Interview: Chino Moreno of Deftones — "Primal, sexual and bloody romantic…maybe Blade Runner?"
Sat, 24 Apr 2010 19:28:06
Chino Moreno is in the driver's seat.
As with everything Deftones, it's not where we're going that's important; it's the journey. Accelerating down a San Fernando Valley street, ironically the Saturday Night Wrist sticker affixed to the center of this writer's dashboard slowly peels off as the Deftones frontman pushes down on the gas pedal. Cosmically, the image makes sense since today is the day for Diamond Eyes—Deftones' sixth full length album—and Saturday Night Wrist, released four years ago, feels almost a universe away.
Chino stares out the window at the setting sun by the Hollywood Hills, and he offers up perhaps the most profound and revealing statement of the entire ride.
"Star Wars is pretty fucking important to me," he says with a wide smile and the deep conviction of a genuine fan.
The force is with him on Diamond Eyes too...
Chino has always been elusive. He's perhaps the most mysterious singer of his era but, in many ways, that statement says everything that needs to be said and more. Chino doesn't give a shit exploring this world in his music. He wants to go beyond with both Deftones and Team Sleep. Eschewing the self-indulgent trappings of most modern rock, Moreno's gotten simultaneously more cryptic and poetic on record number 6. Diamond Eyes is the ultimate head trip—a veritable myriad of visuals, sonic landscapes and jarringly beautiful lyrics. Chino is welcoming the world properly to outer space with this offering and you don't even need the Millenium Falcon to get there, just some headphones.
While driving around the Valley, Deftones' Chino Moreno spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about everything from the movies that Diamond Eyes evokes to his favorite Faith No More record to why space is the place in this exclusive trip, err, interview.
If Diamond Eyes were a movie what would it be?
I feel like I take little pieces from lots of movies. I wouldn't be able to say that there's one film I was inspired by, and I couldn't definitively state, "This movie represents Diamond Eyes." As a whole, this record feels pretty dynamic. It was recorded in such a short span of time, but it really feels like this album is a big picture of my life over the last three years. When I say it's a picture of my life, I don't mean that it's about my life—just things that have been going through my head and the visuals that I've been harboring for the past few years.
What are some of those movies?
It seems kind of funny but Labyrinth is one movie that I would mention. There are a lot of visual comparisons to that—using the owl for one. That's such a great movie! I like that type of fantasy. Maybe Blade Runner…there's a lot of space imagery for me on this album.
Blade Runner is the perfect comparison because it's decidedly futuristic, but it's so primal, bloody, sexual and dark. There's a real gorgeous modern sheen, but it's so dirty and violent at the same time.
I love that. Those are the kinds of things that are exciting to me—things that sound like they're not connected to the earth. Instead, they're connected to the future or somewhere out of this galaxy. Then you marry that with those primal, sexual and bloody romantic visuals, and it's awesome.
You tap into that visual sensibility sonically. How has your lyrical process changed over the years?
I don't know if it's changed so much. I just think I'm at a clearer space in my mind where I'm able to paint the pictures that I want to paint a little more clearly than I could in the past. The day before yesterday, we were rehearsing some material from Deftones, and I didn't remember the lyrics for a lot of those songs because we hadn't played them in so long. When we started playing "Battle Axe," I thought, "This song is pretty fun musically." I completely forgot the lyrics, so I took a look at them again. Reading the lyrics, I thought, "Wow, I can possibly see what I was talking about in the song, but there's nothing really compelling that I say in it." That made me think about the lyrics for the new record. It doesn't matter if you understand what I'm trying to say as long as I paint a picture where the music and the feeling that you feel matches. More importantly, it changes the way you were thinking for the better or it makes you feel good. Honestly, that's what I do with music. When I put on records, I'll listen to music because I want it to change the headspace I'm in for the better and take me somewhere else. Lyrically, I want to paint these little scenarios. Hopefully, they take me somewhere else, and they take the listener somewhere else.
Is "This Place is Death" particularly special to you?
