. So, for a lot of us, our downtime still involves playing. For a few of us, athletics are important like working out or some sort of sports – like golfing. I like to play video games a lot. I play a lot of multi-player video games.
COED: Work and play in combination then?
Sergio: You know, you get a lot done, but in a cool nice way.
COED: And finally, have you heard any feedback on the music released so far, or do you follow any internet board chatter?
Sergio: We go in and out when it comes to checking it out, like anyone else on any social network, just checking out comments, and some days you just don’t feel like it. What I’ve noticed is what we wanted to come across seems to be coming across. People seem to be excited for it, from what we’ve heard. I think that’s cool because it speaks to what I said earlier about the arrangements and it’s nice to see a comment that reflects what we see in ourselves.