Published Apr 26, 2016Deftones always buck expectations. Perpetually lumped in with the nü-metal scene that briefly captured mainstream attention at the end of the '90s and early 2000s, throughout their career the Sacramento quintet — singer Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bass player Sergio Vega, keyboardist and turntablist Frank Delgado and drummer Abe Cunningham — have perpetually turned left when fans and critics expect them to head right.
Although they never reached the commercial heights of their peers, they remain a beguiling force in rock, soldiering through fleeting trends, band acrimony, drugs and death only to emerge with some of their strongest material. "Although we have stumbled upon formulas and things that work, the challenge is to not follow them and try and put ourselves in a place that we can be unpredictable," Moreno tells Exclaim! today. "To worry about what other people think is pointless at this point."
1970 to 1989
Camilo Wong Moreno is born June 20, 1973 to Deborah Wong and Camilo Moreno. He is given the nickname Chino, a riff on Chinito, the Spanish word for Chinese and also his grandfather's nickname.
Abraham Cunningham is born July 27, 1973 in Long Beach. His family moves to Sacramento and he starts playing drums and guitar at an early age. His father Sid is also a musician and his stepfather, Neil, is a drummer.
Moreno and Cunningham both grow up in a "shitty neighbourhood," in Sacramento where gang activity is common. Moreno avoids falling into that life by getting into breakdancing and skateboarding. "There were probably only, like, five of us in a three-mile radius that skateboarded," he'll tell Flavir Magazine in 1996. "I had a lot of different types of friends. I never fell into one clique."
Similarly, Moreno never settles on one type of music, instead listening to everything from punk rock and the Beastie Boys to Morrissey, the Cure and Depeche Mode. "My heart has always been into sad music," he'll tell Katherine Turman and Jon Wiederhorn in their book Louder Than Hell. The Sacramento music scene is a melting pot of styles where bands supported one another regardless of genre, creating a lot of cross-pollination of musical ideas.
Moreno and Cunningham attend C.K. McClatchy High School with Stephen Carpenter. Born August 3, 1970 in Los Angeles, Carpenter is brought up in a middle class household in Sacramento by his American father and Mexican mother. As a teenager, he becomes an obsessive skateboarder. "I'd skate to and from school, and then go out and skate all night, and I'd do that every day," he'll tell Guitar World in 1997. At 15 he's hit by a drunk driver, leaving him wheelchair-bound for several months. "The guy was doing like 60 miles an hour when he slammed into me, and I wrecked his car," he says. "I never saw, heard or felt it, and I've never had any pain from it, but physically, I should have died. It's weird. I woke up in the street and I felt totally normal other than the fact that my leg was snapped in half."
After spending two weeks in the hospital, a friend brings a guitar to Carpenter's house. While watching Ratt's "Round and Round" video, Carpenter figures out his first chord by copying guitarist Warren DeMartini's fingering. He perfects power chords by playing along with Anthrax, SOD and Metallica records. "It only took me a couple of weeks to get to where I could fake it and sound like I kind of knew what I was doing."
Soon after he joins a punk band. "Four Mexicans," he'll tell Alive and Kicking in December, 1993. "We were all skaters. We were so bad, we didn't know we had to tune to each other, we just played. I'd been playing two weeks and we just started jammin'. I was like, 'Yeah I'm in a real band.'" He buys a bunch of equipment with settlement money from the accident.
Despite a three-year age difference, Carpenter and Moreno know one another from the local skate scene, and Moreno introduces Carpenter to Cunningham. The two take the bus to Carpenter's house after school where the trio jam; Carpenter sits on his porch, playing guitar, while Cunningham plays the drum set in Carpenter's garage. The guitarist comes up with the band's name, taking "Def" from hip-hop culture and "Tones" from early rock'n'roll. They play their first gig in 1988 at a backyard BBQ on a makeshift stage. Early sets consist of covers of bands like Danzig and Metallica. They recruit Dominic Garcia, a childhood friend of Moreno's, on bass and soon start writing their own material that's more in line with bands like Jane's Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More.
