OVERDRIVE FEATURE INTERVIEW: DEFTONES – “In a lot of ways, it kind of felt that we were coming back home”. – SERGIO VEGA
It’s been four years since the world was gifted with a new Deftones album and with their ninth studio offering, ‘Ohms’ about to be unleashed this Friday [September 25th], we caught up with bassist, Sergio Vega, to talk about the album and so much more…
Despite the tempestuous events that are happening throughout the globe, small offerings of escapism are at hand to help some of us through the cluster-fuck that is 2020.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, you may have heard that Sacramento visionaries, Deftones are about to release a new album, ‘Ohms‘ this Friday [September, 25th].
Is this cause of a celebration? You bet your ass it does!
Speaking from his apartment in New York, bassist Sergio Vega opens up about the new album, his thoughts on 2016’s ‘Gore‘ LP, the inner workings of the and so much more…
Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2020
OD -It’s 2020, the world is on fire and disease-ridden, but at least there’s a new Deftones album. With the restrictions on movement and gatherings etc, I know that the album was delayed from a June/July release date to September. During this time, was there anything out of the ordinary that you guys had to reconsider for this album?
SERGIO – No, fortunately for us the album was pretty much done when the lockdown began in the United States. We were in the final states with all the music tracked. Frank [Delgado – Samples, Keys] made a few extra trips to add some keys here and there and Chino [Moreno – vocals] did a few extra guitar tracks. I also made a few trips out there to work out some vocal stuff, but that was only a few weeks after the initial lockdown had begun, so we were in a really fortunate place when it [the pandemic] all got very serious.
OD – Did the lockdown itself inspire any quick decision-making when you all realised that it was going to have a profound effect on the usual promo activities that would normally happen when releasing an album?
SERGIO – We considered a few things but here we are and the album is due very soon. It’s been great to see the reaction online to the tacks that we’ve already released [‘Ohms‘ and ‘Genesis’]. It’s very much appreciated. To see this much excitement for a band that is about to release their 9th album is very rare [Laughing]. Especially in this day and age.
To be not only relevant but also ‘current‘ is a great feeling and one that we all appreciate very much.
OD – One of the things I noticed with the album is that it’s much warmer, with a lot of low-end with big, chunky riffs from Stephen. For example, ‘Radiant City’ and ‘Urantia’, did the tracks just come about that way, or was this the advice of Terry Date [Producer]?
SERGIO – I think this requires a kind of a layered answer here, so, I’ll try and keep it as clear as I can [Laughing]. First of all, we don’t really give ourselves much structure because we don’t want to set any kind of preconceived boundaries when creating new music.
Terry Date and Chino working on ‘Ohms’ – © Deftones 2020
The freedom from these constraints allow for ‘happy accidents‘ and inspires a direction to which we have not anticipated and this allows us to create something that is very immediate, cutting edge and fresh. It’s a system that just really works for us all and we’re beyond happy with the results.
Now, the decision to bring Terry back in on this album was definitely based on the history that the band have with him. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him from recording this album and it’s been such a great experience. We just knew that he was going to make a very bold-sounding album and he has absolutely achieved that.
Terry has exceeded our expectations on this new album and for me personally, it was a real joy to have the experience of working with him, with both vocals and bass.
OD – Speaking of Terry, how did it come about that he was gonna be working on this album, who made the first contact?
SERGIO – I think it was a kind of; “Right Time, Right Place” situation. It was a perfect storm with the timing between the band vs Terrys’ schedule and it just fit into place so perfectly. In some ways, it kind of felt that we were ‘coming back home‘ with the marriage between the music, the mindset of everyone, and Terry being on board etc..
That’s really where the personal level came into play with the album. There was a conscious effort to put everything into this and get the best out of the experience; from day one.
I think that one of the things that was very apparent was Stephen [Carpenter – guitars] brought back the personal connection of our friendships which was very much involved as a whole, during the writing process. Terry was an expression of that also. He is [Terry] just amazing at what he does and he’s an amazing person also.
