Chino Moreno’s new project ††† (Crosses) merges his love of electronic, synth-heavy music with dark imagery. It may seem like a sharp departure from his main gig in Deftones, but Moreno tells us it’s a sound he’s been gestating for many years (he grew up bopping along to acts like Depeche Mode and New Order). Rolling Stone spoke with Moreno about the birth of his new band, believing in the occult and how the Deftones are coping with the recent loss of bassist Chi Cheng.
How would you describe ††† (Crosses)?
By listening to the music, you can tell that a lot of the influences come from the new-wave era. That was basically the scene that I came up on. I just happened to wind up in a metal band when I was 15. I’ve always had a deep passion for a lot of early electronic and sampled music.
A few songs seem to represent times in your musical development. For example, there’s a song called “Nineteen Eighty Seven.”
[Guitarist] Shaun [Lopez] named that track, but that was a coming of age for music for me. I got into a lot of music like Depeche Mode and my whole concept of music changed. Before that, I was just listening to Michael Jackson, maybe some early rap like Afrika Bambaataa. Then, my sister gave me a Depeche Mode tape in a Christmas stocking. Depeche Mode to me were awesome. They had a lot of the same drum machines, a lot the same sounds as hip-hop, but they had a lot of melody and mood and dark tones. I liked the beat, the dance part, but I also liked the melody.
The cross is used heavily in your imagery and song titles. What does it mean to you?
I think a lot of bands are influenced by religious symbolism and not even necessarily Christianity or Catholicism. Our band definitely doesn’t follow any of those. It’s more of the aesthetic. The art, the way it works. The initial name of the band was going to be Holy Ghost. But at the last minute, another band came out with the name, so Shaun suggested Crosses. It’s a very strong symbol. Three crosses is great. It’s great to look at, there’s three of us in the band.
You have a song called “telepathy,” and some songs reference the occult. Do you believe in those things?
Oh, definitely. I’m definitely into all those things. All of us are. It’s an exciting thing to research and get into. Religion, in any form, is always interesting to me because of how powerful it is. Not even the religion itself, but to the people that follow it. . . The effect that it has had on people’s minds.
Do you ever experience that kind of thing?
Yeah, on a daily basis! Déjà vu is one of the weirdest things that happens to me. It boggles my mind. Maybe six months ago, I woke up and then remembered doing the exact same thing that I was doing, while I was doing it! It’s usually something silly, like making toast. It doesn’t have to be anything serious. It’s just like, “Wow, I did this before!” And you feel thrown back into that time. It just shows that the mind is more powerful than we know.
For a little while, you were getting some blowback from listeners that wanted you to do just metal. Have you done enough non-metal projects now that people don’t always expect heavier music from you?
I like to think that people understand what I’m doing. I don’t want to have to do one thing. With Deftones, I’m pretty secure. So, I don’t have to do any of these projects. But, they’re fun, so why not? I hope that people appreciate it. It’s better than sitting around and playing video games or whatever.
What’s next with the Deftones?
We just finished a tour, so we’re gonna take the rest of the year off. We’re gonna start writing some music early next year. I just moved to Oregon and Stephen is down in L.A. and Abe and Frank are in Sacramento, and Sergio is in Europe. The idea is to just get together. The last couple records, we just threw ourselves into a small room and started playing. We just work organically, which I think works better than me writing a song and saying, “Hey guys, learn this.” Hopefully in February we’ll spend a couple weeks together, and just kind of get together and write music.
Deftones bassist Chi Cheng recently passed away, after spending several years in a semi-comatose state. Is your healing process still ongoing?
[Pauses.] He’ll always be thought about on a day-to-day basis. It’s not something that goes away, obviously. I think that when he did pass, it was very hard. It was five years where he was in a state where he couldn’t speak. He was existing, but not existing. He was here, but not here. It was very hard on us and it was really hard on him. I feel like with his passing, not to get back into the supernatural, he is more with us now then he was in the five years when he was stuck in that sort of in-between space. It’s a little bit of a relief because I know that he’s not suffering. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.