Interview: Deftones Bassist Sergio Vega Steps in for Chi Cheng. An Exclusive Interview.

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To the casual listener, the Deftones latest album, Diamond Eyes, doesn’t seem all that different from the hard-rocking California band’s previous releases. However, the album, which dropped May 4, isn’t your average Deftones disc, because there’s far more to the story than just writing, recording and releasing.

In fact, the writing process for the follow up to 2006′s Saturday Night Wrist didn’t even have Diamond Eyes as part of the picture. Instead, the band wrote and recorded Eros, which the Deftones intended to release in early 2009. However, in November 2008, disaster struck.

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a serious car accident, which left him in a coma. This event devastated the band, and the release of Eros was put on hold indefinitely – it just didn’t feel right to release an album to which Cheng contributed when he was in a coma. In 2009, the Deftones began playing again with Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand, filling in for Cheng. Without Cheng, the band considered a break up, but decided not to be defeated by the circumstances, and wrote and recorded Diamond Eyes with Vega.

I recently got in touch with Deftones bassist Sergio Vega, who offered some insight on the unique situation of stepping in for Cheng and becoming immersed in the world of the Deftones. As one might expect, Vega faced a bit of an adjustment coming into an established band.

“Deftones do things the Cali way,” said Vega. “Quicksand did things the NYC way.” Still, Vega didn’t feel like an outsider. Vega has worked with the band in the past, and they had a strong relationship. “They make me feel like a family,” said Vega. “I consider myself to be a friend who will always be a friend regardless of how [the future] manifests itself.” While Vega recognized that joining forces with the Deftones was a great opportunity, he couldn’t forget the reason that brought him into the situation in the first place. “When I got called it was the first time I heard about Chi’s accident,” explained Vega. “I was upset. I started thinking about his family.” And even though Vega is a seasoned musician, the unique circumstances left him a bit uneasy at first, before he realized how welcoming the Deftones would be. “I was nervous, because I didn’t know what I was stepping into,” said Vega. “This is the first band I’ve joined as opposed to help form.”

However, Vega didn’t have any problems becoming integrated with the Deftones. Chino, Stephen, Abe and Frank were happy to work with him, and Diamond Eyes definitely sounds like a record produced by a lineup functioning like a well-oiled machine. The latest iteration of the Deftones appeared April 29 at the Concrete Street Ampitheater in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the crowd loved the new lineup and material.

“As far as the material is concerned, people really dug it,” said Vega. But it wasn’t just the new music that got the audience excited. “People have been stoked on seeing the band – I think they see me as a homie.” Overall, Vega is content with the current situation, though he may release more solo material in the future. When asked what moments stand out as favorites in his career, Vega’s true feelings on being a part of the Deftones became clear. “Right now!” Vega exclaimed. “Seriously, right friggin now.”

Daniel: You’re currently acting as a replacement for the ailing Chi Cheng. Do you feel as though you were integrated as a full member of the band throughout the Diamond Eyes sessions?

Sergio: I consider myself to be a friend who will always be a friend regardless of how that manifests itself, I merely happen to be playing bass currently and was fortunate enough to collaborate on an album with some of my favorite people and musicians. They make me feel like family.

Daniel: How did you feel when you found out that Diamond Eyes had leaked?

Sergio: I was kinda bummed. I was definitely interested in finding out who and how.

Daniel: What are your thoughts on unauthorized downloading? Do you think the music industry will eventually become all or mostly digital-based?

Sergio: I think the music industry will always have a tactile component to it, simply because we like to touch things. But I expect the delivery method to morph every so often.

Daniel: You play bass with a pick rather than with your fingers. Do you feel that limits you or opens up new possibilities?

Sergio: I much prefer the attack of a pick, some of my friends disagree. They also don’t employ effects to the degree I do either.

Daniel: What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on releasing any more solo material?

Sergio: Maybe, I dig singing and playing multiple instruments. But I’m having so much fun [now] I’m cool without it too.

Daniel: Thank you very much for your time, best of luck in the future!

Sergio: Thanks!!!!