Chino Moreno: Isolation Themes on Deftones’ ‘Ohms’ Written Before Pandemic
Deftones' Chino Moreno was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The singer touched on the musical direction the band took on their latest record and also noted that the lyrical themes of isolation were written prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
After moving from Los Angeles to a mountainous area, Moreno began to experience a bit of a social disconnect away from his band and friends, which was relayed on Ohms. The singer said the timing is rather ironic and, amid the pandemic, he's tried to stay busy by focusing on creative endeavors.
As for a potential livestreamed Deftones show, the singer downplayed the idea, stating that he was "struggling" with the concept of not being able to deliver their typical standard for concert performance and production.
Ohms sounds more aggressive than the last album. What prompted that overall temperament throughout these songs?
My bad temper. Ah, no... I don’t know. Overall, it’s a bed of music that has that sort of quality — whatever quality... it doesn’t always have to be aggression, it could be whatever emotion, but I felt like the music always sort of what launches me into whatever vibe, I think.
Over the course of nine albums this band has ventured down many interesting paths. What is most prevalent in terms of whichever way you chose to express yourselves musically?
There’s not one vibe that takes precedence over the other — it’s always what’s best for the song itself. At the same time, it’s never something that’s preconceived — the music dictates where the emotion takes you. The most important thing is always just to have it be an organic experience from the first note to when we’re done with the mix.
The goal, more than anything, is to make sure everybody — all five of the band members — have the same... even if we view the song different ways... that we all have the same amount of... I guess we’re all engaged in the idea from beginning to end. So it’s very much a collective sort of experience.
Playing together live was a big part of the Ohms recording process. How have you changed as a band in terms of that live interaction?
It’s always great when everybody’s in the same place from the creative process. A lot of times, especially with technology these days, or over the past I don’t know how many years, a lot of time it got easier for us to make music sort of... I don’t want to say separated, but just in more fragmented ways.
There’s something that happens when we are all in the same room and we’re all playing together — there’s this sort of energy that is just prominent when the five of us get together. I don’t want to say it’s exactly the same as when we were young in Stephen’s garage, but it definitely gets us closer to that as opposed to everybody just kind of putting their ideas down and then the next person comes in, and the next person comes in.
We have a lot more tendency to react to one another immediately, and I think that some of our best music is made in that manner.
Deftones, "Ohms" Music Video
By the time you were recording vocals for Ohms, society had already been shut down by COVID-19. How did that isolation subconsciously affect your singing?
Honestly, a lot of the vocals were done before the end of 2019.
I did a few overdubs, but lyrically it really didn’t change much. It’s weird because, at the time I was recording or writing a lot of this stuff, which is pre-pandemic, I myself felt like I was dealing with this sense of isolation. I was living out in the mountains for a good five to six years and I moved straight from Los Angeles, where I was around my friends and going out to shows and doing stuff all the time.
Basically, the town I lived in, everything was shut down at 10 o'clock at night — not many shows, so, I was just not really around people — my band, my friends. At first, I thought it was a great juxtaposition to touring life and everything else, and it was a great kind of balance, but after a certain amount of time, I was sort of longing just for some connection and wanting to sort of have that thing that I was missing in my life.
When I wrote a lot of the lyrics, I think they were sort of reflecting those type of feelings.
Ironically, a few months later after the record was finished and mixed and people were kind of I feel like experiencing [isolation] and still are to an extent... maybe some of those similar feelings of longing for this connection to be around people and hug people and sweat, and all those, everything that comes around with it.... It's ironic that the album is a mirror of what kind of what we're going through.
There's an interaction of energy that comes with playing live for an audience. What has taken the place of that for you during the pandemic shutdown?
I'm just trying to stay creative. I don't think anything's going to really replace the vib and, the connection between band and audience. There's been a lot of talk of us doing, streaming stuff or whatever and I don't know if I'm really sold on that idea. A lot of bands are doing it and I think it's great if they want to do it. For us, I feel like our live show has always been very important to our success, so, to do it halfway... I’m struggling with that sort of idea.
Myself, I've just been trying to make music. I'm learning a lot of my musical gear that I've had for a lot of years and never really like dove deep into it — old drum machines or even playing with my guitar and messing with my pedalboards, just sort of experimenting with my gear to keep that creative flow going. It's hard to say because I don't think anything really replaces like that connection of a live show. It's difficult for sure.
Thanks to Chino Moreno for the interview. Get your copy of 'Ohms' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn of qualifying purchases) and follow. Follow Deftones on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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