13th Witness

Being together for more than 20 years will take a band to strange new places, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps nobody knows the extent of this better than Sacramento’s veteran rockers Deftones, who experienced their greatest challenge yet when bassist Chi Cheng was hospitalized following a car accident in 2008, shortly before they were set to release their sixth studio album, Eros. The incident left Cheng in a minimally conscious state and inspired a flood of outreach from fellow artists and fans, including one woman who launched the website One Love for Chi to pool fundraising efforts and provide updates about Cheng’s recovery.

Such a tragedy could have sealed the fate of a weaker band, but the five-piece were never ones to let negativity reign over their music, heavy as it may be. They shelved Eros, returned to the studio with bassist Sergio Vega, and in 2010, released Diamond Eyes, a wonderfully human album that works through a complex range of emotions, both positive and negative. Now they are poised to release their seventh effort, Koi No Yokan, in early November, and they will take to the Majestic Ventura Theater on Tuesday, October 9, with Scars on Broadway for the opening date of a cross-country tour. I recently checked in with drummer Abe Cunningham to see how preparations were coming along.

It seems like Deftones have been coming to the Ventura Theater as long as I can remember. What’s the history there? The Ventura Theater’s great; we’ve actually started a couple tours out there. We get to bring all our lighting and sound, so whenever we start a tour we’re able to do rehearsal there and program all the lights and everything before we hit the road. I think we started coming down there in ’92, ’93. We used to do these crazy make-up shows on our way to L.A. and stuff. It’s one of those places, man. Good spot.

How is Chi doing? Pretty much the same, man. I wish I could offer some good news. He’s fighting. He’s been in bed for four years, so he’s susceptible to many infections. I check the site many times a day hoping to get some good news, and it doesn’t always come. But we’re hoping it will.

What’s the status of Eros? Chilling. We pretty much put everything on hold. When Chi had his accident, our world was turned upside down. That’s what we were working on at the time, and we never looked back, hoping to have him here with us to be able to play those songs and figure it out.

“Leathers” is the first single from Koi No Yokan. Do you think it’s an accurate representation of the rest of the album? Not at all. It’s kinda funny because I think the real single is coming out today online somewhere; that was sort of the leaked single if you will, just the first taste. The album is all over the place, and that’s just one of the slices of the 11 slices that are on it. It’s a pretty brutal song, obviously, when it kicks in — it’s got that little intro, I think people might be caught off guard [by it] … The album’s got a little bit of everything on it, and that’s just something we chose. We just thought it would be a nice little sliver to pop out.

What does Koi No Yokan mean? It’s a love thing. It’s a sense upon meeting a person that you will fall in love without even having spoken or learned about them or gone on a first date. It’s not love at first sight … it’s the knowledge that it’s inevitable no matter what, and it’s a special thing. It’s Japanese … it doesn’t translate into English, so that makes it a bit more fun.

What role did you play in the songwriting process? Back in the day, it was [Stephen Carpenter] and I who did all the music for the records, but it’s a band; it takes everyone to do their thing and add their stuff. The last two records, especially — Diamond Eyes and the new one — were total open collaborations between everyone, and a really positive, nice time making music together. It was definitely a joint effort by everyone, and that’s a good place to be for a band.


Deftones play the Majestic Ventura Theater (26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura) on Tuesday, October 9, at 8 p.m. with openers Scars on Broadway. Call 653-0118 or visit


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