Yeah, it is. Sonically, that's a Stephen song. A lot of people think when we have the ethereal stuff, it's always me, but Stephen was playing with his pedal board and he just got on to this song. Everybody just fell into place after that, and it sounded like chaos to me—but the most romantic, dirty chaos. Lyrically, I matched it a little bit. The song is like exploding out into the night and just going for it.
"Sextape" is quite the portrait as well.
I love that one; it jumps around a lot. I was going to fix it so every verse told one cohesive story, but I decided that I really like it the way it is. It's really fragmented. Pieces of information are in different places—under the water and in the city. It's broad, and it feels really good. It adapts to the overall vibe. It has a nighttime feel to it as well. We've been playing it in rehearsal and I realized how much I like it now. When I first wrote it, I thought, "You could tell this is one of my songs. It's probably the most Team Sleep-esque song on the record." I didn't want it to be too self-indulgent right off the bat or for people to think, "This is Chino just being Chino." Really it's not; everybody contributes on that song fairly equally. I wrote the opening riff, but the song grew from everybody building on to that. It's more of a Deftones song than people might believe it is. Playing the song in rehearsal, it sounds mighty. For the simple fact that it doesn't have any crush guitar, screaming or anything aggressive on it, "Sextape" sounds really big.
"Prince" is so schizophrenic and thrash-y. It's got that push-and-pull that defines in this band.
I like a lot of the visuals on "Prince," lyrically. There's a lot of cool stuff in there. In terms of writing the record, we went back to the method of writing an album completely before we went into the studio. That was a big part of expediting the process and making it a fun thing. By the time we hit the studio, everybody was pretty confident. We weren't scrambling for the next idea; everybody felt good. We didn't look at Diamond Eyes like we were going to try to remake White Pony. We looked to make something that's futuristic-sounding in ways. The only way we did that was by getting out of our comfort zone sometimes. When instinct would be to go this way, we'd try something out of the box or think left-of-center. That led to cutting down walls. You feel free to try whatever. Everything felt good, so it really worked out. I feel great about Diamond Eyes, and I've still yet to take it all in.
How important is Star Wars to you?
It's pretty fucking important, man. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. That movie really made me feel like there's way bigger shit going on than all of this, you know? I still believe that. As a kid, that made it seem like the earth is just so small and there's so much more out there. I got wide-eyed as a kid, and I still just love it. The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite. That shit always puts me in a good mood. My favorite scene is probably when they get to Cloud City. Darth Vader's already there. Lando sells them out. You're just like, "Woah! That shit's fucking sick." I love how clean everything looked and the aesthetic. Everything was white. Princess Leia was all dressed up, and it showed that there's decadence in space too [Laughs]. It's rad. All of it is great. It's dope when the Millenium Falcon goes through the asteroid and into the monster's mouth!
What's your favorite Faith No More record?
Probably Angel Dust, that was the record that made me think, "This is one of the sickest bands." The first album had a couple of good songs, but Angel Dust sounded savage to me. It sounded way more like a Mike Patton record. I feel like he had a lot more influence on it. Sometimes, I'll take a whole band's collection out of my computer and put it on a hard drive for a year or so. I don't have any Faith No More on my computer right now. I took it off awhile ago to make room, but I'll put it back on pretty soon. I'll definitely go back and put on the quintessential records of a band. Off that record, "Caffeine" is always sick as hell. "A Small Victory" is a really great song. There's another song that's really beautiful—"Everything's Ruined." "Jizz Lobber" is heavy. I love "Kindergarten." The lyrics on "Land of Sunshine" are so great.
Do You still go back to Hell Awaits and Pantera too?
I love Hell Awaits. That's my favorite Slayer record! I remember the first time I walked by Phil Anselmo's dressing room when we were touring with Pantera and I heard The Smiths coming out of it [Laughs]. I was perplexed! I eventually said something to him about it, and he was like, "Yeah, I like all kinds of stuff!" Phil's a great lyricist too. What about some of his shit? I got into some of the lyrics on The Great Southern Trendkill, and I was like, "Wow!" He's a smart guy.
What's your favorite Deftones record?
Are you excited for Diamond Eyes?