"At first I wasn't even singing, because I didn't know how," Moreno will tell Rolling Stone in 2000. "I would just rap over these heavy songs Stephen would make. Nobody was doing that at the time except Aerosmith and Run DMC. I got tired of it and started getting into singers like Morrissey, who had nothing to do with the music we were making."
Speaking with Spin in 2016, Moreno will say, "We were able to figure ourselves out in a smaller city; it wasn't like we came out and we were terrible in the beginning, and people knew us for being terrible. We were actually able to have some sort of artist development on our own, slow kind of pace, which helped us figure all that stuff out in the early days."
1990 to 1994
Garcia switches to drums in 1990 after Cunningham leaves the band to join local Sacramento metal group Phallucy. Both Cunningham and Moreno are fans of the band who, at the time, were far more popular and established than Deftones. Soon after, Garcia leaves to join Phallucy as well.
Chi Ling Dai Chang replaces Garcia on bass. Born July 15, 1970, his father, Yin Yan, a Chinese immigrant, is a cardiologist. He enrols in California State University in Sacramento studying English. While there he becomes a vegetarian and a Buddhist. In his spare time he writes poetry and performs spoken word. Chi and his brother Ming put up an ad that reads: "Brother bass players — one plays metal, the other plays funk." Carpenter calls them and talks to Ming first, comparing the fledgling group to Primus and Faith No More. Ming, the metal player, hands the phone to his brother; Chi comes over to jam and the quartet write a song on the spot.
In 1991, after Garcia's departure, the band recruit John Taylor as their drummer. While roadie-ing for the band FMK, Carpenter meets their manager Dave Park, whom the Deftones hire to manage them. A 1993 interview with the band in the Cattle Club's in-house magazine, Alive & Kicking, describes Park as "their biggest critic," who is always pushing the band to deliver on their potential.
This lineup records three demo tapes in 1992: the 4-song Demo Tape featuring "Like Linus," "Hump," "Some People" and "Plastic" (the cover claims that only 15 copies are made); the 3 Song Demo Tape featuring "Linus," "Christmas" and "Guest" (an alternative title for the song "Gift"), which is recorded in November by Frank Hannon at Earthzone Studios; and the 2 Song Demo Tape featuring "Roots" and "Engine No. 9" that is produced by the band and Park at Enharmonik Studios.
Taylor quits in 1993 and Cunningham agrees to fill in until the band can find a replacement, but is convinced to stay. They record the 15-track (Like) Linus demo cassette, which is released in 1993. Their music now mixes their early rap-rock influences with a post-hardcore style.
The Cattle Club emerges as a local hub, where owner Jerry Perry regularly books local bands as openers, including Deftones, for more established touring artists. Perry's patronage helps buoy the entire "Sacto" music scene, which is given a further boost by the emergence of local independent radio station KWOD 106.5 FM as one of the most influential alternative/modern rock radio stations in the country. Deftones eventually leverage their local success and expand their reach to nearby San Francisco and Los Angeles, which is a five-hour drive down I-5.
"We didn't really try to play all the time and go out there and shove our music down people's throats," Moreno will tell Pollstar in 1997. "It was more like we'd always try to just get better and write better songs and then go play them just to see what people thought."
At a show in Bakersfield, outside of Los Angeles, they meet relatively unknown producer Ross Robinson, who is working with a local band called Korn. They give him one of their demo tapes. "A couple days later, the Korn guys called and said, 'Dude, we like it, we want to play shows with you guys,'" Moreno will tell Guitar World in 1997. Shortly after, the two groups play a show together. "I tripped out and said, 'This is kind of like what we're doing,' Moreno will tell Louder Than Hell. "Except their shit was a little more dark." They become fast friends.
A gig in L.A. sees Deftones close for what Moreno tells Rolling Stone in 2000 was "a rap-rock outfit like Ice-T's Body Count. Everyone left after that band — I think there were ten people still there for us, basically Korn and their friends." Someone connected to Maverick Records also catches their set and label co-founder Freddy DeMann and A&R rep Guy Oseary ask for a showcase. The band invite the two to a small studio space where they perform three songs. They're offered a contract on the spot.
"There was no beating around the bush," Moreno will recall to Pollstar. "It was just straightforward and that's what we really liked about them." The label encourages the band to hit the road hard, something its members had never experienced before.
