In terms of respect, Sacramento stalwarts Deftones are near peerless. Boasting an impressive career, Deftones are a band at the top of their game. Last year’s impressive ‘Koi No Yokan’ picked up from where predecessor ‘Diamond Eyes’ left off. With a string of sold-out Australian shows coming up in May, Killyourstereo.com caught up with one of rock’s true gentlemen, Sergio Vega to talk about writing music, touring with your friends and Australian coffee.
Hello Sergio, how’s it going?
Hi Kane, how’s it going man? I’m doing well.
Yeah, I’m not too bad thanks. How is the year treating you so far?
Fantastically well. I’m enjoying every moment of it. How is it going for you?
Really good thanks. It’s a nice day, so I can’t complain.
The Australian tour is coming up a little later in the year but I know you’ve got some Europe and US dates starting soon. How’s the mood like going into the shows?
Everyone is really excited. We’re just really happy. We made a record we all feel really good about and we’re just enjoying each other’s company. We did a couple of short runs recently with Scars on Broadway and that was a lot of fun. We are just really looking forward to linking back up again and just playing these songs – old songs and new songs.
Because I was going to say, when you are playing these new songs that you haven’t played a lot yet, what’s going on inside the head? Are you thinking, “oh God, we’ve got a tempo change here or a quick transition there.” Are you analysing it a bit more?
No, no, that’s just daft (laughs).
Preparation is key. Basically, we try to employ the five P’s – proper preparation prevents poor performance. We practice on our own, we practice together and when it’s time to play we just have a good time. By the time we hit the stage and play it’s just all guns blazing. We vibe off each other very well. There’s a lot of inter-communication going on – non-verbal communication, like through eye contact and emotion, and just picking up on each other’s cues and knowing what’s happening, and being linked as a unit. But, the worst thing to have to do is stand up there and be like, “well this has to be here and that is going to be there.” You’ve just got to let it fly.
I know in interviews last year around the time when ‘Koi No Yokan’ came out you would’ve been asked a lot to describe how the album sounded. Now that it has had a few months to settle and you look back on the release, what are you most proud of from it?
the fact that people dig it. I really enjoyed making it [the album] and I enjoyed being a part of the group sitting in a room making records and writing songs, it was just amazing. For me, I think of it as a whole. And the whole experience was just fantastic. So I think I’m most proud of the ability to be doing this with my friends, it’s just such a great opportunity and we like to make the most of it.
And like you say, writing with your friends, this was the second time around you were part of the writing process for a full-length. Was it easier this time around?
I don’t know? They [the albums] both presented their own challenges in a sense and they were both very exciting and thrilling, and the latter really outshined the former in terms of any kind of concerns I had were just outweighed by the fact that it was exciting to do and it’s something I feel good about. Just having the opportunity to sit down and work on tones and work on things, everyone in the band is really into textures and sounds, and deriving parts from cool textures and cool tones. We spent a lot of time with that. Even leading into the record, I had a couple of months with my gear alone and just making cool bass pre-sets. Creating a pallet. So when we got together I had my sounds and tones that I could bring into the mix and then it has just been exciting to get into the room and just get a chance to make music. I think everyone really feels the same way, it’s really palpable and everyone comes in and you can just see it in their face, everyone is just psyched to make music.
Everyone is really into each other too, so if someone comes up with something, another person is quick to jump on that and try and compliment the idea and try and build it and take it to the next level – add another part to it, everyone is focused on the task at hand. We created a nice structure in terms of our time, we knew we’d come into here [the studio] for six to seven hours, five to six days a week and the timing was such we could do mornings, we could do evenings. It wasn’t this weird, torture, arduous thing, where you are going through all these hurdles to make music and feeling all this pain. It was [instead] just exciting to create together. A lot of that had to do with the preparation and intent. Everybody really put their best foot forward. Because it sounds cliché and I’ve said it several times already in this interview, but everyone is really excited to be making music. Everyone is a fan of music and we’re fans of each other. That was one of the awesome things coming into the band, seeing the look the person gives the other person when they aren’t noticing and stuff (laughs), because they’re stoked to be there and that transfers to when we play live. It makes our shows really genuine, they are not really performances as much as just like expressions of these songs we are really stoked on.
This might be a weird question, but I know your background is rooted more in New York and hardcore. Are there any differences between the way east coast musicians approach song writing as opposed to west coast musicians?