OD – With regards to the writing of the album, Chino has said that Stephen was way more connected with ‘Ohms’ than that of “Gore”  and also that there was a wider input from all band members. Was this the first album that all of you were contributing to the writing and if so, does that make this somewhat of a landmark album?
Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2020
SERGIO – I don’t really know if it’s ‘landmark‘. I look at it from another point of view. For example, when we go into the creative state of mind and we are in our writing space, I’ll fire up the laptop/hard drive and we set up a separate feed for everyone to record all of our individual parts.
There was a bit of a disconnect with ‘Gore‘ but it wasn’t expressed on the amount of contributions from each of the band members, specifically Stephen. I think there was a disconnect because we would come in [for rehearsals] for a couple of weeks and it would be like; ‘work, work, work, work‘, then pause.
I have all the hard drives’ from those sessions and there’s loads of stuff from Stephen and everybody else. Abe [Cunningham – Drums] and I would trail through the audio and edit a lot of ideas. We were championing certain songs/ideas and the genesis of the tracks may have become lost, but I have an acute memory of where they stemmed from because it was very important to bring this record [‘Gore‘]home.
With ‘Ohms‘ we are all stoked. We put a lot of effort into this new album and tried to bring in the element of our history with each other, our history as friends. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t dislike ‘Gore‘, not one bit. It’s not like we weren’t getting along when that album was being created and I don’t like the concept that Stephen wasn’t contributing to the writing process, because it’s not entirely the case. There were songs that he contributed to in a later stage. People have these preconceptions about the roles in the band and its just not true.
We’re all writing all the time. I’m writing from home, we’re writing together, Stephen and Chino are sending over ideas to all of us and likewise. The truth is so much more cooler than binary falsities.
OD – The marketing for the release has been very coded and cryptic, was this just to give more anticipation to the marketing or is there a deeper meaning to it?
SERGIO – I don’t know if I’m using the term correctly but I believe the artwork is ‘impressionistic‘. We prefer to have visuals that leave the interpretation of the individual. We react to things in one way, that will differ from what others may feel, or understand.
The art director, [Frank Maddocks] will present us with several ideas and then we’ll all chime in and give our two-cents and then a little while later, we’ll begin to think about why we like it and what it may remind us of.
For example, some images could subtly remind us of Prince, or the ’80s or some black and white images, which kind of remind us of the early Punk covers etc. We make decisions on images, based on a collective feeling of nostalgia and joy.
We love looking at what people think and how they interpreted the images we use. With ‘Ohms‘ the marketing campaign was very interesting. We channelled our creativity in a new way because we had more time on our hands. We asked ourselves the question; “How can we have a bit of fun with this?” So, the parameters of expression were set in place and we began to role out this online campaign.
To be honest, this was something that I grew to understand and appreciate more. I’m used to the hardcore scene where everybody just puts things out, then play on stage and walk off into the crowd [Laughing]. There’s no mystery with that format.
It’s been a lot of fun checking out what people think about it all and how they are interpreting the images and information we release. I know it’s not the healthiest thing to do, but sometimes I’ll go on a Facebook group and read the comments [Laughing].
OD – Do you snoop around online and see what people are saying?
SERGIO – Yes, but not too often. You can let all your readers know that I’m watching [Laughing].
OD – Is there any particular track that you’re leaning towards as being a favourite on the new album?
SERGIO – Hmmm… Honestly, it never really works that way for me. I know that Abe has a thing for ‘Radiant City‘ because of the way the intro kicks in with the bass, followed by the drums. But for me, I tend to look at the whole album as one piece, if you know what I mean.
The songs work in sequence and it’s just kind of hard for me to carve off one in particular. Usually, when we have a new video coming out, like ‘Genesis‘ [released 18/09/20] that’s been in my head the last few days because I’ve been listening to is a lot.