In 1994, Moreno starts a side project called Team Sleep with friend Todd Wilkinson. The two record tracks to cassette using a four-track recorder. Maverick circulates a two-song demo tape recorded with Robinson featuring "Root" and "Nosebleed" to promote the release of the band's debut, which is originally slated for spring of 1995.
1995 to 1996
Deftones head to Bad Animals studio in Seattle to record with producer Terry Date, who had previously worked with Pantera and Soundgarden. "The band were really young," Cunningham will tell Modern Drummer in 1997. "We'd been playing most of those songs for quite a while, and we were just so happy to be making a record that we didn't really think a whole lot about making the songs better."
"I still don't think we really had that great a vision of what we were trying to do at that time," Moreno will tell Spin. He records all his vocals live, with the band in the room. They enlist Frank Delgado from the band Socialistics, who frequently open for Deftones, to add audio effects to the tracks "Minus Blindfold" and "Fireal." A hidden track, "Fist," is recorded with Ross Robinson.
A sign of the fine line between punk and metal that the band walk, they spend part of the summer playing the inaugural Warped Tour. They also play a number of shows with Bad Brains. Adrenaline is released in October, with "7 Words" as the first single. It includes a cover of the Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" as a B-side. "[Date] was a metal guy… and he wanted nothing to do with it, so we did it on our own real fast," Cunningham will tell Rock Sound. At first the record sells poorly, but goes on to sell over 200,000 copies. By September 2008, it is certified platinum. By the end of 1995, Park and the band part ways.
Deftones hit the road hard; they spend the rest of the year opening for Life of Agony and Anthrax, and start 1996 opening for Ozzy Osbourne and Korn. Once again showcasing their ability to draw fans from across genres, they re-join Warped Tour in July, then move onto a tour opening for Pantera and White Zombie in August. At the end of July, "Teething," originally a B-side to the "7 Words" single, appears on soundtrack for The Crow: City of Angeles. When the movie is released the following month, the band are seen in the film performing the song during a Day of the Dead celebration. Also in August, "Can't Even Breathe" appears on the Escape From L.A. soundtrack. In October they open a number of dates on the high-profile KISS reunion tour.
On October 5, the band are blamed for inciting a riot at Phoenix's annual UFest. Several fires had already been set on the grounds prior to their set, and fans were hopping the metal barricades into the VIP section in front of the stage. Moreno is visibly drunk and feuding with Cunningham, who walks off the stage a few songs in. After the soundman cuts the power, the crowd storms the stage, causing $150,000 in damages. "The crowd went crazy and started jumping on stage and smashing everything," Carpenter will tell Guitar World. "We got whisked away backstage and then kids started burning shit and climbing the light rigs and everything. We didn't cause the riot, we just happened to be there when the shit went down."
That same month, Park sues the band for failing to pay him commissions for gigs he had booked. Citing the Talent Agency Act, a state law unique to California that requires anyone acting as an agent to obtain a license, the judge sides with the band, cancelling Park's management agreements with the band. Korn release their second album, Life is Peachy, which features Moreno's vocals on a cover of Ice Cube's "Wicked."
1997 to 1999
The band return to Seattle to record with Date, this time at Studio Litho. (Matt Bayles, who will find success producing for bands like Botch, among many others, is an assistant engineer.) The album is dedicated to Max Cavalera's late stepson Dana Wells and the song "Headup," on which Cavalera sings, is a tribute to him. Cunningham's wife Annalynn contributes vocals to "MX" and Delgado once again contributes "audio" to five tracks.
"I feel like that's one of our best records," Moreno will tell Spin. "The fact that we even got a chance to make a second record is just like, 'Let's just do this and really engulf ourselves in it.' I feel like we totally captured that time in our youth." He's lukewarm on the cover though, which features a photo of a girl in a bikini. "We all lived in an apartment complex and were partying every night. We were at the hot tub [one time] and this was just a random shot [that] somehow we picked as the cover," Moreno will tell Kerrang! in 2016. "We were all married at the time, so how do we explain to our wives we're in a hot tub with these chicks?"
