You'd think that a tour featuring three of mainstream metal's biggest names would be a nonstop party complete with shotgunned beers and fast and freaky women. How could it be anything else? But, sadly, as soon as Chino Moreno starts talking about the BLACKDIAMONDSKYE trip—the package tour featuring gloomy grunge legends Alice in Chains, Atlanta-based mind-melters Mastodon, and his own indescribably out-there act, Deftones—any dreams of rock-star hedonism begin to melt away.
“Everybody has been pretty mellow as far as being responsible, making sure we get a good night's sleep,” the vocalist tells the Straight on the line from his tour bus, before admitting to the occasional night of semi-partying. “Me and [Mastodon guitarist] Brent Hinds hung out a little bit last night. He took me to a couple of watering holes and a couple of places to eat. We've just been hanging, man.”
Taking it easy is something new for the Sacramento, California–based band. In the past the Deftones hunkered down for years inside jam spaces and recording studios to create its progressive blend of skull-splitting groove metal and luscious shoegaze. The recording process for its latest long-player, Diamond Eyes, however, wrapped up rather quickly. Asked why things went so smoothly, Moreno says that the band—which includes guitarist Stephen Carpenter, keyboardist Frank Delgado, drummer Abe Cunningham, and bassist Sergio Vega—decided that it was time to step back and enjoy life outside the studio.
“We worked as if we had 9-to-5 jobs,” the singer explains. “It helped me keep my sanity. I got to live life like normal. I'd get up in the morning, go to the gym, do normal things, go to work, come home, and have dinner. It just helped everybody focus.”
Unfortunately, Deftones only arrived at its current state of mind through tragedy. In 2008, during recording sessions for Eros, the expected follow-up for 2006's Saturday Night Wrist, bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a horrible car crash that left him in a coma. The musician has yet to recover.
Deftones ultimately made the difficult decision to shelve Eros for the time being and move on without its fallen comrade, bringing long-time friend Vega (ex-Quicksand) into the fold.
“Although most of [Cheng's] bass tracks were finished, it didn't feel right to move on with that record. It felt like we should put it in a vault,” Moreno says.
While the devastating situation could have brought out the darkness in the Deftones, Diamond Eyes is a surprisingly optimistic affair. That's not to say it isn't heavy as hell, though.
The title track opens the disc with a shredded death march that would hold its own against any Pantera tune, except Moreno laces the cut with measured, ethereal coos. “Royal”, however, finds the singer stepping up his attack, as he screams himself ragged over a thick posthardcore groove.
Interestingly, a number of songs find Moreno at his most tender. From the star-gazing daydreamers he sings of in “Beauty School” to the impassioned cries on the slightly distorted ballad “Sextape”, the singer adds more gentleness to Diamond Eyes than most metalheads are accustomed to.
“It's fun for me to go in extremes in both directions, whether it be screaming my head off or trying to make something sound very soothing and pleasant,” Moreno explains, adding that the dynamic extends to more than just Deftones' music. “With ”˜Sextape', for instance, I named the song that because the riff was very lush and pretty. I just wanted a raunchy name for it that didn't match up. It's fun to play off things like that.”
Deftones plays Rogers Arena as part of the BLACKDIAMONDSKYE tour on Thursday (October 7).