But it doesn’t mean that I regard it as a higher ranking song than any of the others on the album. It’s just that it’s having it’s day in the sun right now and I’m hearing it a lot.
Actually, speaking of ‘Genesis‘, it’s fun for me to hear that in the wild because the track actually spawned from a little home-demo I made in the middle of the nigh;t when I was living in Harlem, NY.
I woke up with it in my head and I was like; “Oh, man, I gotta get this down. It could be really cool”. I programmed some guitars, drums etc and sent it over to the guys and it pretty much made it… intact! [Laughing].
It’s fun to hear because I can still reference my little demo idea and now I can hear how amazing it sounds in comparison. It reinforces the fact that it’s never really a song until all of us touch it.
OD – Can we talk about the re-issue of ‘White Pony’ aka ‘Black Stallion‘ and when we can expect to see that and also, what exactly will be on that album? Have you guys figured out a release date or is there any other additional information you can share right now?
Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2020
SERGIO – No, I’ve no new information for you on this [Laughing]. I’ll be honest with you, the way things work with us is, there are ideas and then we figure out how to reveal said ideas. The fact that I’ve heard nothing on the reveal side of things on this [‘White Pony‘ re-mix], I would say that there’s no new info.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I could have missed an email [Laughing], but at this moment in time, there’s no update on when this is gonna come out.
OD – There’s a lot of synergy in the band at the moment, you’ve got the new album coming out, the ‘White Pony‘ re-mix the new beer etc. Do you feel that things are in a very good place right now?
SERGIO – Yeah, things are going well. There are five strong personalities in this band and each of us are very passionate about how we want to do things. So, its par for the course that there will be some friction at times and without that, you don’t get to elevate your game. These guys are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with and they are not only good at what they do, but they are very different from each other, have their own wisdom and experience and we all benefit from that together.
These are people who are genuinely interested in their craft, for example, Stephen is constantly challenging himself, as we all do. The work never stops.
OD – The North American tour with Gojira and Poppy has been postponed, will this tour pick up again when things are safe and also, can we see this line up coming over to Europe?
SERGIO – It’s too early to say right now because of what’s happening, but most of our dates are intact and have shifted over to next year. I was just talking to a friend of mine who got me thinking that larger events are going to be much more difficult to return, than that of the smaller shows.
My friend was talking about someone he knew who is a jazz drummer and he’s been just performing wherever he can, like in the park, or where ever [Laughing]. They literally have no stopped doing live performances during this whole lockdown.
So, the hope is next year we can get back out there and do some live shows. At the end of the day, it’s all about logistics. There has to be some kind of safe, working plan to get things back to where they once were, or even remotely close to that. All we can do is just wait and see what happens.
OD -Since your time in the band, is there any particular moment that stands out more than any other, a moment that had a profound effect on you and your partnership/friendship with the band?
SERGIO – Honestly, not really. We’ve all been friends for such a long time and when I came into the band it was under very painful circumstances. It was not really a happy feeling because obviously everybody was heartbroken with what happened to Chi. For me, I was just being a friend. I wanted to put my best foot forward and do the best I could for my friends; during a very difficult time.
Chi Ling Dai Cheng (July 15, 1970 – April 13, 2013)
We’ve had a lot of years behind us, and I think we all just knew that when Chi [pictured above] went down, we had to keep things moving and I was asked to step in. So, there’s never really been this celebratory moment, I just put my best foot forward and did the very best I could.
OD – Finally, can you please share one of your favourite tracks/videos?
SERGIO – Hmm, let me think. I’m stumped because some of my favourite tracks have pretty uneventful video. I’ll go with anything off ‘Loveless‘ from My Bloody Valentine. Such a great band.
‘Ohms‘, the 9th studio album from Deftones will be released via Warner Music on Friday, September 25th. Pre-orders are available here.
Read our review of ‘Ohms‘ here.
Live photos – Down The Barrel Photography, exclusively for www.overdrive.ie © 2020