Around the Fur is released in October 1997 and debuts at number 29 on Billboard, selling 43,000 copies. It will be certified platinum in 2011. "My Own Summer (Shove It)" is released as a single in December and gets some radio play, while its video receives regular rotation on MTV. It's followed by the equally successful single and video "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" the following March. Despite the band's exploding success, Deftones are already feeling the pinch of being pigeonholed with groups like Rage Against the Machine and particularly their friends Korn. "I really love hard music, but I don't want what we do to be solely hard," Carpenter will tell Guitar World. "The only thing we've got in common with those guys is an energy thing, and the fact that we're all friends."
Further emphasizing his point, Deftones' cover of Duran Duran's "The Chauffer" appears on The Duran Duran Tribute Album, a record that is otherwise populated by contributions from ska and pop-punk bands like Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish and Jimmy Eat World. Moreno, Carpenter and Cunningham appear on Far's Soon EP, contributing to the band's cover of Jawbox's "Savory."
In April, Maverick gathers all the live tracks that had appeared as B-sides to the two "My Own Summer (Shove It)" singles onto the Live EP. Deftones spend part of the summer of 1998 playing Warped Tour. In August, they contribute a cover of "The Have and to Hold" on the Depeche Mode tribute album For the Masses. Their remix of the track "Spasmolytic" arrives on the Skinny Puppy remix record Remix Dystemper the following month.
They spend the summer of 1999 playing Ozzfest with a reunited Black Sabbath, System of a Down, Rob Zombie and Slipknot. Sergio Vega, bass player for New York post-hardcore band Quicksand, who are also on the tour, fills in for an injured Cheng for two weeks' worth of dates. Notably, Deftones do not play that summer's Woodstock '99, where Limp Bizkit — and nü-metal in general — are indicted for inciting and condoning much of the weekend's violence.
In August, the band reconvene with Terry Date and record half of their next album. "
Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan helps out with arrangements and ends up singing on the track "Passenger." Delgado's roommate DJ Crook adds beats and turntables to the Team Sleep track "Teenager," which is included on the album.
Filmmaker Andrew Bennet chronicles the making of what becomes White Pony along with its subsequent tour. Although a cut later surfaces online, Entertain Me: A Film About Deftones has yet to see an official release. Though they've long been associated with the burgeoning nü-metal scene, Carpenter only gets his first seven-string guitar (a nü-metal hallmark) in November 1999. He'll use it to write the next two Deftones records.
White Pony is released in June, debuting at number three after selling 178,000 copies in its first week. "The Boy's Republic" is a bonus track included on the limited, numbered edition of the album that is released in solid red and black jewel cases.
People just hated it when it came out," Moreno says now. "There's a good group of people that are like, 'Why aren't you guys heavy?'" Speaking with Spin, he notes that "pretty much since Adrenaline we'd been fighting an uphill battle with some of our old-school fans who just love us for the aggressive part of our band. I've always had this issue with trying to steer left of what's expected…It's sort of a natural instinct now that I can't even help."
"Change (In the House of Flies)" is released as the first single, and it remains the band's most commercially successful song, peaking at numbers three and nine on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts respectively. The CD single includes B-sides "Crenshaw Punch/I'll Throw Rocks at You" and a cover of Sade's "No Ordinary Love." "Elite" wins a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
Label Maverick doesn't feel there's a second single on the record and asks the band to write a three-minute song around the chorus to the record's final track "Pink Maggit."
Back to School (Mini Maggit) EP, which features a number of live tracks as B-sides, is release in the spring of 2001. "Those are some of the best times of my life," says Moreno now. "Around the Fur and White Pony are probably my two favourite records that we've made."
White Pony goes on to sell over a million copies, landing the group on MTV's TRL, but the success wears on the band and members start experimenting with drugs. "We started using cocaine, we lived life like there was no tomorrow, we sold it to ourselves that that's what you do in a band," Moreno will tell Kerrang! "I had this false reality that I could do whatever I want. And we were successful from that record, so it was this falsehood like, 'We can just get high and fucking make some shit and people are going to love it.'"
