There was a point a few years back when Chino Moreno just didn't want to make another Deftones record. Neither did the rest of the Sacramento, California, rockers.
Moreno told the rest of the band he'd be doing his own thing for a bit. That thing was Team Sleep — Moreno's ambient, experimental side project, which released its self-titled debut in 2005 (see "Chino Moreno Says Ambient Team Sleep Aren't A Snooze").
"I wasn't interested in making a Deftones record at the time, and we were writing songs here and there, but no one really wanted to take control of the project," he explained. "With Team Sleep, there was just so much creativity going on, and everybody wanted to try all these weird, different things. So I just had more interest in it, and I told everyone [in Deftones] I was going to go away for a while. And Team Sleep was really fun for me. Some people enjoyed it, some people didn't."
As you'd imagine, Moreno's temporary departure from the Deftones created tension within the group, and he said there were several months where he didn't even speak to any of his bandmates. "Hole in the Earth," the tentative first single from the Deftones' forthcoming, still-untitled LP, addresses the internal strife that paralyzed the band for a time, as well as the feelings Moreno grappled with upon his return to the 'Tones.
"We wrote it live, with everyone writing their part right along with each other, and it's the best of what we do," he said. "It's really, really in-your-face, and yet it kind of sways and it's pretty ... but it's aggressive and it's sort of bleak. That's what I like about our band, and it's all in that song. It's sort of ruthless and mean, but it had to be said at the time."
In the song's lyrics, Moreno talks about wanting to leap into a hole and disappear. "I think it was healthy for me to do," he said, regarding Team Sleep — a project he plans to revisit. "It was healthy that we all took a break. When I came back, we wanted to make the record, and we all got together and had the best time ever, just talking about what we wanted to do. We had to do other things. I had to do Team Sleep. I had to go just make music, different music with different people. I didn't want it to get stale at all — just making a record for the sake of making a record. I wanted to make something really good and that, hopefully, 10 years from now, people will still be listening to."
And that record, the Deftones' fifth full-length offering, is due September 12. The band spent two years writing the album (see "Why Is The New Deftones Album Taking So Long?"), and ended up recording 17 tracks — a dozen of which will make the final cut. The Deftones worked on most of the songs with producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Jane's Addiction) at his home studio in Connecticut and then returned to the West Coast to put the finishing touches on them.
"Most of the vocals I've been doing with [former Far guitarist] Shaun Lopez," Moreno said.
"He has a studio right around the corner from [where I live], and every day, I've just been at his house, just recording, and it's been the most comfortable, best way of recording music ever. He knows Deftones just as well as we do. We all grew up together. He knows what he likes about our band and what we like about our band, and he wants to really bring that out. [This record] took awhile, but I think it was for the right reasons. The record is coming towards the end of two years of work, so I'm ready to just close the book on it and that's it."
Rich Costey (Audioslave, My Chemical Romance) has signed on to mix the record, which is a mixture of some of the Deftones' heaviest material to date and some of their "sweetest," Moreno said. "The heavy stuff is really, really heavy, like really aggressive, and the stuff that's sweet and weird or whatever is sweeter and weirder. A lot of people will probably compare it to [2000's] White Pony, because that was one of the most diverse records that we did. This one's probably the most diverse record we've done."
And there are several guests who'll be appearing on the album, he said, including Giant Drag singer/guitarist Annie Hardy on the electronically inclined "Pink Cell Phone," which "reminds me of a club song, but it's Deftones, and that's what's awesome about it," said Moreno. System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian appears on the song "Buffalo."
"I've done a lot of stuff with a lot of people, and Serj came by and sang a little melody in this little part of this one song," said Chino. Other tracks planned for the record include "America," "FM" and "Beware." "I like to use people for what it is I like about what they do, and to me, I really like — I'm not too into System of a Down, lyrically, so much as I like some of the melodies that him and [guitarist] Daron [Malakian] do. That's what I utilized him for."
Moreno said the 'Tones will incorporate as much of the new material as possible into their set this summer, when they head out with Korn for the resuscitated Family Values Tour (see "Korn Resurrect Family Values Tour With Deftones, Stone Sour"). Dates have not been announced yet, but the run's expected to make stops in 30 cities.