Chino Moreno: ††† offers good balance and a change of pace
Released earlier this year, †††’s self-titled debut album features another side of singer Chino Moreno. While Moreno is known for, as he puts it, “screaming his head off” with the heavy-hitting Deftones, he tones things down for the trip-hop, electronica-influenced †††. He recently phone us from his from his Oregon home where he moved about six months ago (“it’s a nice change of pace,” he says of his new turf) to talk about the band’s upcoming tour.
You just played in Australia. What was that experience like?
I was there with Deftones in February and then I returned in March with †††. I was there a couple of times within the same month. It was summer down there at the time so it was a good change of scenery. Good shows. For ††† being a relatively new band, we had a good response. That tour was more of a heavy rock tour, for us, we a little bit of the outcast but that benefited us because we were something different.
Talk about how the band first came together. It was 2011, right?
We didn’t start playing together then. It was just a project of recording some music. [Guitarist] Shaun [Lopez] and [producer] Chuck [Doom] had been writing some songs together. I didn’t know Chuck at that point. I had known Shaun for a long time since we were both from Sacramento. We had played together in similar bands and toured together. We lived close to each other when I used to live in Los Angeles. I used to stop into his studio there just to see what he was working on. One time he was working with Chuck. I immediately liked what I heard. I heard my voice weaving in and out of the songs. They were straightforward and more electronically based. It wasn’t like a band per se. We were laying down these ideas into the computer and, once the foundation was there, we started tweaking them with different sounds. I really liked the idea. It wasn’t another band. It was just a recording project. I threw down a couple of ideas and before we knew it, we had an album of material. Not all of it was finished but it was all pretty close. We felt like we should put it out in an unconventional way. Not announce the group, but instead put a series of EPs for free.
You’ve said the band resembles the music you listen to.
I listen to a lot of different music. Some of my favorite has always been electronic-tinged. Ever since a kid, I remember listening to a lot of New Wave that was more synthesizer- and drum-machine-based, though I have an appreciation for all types of music.
The music has been described as “witch house.” Is that accurate?
I don’t think it’s a real genre per se. There are a few artists in that genre who are really good. I don’t feel like we’re trying to be a part of that scene. But there are some great witch house artists. It’s like downtempo screwed down hip-hop beats done with screwed down vocals and dark overtones. I don’t think we are reaching to be part of any kind of genre. There are some elements of that music in our music.
How challenging is it to sing this music?
As much as I am known as a screamer and have been screaming, I started screaming because I didn’t know how to sing. It was an aggressive way of emitting emotion. It wasn’t that popular back then. There was nobody screaming at the time. I loved to sing and I wanted to sing but I have to practice a lot. I sang a lot with the Deftones. I’m still learning to use my voice. With this project in particular, there’s less aggressive stuff happening musically. It didn’t require those emotions as much from me as much as Deftones stuff which tends to be harder edged.
That video for “The Epilogue” is really trippy. Talk about what you were going for.
Honestly, I don’t have much to do with them. That’s mostly Shaun. I don’t like doing videos. The music paints one picture for me and anytime I see visuals, it takes it out of what it’s supposed to be. There are some great ones. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of them. I do love when the visuals match up. I’m not the kind of artist who is good at directing videos or with coming up with treatments. A lot of times it’s left up to the director. I don’t dislike the video. I’m just not a fan of that stuff.
Do you find Deftones fans like †††?
Of course. The people who grabbed onto it are the people who follow Deftones and my career. Not all of them like it. Some of the fans don’t like it. Some of them just want to hear me scream my head off. I understand that. People who were first curious to hear it are Deftones fans. Our hope is that it expands beyond that.
Has this band become a priority?
For me, Deftones is always my priority. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 15 years old. I still love it. It’s not like I do a side project because I’m unfulfilled with Deftones. I’m very fulfilled with what we do artistically and even financially. For fun, I do other projects. All this †††’s music I made in my downtime. I never stopped Deftones. So far, it has fit in pretty well. I am double tasking right now because I’m writing a Deftones record while I tour with †††. They’re two sides of the brain. The only time they would butt heads is if I try to write two records at a time. I feel like if I’m writing something, I like to focus on that stuff. Playing shows, I feel like it’s a good balance because I can put on a different hat and write Deftones material. It seems to work.
††† doesn’t tour much.
Not that much. The record came out three months ago and before the record came out we did a week there and a week here. We did a week on the west coast. We did a week down south like in Texas and the Southwest. We’ve yet to do an East Coast tour which is what we have coming up. I’m excited about that. It’s nothing too intense. We do it as it comes. That’s what keeps it fun.
And who’s in the live band?
It’s the three of us but we have a live drummer and another guitar player.
Is it difficult to play the songs live?
Not really. In the beginning it was. We had to figure out how to do it. When you have something that comes from a synthetic place, you have to make it work live so that the songs are completely different and you don’t want to just play along to the record. We made it organic, but true to the record. I feel like there’s more of a rock edge to the live version but it works well.
Talk a bit about your legacy. What stands out as highlights and what motivates you to keep going even as the record industry has collapsed?
The good thing is that even though the record industry has changed we never relied on the industry that much. It was more about us going out and playing shows and having fun. We built our career on touring early on and have maintained our career. Now that the record industry has plunked, we can maintain it. The main thing is that we just have fun.
Upcoming 2014 Tour Dates
St. Louis, MO @ Pointfest
Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of the Living Arts
Charlotte, NC @ New Music Revolution at The Fillmore
Wilmington, NC @ Ziggy’s