Carpenter forms rap-metal band Kush with Cypress Hill's B-Real and Fear Factory's Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers. Cheng releases the spoken word album, The Bamboo Parachute in September. Proceeds from sales went to local Sacramento charities to buy instruments for kids.
Originally a B-side, the acoustic version of "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" featuring vocals from Far's Jonah Matranga, appears on the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler film Little Nicky. To promote the film, Deftones, along with Sandler and Incubus's Brandon Boyd perform the track on Sandler's Adam Sandler's Hell of a Movie Special.
2001 to 2002
Phallucy reunite in 2001 while Team Sleep head out on their first tour. The lineup includes Moreno, Wilkinson, DJ Crook, Rick Verret, Zach Hill, Dan Elkan, Joel Tidwell and Phallucy's Sonny Mayugba. Kush perform at Cypress Hill's fifth annual "Smoke Out." Rumours circulate that an album is imminent, but it never surfaces. In a 2014 Reddit AMA, B-Real reveals that the project was scuttled by the fact that the band's four members are all signed to three separate record labels who were unable to come to an agreement. Team Sleep also record an album that fails to see the light of day; however, their song "The Passportal" appears on the soundtrack to The Matrix Reloaded.
Deftones begin working on a followup to White Pony, again with Date, although they have no new material ready when they get into the studio. Tentatively titled Lovers, writing and recording move slowly. "One of the bad things that came from White Pony was the fact that we were successful and we really took our time and spent too much money," Moreno will tell Spin. "We took that mindset to the next level with the self-titled record. And we really struggled with our work ethic and that record took us almost two years to make, double the time of White Pony."
Maverick is keen to have the band duplicate their previous success with more hits. "They had a lot of input, which was very frustrating, and we were out of our minds on… other things," Cunningham will tell Rock Sound. Moreno is drinking too much and drifting away from Carpenter creatively, while Cheng is in the throes of drug addiction following his divorce. "I was doing every kind of drug except heroin," he'll reveal in Louder Than Hell.
In 2006, Moreno explains to Kerrang! that "making Deftones was probably the darkest time of my life. I was going through a divorce from my wife, who I had been with since I was 19. I went into a period where I tried to use drugs and alcohol for inspiration, because my home life was this whirlwind." Moving on from cocaine, speed is now the singer's drug of choice. "I could work insane hours when I was on it. I could be in the studio for days. coming up with great ideas, but when I went back to it, none of it made any sense." In 2011, Cunningham tells Metalsucks.net that from this record on "making records become not fun… super-duper expensive, wasting time, not communicating — just stupid."
2003 to 2005
Despite its difficult birth, Deftones debuts at number two and remains their highest-charting album to date. DJ Crook, now a member of Team Sleep, again appears, this time on the track "Lucky You." The shoegaze-y "Minerva" is released as the first single; it includes covers of Helmet's "Sinatra" and "Sleep Walk" by Santo and Jonny as its B-sides. Second single "Hexagram" includes "Lovers" — what would have been the title track — as its B-side. Deftones: Live in Hawaii DVD is released on Image Entertainment in 2002. It features the band's episode of VH1's Music in High Places show and features semi-acoustic performances of the band's material.
Despite strong initial sales, Deftones does not perform well commercially and Maverick wants a quick followup. Before the sessions begin, Moreno discovers he's impregnated a woman who is not his wife. He tells no one for months, a period that overlaps with the recording of the next record. He finally breaks his silence to both the band and his wife, which ends his marriage. The band begin working on new material in Sacramento in spring 2004 before moving to Malibu, working at Morning View House, where Incubus recorded Morning View. They write an album's worth of material and try to enlist Ric Ocasek and Failure's Ken Andrew to produce, but both are unavailable. Moreno and Cunningham convince the rest of the band to go with Bob Ezrin, known for his work with KISS, Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper.
With recording dragging on, the label and Deftones' management encourage Moreno to work with other songwriters, plaguing the singer with self-doubt. Speaking to Kerrang! in 2006, Moreno will say, "I didn't want to make a record for the sake of it. A year into making it, I thought everything was sounding really mediocre." His confidence is further shaken by the absence of the band's longtime producer, Date. "My real problem was I had a drug problem and I probably just needed help for that," he'll tell Kerrang! a decade later. "But it got so much bigger, because instead of just getting over that, they made me believe I couldn't make music anymore."
