HEAVY & Light

Late ’90s nu-metal represents a special kind of artistic blunder most of us would rather forget. But before Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Staind came slinking around, there was Deftones, the Northern California five-piece that blended thinking man’s metal, hardcore skate-punk, dreamy prog-rock and industrial-tinged electronica. Chino Moreno and company have always blended loud and quiet and aggressive and lush in a way no other band has duplicated, which might explain why this uncompromising act has sold more than 10 million albums, with one gold and three platinum certifications and a 2001 Grammy award for Best Metal Performance.

In advance of Deftones’ upcoming triple-bill Jacksonville appearance with political punks Rise Against!, post-hardcore heroes Thrice, and Frank Iero & The Patience, we talked to bassist Sergio Vega.

Folio Weekly: How was your recent tour in Europe?
Sergio Vega: It went really well! We played well and people seemed to be into it. We had five months off beforehand, so we hadn’t all gotten together as a full band in a while. That made it a really good time. We give a lot of energy and the crowd always gives that right back.

Your album Gore dropped last year. Are you still focusing on that album when you build a set list?
What we do is more of a hodgepodge. We usually play a minimum of two and a maximum of four off the new album, then build a diverse set that we think flows well and that people will be excited to hear. On this past run, we pulled out a lot of older tracks that hadn’t been played in a long time. We did play “Phantom Bride” off the new album for the first time. It was a nice, refreshing challenge for us to mix it up.

And that’s the beauty of Deftones. You guys have such a deep discography to pull from.
From what I’ve seen, we’re very fortunate in that we have a wide range of tastes and ages in our diverse audience. Depending on when people got introduced to the band, they might be partial to certain periods. But because the band has not repeated itself, people are very open and respectful about us finding a balance between what we’re excited to do and what people are excited to see.

How does Deftones slot in with Rise Against! and Thrice?
Our band stands on its own—we’re not something that needs a certain context to appreciate—so we have fun mixing it up and playing with different people. We love the fact that Rise Against! are outspoken, and we share a lot of the same left-wing views. The best things about touring, though, are the benefits that come from a good hang. All those guys are awesome, which is good since we’ll be in close proximity for a month hanging out most of the day.

A quarter-century in, how does Deftones write new music? Does it stem directly from Chino? Is it a democratic effort? Do you all look to contemporary music for influences?
It never has flowed directly from Chino. The band doesn’t need all five people to be there—we can function as modules. Everybody has to be psyched about new songs. It has to be something that excites us. Excitement is what drives us. We’re five guys who all have voracious appetites, but what comes out is what Deftones comes up with as a group. We’re not really self-reflective, either. Everybody in the band has other things that they’re doing, and we’re all busy. We express ourselves through music, whether that’s writing, recording or touring. We don’t put on a certain hat and say, “Now we’ll do X, Y and Z.” Even if we’re not together, you can guarantee that at least one of us is recording and stacking riffs.

You assumed bass duties for the band after founding member Chi Cheng was injured and eventually passed away. Was it hard for you to come into the fold, particularly given how important Chi was?
I knew the Deftones earlier in their touring career, so I was a friend. I never looked at the band objectively—I had a rapport with them. I wasn’t an outsider coming in who was unfamiliar with the Deftones world.

Deftones have been touring in Florida for years. Anything stand out in your mind?
Florida is always awesome. It’s a little universe unto itself—different cities have different cultures. And we have friends we’ve developed over the years there, so it’s exciting to get back there and hang with them, go to different restaurants. Plus, it’s so beautiful there—I find it hard to hate on Florida.