By Andrew Lentz Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of DRUM! Magazine
It’s been a rough few years for Deftones. Things started going bad back in 2007 when frontman Chino Moreno took off during a tour break to front side-project Team Sleep without a word to his bandmates. Deftones had grown uncommunicative in general over the years but now it was getting to the point where they wondered if they were a band at all.
Coming to their senses, they hashed it out and soon got cracking on the next record, tentatively titled Eros. The timing was good because they had just finished constructing a spacious, well-equipped studio/clubhouse in Sacramento, California where they could write songs, jam out, or just kick it. “Even when we don’t like each other we always gravitate towards this room,” Cunningham adds.
Around November 2008 they were three-quarters of the way though Eros when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a horrific car accident that left him in coma. In the two years preceding the incident, it had been an extraordinarily difficult time for Cheng. He had lost not just one but two brothers within an extremely short time span. In a cruelly ironic twist, Cheng’s car accident occurred on the very day of the one-year anniversary of the second brother’s death, on the way back from spreading his ashes over the Pacific Ocean. “I don’t even try to understand it because you can’t,” Cunningham explains. “Nobody should have to go through that. It’s so much suffering for any one person to go through. It’s just … I have no words.”
The band spent the next year and a half visiting Cheng in the hospital, spending the night when they could or playing him some of his favorite tunes. Cunningham, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and keyboardist Frank Delgado would often sit at his bedside through the night. Sometimes Moreno would sing to him.
A promising development occurred last spring when a foundation Web site set up on Cheng’s behalf reported that the bassist moved his left arm. Another encouraging sign is that he occasionally looks at whomever is addressing him. As of press time Cheng remains unable to speak but continues to show signs of improvement. “It’s been a lot of trying to figure out a lot of things. I guess you stop asking questions,” Cunningham says of the whole episode. “I mean, you never stop asking questions. There are some answers for certain things but then sometimes you just have to take a step back and take some deep breaths and then try to focus elsewhere.”
Despite such devastating setbacks, Deftones managed to summon the strength to finish recording its new album, Diamond Eyes, and return to the road. To read the rest of this riveting article, you can purchase a copy of the August issue of DRUM! Magazine at your local newsstand, drum shop, or online by going here.