Ezrin and Moreno butt heads and the singer bails on the session to work on a Team Sleep record. Moreno considers quitting the band for good, but he eventually re-joins them in Sacramento at the band's studio, the Spot, in early 2005 before the band take a long break, leaving the album unfinished. In the same 2016 Kerrang! interview, Carpenter says that the uncertainty around the band was pervasive and that he and the rest of the band considered ditching Moreno.
During the break, Moreno finally kicks speed and leaves Sacramento for Burbank. Team Sleep is released in May 2005. Originally the sessions had included Faith No More's Mike Patton and Melissa Auf Der Mar on vocals, but Pinback's Rob Crow and Mary Timony are the only singers aside from Moreno who appear on the final version. Originally slated for 2004, the release is delayed after Maverick decide they want to give the record a bigger promotional push. B-Sides & Rarities is released in October to celebrate the band's tenth anniversary.
Deftones finish what becomes Saturday Night Wrist early in the year with Far guitarist and Moreno's childhood friend Shaun Lopez. The finished album includes contributions from System of a Down's Serj Tankian and a bizarre spoken word piece from Giant Drag's Annie Hardy. "The disconnect was so strong, and that record took three years to get finished, and basically everybody just came in and did their part and left, including myself," Moreno will tell Spin. "Regardless of the songs, the quality of the songs, I just feel like the way it was made, it was so half-assed that there's no way that the record could not show how pieced together it was."
"We never really talked about it," says Moreno now, of this tumultuous period. "It is what it was and the records mirror the energy that was going on, which wasn't much at all. That's why you get a couple records that weren't terrible but sort of felt flat."
Speaking with Kerrang! in 2016, Carpenter says, "Drugs are a bad thing. They make you make bad decisions. Relationships don't get terminated. You don't do that. But that record and [the] self-titled, we refer to them as our 'dark days.' Lives were collapsing, immaturity, divorces, drugs, alcohol — all the clichéd bullshit."
Saturday Night Wrist finally arrives in October with "Hole in the Earth" as its lead single and debuts at number ten. A cover of the Cars' "Drive," featuring a prominent sample from Massive Attack's "Protection," appears as an iTunes bonus track. The album is generally well-received by critics.
Before heading out on tour to support the album, a meeting is held with management to decide the future of the band following the acrimonious recording process. "We were tired. It had been ten years of making a record, going on tour, making a record, going on tour," says Moreno. "We started when we were kids and at that point we were adults in our late 20s. The enthusiasm wasn't that strong."
Moreno, Carpenter, Cunningham, Delgado and Cheng choose to continue, and set to work on mending their frayed relationships with one another. They spend the rest of the year on tour, playing that year's Taste of Chaos tour and a rekindled version of the Family Values Tour, which, in the late '90s, was to nü-metal as Lollapalooza was to alternative rock in the early part of the decade. (Deftones were never part of the tour in its heyday.) During a stop in Atlanta, 30-year-old Andy Richardson is killed after a fight breaks out in the mosh pit during Deftones' set. Richardson's head hit the concrete floor after he's punched by 24-year-old Scott Axley, who is charged with his murder a week later.
Carpenter records some guitars with English producer Richie Londres. The two hit it off and form the band Sol Invicto, a cinematic instrumental metal duo.
2007 to 2009
Tour dates supporting Saturday Night Wrist continue into the New Year. In June, the band's cover of "Jealous Guy" appears as an iTunes bonus track on the John Lennon tribute album Instant Karma.
In the fall, Deftones begin working on Saturday Night Wrist's followup, tentatively titled Eros. "The band started to reconnect on a friendship level. We were having fun again," Moreno will tell Spin. "The music was coming together very slow, and it wasn't that great — a lot of meandering, a lot of jammy sort of stuff."
