Nearly four years ago, Deftones bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident that put him in a coma and left him with severe brain trauma.
With one of their founding members fighting for his life, the Deftones were thrown into turmoil. They elected to soldier on — scrapping their in-progress album Eros, hiring bass player Sergio Vega (formerly of Quicksand), and putting out their fullest, most accomplished, and highest-charting album yet in 2010’s Diamond Eyes.
With Cheng’s health slowly improving, the band rang in 2012 by hitting the studio and working steadily for six months. Their seventh album is nearly finished, and according to frontman Chino Moreno, will be an ideal distillation of the band’s strengths.
“Obviously we’re an aggressive band — not the heaviest, but there’s a lot of attack,” Moreno told EW. “But there’s also this lush beauty that flows within everything that we do, and that’s my favorite part of the band. To me, it’s the epitome of what the Deftones do.”
The band has finished writing and recording and plans on spending the next week or two mixing. That should keep them on track for their planned October 9 release date. But first, Moreno has to give everything a name:
“We have to have something to go on when we’re writing a song, and we always come up with a name so we can reference it, and usually it’s just the silliest thing off the top of the head,” Moreno said. “They usually comes from [drummer] Abe [Cunningham] or [guitarist] Stephen [Carpenter]. They name it, and usually it’s something outrageously dumb or an inside joke, and it forces me to come up with great song titles so those song titles will never live on. It’s much easier for me in hindsight to step back and look at it.”
For the second time, the band called in producer Nick Raskulinecz, who twiddled the knobs for Diamond Eyes and has also produced Foo Fighters, Rush, Evanescence, and Alice in Chains. “He’s a very hands-on guy,” Moreno said. “We adopted a work ethic that was really productive on the last record. We said we were going to work eight hours a day, and since we had those hours, everybody in there was super focused. Before that we had been working up in Sacramento, and the vibe was everybody would come in and hang out and we would work when we got around to it. We had to get more efficient.”
Once the mixing, titles, and artwork are complete, there will only be one thing left for the band to do: the covers. Since their 1995 debut Adrenaline, Deftones have always wrapped up their sessions by recording a handful of other artists’ songs, some of which were collected on last year’s Record Store Day Exclusive vinyl Covers.
They’ve taken on Sade, the Smiths, the Cardigans, and Duran Duran, and this time around they plan on going even deeper into the canon. “We’ve done a lot of ’80s stuff, but we wanted to do something from farther back,” Moreno explained. “We sat down and everybody had their computers on and were playing songs that we like. So we’re going to do an Elvis Presley song — we have five Elvis songs that we’ve been talking about. And we’re going to do Earth, Wind, and Fire. Hopefully we’ll get at least two, maybe three or four.”
“It’s always fun,” he says. “We’re done with the real creative part of having to come up with music out of thin air, and now we can be experimental with someone else’s song.”