Interview: Chino Moreno of Deftones & Team Sleep
Wed, 12 Dec 2007 09:56:38
Chino Moreno remains one of the most enigmatic frontmen to ever grace a stage. His unmistakable voice has proved an influence for a whole generation of bands, and his entrancing, yet cathartic performances are undeniable. With Deftones, he helped redefine alternative music. Their sound combined his unbridled emotional vocals with precise riffs and swirling, ethereal textures for an intriguing brand of post-grunge rock all its own.
However, a true artist needs more than one canvas. So, in Team Sleep, Chino brings trip-hop and warm guitar rock together in one musical collective. The band’s self-titled debut pulled fans into Chino’s world completely, and their upcoming series of digital EPs will take them further down the rabbit hole. While on the road with Team Sleep for a special run of winter tour dates, he sits backstage and delves into every facet of his creative process for ARTISTdirect.
I know your influences are pretty diverse. They range from post punk like Morrissey and The Cure to ambient jazz, like Bohren and Der Club of Gore, to distorted rock, like The Smashing Pumpkins. Is Team Sleep your way to channel all of your collective influences into one project?
Yeah, it hasn’t been something that’s really planned though. It’s actually been the rawest way of making music. For one, the different musicians involved in Team Sleep make it a bit whacky on its own. [Drummer] Zach Hill and DJ Crook come from two completely different worlds musically. But when they come together, it’s massive. To me, the music is like the most punk, hip hop shit in a way [laughs]. Punk and hip hop are two influences I grew up with. Getting into the new wave stuff, that comes into play with my vocal style. Obviously, like you said, The Smashing Pumpkins are also a big inspiration. I love guitar driven rock. We really took a lot of influences from that stuff and Jane’s Addiction as well. Really melodic, dynamic guitars inspire me—not power chords so much—but discord notes. The jazzy Bohren and Der Club of Gore stuff is also big for me. During all of the drone-y, ambient stuff that we do, those influences come into play. Ultimately, Team Sleep is a mixture of everything that I like and have grown up liking.
Team Sleep’s music has always been highly visual. Is it your goal to tell stories and evoke emotions with these songs?
It’s not so much to tell stories, but it’s to set a mood. Live, we actually have visuals that we’re using. The music actually sets the mood, and the picture just adds to it. You get to see, and you get to visualize. For me, that’s been one of my favorite things to do right now—melding visuals with music—and that’s been one of my most fun hobbies. The Team Sleep music is probably one of the best types of music to add visuals to.
I think so. It seems like it’s almost easier for you to create with Team Sleep because there are no boundaries. Is that the case?
Well if you had to compare it to Deftones, yeah. I think with Deftones we built a career on this really aggressive rock music. For Deftones, we have been incorporating a lot of different sounds into our songs, but the sound is generally like a hard-edged groove. I guess there are boundaries where we have to add certain elements in our music to make it what it is in Deftones. With Team Sleep, there are no boundaries like that. So it is a little different.
Also, it seems like the Team Sleep music comes really naturally for the five you. Is the new music on the digital EPs an evolution from the material on your debut?
Yeah, these EP songs have been done a little differently too. The debut has more of a “live” feel. We basically recorded all of that stuff together, so it sounded more like a band. Whereas a lot of the EP stuff is more electronic, and it was composed individually. Now the next record, which we plan on releasing in 2010 or after, will be our second full length record that we go in and make like a band. There are actually two ways that I think Team Sleep can work. I wouldn’t say either way is better. I just think it’s fun to be able to do both.
In addition to creating in two separate ways, it seems you have two mindsets too: that electronic side and that loud guitar side.
I don’t think of it as two sides of my brain or anything. It all seems pretty natural for me. I don’t know when I click in and out of each one [laughs]. My goal is to mend all of that together and make it cohesive in one piece of music.
Does this new material cover the same vast spectrum of emotions that the Team Sleep debut did? “Blvd Knights” has a lovelorn feel while “Our Ride to the Rectory” has an almost idyllic summer vibe. Is that whole range of emotion represented in the new songs?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Some of the new stuff reminds me of the sounds of nature in a way. There’s some material that sounds like machinery to me. If you think about technology and nature, they’re worlds apart. I try and represent that wide range and everything in between. It’s like to my left, there’s the super hi-tech electronic weird shit and to my right, there’s the very organic lo-fi stuff.
Is covering that fine line between nature and future tough for you as a writer?
It’s a challenge. One of the biggest things I appreciate in music is when people blend organic instrumentation with electronic instrumentation. It has the potential to be really lame, and it’s easy to screw up. The mood has to be right. If it works, it really works. So with Team Sleep, we have a lot of stuff that’s unused. With Deftones, we pretty much write what we put on our records, and we maybe have one our two tracks left over. However, while writing for Team Sleep, there is a ton of music. So we’re picking and choosing to make a cohesive record.
The Team Sleep aesthetic has that '70s washed out vibe, is that a time that’s always been really inspiring for you?
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