On November 4, 2008 Cheng is involved in a car accident in Santa Clara, CA. Leaving the memorial service for their brother, he and his sister, Mae, who is in the driver's seat, hit another car, causing their vehicle to flip three times. Cheng, who was not wearing a seatbelt, is ejected from the car, leaving him in a coma. Mae, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffers minor injuries. Oneloveforchi.com is launched in March 2009 to raise funds for Cheng's medical bills. As well as accepting donations, the site doubles as an auction site, with friends and peers donating rare and signed items. Spearheaded by Korn's bass player, Fieldy, the instrumental track "A Song for Chi" is released with all proceeds going to Cheng's long-term care. Members of Slipknot, Sevendust among many other artists appear on the track.
Recording sessions are put on hold as band members consider the future, including starting over under a different name. Ultimately they opt to soldier on, recruiting Sergio Vega to step in on bass. He makes his debut with the band in April, 2009 at the Bamboozle Left music festival. That same month, Cheng contracts a near-fatal case of septicaemia. The band scrap Eros and in July reconvene in their Sacramento rehearsal space and start writing what eventually becomes Diamond Eyes.
"When Chi had his accident, we were probably another six months away or something from finishing [Eros]," Moreno will tell Spin. Yet its release continues to be an albatross around the band's neck. "I get asked about it more than I get asked about anything else," says Moreno now, noting that he doesn't think that what the band had recorded was that great to begin with. "The only optimistic thing I've said about it is 'maybe someday.' But if we were to put it out, we'd have to finish it, and that would take a lot of energy. When we do get together, the last thing we're thinking about is 'Let's dig up something from seven years ago.'"
Diamond Eyes is written in just two months, working with Nick Raskulinecz. "There was this whole reconnecting of everything that had been missing for the last ten years or so." They record the album as a band rather than piecing each member's performance together with Pro Tools. Carpenter abandons the seven-string he's used on the band's last two releases and writes the album on an eight-string guitar. In August, Cheng undergoes surgery to replace the portion of his skull that was removed to relieve pressure from his swelling brain. A two-night benefit show headlined by Deftones is held in November. Guests included members of Far, Cypress Hill, Tommy Lee, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Max Cavalera among many others.
Diamond Eyes is released in the spring and debuts at number six, selling 62,000 copies. It goes on to sell about a quarter-million copies. An M83 remix of the song "Rocket Skates," the record's first single, is given to fans who pre-order the album, while the iTunes Deluxe edition comes with covers of the Cardigans ("Do You Believe"), Japan ("Ghosts"), and Drive Like Jehu ("Caress"). Reviews are highly favourable and the album is named "Rock Album of the Year" by the iTunes Store.
In the fall, the band head out on tour with Mastodon and Alice in Chains. The tour is dubbed Blackdiamondskye after the records each band is touring behind.
Sol Invicto remix the album's title track and "You've Seen the Butcher." Proceeds go to Cheng's ongoing treatment. A reunited Far release the album All Night We Live. The title track is written for Cheng. In May it's reported that Cheng's recovery is moving slowly but steadily — he can now follow people with his eyes and offer the occasional vocal response.
Deftones cobble together a collection of their cover songs for the aptly named Covers, which is released in April for Record Store Day. In October, the band reissue their discography on vinyl, including the limited edition The Vinyl Collection — 1995-2011 box set. Sol Invicto's Initium EP released for free download in August; Hella's Zach Hill plays drums. The band also remix two Asking Alexandria tracks. Moreno forms Crosses (stylized as †††) with Shaun Lopez and bass player Chuck Doom. They release their debut, EP 1, in August. The track "The Years," which is not included on the EP, is part of the Batman: Arkham City soundtrack, released in October. He also joins Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Myer, all former members of prog-metal group Isis, in Palms.
Crosses drop EP 2 in January. In August, the band contribute a cover of Rob Zombie's "Dragula" to the Rob Zombie remix album Mondo Sex Head.
Reenergized, Deftones start working on a followup to Diamond Eyes, again working with Raskulinecz. The process takes them a relatively short six months. "We were aiming for less expensive, more expansive," Moreno tells Exclaim! TV in 2013. "We realized with Diamond Eyes, that instead of having such an open-ended process, we make a time frame for when we want to do it. We took the same work ethic and put it into making this record."
