AHEAD of their sold-out gig at Rock City this weekend, reporter Andrew Trendell talks to Deftones bassist Sergio Vega about Chi Cheng, Eros, their legacy and their future.
For over 18 years and seven albums, Deftones have proven a peerlessly influential and relentless force as one of America’s finest hard-rock exports.
Having inspired everyone from Taking Back Sunday and Biffy Clyro to Tool and Muse, it’s their tireless work ethic and restless inventiveness that has seen them transcend passing trends and come out as rock’s true survivors.
Their long-lasting calibre was clear on 2010’s utterly superb Diamond Eyes and is even more obvious in abundance on last year’s Koi No Yokan – one of the finest albums of 2012. The record itself would be an impressive feat for any band, but especially so for a band who have fought through the trauma of having a founding member in a coma.
In November 2008, the band’s bassist Chi Cheng was hospitalised after a severe car accident. He has been ‘minimally conscious’ ever since.
That was when Deftones called on old friend and former Quicksand member Sergio Vega to step up to the plate. Were there any expectations that come with joining a band as established and iconic as Deftones?
“Nah, just excitement,” says Sergio. “We’ve been friends for such a long time, I stood in for Chi in 1999 and we met on the first Warped tour and my interactions with these guys have always been really positive.
“It was so inspiring to meet a band who is so committed and excited about every show, so to re-join them 10 years later with that passion still intact was something I could really believe in.”
He continues: “If it was just me riding on the success of a bunch of guys then I wouldn’t have got it. This band is the total opposite of that. They’re artists.”
So much so that when the band returned in 2010 with the staggering Diamond Eyes, Sergio wasn’t met by the animosity and suspicion of their hardcore following – but just the relief that Deftones were back and as good (if not better) than ever.
But was there ever the concern of how fans might react?
“No, I really don’t care,” admits Sergio, bluntly. “I don’t care at all. I come from the New York hardcore scene and I feel pretty good about that and myself.
“It’s never been about jocking for somebody’s acceptance, I just care about being honest and true. If I did care then I’d just worry about posing and thinking about what would make me ‘acceptable’ and that would just be fake. I can’t even entertain that.”
He goes on: “What people like about Deftones is their sincerity. If I was anything less then I wouldn’t feel like myself.”
Part of that honesty and sincerity comes from the fluid progression and bleeding of styles between albums – a movement which Sergio himself describes as ‘naturally organic and collaborative’.
Sergio says that the band’s collaborative nature is what really excites him about Deftones – an ethos “that isn’t contrived at all, but just about the passion for music and the excitement for each other’s company”.
The band’s openness to new ideas and pushing their expansive sound in new directions made it even easier for Sergio to become part of their chemistry when they started afresh on material for Diamond Eyes. However, a great deal of rock mythology surrounds the unheard material that Deftones worked on with Chi before his accident on an album tentatively called ‘Eros’.
But have the rest of the band ever asked Sergio to put his own spin on the Eros material?
“No, that’s not how they would roll,” he responds. “There was no desire from anybody to have me flesh out Eros or do anything with it.
“I’ve heard some songs and they’re awesome but there’s a sanctity to that music and anything else would just tarnish it. It’s between them and Chi, it’s nothing to do with me.”
He continues: “Eros has a myth to it because of the context, but they’re just cool songs. The band has a lot of cool songs. Within the camp there isn’t any kind of mystique or anything about it, other than the fact that’s the last collaboration with Chi.
“In that, it lives in everybody’s hearts but right now it’s all about the excitement of this new record and digging into the catalogue to have fun with stuff that’s just out there.”
To hear Deftones bring the brilliant Koi No Yokan to the UK, they play Rock City, Nottingham on Saturday 16th February. For tickets and info visit www.alt-tickets.co.uk
For the latest on Chi Cheng’s recovery or to donate to his treatment visit www.oneloveforchi.com