When Deftones began work on the follow-up to Koi No Yokan, the emotionally charged alt-metal group’s dramatic 2012 album, none of the band members had written any material. And that’s just the way they wanted it.
“The songs are amazing, and we wrote them in a really cool way,” frontman Chino Moreno tells Rolling Stone. “We had all of us in a room together with one person expressing an idea and another person jumping on it. The songs are really built as a collective. We have five guys who have almost completely different takes on music, so when it works, it works great.”
When Rolling Stone reaches the singer in late February, he’s at his Oregon home getting ready to head to Los Angeles where the rest of the band has just finished the album’s drum tracks. The unusual writing session produced 16 songs for the new album, which Moreno expects to come out in the fall (“probably September or October”). It’s the most tunes the group has ever recorded for an LP.
“I think it’s a little more of a heady record,” Moreno says in comparison to Deftones’ last. “I feel like we’ve gone into the songs and really dissected them. If something sounded a little straight, we took a left turn and made things a little screwy. We just tried something completely opposite, not to sabotage it, but to challenge ourselves and try new things that we haven’t done in the past.
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“It definitely feels like we’ve taken a step from our last record,” he continues. “But it’s definitely a Deftones record, and it has all the elements that make us who we are. We’re not going out there to change anything, other than just thinking outside the box.”
Moreno expects the band to be done with tracking the album by the end of March, so Deftones can begin mixing and mastering the record. “We’ve got a good jump on everything,” he says. “It feels good.”
In addition to the “lucrative” songwriting process (to quote the singer), Moreno has been enjoying working with producer Matt Hyde, who did production and engineering on Koi No Yokan. “We thought it would be good to have somebody there who knows us well and who can keep us on track,” Moreno says. “He’s done a great job.” (The singer also beams about Hyde’s C.V., since, in addition to Deftones, he co-produced the self-titled debut for Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell’s Porno for Pyros project – “one of my favorites.”)
Although Deftones posted a photo of former Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward stopping by one of their writing sessions last year, prompting fans to speculate on whether he’d appear on the LP, it was just a friendly visit. “He toured with us a couple times,” he says. “He stopped in to say hi. At this point, we don’t have any guests lined up, but that could change any moment.”
Outside of Deftones, Moreno has spent the last decade fine-tuning the sophomore release by his side project Team Sleep. The group announced its return last year and invited fans to see its members – which count Death Grips drummer Zach Hill among their ranks – play a concert that included previously unreleased music. Now Moreno says the band is “sitting on” its sophomore album.
“A lot of this stuff is actually newer stuff that we’ve written in the last couple years,” he says. “All those guys pretty much have day jobs and live in Sacramento – and I live in Oregon now – but recently we were able to get together and got a lot of stuff finished.”
Moreno is waiting for the right time to put it out. “I’m not really too interested in starting another touring cycle and doing all the stuff to try and sell and market the record,” he says of Team Sleep. “I feel like the music has this timeless quality to it. I’d love to just put it out and have it be on some legacy shit; just let it do what it does.”
At the moment, Moreno’s other major side project — the dark, electronic-based group Crosses — is on hiatus until after Deftones are done recording, so he can work on it on that tour. “Recently, my head’s been completely engulfed in the Deftones record, as it should be,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense right now for me to try and do three projects at one time, but when I am working on those, I have fun doing it.”