They call the record Koi No Yokan, a Japanese phrase for "premonition of love" or "love at first sight." "It's a very optimistic sentiment… the place we're at making records, we're not expelling demons. We make music that's optimistic about our life." In July, Cheng is taken out of intensive care and moved into his home.
Koi No Yokan is released in November debuting at number 11. It goes on to sell 200,000 copies. It's met with widespread critical acclaim, with many critics hailing it as their best album since White Pony. The band embark on a short tour in the lead up to the release, debuting new songs live to fans in smaller venues. "Koi No Yokan and Diamond Eyes, [were] sort of our rebirth," says Moreno. "Those records feel good to play because of the optimism and energy that was there when we made them."
After spending the previous four years in a semi-comatose state, Cheng passes away on April 13, succumbing to cardiac arrest. In a letter to family, friends and fans on Onelovechi.com his mother Jeanne Marie writes: "He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear. He fought the good fight. You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone." Writing on behalf of the band on the group's Facebook page, Carpenter says, "There will be a hole in our lives where Chi once was. But that will be filled everyday with all of our love and memories we all have in our heart."
Live Volume 1 – Selections from Adrenaline is offered up to fans for Record Store Day. Patton's Ipecac Records, the longtime home of Isis, release Palms' self-titled debut in June. The record debuts at number 55 on the Billboard charts. Sol Invicto's Initium II EP, featuring Dan Foord on drums, is released via Soundcloud in October.
2014 to 2016
Crosses release their self-titled, full-length debut in February 2014 on Sumerian Records. That same year, Team Sleep, now featuring Gil Sharone on drums and Chuck Doom on bass, record an album in front of an audience in Woodstock, NY. The set is a mix of unreleased demos and reworkings of tracks from the band's debut. It's self-released as Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 4 in 2015. Sol Invicto release Initium III at the end of 2015. The project now includes producer Tech Itch.
While Crosses are one tour, Cunningham, Vega, Delgado and Carpenter begin work on a new record without Moreno, who later joins the writing sessions. "We don't talk anything about it as far as trying to figure out what we're trying to create," he says now. "The best way, especially recently, is to [capture] the spontaneity of us sitting in a room, making some noise… and we start reacting to each other. It's collaborative in the most real way."
Recording stretches into 2015, with the band working in short increments — sometimes just a week at a time — so as to "not have to feel rushed or feel like we need to get a record out for any reason," says Moreno. Little information is shared with fans other than that Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell plays on the record. In the lead-up to its release, rumours circulate that Carpenter wasn't interested in playing on the record, but the rumour is quickly quashed by both Moreno and Carpenter. "That could have been any day. That could have been any album. It could have happened on every record we've ever recorded," the guitarist tells Team Rock.
"Stef has always been the person that wants to play devil's advocate to everything," Moreno tells Exclaim! "It's healthy to be challenged in any creative process and it goes both ways." Gore is released in April to positive reviews. Despite naming the record after it, Moreno says that the title track is his least favourite song on the album. Still he says he likes the evocative imagery that it conjures. "There are a lot of jagged parts to our sound and there's a lot of smooth parts to what we do," he says. "When they complement each other, that's when we're at our best."
Around the Fur (Maverick, 1997)
Although they would evolve into a much more nuanced beast, Around the Fur perfectly encapsulates the early, aggressive sound Deftones helped pioneer, while songs like "My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" showed they were capable of writing hit songs without compromising their post-hardcore influenced brand of metal.
White Pony (Maverick, 2000)
A rare meeting of artistry and commercial success, White Pony found the sweet spot between Carpenter's heavy riffs and Moreno's melodic romanticism. Carpenter's guitar textures, Delgado's ambient soundscapes and Moreno's lyrics combine to create a record that managed to transcend the nü-metal ghetto in which many had placed the band. It remains their high water mark both commercially and critically.
Koi No Yokan (Reprise, 2012)
17 years on from their debut, Deftones surprised pretty much everyone with this catchy and concise summation of their modus operandi: aggressive guitars, moody ambiance and melodic hooks abound. The crowning jewel of their post '10s rebirth, Koi No Yokan showed that the band still had plenty to offer in the rapidly changing rock culture.