Not at all. I think there are differences that come from each person based on each person’s personality. The fortunate thing about this situation is this is a very collaborative group of people. Everyone here is as excited to present ideas as to jump onto someone else’s. There is no telling where a song is going to come from and who is going to do what or who is going to say what. The terminology I like to use for our songs is not who wrote the song, but who fed it. Maybe someone came up with the first riff, but by no means is that the end of the story. Everyone jumps on it and helps makes this thing and it’s this amalgamation of different entities. Nick Raskulinecz, our producer, he was there and he is very instrumental and just driving our energy and spirit, and not interfering with the songs in the sense of, “here’s a part, do this!” He [Raskulinecz] realised where we were going with it or seeing what someone was thinking. With five people, sometimes he’d single out something and say, “this guy is going here with it, check out what he is doing.” He is very cool at really sensing something that is happening within the group and helping it come to life. And he is an amazing producer in that regard, because people often think producers either don’t do anything or they do too much and he is that perfect balance of bringing out the best in you and helping bring together things that we as a group have developed, but without, “play this or go here and go there.” He’ll check out our arrangements and he is not above just saying, “hey, why don’t you try flipping this or flipping that.” It is never too much. It is just this super intense enthusiasm and affirming of us as individuals that makes you feel really good. He really builds up everybody.
You touched on it a moment ago when you talk about how the band create music and how you feed off each other, what keeps you motivated as a musician after all these years?
It’s exciting. I come from a background where most of my family is involved in arts in someway, whether it be visual arts or music or writing or craftsmanship. It is just its own reward. It is not a means to anything. It is just like it’s a purpose of existing. I wake up and I try to do something creative every day and it doesn’t matter if people hear it or not, and that’s just every day. When we have an off day, I have a studio in my room and I have all types of ways of expressing myself – I have sketchbooks and things. I feel it is important to do stuff every day. If you’re not crafting some sort of vision, you just living out someone else’s, there’s just no middle ground.
Obviously you’ve achieved quite a bit over the journey, but is there anything still on the bucket list you’d still like to achieve?
I just like writing songs and hanging out (laughs).
The thing I aspire to is just continuing to do this and staying healthy to do this for a long time coming. I’m not so much concerned about anything else. I love my friends and I love my family, and I love creating with them. When I’m home, I don’t really have a television. I have a big family and we have a bunch of guitars and a bunch of basses and all we do is do stuff. My goal is just to be able to continue to do that (laughs).
These upcoming Australian shows, I know they’re still a few months away, but what are you most looking forward to about coming back to Australia?
I like Australia a lot. We went there for the Big Day Out and that was a great time. As far as like Australia and what I took away from it is the quality. The quality of people and just how nice they were and the food was really good…and the coffee (laughs).
I’m into when there’s some sort of pride in whatever ‘that’ thing is, you know. Going to cafes there and just getting awesome coffee and just hanging out with people who are into it. I don’t have too many friends there, but I just remember just running around in different cities and just experiencing things and thinking it was just top notch.
Before you were mentioning how you are close to your family and friends and how important they are to you, is that the hardest thing about going on tour, leaving behind that lifestyle and those people?
Well I guess my touring life is an extension of that even though it is a different group of people. The fortunate thing about the Deftones camp is that it really is a family and everyone that is involved enjoys each other and respects each other, and there’s a real nice friendship going on. Everyone is sacrificing on some front because we’re all doing that; it charges the experience because we have people we are missing and time we are not able to spend with people. But we all have that and that means it drives us even more to make what we do special. There’s no point in putting yourself out there and doing these things just to do it. It really has to be something you’re present for and excited about and the fact that everybody has something they are sacrificing in terms of their own personal world, we come together and it gives that extra layer of intent and purpose. We’re excited to be making music and we’re excited to have people wanting to see us, and we’re also knowing we are far from home and far from family members. We really want to put our best foot forward and make sure that it’s not for any other kind of reason than really appreciating the experience itself. A lot of those things that are hard about touring [is about] feeling it and making it more exciting. I dare say the band as a whole is just focused on just being as great as possible.
Just before we get wrapped up are there any final words you want to pass onto our readers?
We’re just psyched to come out there. We hope to make some friends and hope to have some good shows. We’re really excited to come out there [Australia] and play tunes off this new record and dig into the catalogue and play things, and just share the evening with people.
Excellent, thanks for the chat Sergio and hope you have a good rest of the day.
Thank you so much for taking the time man, I really appreciate it.
No worries at all, cheers, thanks for that.
See you soon man.
Killyourstereo.com reviews ‘Koi No Yokan‘.